Brand strategy is one of the most critical aspects of the growth of any business - large or small, B2C or B2B. B2C branding is far more art than science, because purchases are largely driven by emotion, and branding success means you have effectively addressed those emotions.
B2B branding, on the other hand, is a bit more science. Purchases are driven by logic and needs more than emotion, with data and facts guiding the buying decision.
Now consider this: According to MediaPost, in 2016, two out of three B2B marketers rank "generating high quality leads" as their biggest challenge and top priority for the year.
Think you can generate more and more of these high quality leads without an effective brand strategy? Think again. When making a purchase, buyers will typically consider several different service providers or products - but in general, they all offer the buyer the same basic value. In those scenarios, the brand is often the only true differentiator.
All too frequently, though, B2B companies focus their brand strategy entirely on basic things like logos and messaging guides, when in fact there are several other components that contribute heavily to the thought process associated with the B2B purchase decision.
1. Search engine rankings and associated copy
More than half of B2B companies are increasing their SEO spend in 2016. I suspect that if I asked any one of those marketers what matters to him or her from an SEO standpoint, the answer would revolve around driving quality traffic and, ultimately, leads to the company website. Brand wouldn't come up.
And yet it should. Often, a search engine is a buyer's first and most impactful exposure to a B2B brand. In fact, according to a 2014 study, 94% of B2B buyers do online research before purchasing.
Does your brand fail to show up in the top few results for a critical search category? Three quarters of users don't scroll past the first page of search results - so if you show up four pages deep, that's a loss not only for traffic to your website, but for your brand, as well.
Or maybe your brand shows up near the top, but you butchered the meta title tag and description tag by skimping on the writing. A discerning B2B buyer will notice that, and it will shape perceptions.
First impressions are everything.
Fifty-five percent of web users spend fewer than 15 seconds actively on a webpage. Do you think anyone will stick around if your website doesn't deliver the information they were expecting? Do you think it's OK to provide a poor navigation experience? Think no one will notice if you make a weak brand statement on that first landing page? Remember, these are B2B users are perhaps a little smarter than the average bear. They can make a lot of judgments in 15 seconds.
Your website is your brand. In this day and age, if you can't convey what your brand is all about on your website, it ain't gonna' happen anywhere else.
Take Eminem's advice: You have one shot, one opportunity. Are you going to capture it or let it slip away?
3. Social media properties
Admit it, B2B marketing director, you slap those Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn logos in your header or footer just because you feel like you're supposed to, because everyone comes to your website to then goes off and check out each one of your social media properties, right?
Sarcasm aside, your social media properties are an important component of your brand strategy. They're an extension of your website, and in many cases, they enable you to showcase the true personality of your brand more than a website allows. They represent an opportunity to humanize your company for customers, prospective customers, and prospective employees. And why would you want to do that? Potential buyers who feel a strong connection to your brand are 60% more likely to consider and purchase your product over buyers who don't feel that connection.
4. Digital ads
The standard Google pay-per-click ad is a 25-character headline, 35-character first line, 35-character second line, and 35-character URL. A Twitter website card allows for 116 characters and an 800 x 320 image. With that little real estate, there's no way a digital ad can really enhance or damage your brand, right?
Think again. These ads are just as impactful for your brand as the television, print, or radio ads that dominated yesteryear. Do not mail it in on these. Even something as straightforward and concise as a direct response ad should portray a certain brand identity.
Interested in really lowering the value of your brand? Create low-quality content. This is near and dear to my heart, since Right Source lives and breathes the development and marketing of high-quality content for ourselves and our clients. We don't believe in doing anything less - and frankly, I look down on those who do.
It's laughable that many brands still produce content that's promoted as educational, but is really just a thinly veiled sales pitch. According to MarketingCharts, 75% of B2B buyers want branded content that helps them research business ideas, but 93% of brands focus their content on marketing their own products and services.
Software companies - especially those of the eight-, nine-, or 10-figure valuations - are the most frequent violators of the 80/20 rule, which says that 80% of your content should be purely educational, with no direct intent to sell. (I've covered the technology world's obsession with software and how it has negatively influenced marketing here and here.) If you want to build your brand, you have to produce quality content that provides value to your audience.
There you have it: five new(ish) factors that influence B2B branding, brand strategy, and brand awareness more than the average businessperson might think. So the next time your CEO tells you it's time for a "rebrand," make sure you consider not only the basics, like logos and messaging guides, but these critical digital components as well. And if you'd like to talk about building your B2B brand to support your business objectives, I'm all ears.