You can almost always trace a company's appeal to its brand strategy. Brand strategy is the foundation for all sales and marketing operations.
A B2B brand strategy establishes who you are, what you do, and who you serve. It communicates your basic values and outlines your company's objectives.
Look at your brand strategy to determine how you’ll achieve those objectives. If your company is still in the startup phase, now is the time for critical decision-making on how you want your brand to be understood.
Your company can build a strong B2B brand appeal with the right knowledge and skill set. In this article, you will learn practical steps to building a B2B brand strategy.
Benefits of Building a Brand Strategy for Your B2B Business
If you run a B2B business, a strong brand strategy is not optional.
It demonstrates to your prospective customers that your company is confident about its vision, and helps you attract the exact type of clients you’re seeking.
1. Increases Customer Recognition
An effective B2B strategy makes your company's products and symbols instantly recognizable to customers — and has a positive influence on your customers’ purchase decisions.
Research shows that customers are more likely to choose a recognizable brand over lesser-known brands.
2. Boosts Competitive Advantage
Strategic B2B branding highlights the features of your company that differentiate it from competitors. You’ll stand out from rivals, improve your chances of selling, and increase your overall brand equity.
3. Improves Customer Loyalty
Customer brand loyalty increases when a company creates a quality product. A memorable brand identity can have the same impact. As long as your company offers quality products and services, an effective brand strategy is all it takes to cultivate customer loyalty.
When your brand identity and message resonate with your customers, your customers will promote you through word of mouth.
Vital Qualities of an Excellent Brand Strategy
Depending on who you ask, the qualities of a good brand strategy can run the gamut.
However, there are a few characteristics that are common to every effective brand strategy. We’ve summarized them below.
Clear Value Proposition and Brand Positioning
Brand strategy informs the customer of the benefits of using your brand over others. It also shares and highlights the differences between a business and its competition.
In a busy market, customers make purchase decisions based on pricing and brand appeal. An effective B2B brand strategy must show its target audience every benefit of a product.
Apple is an excellent example of a company using its reputation for quality and luxury to gain and retain customers. Apple products are seen as a status symbol worldwide. As such, customers want Apple products to look and feel “wealthy.”
Focuses on Serving the Customer and Capturing their Voice
A winning brand strategy is customer-centric. Resonating with your target audience means having a strategy that addresses the customer's needs. It should also address their expectations, preferences, and dislikes while reflecting the customer's voice.
Seeks Customer Feedback to Improve Product
A customer-centric brand strategy has a built-in feedback system. Ideally, the feedback metrics are embedded in the customer-business touchpoints like social media, email, physical shops, and support tickets
Customer feedback provides an opportunity to improve service delivery or product offerings. In Bill Gates's words, "Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning."
Feedback is the only way to consistently capture the voice of the customer.
Uses Interactive and Consistent Brand Tone in Messaging
A consistent and interactive brand tone fosters open communication with customers. When the tone of your brand messaging is consistent, customers can instantly recognize your brand.
Red Bull is an excellent example of a company with an interactive and consistent brand tone. The energy drink manufacturer has always promoted adventure and intensity through its advertising, its sports partnerships, and its "Red Bull Gives You Wings" tagline.
An interactive, strong brand tone encourages more customers to engage with the company. Always stay “on brand” and remain faithful to your positioning statement.
Maintains Uniform Branding for Digital and Physical Assets
Uniform brand representation on digital and physical assets improves a company’s visibility and recognition. Have a game plan that makes it easy to use the same branding symbols and tools everywhere.
This means using the same company logo, slogan, and font style on your website, product packing, physical offices, and more. Brand uniformity makes your product memorable.
You might also be interested in: 4 Key Elements in Designing a Corporate Identity
How to Develop a B2B Brand Strategy
If you want the roll-out of your new strategy to go as smoothly as possible, good planning is essential.
Follow the steps below to develop your B2B brand strategy.
Step 1: Define Your Business Vision, Goals, and Values
Your business vision, goals, and values are not only the foundation of your company — they’re the foundation of your brand.
Most businesses have short-term goals and long-term goals. Your business goals determine the company’s direction and establish accountability. When you’re developing a brand strategy, keep the focus on long-term goals. Any branding decisions you make should align with those goals.
Business values are the set of behaviours and beliefs that your company uses to guide and accomplish its goals. They shape everything from employee behavior to public affairs and should be at the heart of every strategic decision.
Your business vision, or vision statement, encapsulates how your aforementioned business values serve your long-term business goals. Before you can develop a brand that captures the attention of prospective clients, you’ll need to define your company’s vision statement.
Writing a vision statement is not the same as writing a mission statement. A mission statement defines what your company is doing right now. By contrast, a vision statement defines your company’s goals and vision for the future.
Whether you’re revamping the company vision or defining its goals and values for the first time, involve the entire company in the process. It encourages team members to not only identify with the new vision and goals, but to also understand how to put them into practice. If you can’t convince your team members to get on board with the new company vision, you won’t be able to convince your customers, either.
To help you get started, take a look at these example vision statements or learn more about how to write one.
Step 2: Identify and Research Your Ideal Customer
Research your audience's needs, wants, and preferences, and use this data to create customer personas. This is a fictionalized summarization of your company’s ideal or target customer. Use your personas to help you better visualize the type of customer you want your business to attract — and to workshop how your brand strategy will attract them.
If you’re a B2B company, you already know that your target customer is other businesses, which could range from small-scale manufacturers to enterprise retail companies. When defining your customer persona, make sure to consider all of their traits:
- Company size
- Market position
Of course, an effective customer persona runs deeper than demographics. For instance, it should reflect your target’s buying habits, pain points, and goals.
To start building a customer persona, examine your current customer base. Understanding your existing clientele will show you what type of buyers your company already attracts. Unless you’re taking your company in a completely new direction or shifting priorities, your persona should resemble your current client base.
Consider what products and services your customers most often buy from you, as well as any feedback or case studies related to issues they’ve encountered when purchasing or using your products and services. Use this information, along with the demographics you’ve collected, to create a profile of your fictionalized customer.
Remember: Not every potential customer is the right customer for your business, and trying to please everyone will guarantee that you please no one. The persona you develop for your ideal customer will narrow the scope of your brand strategy and allow you to focus your efforts on the businesses that are ready and eager to become your client.
Learn more about how you can identify and define your target customer here.
Step 3: Define Your Business's Value Proposition and Key Differentiators
Brand strategies should highlight both your business’s value proposition and key differentiators.
As a B2B business, your value proposition is the value that you’ve promised consumers in exchange for buying your product or service. Your key differentiator is the quality, or qualities, that set your business apart from every other competitor in your industry.
You may want to conduct an in-depth Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis, as well as a competitor analysis. These will help you to identify what makes your business and products unique.
Your key differentiator, by contrast, tells customers how to perceive and distinguish your company from your competitors. For example, if you want your audience to associate your business with innovation, you want to make sure that your brand narrative speaks to the innovative nature of your company.
Elon Musk's Tesla is a good example of a company branded as innovative. For years, the electric vehicle company has used various marketing channels to promote itself as the leading maker of energy-efficient smart cars.
Step 4: Create a Customer-focused Brand Narrative
A customer-centered brand story improves your business’s appeal and highlights how your product or service will benefit your ideal customer. It also celebrates the customer's successful experience with a product.
A good brand story educates, engages, and sells to customers — without being salesy. Achieving this goal can be tricky, especially if you don't have prior experience or expert help. You can find inspiration in established brands or learn from instructive brand story writing guides.
In general, stick to the following rules when crafting the narrative behind your B2B business’s brand story:
1. Keep Your Story Short and Precise
Simpler messages are better. Both science and experience support this. A short and precise story will make the biggest impact.
2. Always Explain Your Why
Use every opportunity to tell or illustrate to customers why your company exists. This means every brand story ties in with your business mission, creating an opportunity to make an organic connection.
3. Customers Buy Stories, Not Products
Customers should feel like they're buying your brand narrative when they buy your stuff.
4. Engage Customers
Show your customer how you understand and relate to them through your brand narrative.
5. Encourage Others to Share Your Story
Customers should be encouraged to tell your story in their words. Big brands like Oracle use this strategy to generate conversation on social media and other marketing channels.
Step 5: Promote Your B2B Brand
This final step is critical to achieving visibility.
After you implement your strategy, you have to market your brand. It’s a never-ending process, but it’s how you spread brand awareness and build a customer base.
To promote your B2B brand, you need to identify channels for reaching your customers. Email, social media, podcasting, and blogging are some of the most popular media for this purpose.
How to Communicate Branding Changes to Your Team
A new brand strategy will be less disruptive, and easier to implement, if you can effectively communicate it to your team. Team members want to know how these changes impact their everyday workflow or role.
Anticipate how those changes will impact your team before introducing the brand change. Come prepared with a plan that demonstrates you’re ready to guide them through these changes.
Be Clear and Honest
Clear, honest, and open communication increases employee engagement and team building. Team solidarity ensures you’ll execute your B2B brand changes. When it comes to B2B branding, remain open to change.
Listening to feedback is integral to good communication. After sharing information about upcoming changes, ask your team members for feedback. You may get helpful insights. More importantly, every team member will feel valued — and own the change idea.
Explain How the Changes Serve Their Interest
Associate your employees’ career growth with branding changes to boost how willing your employees are to adopt those changes.
Branding changes promote business recognition. It improves business revenue and increases the financial capacity to pay higher salaries.
Everyone wants to know "what's in it for them." If there is no upside for the employee, let them know.
Honest and transparent communication builds trust among your employees. Avoid making empty promises. Don’t manage their understanding, either. It could risk coming across as insulting.
Define Expectations with Change Management Communication
After announcing a change in branding strategy, set new expectations.
The expectations should clearly state what branding-related changes will be made, and when. Employees are more likely to get on board and support the process.
You can use illustrations and step-by-step lists to illustrate the change process and set expectations.
Tell Employees What They Need to Do
Once you tell your employees the benefit of a new branding initiative, show them how to implement them. Every team member can make a significant impact at their level. Ensure that their efforts support the overall goal of the branding change.
A branding change implementation roadmap keeps everyone on the same page. The roadmap should outline what needs to be done — and when.
Make sure everyone has a role in the change process. This encourages ownership. It also makes the outcome of the transition a team result.
Difference Between B2B Brand Strategy and B2C Brand Strategy
A B2B brand strategy differs from a B2C brand strategy for a reason.
A B2C strategy’s main goal is to convince a customer to buy a product or service. By contrast, a B2B brand strategy focuses on the long-term development and fostering of business-to-business relationships.
Prospective clients want to know how your company will serve them over the long haul. They also want to feel confident that you understand the needs of their industry.
These concerns should be at the forefront of your B2B brand strategy.
The B2B Buying Cycle Is Longer and More Involved Than B2C
A B2B purchase typically affects the entire company, not just one client. That means the buying process is longer and more involved.
At most firms, the C-suite or procurement department handles B2B business proposals. These decision-makers focus on how a product or service would increase business efficiency. Thorough explanations and education are part of the process.
Since several team members are involved in B2B deals, expect a longer process than with a B2C transaction. It can take several months or years to reach a B2B purchasing agreement.
B2B deals are time intensive. That’s because if a firm is dissatisfied with a product or service, switching vendors can be expensive and time-consuming. A B2C customer can easily return a product or stop using a service to try another brand based on price.
B2B Contracts Are Usually Longer Than B2C
B2B contracts are usually longer than B2C contracts because of the volume and value of the transaction. Businesses are always looking out for great deals from suppliers. In turn, the suppliers want to make their clients repeat customers. So both parties enter mutually beneficial long-term agreements.
Microsoft's 10-year partnership with the London Stock Exchange (LSE) exemplifies a B2B deal. The deal requires LSE to use Microsoft products for 10 years. It also requires Microsoft to purchase around a 4% stake in the LSE.
B2B Uses More Jargon Than B2C
Professionalism is recognized — and required — in the B2B industry. Especially when the deal is about to be done.
B2B buyers want to work with companies that understand their business needs. Create B2B proposals with professional and business-relevant language. Wordplay and fancy expressions can sound irrelevant.
Keep in mind that not all stakeholders have industry knowledge. Prepare your document with a mix of technical and simple language. If your B2B proposal uses charts, tables, and calculations, it should include summary explanations to drive the point home.
Consider This: Reasons You Need a Software Proof of Concept (POC)
B2B Companies with Great B2B Brand Strategies
If you’re still struggling to develop your company’s B2B brand strategy, look to other companies for inspiration.
We’ve assembled the following list to get you started. These companies are known for their exemplary B2B brand strategies, and each one offers new insights into how different approaches can be used to achieve the same success.
IBM is one of the oldest and largest technology companies in the world. The company's content marketing strategy clearly shows IBM builds technology for businesses.
IBM highlights its decorated experience in the technology industry through its campaigns. This builds trust among prospects and customers. It also enhances lead generation.
In addition to showcasing its history, IBM uses storytelling to share the fantastic achievements its customers use IBM technology to accomplish. The company also shares information about the life of its employees through the “Life at IBM” campaign. These efforts increase the company's brand value. They also keep IBM top of mind among customers.
You can use IBM’s strategy for your B2B outreach. IBM's long history may be impossible to copy, but you can always use the achievements of your customers as a talking point.
Microsoft Teams is a proprietary communication tool by Microsoft. Teams provide workspace chat and video conferencing for companies. The company uses social media, featured blogs, email campaigns, and paid advertising to reach its target audience and attract potential customers.
Teams have a flexible, educating, and engaging digital marketing strategy. For example, Teams use Twitter polls to engage followers and get their opinion on common video conferencing mannerisms. This type of post generates conversations and increases visibility among active and potential product users.
With millions of customers and suppliers worldwide, Alibaba is the world's top business-to-business platform for wholesale commerce. The Asian company has been a top B2B company for over a decade. They maintain their top spot through excellent value proposition and marketing.
Alibaba utilizes nearly every popular marketing channel to reach customers across the world. The company has a Twitter, Facebook, WeChat, and Instagram presence.
Beyond social media, Alibaba is known for sponsoring community projects and training businesses that want to resell products purchased from Alibaba.
Alibaba does well to showcase the success of its customers, the company's quality assurance system, and its off-field community work. It is important to note that Alibaba still uses paid marketing despite the popularity of its platform.
Another great example of a company using social media to enhance its brand is Oracle. Oracle uses multimedia success stories to showcase the capabilities of its technology.
It can be a challenge for B2B marketers to contextualize their technical services in a way their audience can understand. Oracle's marketing campaigns emphasize the practical benefits of their technologies.
On Twitter, Oracle shares several inspiring customer success stories and testimonials. Recently, the marketing team shared the story of a restaurant that used Oracle to enhance their diners’ customer experience.
Each of these businesses views a B2B marketing strategy as an additional product that can entertain and educate their audience, rather than a means to an end. This is a great approach to B2B marketing. After all, marketing is a storytelling activity.
Interested in offering your customers something more than just data? Let's have a discussion.
At its core, a B2B brand strategy is a blend of inbound and outbound
marketing operations that educate and engage potential clients. The end goal is to stay top of mind with ideal B2B customers during the long stages of awareness and consideration.
You can build a successful brand strategy using the steps in this article. If you don't have the time or expertise, contact Anyday® for a consultation and advisory. We will help you create an authentic brand narrative to resonate with your audience and nudge them toward conversion.