Many B2B companies shy away from investing in their brands. They argue that buyers only make decisions based on product viability, ease of integration and cost. We disagree. B2B buyers are just as focused on emotional factors as consumers are. B2B buyers are consumers, too, after all!
There are successful B2B branding stories everywhere, though they may not be as obvious as consumer brands. For instance, among Interbrand’s 10 most valuable global brands are B2B juggernauts Microsoft, Intel, IBM and GE. No matter the industry, successful brands should tell a story and impart a feeling. A number of B2B companies have done this effectively, finding creative and simple ways to bring their complex work to life.
When done right, a strong B2B brand will generate huge value that you can take to the bank. Rather than relying exclusively on sales people to deliver your story to the market, your brand should do the heavy lifting for you. It acts as the “first meeting.” A strong brand also gives your customers a sense of security in working with you; a positive brand story imparts a feeling of trustworthiness. Additionally, employees react better to stronger brands. This is becoming more important for hiring and retention.
So what makes an effective B2B brand? A Harvard Business School research team conducted a study of top B2B brands. We liked their list of characteristics that all of these brands shared:
- The CEO is the brand cheerleader, loves the brand heritage and is a great storyteller. The CMO sees his or her purpose as helping the CEO achieve this role.
- The CEO understands that building brand reputation reduces commercial risk, insulates the company in a crisis and provides the common purpose that can bond all the company’s stakeholders.
- Efforts are focused on a single, global corporate brand rather than individual product brands.
- The payback on marketing expenditures is measured rigorously to the satisfaction of the hard-nosed engineers and finance staff who run the typical B2B enterprise.
- Coordination of company websites worldwide to present a consistent face to stakeholders is the best way to get control of marketing communications that may have become too decentralized.