So much of selling products to consumers relies on building a strong brand. Study after study shows that consumers consistently buy products from brands they trust, even if they are more expensive or lower quality than other products on the market.
In B2B, we often focus so much time and effort on solutions, we forgot to pay attention to the brand. However, branding in B2B plays a huge role in driving sales.
What Is B2B branding?
While B2C branding is more transactional, B2B branding is more relational. With B2B branding, you are creating relationships with customers so they know your company and can trust the products and services you provide.
Building longer-term relationships is the key to creating higher customer lifetime value (CLV), creating greater retention, and reducing customer churn.
Why Is Branding Important for B2B?
A big part of marketing and sales is about risk mitigation. B2B buyers must believe the products or services you are offering will solve their problems or improve their organization. Otherwise, would they take the risk? Branding helps establish your company and increase trust. When a B2B buyer trusts you’ll deliver on what you say you will, this significantly minimizes their risk.
Branding also sets you apart from your competition. When you take the time to fully develop your B2B brand approach, you can create strong top-of-mind awareness and associate your products with quality. A distinctive brand is more memorable as well. This helps potential customers recognize you immediately, which can pay dividends in multiple ways:
- Buyers may come directly to your website rather than going to Google and seeing all of your competitors.
- When B2B buyers do search online, they’ll recognize your name and are more likely to click.
- B2B buyers that know and trust your brand are more likely to engage with your marketing.
A strong brand goes beyond sales, too. Established brands with strong reputations attract the best talent. In today’s challenging hiring environment, B2B branding can be a difference-maker in attracting and retaining high-performing employees.
Steps for Branding a B2B Company
So, how do you build a B2B brand? Here are five steps that can get you started.
1. Determine Your Company Values
The first step in defining and building your organization’s brand is by determining the values you believe in. This establishes the tone for the entire narrative.
You need to define the core values that set you apart and what makes your company special. This core principle needs to be evident in everything you do from the way you position your products, the way you portray your company, and how you operate internally.
Your company values will be a foundational piece for defining your company culture and how you present yourself.
2. Know Your Target Audience
With your core values defined, you must then think about how your customers benefit from these values. However, you’ll have to identify your target audience first.
In B2C sales, you can often draw from large pools of consumers. In B2B sales, you may be targeting much more narrow audiences. It helps to create Ideal Customer Profiles (ICPs) or Buyer Personas to hone in on the type of customer that’s most likely to provide the best return on your investment.
An ICP combines behavior and firmographics. To develop an ICP, you need to start with data. You can start by examining your customer relationship management features to find your best, high-value customers and see what common traits they have. Once you can identify these trends, you’ll find some of your best targets.
An ICP helps you frame your sales , branding and marketing effort for greater alignment with your customer’s needs and wants.
3. Emphasize Your UVP
B2B buyers are barraged with marketing messages and sales teams telling them that their products or services are the best. Strong branding may help get you in the door, but it’s your unique value proposition (UVP) that makes you stand out from the clutter.
When you can incorporate the UVP into your branding and messaging, it can help to reinforce the unique value you bring. When you see companies that align their brand with their products, it just feels right. You instantly know their core value and what they do. Here are a couple of strong B2B brand examples that do exactly that:
- Bitly: Short links, big results
- Vimeo: Professional, quality video hosting
- FreshBooks: Accounting software built for owners
- Salesforce: The world’s #1 CRM
- Square: Get paid by credit card from anywhere
Each of these expresses the value proposition directly and consistently. The best UVPs also tell a story that you can use to frame your brand narrative. The best storytelling demonstrates how your products or services deliver on your UVP.
4. Invest in Design Assets
Building a B2B brand is about a lot more than just a tag line, however. Your design assets play a significant role in building trust and making your brand memorable. From your logo to your color palette to your website design and business cards, and everything in between, you need a consistent and cohesive design approach.
Customers should be able to instantly know it’s your brand and associate it with quality.
While we like to think of ourselves as logical creatures, the reality is that people make decisions based on emotions and then justify their decisions with logic. Even in the B2B world, emotions play an important part in driving sales.
B2B buyers are much more emotionally connected to a brand than B2C buyers. When you give a thought about it, this can make much logic. Most consumer purchases are fairly low-risk. If you buy a product at the grocery store and don’t like it, you’re only out a few bucks. With B2B transactions, however, you’re often spending higher dollar amounts. If you buy machinery and it doesn’t do the job, you’re putting your business at risk. If you invest in a software platform that doesn’t deliver, it can hurt productivity and your bottom line.
A Google study of 3,000 B2B customers across multiple industries quantified this. While B2C brands had an emotional connection with between 10% and 40% of their customers, B2B brands had an emotional connection with customers with well more than half. Value and solutions are important, but only 14% of B2B customers said they could tell a significant difference between suppliers and their values enough to pay for it.
Your design aesthetics play directly to a buyer’s emotions and can tilt the odds in your favor.
5. Make your employees brand ambassadors
The best ambassadors for your brand are your employees. Every day, they send multiple messages about your brand to potential and existing customers. Your B2B brand needs to be clearly defined and reinforced by your team members as they interact with prospects and customers.
A strong B2B brand strategy will pay special attention to communicating and educating your employees about the values you bring and the solutions you provide. This messaging needs to be consistent across your organization to be effective and it needs to be part of the fabric of everything you do. For example, if your brand promise is built on how easy your product is to use, this needs to be part of your branding and marketing message. It also needs to be reflected in what happens when people call your support lines or talk to your sales team. If it’s difficult to reach someone, solutions to problems are complex, or your content marketing is difficult to understand, it undermines your message.
When there is alignment across the organization, that’s when the magic happens. Employees understand their role in living the brand, take pride in what they do, and often evangelize on your behalf. It’s powerful stuff. Highly aligned companies see revenue growth 58% faster and are 72% more profitable than companies where alignment suffers.
B2B Brands Help Create Sustainable Growth
Consistent B2B branding magnifies the power of everything you do. When buyers already know and trust your brand, it makes your marketing more believable. Research from the Boston Consulting Group reveals that strong brands show a 74% higher return on their marketing investments and hold a 46% larger market share. In turn, that strong brand makes it easier for sales teams to get appointments and close deals.
Investments in building strong B2B brands provide long-term benefits to help position your company for sustainable growth.