Business-to-Business | B2B brands emulate B2C-style marketing
But purchasing decisions are more complicated
Consumer brands have raised the bar on business-to-business marketing. Although targeted, data-rich B2C-style marketing can help increase sales and reduce the cost-per-sale, it can seem like too high an investment and too challenging, partly because B2B purchasing is complicated and varies by category and company size.
B2B brands include a wide range of categories, as illustrated by the BrandZ™ B2B Top 20. Led by Microsoft, IBM, and SAP, the ranking includes 11 technology brands, four banks, two logistics and two energy brands, and one conglomerate. What these disparate brands, across five categories, share in common is the complicated nature of selling their products and services and the potential benefit afforded by a powerful brand.
The B2B purchasing process can be especially difficult when targeting large companies where decision-making can involve a multitude of executives scattered throughout the world. For reaching smaller companies the challenge seems more manageable. In those organizations, which can consist of a few people or even only one individual, decision-making is more streamlined.
In some categories, like energy, that are heavily regulated and depend on licenses to operate, a narrow focus on key influencers and cultivation of personal relationships have traditionally been used over broader marketing campaigns.
But even in these instances, where the audience seems limited, it is important to tailor messages for the many sub-audiences, including, for example, lobbyists, regulators, financial investors, academics, journalists, political leaders, C-suite executives, media, and think tanks.
Similarly, an airplane manufacturer may need to constantly burnish its reputation to a select audience of customers, including airline companies and governments, and to its supply chain. Hoping to influence the buying decision of those customers, the airplane manufacturer might run a campaign aimed at consumers.
In all these instances, a strong B2B brand adds benefits that include:
- Adding efficiency to winning business, gaining a premium, and reducing the cost-per-sale.
- Focusing the organization and better aligning people behind a mission.
- Attracting the best talent to work for the organization.
Brand Building Action Points
- Build equity
Building brand equity for a B2B brand can be difficult. Difficulty should not be an excuse for inaction, however. Product-specific communications are necessary and linking them with a masterbrand can be useful.
- Sustain relationships
Personal relationships between executives at the B2B company and the customer company are critical. To the customer, those executives are the B2B brand. Brand health is intertwined with people-to-people relationships.
- Go beyond the RFP
People in procurement roles are trying to make rational decisions about the products and business partners they choose. But few decisions are totally rational. Beyond the detailed response to a Request for Proposal, it is important to build an attachment based on trust and reliability, what in the B2C world would be called Brand Love.
- Reach more influencers
All of the purchasing influencers are not sitting in the C-Suite. Academics, journalists, and sometimes the public can have an important voice. And within the C-Suite, it is important to communicate to the individual stakeholders, such as the technology head and the CEO, in ways that meet their specific interests.