Traditionally, B2B marketing has been a function that supports the sales team to get short-term leads. I believe today’s B2B marketers should shift their focus to creating a bond with customers, to help win in the long-term.
It is easy to get wrapped up with launching the new product for next week or trying to figure out a price that will help close a deal by noon. You forget to build your brand for the longer term.
For customers, B2B decisions are much more emotional than you think, yet too many B2B companies focus on product features as the main differentiator and price as their usual deal closer.
The best B2B brands are building tight bonds with customers, so they feel more and think less. You want your best customers to become fans, who will be the first to try your new product and will want you to win the contract with their company.
Go beyond the product to create an exceptional experience
The best brands evolve into an experience-led brand, but it is not always a smooth transition. B2B brands face a much greater opportunity to win by adding vital services that elevate you beyond your products.
The people behind your brand will make the most significant difference
B2B brands have the opportunity to build a culture with values and expected behaviors that can inspire everyone who works behind the scenes to deliver their greatest work on behalf of the brand. Make your best people the face of your brand whose “wow” personal stories showcase why they do what they do and the ways your people go over the top to surprise and delight their customers.
Your B2B marketing should connect with people, not companies
As media options expand, B2B brands can connect with specific customers at companies by communicating their beliefs. They can also make customers feel smarter with content that matters, and they can create emotion with stories of the greatness of their people. With account-based marketing (ABM) techniques, you can reach and build a bond with individuals within a company, even if you are not an approved vendor.
Balance your effort between building your brand and transactional sales support
One-third of your marketing effort should be brand-building that creates a bond with customers; one-third is transactional sales support around new products and deal closing. If you keep saying “buy me now,” customers will eventually forget why they should ever buy your brand. The remaining one-third might surprise you. I want you to focus one-third on your employees who have to understand everything about your brand, including your brand idea, purpose, values, beliefs, and most motivating and ownable customer benefits. Your people are the face of your brand, and they are the ones who will deliver your brand reputation.
It takes a fundamentally sound B2B marketer to figure out how to win with brand love to attract loyal customers. As marketing rapidly evolves, the fundamentals of brand management matter more now than ever.
Today’s B2B marketers are so busy, running from meeting to meeting, and they feel overwhelmed and confused. They have no time to think. Marketing is now about ‘get stuff done’— and never about taking the time to stop and ask if it is the right stuff to do
Meanwhile, to build a relationship, you must take the time to genuinely court your customers. To move your customer from stranger to friend and onto the forever stage, you need to think all the time. With the focus on access to big data, marketers are drowning in data, that they do not even have the time to sort through it all to produce the analytical stories to help to make decisions. Marketers are so overwhelmed by the breadth of media choices and the pressure to be everywhere. As a result, the quality of B2B marketing execution has suffered.
If B2B marketers do not love the work they create, how can they ever expect the customer to love the brand?
As the bestselling author of Beloved Brands, I recognized the need for a marketing book that focuses on B2B marketing. Many of the same tools work in both consumer and B2B marketing. My goal in writing this B2B Brands playbook is to make you a smarter brand leader so your brand can win in the market. I know your role and the challenges you face. I have been in your shoes. I will share everything I have learned in my 20 years in the trenches of brand management. I want to help you be successful. This book is intended as an actionable “make it happen” playbook, not a theory or opinion book.
I have worked in both consumer and B2B marketing, and the similarities are more than you think. I hear, “but we are not a consumer brand” all the time. Yes, you won’t be doing a TV ad on the Super Bowl. However, the same principles that have been working in consumer marketing will have tremendous success with B2B brands.
My first job was at GE, working in the commercial and industrial lighting business. As a consultant for the last decade, I have worked on brands in oil and gas, financial services, medical products, commercial real estate, technology, and telecommunications. All of the models and secrets I use with clients will be part of this book.
What is a B2B brand?
In the diagram, you will see seven types of brand models. For business-to-business (B2B) brands, we will cover four primary types within this book:
- B2C thru B: Sell your products through a third-party partner, whose reps then sell your brand to consumers.
- B2B Products: Sell your products as an ingredient or component your customers will use to make their brand better.
- B2B Services: Sell your services to companies or individuals at the company who want help to achieve success.
- DTC: Sell your products directly to specific B2B customers who are using the product in their jobs or companies.
Choose your business model based on how your customer wants to buy, not how you want to sell.
A great case study is the Apple brand, which now uses all seven of these business models, as they sell to both consumers and businesses, sell both products and services, sell directly, through retailers, and through their own retail stores. Apple allows customers to engage the brand however the customers wish to purchase.
We will show you how to use your brand idea to align marketing communication choices
In today’s cluttered media world, use your brand idea to help organize all types of marketing communication efforts, including your brand story, sales material, trade shows, homepage, search, social media, and any influencer marketing.
When telling your brand story, you now have many media options available, including white papers, a regular blog, LinkedIn, trade shows, and face-to-face presentations. The challenge is making sure you tell the same brand story, with consistent layers of brand messaging. There is nothing wrong with repetition, especially if you are using various media options to make it more engaging. You might get bored with your words long before any customer will.
You can find this type of thinking in our new B2B Brands book
The table of contents for the B2B Brands playbook
Click on any of the images above to expand
Learn to think, define, plan, inspire and analyze
- You will find strategic thinking models and examples for each of the four strategic thinking methods, looking at core strength, competitive, consumer, and situational strategies.
- To define the brand, I will provide a tool for writing a brand positioning statement as well as a customer profile and a customer benefits ladder. I have created lists of potential functional and emotional benefits to kickstart your thinking on brand positioning. We explore the step-by-step process to come up with your brand idea and bring it all together with a tool for writing the ideal brand concept.
- For brand plans, I provide formats for a long-range brand strategy roadmap and the annual brand plan with definitions for each planning element. From there, I show how to build a brand execution plan that includes the creative brief, innovation process, and sales plan. I provide tools for how to create a brand calendar, and specific project plans.
- To grow your brand, I show how to make smart decisions on marketing execution around marketing communications and media choices.
- When it comes time for the analytics, I provide all the analytical tools you need to write a deep-dive business review, looking at the marketplace, consumer, channels, competitors and the brand. Write everything so that it is easy to follow and implement for your brand.