Guest post by Sreeram Sreenivasan.
Building a great brand is the holy grail of marketing. It enables your business to occupy a sizeable amount of public mindspace and consistently drive more customers.
A memorable brand is self-propelling and can grow a business to dizzying heights. Consider the brand value of companies like Apple, Whole Foods, and BMW.
Many marketers believe that brand building is only for B2C companies like Nike, Coke, and Facebook. But’s it’s also vital for businesses like Microsoft and IBM that drive a significant amount of revenue from B2B customers.
Brand building for B2B businesses is a little different from that for B2C companies. It’s not about being the coolest company in your industry, it’s about thought leadership. B2B prospects do a significant amount of research before they decide upon a solution. So you need to make them aware of your presence early on, and convince them that your brand understands their problem and has the solution.
Here are five brand building tips that you can use to grow your B2B business.
Position yourself differently from others
In order to grab attention, it’s essential to position your brand uniquely, and differentiate yourself from the competition. Here are some ways you can position your brand:
- Target a niche group of people—The email marketing space is crowded with more than a dozen similar platforms like MailChimp, Aweber, and more. Still, the folks at Campaign Monitor built their own email marketing tool targeted specifically at designers. Within six months, they had thousands of designers using Campaign Monitor to send newsletters to their clients
- Do one or two things really well—Quickbooks is the most popular and feature rich accounting software. Yet, Jessica Mah created inDinero by basically stripping out all the bloated features of Quickbooks, and focusing on ease-of-use and low cost, for small businesses. Today it has more than 100 employees and $10 million in funding.
- Tell a unique story—In its story, eyewear retailer Warby Parker says it was founded as a rebellious startup to provide designer eyewear at a revolutionary price, after its founder lost his glasses on a backpacking trip and couldn’t replace them as a grad student. Today, it is worth $1.2 billion.
Be personal and real
One of the most effective ways to build your B2B brand is to humanize it. People love doing business with other people, not companies or logos. Although it’s a no-brainer, people need to be told that your company is run by actual people. It enables them to trust your brand and do business with you. Putting names and faces to your brand goes a long way in building a meaningful relationship with your prospects and customers.
For example, use photos of real people when you communicate with your target audience online—whether it is on your website, newsletters, or even case studies. Use photos of your employees and customers, to show the people behind your company: who they are, what they do, how people like working at your company, and how your business helps customers.
Build your own online platform
Create your own online platform such as a blog or customer community, and use it to consistently produce high-quality content that is interesting and useful for your target audience.
For example, you can create a business blog that regularly publishes latest industry news and trends in different ways by:
- Creating White papers you promote through email marketing campaigns
- Producing videos you share on YouTube as well your website
- Publishing a series of blog posts around interviews of industry experts and influencers
- Creating how-to’s and tutorials that help solve common problems faced by your customers
Before you start producing content, the key is to clearly understand your target audience—who they are, what problems they face, what information are they looking for, and which content formats will be most engaging. It’s also a good idea to study your competitors: what topics they write about, what content types they use, and how they promote their content.
Once you have great content, you can amplify it across social networks like Facebook Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. In fact, good content is like a pass that enables you to enter virtually any online community and put your business in front of your target audience.
No matter which type of content you produce and which social channels you use to promote them, it demonstrates to your prospects and customers that your business is a thought leader.
Involve your employees
Although what a brand stands for is determined by the business owners and senior management, it is the frontline employees, like your customer support and sales teams, that most frequently speak to your prospects and customers on behalf of your business. It’s they who deal with day-to-day inquiries and it’s their voice that becomes your brand’s voice.
So it’s important to involve your employees early on by getting their feedback, to ensure that you have their buy-in and it’s easier to roll-out changes later. It also gives you an idea of how people perceive your brand compared to how you see it, and helps uncover gaps in brand perception and communication.
For example, you may be thinking of positioning your brand for large enterprises. However, on speaking to your sales team, you may realize that this approach may cause concern and confusion among the midsize and smaller businesses that make up most of your customer base, putting pending and future sales at risk.
The most important aspect of any brand building exercise is to develop the key messages associated with your brand that support your target positioning. However, your brand messaging won’t have much impact unless you’re consistent in your communication.
Today, prospects and customers use multiple touch points to interact with businesses: website, blogs, apps, emails, social media, and more. So when you promote your brand across different marketing channels and communication platforms, it’s important to ensure that you cover every touch point consistently. Otherwise, it will become difficult for people to recognize and recall your brand.
Here are some ways you can consistently build your brand messaging:
- Use the same logo, company name, and tagline across your website, blogs, apps and all your social media profiles on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other platforms.
- If you have an app as well as a website, ensure that both have a consistent look and feel.
- Use the same address, contact email, and phone number that are present on your “About Us” or “Contact Us” page in all business directories and online listings such as Yelp and Google My Business.
- When it comes to consistency, you need to go beyond online activities. Ensure that even your office supplies (such as letterheads, t-shirts, coffee mugs, office rubber stamps, and notebooks) have the same brand elements (like logo, company name, address, and contact information) that are shown on your website. That way, when you post photos of your workplace and employees online, it will help portray a unified brand to your prospects and customers. It will help you send a coherent message to your target audience, whether they visit your office or browse your website.
- Try to use the same profile pictures of employees across social media platforms, or while publishing guest posts on other sites. For example, the VC Fred Wilson uses the same photo on all his online profiles, describing, “This photo has become my online brand. It’s simple, small, and very recognizable. By putting it everywhere that I am online, I’ve used frequency and reach to power home that the avatar is me. It’s become my visual handle and it’s also a signature and a sign of authenticity.”
Hopefully, the above tips will help you build a brand for your B2B business and drive more prospects and customers.
About the author: For more than 8 years, Sreeram Sreenivasan has worked with various Fortune 500 Companies in areas of Business Intelligence, Sales & Marketing Strategy. He regularly writes at Fedingo about a wide range of business growth & marketing topics. He’s also the Founder & CEO of Ubiq BI, a cloud-based BI Platform for SMBs & Enterprises.