There are many different opinions on what Brand Strategy actually is and if you ask a few marketers you may well get a few different answers! We believe it can best be described as the difference between just creating pretty pictures and actually shaping the perception of your business, creating more value and maximising your competitive advantage.
It is especially important to do this with Business to Business (B2B) brands as the sales cycles are so long and sectors fiercely competitive with often only nuanced visible differentiators between brands when they are marketed, especially in the SME sector. We also believe that without a strategy, it is possible to become completely lost in the crowd or having to rely purely on personal relationships; both of which will hinder your growth potential.
If you are new to Brand Strategy, we invite you to follow these three steps to help you create something powerful that will springboard your marketing communications.
Three steps to shaping your B2B Brand Strategy
1. Divide your audience
Divide your audience into no more than two to four groups. This allows for some variation, yet provides enough focus so that you can keep things simple and actually drive through change in your marketing communications. The groups can be made up of any sets of businesses – be it existing clients, specific sectors, job roles or anything that feels especially characteristic and will make a useful subsection of your entire audience.
2. Determine which of these groups your business belongs to
You will most likely belong to one of the following; Disruptors, Leaders, Challengers or Blenders. These groupings determine how you should position yourself in your market/s.
Disruptors offer an alternative way and they need to stand out. This needs to be instantly apparent so they need to look different. Daring combinations and surprising styles are often found in Disruptor's branding. Challenges include not looking like the too high risk option as B2B buyers are very risk averse.
Leaders have a confident and well applied brand and everything must be high quality, creating an effortless feel to their brand communications. Sponsorship and thought leadership are key marketing instruments. Challenges include keeping things fresh and continually evolving to stay on top of your game.
The look is often a mix of 1 and 2. They tread a careful path of belonging and challenging and need to carefully select only a few strengths to highlight whilst assuming other strengths are given. Challenges include how to stand out effectively with something truly memorable – B2B buyers are busy and messages are easily forgotten.
These businesses look to match or accompany the market leaders. Needs an identity that belongs in that brand landscape – a bit of a 'me too' look and feel. They look to carve out a nice slice of business from the existing cake and thrive when exploiting any weaknesses in the branding of competitors. Challenges include gaining maximum revenue for it's products and or services as they often have to provide discounts.
3. Define and match up your story
Your story (your brand essence, if you like) can then be matched up to the above. Stories are important because that is how we remember and they allow B2B brands to drive engagement with a more 'sell for' instead of 'sell to' theory that is defining modern marketing. This can then easily be tested out in theory on mock-ups to see if it passes the 'So what?' test – before you create any costly materials. If you have some friendly clients, it is great to ask their opinion and you will often find out some more about the current perception of your sector and your business specifically.
Cut through the noise
This strategic understanding of who you want to help, what you offer and how to cut through the noise are the foundations from which you can build up a powerful and effective Brand Strategy. If in doubt, keep things simple and build up your brand assets and messaging in layers until you see the results you are looking for.