The Ultimate Guide to B2B Branding
B2B branding is driven by connections, and with consumers having easy access to streams of information about products and services across all B2B markets, B2B brands have to work hard to move their customers through the often lengthy sales cycles to secure business.
They require a highly targeted approach to attract the right customers, and understanding how branding works is essential not only for marketing teams, but for business owners too.
This article will provide an overview on B2B branding what differentiates it from B2C branding, why it’s important you focus on it, and how you can.
What is B2B branding?
B2B stands for business-to-business – and, as you know, behind every strong business is a cohesive brand.
Simply put, B2B companies sell business to businesses. Their end consumer is a company, business or organisation, and they advertise products or services that can help with everyday operations. As a company selling to other companies, your branding is essential when it comes to identifying your business – but let’s be honest, when is it not?
The objective is to create a strong brand image that will allow you to forge relationships across businesses. Your starting place? Developing a compelling, unified, and overarching brand strategy. Before you delve in to the nitty-gritty of your marketing strategy, you need to define who you are as a brand, and what it is that sets you apart.
To get you started, we suggest the following:
- Locate Your Position: What space do you occupy in the market? How do you compare to your competitors? Where do you differ?
- Lay Out Your Customer Promise and Mission: What does your brand promise its users? What user experience do you promise to provide? And what is your brand’s aim? What do you aspire to accomplish? This lays the groundwork for your future.
- Gather Audience Insights: Take a deep-dive into your target audience to understand their pain points, values, and ambitions – and most importantly, how you can help. This is the starting place of your branding.
- Define Your Core Brand Values: Your values are at the heart of your branding. Who are you? What drives you? What are you here to do, or say, or influence?
- Identify Your Brand Personality: Now you know who your brand is and what it’s here to do – work this into your brand’s every fibre. Think about language, tone, emotions, desires, feelings. Remember – that while you’re marketing to a business, that business is made up of people. So, keep it human.
The impact of structured B2B branding strategy on your business
According to 77% of B2B marketing leaders, branding is critical to growth. Companies such as Drift, Google, and IBM have all seen incredible success driven by their strong brands. One of the first things these brands do, whether they’re targeting a small business or c-suite professionals in a large corporation, is establish a meaningful connection with the B2B customer.
By creating a strong connection with your B2B customers, who are often key decision makers, you can increase your brand awareness and build customer loyalty. Plus, an emotional connection to your brand is a proven method of keeping your customers from trying out your competitors and encouraging recommendations to bring in new customers.
A strong brand also allows you to move through sales cycles more quickly, close more sales, and afford you the luxury of putting your products and services at premium price points.
How is B2B branding different to B2C?
B2B has many differences to B2C branding, from its overall focus to the way it targets customers.
B2B aims to build relationships with customers over a longer period of time compared to B2C branding. After all, a B2B business offers products or services that will impact how well another company’s employees can do their jobs on a long-term, day-to-day basis.
As a result, trust is an important element for branding, and a strong brand will highlight the particular expertise it has in solving the problem that faces its target customers. A B2B brand will focus on showing that the company is a full-service provider that offers support to customers long after they have bought a product or service.
A B2C brand encourages one-time purchases and does not always need to focus on providing ongoing support to customers. B2C customers rarely have to get approval from other people before making a decision on their purchase.
In contrast, B2B will need to appeal to stakeholders and other senior employees, as well as the wider workforce, and decision making will be a collaborative process involving a larger pool of people. Sales cycles are typically longer for B2B businesses as a result.
To attract these high-level, decision-making B2B buyers, businesses should understand that these customers are largely driven by need — such as the need to streamline workflows or upgrade to newer software or systems to increase productivity. Because of this, they will have a narrower focus than B2C, attracting specific types of people with specific needs and expectations.
What to consider when building your B2B brand
It requires just as much thought as B2C branding. Below are some of the key factors to consider when creating a strong branding for B2B companies.
- Whether you are trying to attract established businesses or startups
- How you can attract new customers and retain current ones
- What brand message is appropriate for your target audience
- How your branding will enhance your target audience’s user experience
- Whether there is consistency across all your channels
The branding process
With so much to consider with a B2B business brand, it can be hard to know where to begin. You should first consider your brand identity and who your customers will be before making further decisions on brand strategy and marketing.
1. Build a proposition statement
A proposition statement is an internal tool that will guide everyone in the business including your CMO and marketing team on their content marketing and marketing campaign decisions. It is a simple statement that shows your brands purpose, what your company brand does, who it is for, and highlight the differentiation of your brand against your competitors.
Overall, a proposition statement will be simple, provide a promise that your brand can deliver on, and give a reason for customers to trust your brand. This statement will help you, the wider company and your marketing teams to ensure all marketing decisions, products, and services align closely with your brand.
2. Identify your target audience
A target audience persona is a fictional customer who represents your key audience. This persona will have a profile that characterises what your customer base at large want and need, as well as their typical job role, what challenges they face, and what influences their buying decisions.
These personas will be key in informing your business strategy, digital marketing, and value proposition.
To get deep insights into your target audience, you can conduct consumer interviews, surveys, and dig into search data to collect key metrics to inform your branding decisions.
It is important to keep in mind that your target audience personas will develop over time as your business grows and changes.
3. Establish your brand’s look and feel
How will customers identify your brand? What is your visual and verbal identity? Establishing a cohesive identity is integral to your brand’s success, and you should start with focusing on the following:
- Logo: Is a key point of identification; they’re the symbol that customers use to recognise your brand. Ideally, you’ll want people to instantly connect the sight of your logo with the memory of what your business does – and, more importantly, how it makes them feel.
- Brand colours: Choose colours that are clearly distinguishable across all of your brand assets, from your website, to your business cards, to your packaging.
- Typography: Be consistent with your font choice. You want your font to be accessible, and to relate to your brand identity.
- Imagery: What visual assets such as images, graphics, illustrations do you use across your website, products and social media assets?
4. Integrate your brand
Now that you’ve established your brand identity, you must exemplify it through actions. It’s all about consistency, and a sure way of ensuring brand consistency is creating a style guide for your various departments.
Your brand should be evident across your social media channels, your website, and your marketing campaigns. The more consistent your user experience is, the more trust you build with your customer base and the more likely they are to return.
How B2B branding has evolved over the years
The purpose of branding is repeat business. B2B, much like B2C branding, has had to evolve with the times to become more ethical, relatable, and accessible in order to nurture working relationships and secure repeat business. Your branding is communicated through your marketing efforts in order to create an association between your brand’s desired qualities and your company.
Recent shifts in consumer considerations and expectations reflect a need for brands to behave less like faceless corporations, and more like people. Users everywhere are expressing a need for connection, transparency, empathy, and authenticity.
With the advent of globalisation, social media, and more comprehensive service hours, businesses are expected to be personable, active, and reachable. The people making up the B in B2B organisations desire the same; whether B2B or B2C, branding has never mattered more.
It is commercially beneficial for B2B companies to foster enduring customer relationships; initial encounters with new customers often create opportunities for repeat business. As B2B tends to have longer buying cycles, trust and communication are essential to a smooth partnership – these considerations amplify the importance of the brand behind the product or service.
B2B buyers are increasingly concerned with the reputation of (and rapport with) the brands behind the products & services they’re buying as this affects their brand perception by association.
Branding in the B2B sector has also evolved due to the changing profile of the B2B buyer. Today, you’ve got a customer base that is always on, always connected and jumping from platform to platform – expecting seamless and efficient experiences. Furthermore, B2B companies now have to take into account that a customer will likely have detailed research on their product and gathered opinions from their peers to inform their purchasing decision before they come to you. Therefore, embodying your brand identity in each of your business relationships is crucial – you never know where your next endorsement might come from.
As digital transformation has impacted branding, so to has it enforced changes with how you communicate your branding; namely through your marketing. As with B2C marketing, your customers can interact with your brand in more ways than ever. Social media channels, such as LinkedIn, can now be used to reinforce brand image as well as drive leads and B2B sales. Likewise, a high SEO ranking can drive traffic and also legitimise a brand; reinforcing your brand perception in the eyes of potential customers.
There are plenty of great examples of B2B branding done right.
For instance, Drift is a marketing and sales company that uses conversational marketing to connect with businesses. Authenticity is key for Drift’s branding, and it only uses images of real employees and customers on its website, and all of the content put out on its social media channels is made by company executives, giving genuine and candid insights into the brand. All of this amounts to a highly trusted brand with intensely loyal customers, and the numbers speak for themselves: the connection Drift’s conversational branding makes with customers has helped the company to accumulate over 50,000 customers in just 5 years.
Google offers a wide range of B2B services, from its host of cloud productivity software products to advertising tools and even augmented reality technology. Google has a very recognisable and consistent brand. Logos, icons, and software interface across every touch point use familiar colour schemes, design styles, and typefaces, making its varied portfolio of products and services feel cohesive and connected. Google’s brand positioning means it is seen as a full-service provider with a solution to every problem, and a brand users can depend on. To really secure the message, the value of the Google brand is regularly reinforced by customer testimonials.
Below are some frequently asked questions about B2B branding, including how often you should refresh your branding, and why focusing on it is important.
How do you measure ROI?
To measure how effective your brand is online, you can look at how highly your website ranks in organic search results and how many impressions and interactions your online content is generating. You can also look at website analytics such as site traffic, bounce times, and how many of your webpages a person will visit on average.
This can tell you how good the user experience is on your website and how well your online content is attracting and connecting with your audience.
You can also look at how long is spent on each sales cycle, helping you to identify areas where you can educate your customers through your brand and build trust, speeding up the sales process. You can use a customer relationship management (CRM) system to do this.
How often should you rebrand or refresh your business?
The best time to refresh or rebrand is when you notice your brand is falling behind the competition. Consider whether your brand still aligns with your customers’ needs, whether your target audience has changed as your business has grown, and whether you are still offering the most up-to-date products and services to your audience.
There is a big difference between a brand refresh and a rebrand, with a refresh making visual improvements, and a rebrand completely repositioning a brand with more often than not the aim to attract a new audience.
Learn more about the differences between a refresh and a rebrand here.
Do I really need to focus on my branding?
In short, absolutely!
A brand is more than a logo, website, or campaign. It’s your company’s story, its reason for being, the way you interact with your customers, the products and services you provide, your packaging, your creative decisions, and your marketing style all rolled into one. It gives customers a reason to believe in you.
Research has shown that word of mouth has a huge influence amongst buyers. For instance, research summarised here has found that 91% of B2B buyers are influenced by word of mouth, and 50–80% look for peer reviews before making a purchase.
With a strong brand, you can get your customers talking, buying, and recommending, and there are plenty of success stories to prove the power of a strong brand.
How Studio Noel can help build a memorable brand
If you are looking to strengthen your B2B branding, Studio Noel has the teams and depth of expertise to develop a robust strategy and branding for future growth.
Through strategy workshops, stakeholder interviews, imaginative design, and so much more, we work closely with businesses to create strong brands that stand out from the competition, attract attention, and deliver on their promises.