TopRank Marketing Editor

5 Tips for Better B2B Branding

Think branding only falls in the B2C court? Think again.

In fact, three of the top 10 brands in 2009, as ranked by Interbrand, generate a sizable amount of revenue from their B2B customers: IBM, Microsoft and GE.

As a B2B marketer your brand is your most valuable asset.

B2B branding is less about cool, hip monikers (the Apples and Starbucks of the world) – and more about thought leadership.

Particularly in down economies, B2B prospects and customers conduct significant research leading up to purchases. That means you as a marketer have to educate them early on, and establish your brand as a trusted resource that gets their problems and has the solution.

To help your organization be seen as the thought leader it is, we’ve identified five B2B branding tips:

1. Consistently produce useful, innovative content

These days, every company is essentially a media company. So it’s easier than ever to provide relevant, informative content for customers and prospects.

From a company blog to Twitter to YouTube, there is no end to the content channels available. Provide the latest industry news and insight on trends through:

  • Offering a white paper through an email marketing campaign
  • Creating videos and promoting through YouTube and on your web site
  • Conducting interviews with industry influentials and turning into blog posts

Whatever channels you choose to promote, and whatever types of content you create, these consistent signals prove to customers and prospects that you are a thought leader.

2. Network digitally and in person

Nothing communicates a brand more than direct involvement with customers and prospect. In that regard, online social networking has opened a new door. According to a recent eMarketer study, six in 10 B2B marketers planned to up spending on social in 2010.

Whether your organization integrates Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or another social network into its B2B branding efforts, the same rules apply:

  • Social media is about engaging in conversations, not just pushing products
  • It’s not about the masses; it’s about your target audience
  • It’s listening and hearing before selling and talking

That’s not to say that in-person networking is irrelevant. On the contrary, perfect B2B branding combination. Take advantage of opportunities to give keynote speeches, participate in panel discussions or lead breakout sessions at industry events.

3. Get personal and be real

B2C marketers seem to have this concept nailed. But humanizing your company for customers and prospects is just as important in B2B branding.

For one TopRank® Online Marketing client, an industrial part distributor for the bulk powder processing industry, humanizing its image was a top concern.

The TopRank team created the Powder Doctor, a unique character, to relate to customers and prospects through email marketing campaigns. This humorous cartoon character offers advice – Dear Abby style – for common industry problems. Powder Doctor campaigns have increased sales for Powder-Solutions by 83%.

4. Position yourself differently than others in the space

No doubt about it, it’s tough to build personal B2B brand if you’re just like everyone else. You simply can’t be known for what everyone else is.

Standing out from the crowd is easy when your products or services are truly one-of-a-kind. When products or services are similar to those offered by the competition, it’s more of a challenge to uniquely position yourself.

For one TopRank client – a staffing software company – that challenge was known all too well. To help the client stand from a large pool of competitors, TopRank developed a copywriting strategy where website copy was written in first person, from the viewpoint of the staffing software (i.e., “why you should hire me to fill your staffing software needs”).

This strategy has not only helped the company develop a truly distinct B2B brand; the strategy has also achieved increased search traffic, high rankings for terms such as “staffing software” and a trend up in inquiries.

5. Leverage proof points

It’s perfectly appropriate – and necessary – to toot your own horn from time to time as part of your B2B branding efforts. Whether it’s an impressive media placement or a web traffic milestone, implement proof points illustrating why your organization is a thought leader into marketing communications.

Keep in mind that proof points are both analytical and subjective. For example:

Analytical: website traffic increases, number of retweets of blog posts, number of blog subscribers

Subjective: media placements, media interviews, mentions on blogs

Are Your Ready to Take B2B Branding to the Next Level?

B2B branding through thought leadership is not as easily quantifiable as other marketing efforts. And investments in reputation building might not pay off as immediately as pay-per-click or email marketing.

But building a recognizable B2B brand pays off in the form of long-term increased referrals, positive brand conversations on both digital and in-person channels, web traffic and sales.

What methods have you used to build a B2B brand?

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Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing these tips, Michelle. As a B2B marketer, I feel that the most important thing to keep in mind is that you consistently generate thoughtful informative content. I don't care what business you're in, in order to truly connect, you need to say something worthwhile.

    Tessa Carroll

  2. matthewneedham says:

    I recently saw that B2B organisations shouldn't open the comments section on a corporate blog. I think social media is the key to developing a brand and interacting with your customers. After all businesses don't make purchasing decisions, people do.

  3. Michelle,

    I have always struggled with 'branding' because too many business owners, C-level executives and marketing people focus on 'awareness for the sake of awareness' – overlooking the fact that it's profitable revenue that pays their salary and keeps the employed.

    What I really like about your post is the focus on developing a relationship based on something the audience needs (education, insight, perspective) and the company can offer (expertise). After all, people buy from people and they buy from people they like – and there's nothing better than providing something a high value (knowledge) at a low cost (white papers, events, a conversation).

    Thanks for sharing – and for making the point that effective branding is about more than awareness, it's about interest and a level of engagement/exchange.

  4. Good points, my favorite being to differentiate yourself. It's a must to stand out from the crowd.

  5. I like that you think. Thank you for share very much.

  6. and nice topic

  7. Interesting and relevant tips in this article, thank you Michelle! I definitely agree with all the points you’ve developed, and I think that your approach of using social media as a Business is a complete and effective method that should be used more often.

  8. meganzuniga says:

    Great article. It's amazing how the internet changed how marketing works these days. You can send your message across faster and not just to your target market but to everyone else. I agree that branding is important. Awareness can only get you so far. But making your audience come back for more, now that would make your business a success.
    PS. For some helpful online marketing tips… http://budurl.com/jqey

  9. Be real. You couldn't have said it better. That's what it's all about. Businesses cannot solely tout the buy, buy, buy image. People are people, and we should treat each other like we're all on the same level.

    I think it helps if your market is in a similar position as you. I'm saying to find a common ground. For instance, I'm a WAHM, so if I blog for companies that sell products to mothers, I have the added benefit of using those products and also being in the same shoes as other mothers. That's an obvious way to establish common ground.

    I liked your cartoon character example. It's so unique and apparently so effective. Who wouldn't want to listen to a funny cartoon character?

  10. Now to find a unique offering. Thanks for the article.
    Any advice on setting yourself apart in the commercial real estate industry?

    • We've worked on SEO projects in the commercial real estate industry in the past, using a blog to boost rankings for one company to top 5 for phrases like, “commercial real estate”. The key for any effort to set yourself apart is to understand the unique challenges of your customers and a creative way to tell the story of how you can meet those challenges.

  11. I think it is important show your audience that your business has a personality. You can be all business and professional while showing you have a fun creative bone as well. Personality when done right sells itself.

  12. Really fine article with great tips.
    # 4 – Position yourself differently…
    a definite to avoid becoming just another marketer in an overcrowded field.
    What makes you different and how are you unique are questions that we should answer before they are asked.

  13. Great post Michelle!

    Your tips definitely match our experience. And are an example of smart thought leadership.

    You can execute this thinking as part a measurable demand generation strategy to give it extra power so long as you understand when your message is marketing and when it should be sales. A great brand, effective marketing and smart sales is a great combination!

    One important part of your thinking is the need for content development.

    We use three practical rules based on MarketingSherpa's content best practices:

    1. Understand what your customer wants to know (listening to your customer and tracking digital footprints can help you create more valuable content)

    2. Segment your content by prospect type (for example C-Level content will target different information needs than technical content)

    3. Target your content to different stages in the decision-cycle (from awareness to research to evaluation to decision)

    If you are interested, we share more detail and practical tips on how to create the right content for your business in our recent “how to” post @ http://blog.brainrider.com/2010/03/b2b-marketin

    In the meantime I am going to share your post with my team and network!

    Cheers

    Scott Armstrong
    General Manager
    BrainRider.com

  14. Great reading material. I’ve learned a lot by reading here. Thanks! Recommended for everyone!

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  17. sewamobil says:

    Good points, my favorite being to differentiate yourself. It's a must to stand out from the crowd.
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