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?