When it comes to B2B, your brand is working harder than ever. Your customers are spending hours devouring your website, downloading your content, and friending you on Facebook to learn as much as possible before they think about picking up the phone to speak to sales. But they’re not just doing this with you. They’re repeating the same process several times over as they consider your competitors.
That means it’s no longer good enough to have a “good enough” brand. You need a brand that can create true differentiation in the mind of your customer. Sadly, this isn’t how most B2B companies treat their brands.
Why Most B2B Brands Fail
Take any B2B industry, no matter how broad or niche, and compare what you see. You’ll find that everything from messaging to logos to even details like color choices, photography styles and typefaces will look broadly similar, if not identical in many cases.
Why is this? Some of it is fear: few CMOs want to get burned by zigging when everyone else is zagging. For them, it’s better to build a brand that looks like it “belongs” than to create one that stands apart.
But for most, it’s the continued belief that B2B means Business to Business: two unemotional entities engaging in a transaction. They think that B2B buyers are making rational decisions based on hard metrics like price, feature comparisons or ROI.
But B2B buyers are human! That means they’re as receptive to a strong brand as when they shop for a new phone, shoes or pair of jeans in their personal lives.
In fact, I’d argue that business buyers are even more emotionally invested in B2B buying decisions than they are as consumers. That’s because the stakes for a B2B purchase are so much higher than B2C. The wrong B2B purchase can set your buyers’ company back months, waste valuable resources, and even cost them their credibility. While of course they’ll still do their due diligence when it comes to price, features and ROI, those are all table stakes that will be roughly similar to your competitors.
B2B = Business to Buyer
That’s why it’s time to start thinking of B2B as “Business to Buyer.” By building and communicating a strong brand designed to create a personal, emotional connection with your buyers across every channel and touchpoint in the funnel, your brand will provide the differentiation you need to get the edge and close the sale.
If you start thinking of your customers as people instead of companies or even personas, you’ll have the empathy needed to start thinking creatively and being more innovative in the way you communicate. In turn, this will create a brand that gives your customers the confidence they need to put your product in front of their boss or buying committee.
The key is transforming your entire business approach from transactional to relational, engaging customers as people, not purchase orders. As we have written before, the way to ultimately grow relationships and brands is through trust. And while trust is the foundation of all good relationships, it can only develop when you see someone as a buyer, not simply a business. At the end of the day, it’s not about you. Or whatever you’re selling. It’s about making your buyer the hero of the story. You can only help them succeed if you understand them on both a personal and professional level. Not just one or the other.
One important thing to keep in mind that too many B2B companies neglect: your brand is not just your marketing. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen companies only think of their brand as their logo or latest ad campaign. But your brand is your point of view that should inform all your actions. Yes, that means how you express yourself in your logo or ads. But it also means how you approach customer support, your product development, what your employee benefits package looks like, and the design of your conference room. Your brand is everything.
With a Business to Buyer approach, you’ll need to think much more rigorously about what you stand for, and then ensure your values are baked in and consistently applied throughout the organization. That’s no small ask for a CMO. However, while it’s not the easy way, our experience with clients has shown time and again that it’s the right way. And with the rapidly commoditized markets most B2B companies face, I believe it’s the only way.
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