Business to business (B2B) brand communication has come a long way since the days of the all-in company brochure. I’m not saying the brochure is dead as these still have their uses (but in a far more targeted way).
As sales cycles are longer and with added procurement hoops to jump through, you need to make sure you are always firing on all cylinders, getting your core message through alongside your brand so that you can be relevant and remembered.
Today, the communication challenges are many with everything from globalisation to a constantly content-hungry media landscape.
But this also brings great opportunity for B2B brands to shine and those that look after their brand and communicate it well will reap the benefits.
On the plus side, brand loyalty seems stronger in the B2B sector than for consumer brands and this is where I can see the biggest opportunity for excellence in brand communication to have a big impact on long-term business performance. As sales cycles are longer with B2B and with added procurement hoops to jump through, you need to make sure you are always firing on all cylinders, getting your core message through with your brand so that you can be remembered and relevant.
Never forget that even though you are B2B selling, you are connecting with individuals. They will still assess what your brand means for them personally and you will always need to make them feel good, even if they are not directly spending their own money.
Here are my top five things that every B2B business should be doing:
No. 1: Be very clear about who you are and what you stand for.
Be as bold as you dare! It is better to amplify and be known for something than nothing at all. Too many messages just feels exhausting and is a turnoff in the early stages of the buying journey. Keeping your core message simple and benefits-focussed will take you further into the prospective organisation. If you could only say one thing about your business, what would it be? For more on this, you can read my article in The Drum on Simplicity being the new black here.
No. 2: Make sure you have the right brand toolkit for the communication you need to do during the buying journey.
If you prepare white papers for example, you need an image library and typography suite that will support that. If you have a lot of content on social, make sure your graphics are all on brand. In the later stages of selling, you need to have well designed documentation and templates that will be, if not a pleasure, at least easy to read.
No. 3: Learn from the consumer market.
Don’t be afraid of a catchy top-line message as this always makes connecting easier. If you feel you can, remember to make it fun and enjoyable to interact with your business. Think about how much fun corporate entertaining is and bring a little of that into your brand communication. Consider what is in it for them and make the recipient feel good quickly so that they can get excited about working with you (it will make their role easier, better or more successful).
No. 4: Make sure you harness brand association.
Highlight your best known clients, even if they are not the most interesting or relevant projects. This is a massive boost to eliminating the risk of buying from you. One or a couple of people are taking a professional or career risk by selecting you, make it easier for them so that they can say that you already work for ‘so and so’. Hunt down key client testimonials, these are powerful endorsements and can get your name in the hat quicker and more often.
No. 5: Never state the obvious – friendly, efficient, experienced…
Many things are already a given in your brand. What company would say: “Hi, were not very experienced and our people don’t really like you and we waste quite a bit of time delivering our projects…” ?? You are just wasting precious time and all these things are engrained in a professional, well delivered brand platform and collateral. Time is better spent hunting the magic to deliver something that is more unique. Also, social media will be sure to let everyone know what every business is really like on friendliness and service. One exception is client testimonials as I’ve already mentioned above. Other people are always allowed to say how good it FEELS to buy from you.
If you can master these five things, you will build your brand and benefit from long-term benefits. You will also have a solid platform from which to conduct your more salesy and tactical communication. A strong brand helps you sell more and faster – creating a valuable business asset.