Too many people think that brand management matters most to a consumer brand, and they underestimate the value of marketing for B2B brands. And many of these people are running B2B brands. They treat marketing as a support function, hiring low-cost marketing coordinators to support their sales team, and do basic packaging for new launches and run a few basic trade magazines.
In this story, I will show you how to build out a customer profile, a brand positioning statement, brand idea, brand concept, and brand story, all within the context of a B2B brand. I hope afterwards, you will be convinced the fundamentals work equally well.
Manage your B2B reputation
B2B marketing is not just about selling products, but about building and selling your brand’s reputation. The role of a B2B brand is to create a unique idea for your brand, perceived in the minds and hearts of your customer, consistently delivered by the experience, forming a bond, power, and profit beyond what the product itself could achieve. Too many B2B companies believe they just SELL PRODUCTS. However, you should be building and managing the reputation of your brand. Whereas basic products and services solve small problems, I like to think that a brand beats down the enemy that your customer faces every day. For instance, FedEx fights the enemy of “business moving too slowly” while IBM fights “unsolvable problems” for their customers. What is your customer’s enemy that you can solve for them?
The more loved a brand is by its customers, the more powerful and profitable that brand will be. With a connected brand, it helps to warm up sales leads–many times they’ll already know your reputation before you call. A brand can connect with customers so that pricing becomes less of a factor. If the customer is satisfied and connected on one piece of business, they’ll look to you to solve other problems for them.
Elements of the brand positioning statement
Four elements make up a brand positioning statement, including who you serve, where you play, where will you win and why consumers should believe you. These are the consumer target, marketplace definition, the consumer benefit, and support points.
- Who is your customer target? What slice of the potential customer base is the most motivated by what your brand offers? Do not just think about whom you want, but rather who wants your brand.
- Where will you play? What is the competitive set that defines the space in the market where your brand competes? Positioning is always relative to the other brands your brand competes against.
- Where will you win? What is the main consumer benefit promise you will make to the customer target to make your brand stand out as interesting, simple, unique, motivating, and ownable? Do not talk about what you do (features); instead, talk about what the consumer gets (functional benefits), and how the consumer feels (emotional benefits).
- Why should they believe us? Understand what support points and features you need to back up your main promise. These support points should close any possible doubts, questions, or concerns the consumer has after hearing your main promise.
Before you just randomly write out a brand positioning statement based on your intuition, force yourself to think deeper to help focus your decisions on the best possible space for your brand to win and own.
Start with your customer
Most marketers think of the type of customers they want to attract. Why not change your thinking and go after those customers who are already motivated by what your brand offers? So instead of asking, “Who do we want?” you should be saying, “Who wants us?”
I use seven fundamental questions to define and build a profile of your ideal consumer target:
- What is the description of the consumer target?
- What are the customer’s main needs?
- Who is the customer’s enemy who torments them every day?
- What are the insights we know about the customer?
- What does the customer think now?
- How does the customer buy?
- What do we want the customer to see, think, do, feel or whisper to their friends?
The customer benefits ladder
The customer benefits ladder helps turn your brand’s features into customer benefits. You should stop talking about what your brand does and start talking about what your customer gets.
The four steps to building a customer benefit ladder:
- Leverage all available research to define your ideal customer target profile with need states, customer insights, and the customer enemy.
- Brainstorm all possible brand features. Focus on those features you believe give your brand a competitive advantage.
- Move up to the functional benefits by putting yourself in the shoes of the customer. For each feature on your list, ask, “So, what do I get from that?” Challenge yourself to come up with better benefits by asking the question up until you move into a richer zone.
- Then move up to the emotional benefits. Look at each functional benefit and ask, “So, how does that make me feel?” As you did in step 3, keep asking the question until you see a more in-depth emotional space you can win with and own.
Find your Brand Idea
The best brands use a Brand Idea to help explain themselves in 7 seconds, and use that Big Idea to help extrapolate that same brand story into 60 seconds or even 30 minutes, depending on the situation. In a crowded branded marketplace, Brand Ideas help simplify your brand message so it’s easily understood and remembered, own-able in the customers’ mind and heart and motivating enough to change consumer beliefs and behavior. That brand idea should transform your brand message into a brand reputation.
I created a brand idea blueprint, which has five areas that surround the brand idea.
On the internal brand soul side, describe the products and services, as well as the cultural inspiration, which is the internal rallying cry to everyone who works on the brand. On the external brand reputation side, define the ideal consumer reputation and the reputation among essential influencers or partners.
The brand role acts as a bridge between the internal and external sides.
- Products and services: What is the focused point of difference your products or services can win on because they meet the consumer’s needs and separate your brand from competitors?
- Customer reputation: What is the desired reputation of your brand, which attracts, excites, engages, and motivates customers to think, feel, and purchase your brand?
- Cultural inspiration: What is the internal rallying cry that reflects your brand’s purpose, values, motivations, and will inspire, challenge, and guide your culture?
- Influencer reputation: Who are the key influencers and potential partners who impact the brand? What is their view of the brand, which would make them recommend or partner with your brand?
- Brand role (archetype): What is the link between the internal sound and external reputation?
Once you have your Brand Idea, you should then use it to frame the 5 different connectors needed to set up a powerful bond between your brand and your customers.
Build your brand around a brand idea that’s simple to understand and big enough to create a lasting impression with consumers.
- Create a simple brand promise that separates your brand from competitors, based on being better, different or cheaper.
- Use your brand story to motivate customers to think, feel or act, while beginning to own a reputation in the mind and hearts of consumers.
- You need a fundamentally sound product, with innovation that keeps your brand at the forefront of trends and using technology to deliver on your brand promise.
- The purchase moment is where customers move through the purchase cycle and use channels, messaging, processes to make the final decision
- Turn the usage of your product into an experience that becomes a ritual and favorite part of their work life so that your customers always turn to you first.
Organize your Brand Concept
Write your concept in as realistic a manner as possible, narrowing it down to one main benefit and two support points. It should be realistic enough to fit on your package, new product innovation, advertising copy, or your sales message. Too many brand leaders try to write concepts that include everything, with a long list of claims and reasons to believe. There is no value in writing a concept just to pass a test, and then find yourself unable to execute the concept in the market.
The ideal brand concept
- The main headline should capture the brand idea. The headline is the first thing customers will see, and it will influence how they engage with the rest of the concept.
- Start every concept with a customer insight (connection point) or customer enemy (pain point) to captivate the consumer enough to make them stop and think, “That’s exactly how I feel.” Your customers feel more engaged with your concept. The enemy or insight must also set up the brand promise.
- The promise statement must bring the main customer benefit to life with a balance of emotional and functional benefits.
- The support points should close off any gaps that customers may have after reading the main benefit. An emotional benefit may require functional support to cover off any doubt lingering in the consumer’s mind.
- Complete the concept with a motivating call-to-action to prompt the customer’s purchase intent, which is a significant part of concept testing.
- Adding a supporting visual is recommended.
The Brand Idea should drive the internal culture
Whereas B2B brands currently treat marketing as a support function, once you have your brand idea, you can see how for a B2B brand, that the idea should drive every part of your organization and that your brand’s experience will be supported by the culture, people and operations which then transforms that idea into a brand reputation. Below you can see how that Big Idea should be a beacon for your top-to-top leadership, your sales team, the problem solvers, customer service team and the experience delivery team.
Everyone in your organization must be saying the same message. For a B2B brand, marketing’s role is to make sure that the external and internal stories are given equal importance so that everyone in your organization must be communicating and delivering the same big idea to customers that they see in trade magazines, at trade shows or in the sales materials.
Communicating your brand
Like any brand, there are really only four choices: you can be better, different, cheaper or else not around for very long. For B2B, when your product is a commodity, you have to find a way to use service levels as a way to see your point of difference. When you start to treat your own brand like a commodity or believe that you are, that’s when you’re in trouble. What you want to do is use that Brand Idea to create an internal culture and use that culture to build your brand’s reputation as the way to help separate you in the marketplace.
As you build your culture, you’ll see that you can begin to use culture as a way to stand out and then you’ll evolve to where culture becomes the backbone that delivers the brand experience. At the ideal stage where you become a beloved brand, you see that culture and brand become one as your own people become the most outspoken fans of the brand.
You can extrapolate all the work you have done so far into a brand story, which explains, “who you are.”
- Turn your brand idea into an inspiring promise statement you will deliver.
- Match the brand purpose to customer insights showing why it matters. This thinking makes it highly personal, explains the story behind why you do what you do. This part of the story will connect with consumers.
- Use your brand’s core belief in connecting with consumers, and demonstrate what you do to support that belief.
- Talk about what makes your brand different and what claims you have to support your difference.
- Outline the ways you want to connect with your customer and the promise you will make to them.
Your brand is your reputation, and it can never be a commodity
Click below on the Powerpoint version of the B2B brand workshop we run for clients.
To learn more about this type of thinking, you should explore my new book, Beloved Brands.
With Beloved Brands, you will learn everything you need to know so you can build a brand that your consumers will love.
You will learn how to think strategically, define your brand with a positioning statement and a brand idea, write a brand plan everyone can follow, inspire smart and creative marketing execution and analyze the performance of your brand through a deep-dive business review.
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Beloved Brands: Who are we?
At Beloved Brands, our purpose is to help brands find a new pathway to growth. We believe that the more love your brand can generate with your most cherished consumers, the more power, growth, and profitability you will realize in the future.
We think the best solutions are likely inside you already, but struggle to come out. Our unique playbook tools are the backbone of our workshops. We bring our challenging voice to help you make decisions and refine every potential idea.
We start by defining a brand positioning statement, outlining the desired target, consumer benefits and support points the brand will stand behind. And then, we build a brand idea that is simple and unique enough to stand out in the clutter of the market, motivating enough to get consumers to engage, buy and build a loyal following with your brand.
We will help you write a strategic brand plan for the future, to get everyone in your organization to follow. It starts with an inspiring vision that pushes your team to imagine a brighter future. We use our strategic thinking tools to help you make strategic choices on where to allocate your brand’s limited resources.
Our brand playbook methodology will challenge you to unlock future growth for your brand
- Our deep-dive assessment process will give you the knowledge of the issues facing your brand, so you can build a smart plan to unleash future growth.
- Find a winning brand positioning statement that motivates consumers to buy, and gives you a competitive advantage to drive future growth.
- Create a brand idea to capture the minds and hearts of consumers, while inspiring and focusing your team to deliver greatness on the brand’s behalf.
- Build a brand plan to help you make smart focused decisions, so you can organize, steer, and inspire your team towards higher growth.
- Advise on advertising, to find creative that drives branded breakthrough and use a motivating messaging to set up long-term brand growth.
- Our brand training program will make your brand leaders smarter, so you have added confidence in their performance to drive brand growth.
To learn more about our coaching, click on this link: Beloved Brands Strategic Coaching
To learn more about our training programs, click on this link: Beloved Brands Training
If you need our help, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 416 885 3911
You have my personal promise to help you solve your brand building challenges. I will give you new thinking, so you can unlock future growth for your brand.
Founder and CMO, Beloved Brands Inc.