11 Jan 5 Shrewd Ways to Improve Your B2B Branding [Examples Included]
FYI: There is far more to branding than just the visual side like a cute logo, corporate colors chosen per a psychology chart or a witty tag line.
B2B marketing expert, Ardath Albee, reports personal value has twice the impact compared to business value for professionals making a buying decision. So, if our branding isn’t personal, we are missing out on a lot of opportunities to produce qualified leads.
Branding a business has changed a lot over the past few years. B2B branding looks more like B2C branding. You’ll hear the term H2H (human to human) marketing used more often now because companies don’t sell to companies, but people to people.
If your B2B brand is the same as it was five or more years ago, then you must consider ways to improve it. Technically, visual elements express your brand and are not the brand itself. If you think your brand’s “look” is tired and stiff, there is an awesome resource for you.
It’s the internet that has leveled the playing field. We do all our research online and rarely need to talk to a sales person anymore except to facilitate the purchase. Your brand is how a prospect first experiences your business.
Here are the five non-visual (and forgotten) parts of a brand you must consider when creating your B2B brand.
1) Persona Focused vs. Self-Centric
Traditional B2B marketing has been self-centric which means it’s centered around the business – what it does, how it does it, who its clients are, etc. This approach to branding is intended to help prospects quickly identify the business and determine if the business can reliably deliver what they need. While self-promotion seems rather practical, it doesn’t work as well anymore.
Example: Sunbelt Rentals
Buyer persona focused branding considers the people involved in the buying process, particularly influencers and economic buyers (the person with the purse strings). Buyer persona branding examines their prospects’ job functions, responsibilities, and challenges. Also, demographics such as education, age, and gender to better understand their worldviews. Then create true to life descriptions to be used (among other marketing purposes) as the backbone to branding decisions.
The Sunbelt Rentals website is a good example of buyer persona focused branding. Its rotating banner displays a charity it supports, its new service technology (mobile app), a flexible service arrangement (reduced contract negotiation), and a helpful article designed to make you smarter about equipment in winter.
The phone number uses the letters “no sweat”. A terrific clue that they intend to do all they can to make it easy for their customers to work with them. It feels like the brand is there to help first instead of making a sale.
2) Likable vs. Serious
Have you ever purchased something from a person you didn’t like? Perhaps when there was no choice, but today there are lots of options. It’s not a matter of avoiding people you dislike, but we gravitate to the people we do like.
Many B2B vertical markets are very competitive. Something as simple as liking one potential vendor slightly more than another can make or break deals. It’s not always about the bottom line, but how well people feel they can work together.
Your brand must be found likable by your target audience according to how they define it. Most brands today lean towards friendly, humorous, confident, and authentic.
Brands that are serious, and more sterile, exist mostly in the military or government contracting sectors. That because the buying process eliminates a lot of personal influence. Even a few law firms and accounting businesses are moving away from a stodgy feel to something more relatable.
Example: Dun and Bradstreet
You may recall the campaign “Is Your Database the Walking Dead?” by Dun and Bradstreet. They manage to make some very salient points in a format our zombie crazed culture would appreciate.
It says in a humorous manner we get who you are and what you need. It leads directly to their free database health assessment tool. A way both the prospect and the company can quickly assess need and fit before taking the next step.
3) Helping vs. Selling
We endured sales pitches in the past because it was the only way to learn about the company and their products. But now, no one is asking for sales pitches anymore. They are avoided entirely if possible. People contact (or respond to) the sales department when they are ready to buy. If you want to be in a prospect’s frame of reference at all for sales, you must win the relationship first.
A brand must communicate how they value their customer. Is it presenting a win-win approach for you and them, or does the company just want your credit card number? Does the brand show how it’s helping the community through leading by example or charitable acts?
You know a business wants to help you “win” when its blog, YouTube Channel, or podcast makes you smarter at your job; when it produces content that is objective, useful, and not salesy.
Once you experience valuable help with no strings attached, the brand takes preference in your mind for the present and potential future when a full solution is needed.
Example: Jill Konrath
The homepage of this website is chock full of helpful content any person in sales or sales management would appreciate. If you look at the menu option, Speaking and then Sales Coaching, she says, “don’t hire me for this.” You are invited first to experience her expertise digitally and on social media before contacting to discuss keynotes or training.
Imagine, all of this coming from a sales person.
4) Engagement vs. Publishing on Social Media
Every company wants to get their content out in front of valid prospects. Since over 80% of internet users in the United States are on social media, it’s a great platform for connecting. But the distribution of content should be done for the means of engaging prospects in a dialog.
In social media, you are competing for attention between the posts of a friend’s surprise birthday party video and some scandalous pop culture news. Images of products, service information, or PR announcements are less than attractive.
Approach each social media in terms of how your ideal buyers use it. Twitter followers tend to be more interested in news pieces. The Facebook page of a business should read like a personal Facebook profile, but of the business – office happenings, staff pics, and some humor. Instagram followers want to see beautiful photography.
Social media is a terrific platform for H2H marketing. It’s the one location that’s completely acceptable, if not expected to see a company’s personable side. If it looks like another publishing outlet, you’ve missed the mark.
This SaaS company does a killer job in all their marketing including their Facebook page, an active source for leads. Scroll through, and you’ll see a clever motif on the 12 days of Christmas for promoting their CRM. There’s a video of a staff member’s daughter demonstrating sales tips as she asks who wants to buy Girl Scout cookies. Of course, lots of helpful articles for marketers and salespeople.
The size of a company and their use of social media has no correlation. It’s a decision to make it a tool that works for your brand or not.
5) Stories vs. Descriptions
Businesses only get one chance to fully outline to prospects who they are and what they do. Unfortunately, it’s hard to absorb an intense block of information in one setting, even if it’s just a few minutes. We get distracted, confused, or miss salient points. If a prospect doesn’t get the gist of what your company does and if it’s for them, then it’s a customer you’ll never get.
Stories work better than descriptive outlines because they can communicate a lot of detail, keep our attention, and hit home both logically and emotionally. You can use them in sales and marketing. They can be written, video, or told in person.
This is an e-learning software company. Their product has many types of users (buyers, teachers, and students) and is technical in nature. It would be tedious to read through a description of their product, instead of seeing it in action through a story.
On the homepage are links to two videos. Watch Paul’s journey to get a sense of the learner’s experience with the software. It includes useful nuggets of information about the platform for the buyer. The entertaining storyline of a cactus salesman provides context so the prospective buyer can understand the technology from the learner’s viewpoint.
The second video is a walkthrough of the software on the front and backend. It’s perfect for those who want to see more but don’t want to schedule a demo yet. The video could have easily been a boring series of screenshots. Instead, it’s another story tied to the first, one about the trainer and the capabilities he appreciates of aNewSpring.
Do you know of B2Bs that have branded themselves well? Send us your good, your bad, and your ugly examples so we can share them with our followers.