Business to business branding – how it all started?
Brand management, as we know it today, is nothing new. We are talking about knowledge and principles that were founded hundreds of years ago, way back in medieval times. It all started with guilds. What is a guild? Guilds were medieval associations of craftsmen or merchants, often having considerable power.
Each guild was known for something that they did best. The best swords, the best mead, or the best leather goods. They used to stamp, burn or carve their “logo” or symbol that was a guarantee of qualities and values their merchandise was known for. Their main concern was not designing their logos and symbols, but delivering amazing products that made them the best for certain reasons in their trade.
Brand management is not too much different today. The only big difference is that there are hundreds of new brands popping up daily – diluting almost all industries and reducing the trust of customers they have for brand promises.
Not even digital marketing technologies, online distribution and mass consumerism changed the basics of brand management. Today, more than ever, a great brand is a promise for quality and experience. Having a known, trusted brand is an extremely valuable asset.
Brand management for B2B companies today
Present-day companies, however, tend to underestimate the power of brands and trademarks in business-to-business decision-making. They think of branding as consumer-facing communication. But in fact, some of today’s most iconic brands are not, or at least not exclusively, consumer brands.
Prominent examples of strong brands that appeal to businesses at least as much as to consumers include Microsoft, Siemens, General Electric, Allianz, and MasterCard. Even companies without any consumer business whatsoever have gone to great lengths to build powerful brands, such as IBM, SAP, Goldman Sachs, Thomson Reuters, or John Deere – collectively valued at well over USD 100 billion according to expert estimates.
What you can do to manage your brand like a Fortune 500 company?
In the long term, your company will be known for delivering reliable and professional service. For established companies, trust and reputation are among the most important pillars.
For new companies, startups, and small to medium businesses operating in the B2B space, the same can be achieved by showcasing a high level of professionalism, relevance, and credibility.
Audit your brand regularly to get valuable feedback from your target audience, and potential customers
We offer three audits applicable for this purpose. These are the following:
Brand Awareness & Perceptions Audit
This audit offers a cost-effective way to measure how well-known and popular your brand is. Are your potential customers aware of your company at all? Do they have a good or bad opinion about your brand? In which regions your competitors are more popular?
Business Concept Audit
This audit helps to understand how your business concept is received by your target customers. Are you solving a real problem or your idea is seen to be useless? Does your business model make sense to your customer? Is your value proposition attractive enough? Is your pricing correct? Is your credibility sufficient to win the trust of potential customers?
Marketing Communications Audit
This audit enables you to measure how people feel about various aspects of your cross-channel marketing communications – including ads, social media, brand website, and PR.
Is your marketing relevant to your customers? What do people like about your brand and what makes it feel off? Do your followers enjoy your content or they just mostly ignore it?
Five major benefits of having a strong brand in a B2B environment
There are endless benefits of building and maintaining a strong brand, even if your business is operating in a “boring” corporate environment. Let’s see the five most important ones
Your potential customers recognize your company
Trust and recognition are valuable assets. Hearing about your business for the first time with hardly get the attention of anyone, but knowing you already will make them think “oh I have seen them before” – and when a good opportunity comes, maybe years later, people who know your brand might get in touch with you.
Having a strong brand works to build customer recognition. This means when a customer is shopping for a particular product or considering a company to perform a service, they recognize your company in the running. Consumers are far more likely to choose a brand that they recognize over something unfamiliar, even if they don’t know a great deal about your company at the time.
Competitive edge in the market
Your brand is what differentiates you in the marketplace. When customers recognize and back your brand, it helps lend a competitive edge to your company. The more recognition you receive and the more you build your brand, the more you will find that your brand elevates and is competitive with other well-known brands.
Easy introduction of new products
When you already have a strong brand and loyal customers, it is often easier and less expensive to introduce new products or test them out before you further invest in them. If you have a loyal brand following, your customers will often be interested in your new products and even anticipate them being released.
Customer loyalty and shared values
The recognition and elevation that a strong brand builds upon all lend to greater customer loyalty. Customers are attracted to brands that they share values with. When you build a strong brand, you need to convey these values to build an emotional connection with customers. Brand loyalty often lasts a lifetime and even transfers to future generations.
Enhanced credibility and ease of purchase
Having a strong, well-known brand enhances your credibility with customers, your industry, and the marketplace as a whole. As you build your credibility, you also build recognition, loyalty, and competitiveness. Everything goes hand-in-hand, and you’ll find that your credibility has a direct connection to customers’ ease of purchase. We want to buy from companies we like, know, and trust. If your brand is credible, you’re far more likely to get the sale.
Further advantages a recognized and trusted B2B brand will guarantee for your business
Your brand influences customer decisions
Many product managers purport that business marketing is all about superior products and services, offered at competitive prices. Sales executives insist that availability and service will make or break a deal. In their minds, branding is just the icing on the cake. Not so.
While our research confirms the general importance of products, prices, and distribution, we have also found that branding matters. In fact, decision-makers consider the brand a central rather than a marginal element of a supplier’s proposition. Our survey indicates that a company’s brand is on par with sales as an influencing factor. In India, brand-related factors are perceived as especially important. In Germany, the brand is perceived as less important, consistent with previous observations of this market as a more value-driven environment.
Your brand differentiates your company from the rest
Purchasing officers say that brands matter and the financial performance of strong brands confirms their importance as influencing factors. But to what extent do companies leverage business branding for competitive differentiation? To put it gently, there is room for improvement. It’s not that corporate reputation managers don’t try.
They are sending plenty of brand-related messages, emphasizing topics such as corporate social responsibility, sustainability, or global reach. But these are not necessarily the issues decision-makers are most concerned about. Our research shows that they often pick suppliers based on perceived honesty and specialized expertise. Fact-based business branding provides a unique opportunity to close this gap between suppliers’ messages and decision makers’ needs. Early movers can expect to reap disproportionate rewards by differentiating their propositions accordingly
Delivering messages makes connection between customers and your brand personal
One-way communication may be a great way to get customers’ attention. Selecting a new supplier, however, is still a deeply personal matter for decision-makers in many industries. Our survey shows that sales rep interactions remain the most important touchpoint, especially for customers considering switching suppliers.
Additionally, we see a range of other personal touchpoints gaining importance, especially as customers get closer to their purchase decision; examples include recommendations from peers and past experience with products and services. This is why leading players engage in dedicated narrow-cast communication, often leveraging social media to generate momentum among target groups with limited exposure to traditional media.
Examples include the Small Business Saturday initiative from American Express, a nationwide event accompanied by a large-scale customer engagement program on Facebook and Twitter. To help them stay relevant in this arena, we encourage our clients to start developing and disseminating digital content.