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Why and how to invest in B2B branding – tips for 2024

01.02.2024

You’re probably not investing enough in B2B branding.

Why? Because “nearly one-quarter of B2B companies devote less than 20% of their marketing budget to brand” (BCG).

Many businesses want to jump straight into performance-led activity. But brand marketing is a powerful force for driving leads, sales and marketing ROI.

The fact of the matter is that better branding creates greater trust. And greater trust drives action. Without trust, your audience is much less likely to dive into a relationship with you. Investing in your brand positioning and creating a brand identity can lead to better brand performance overall.

As a B2B digital marketing agency, we’ve seen the value of building a brand first and focusing on lead generation later, firsthand. Let’s look at why investing in brand marketing is important, and where you can focus your attention.

The role of brand equity   

The value of brand marketing efforts can be difficult to quantify. It’s not as simple as ‘this ad got 200 clicks, which led to 50 leads, which led to 15 sales.’

Instead, the role of brand marketing is to build brand equity. The components of brand equity include:

  • Credibility
  • Recognition
  • Reputation
  • And overall worth.

But, how do you measure the effectiveness or ROI of a brand marketing campaign? How can you tell if people know you better? If they have a positive perception of your brand?

Plus, this kind of activity takes time. Very few people see a brand once and decide to trust it. It takes around five different digital engagements before someone will think about talking to your brand representatives directly.

It’s this time investment that leads to business leaders neglecting their brand marketing. Instead, they focus on the product. On marketing, developing, or selling their solution.

But this is a mistake. In fact, companies that neglect brand building are likely to see worse results for their sales and performance. Think about it: who are you more likely to buy from?

An unknown brand who keeps targeting you with product sales content. ‘Buy this solution, it has great features!’

Or a brand you’ve seen several times already. Who have been telling you a story, have proven they understand your challenges, and then you see an ad for their product.

This is a brand that has established brand awareness and therefore equity with their target audience. This is a brand that is much more likely to generate customers and sales.

“Companies that are more mature in terms of brand marketing generate a higher ROMI on those efforts; moreover, strong brand marketing capabilities actually reinforce performance marketing, leading to better engagement overall.” – BCG

What makes B2B branding great 

Emotional storytelling  

People don’t buy features, they buy solutions to their problems and missions they can identify with. Compare a compelling story filled with emotional drivers versus a list of product descriptions. The story will be more effective at driving action from a customer.

In terms of building awareness, a story will travel farther through media and word of mouth. A brand that ‘advocates for vulnerable people’ is more memorable than one known for a support service. People are also more likely to think of this brand first when they decide to look for a solution.

Plus, a company’s values can be enough to sway audiences from one brand to another.

“Brands matter because companies act just like people when it comes to evaluating what products or services to buy.” – Brand Strategy Insider

Originality and differentiation  

An ‘original’ brand is undeniably distinguishable from others. It doesn’t fade into the sameness that’s all too easy to mimic in the B2B space. This includes how you look and what you say. If everyone in your space uses blue colour palettes, consider going a different direction.

Just look at how many off these AI apps use the same brand style. It makes it almost impossible to tell them apart, let alone to see their unique selling points.

AI App Logos

Review competitor messaging and see what they talk about. Try and find a niche or a different angle that you can own. It takes work to define this, and many businesses end up not doing it.

These businesses also end up using jargon and buzzwords like ‘unparalleled’ or ‘leveraging’. In contrast, descriptive language can differentiate them from the crowd.

Originality also shows that you have a real, unique point of view or solution to deliver. You aren’t the same as every other SaaS or intelligence solution out there.

Consistent and recognisable  

Everyone knows what the bright yellow arches represent as you’re driving down the motorway. Microsoft’s colour palette is instantly recognisable, and Slack’s simple “Where Work Happens” gets the point across right away.

You can understand a great brand in a second. This comes from consistency – consistently talking about your core message and using a consistent brand design.

And this is what fuels recognition.

An impactful colour palette makes sure your audience notices you, and a clear message is much easier to remember.

Authentic and honest   

Great brands do what they say on the tin.

If a brand claims to be about sustainability but is caught greenwashing, it will quickly lose trust. Take Starbucks’s plastic straw scandal, or the fast fashion giants that were called out for hiding their waste.

Equally, people connect better with authentic brands. This means being transparent about what you do. Brands can do this by using clear and understandable language, and by creating a brand identity that represents the brand values.

B2B branding actions that lead to ROI  

How are people creating a ‘great’ B2B brand strategy and what goes into making them different? Well, it’s a lot of time, research, revision, testing and more work. This is enough to put a lot of businesses off investing in brand marketing. But the groundwork is essential to creating a brand that holds weight with your target audience.

Here are some actions to consider below:

Define your strategy and brand positioning  

A defined brand strategy is the cornerstone to any good brand. It defines everything from your target market to your value proposition. Putting this into a strategy ensures your brand marketing is consistent, addresses key market needs, and has a clear, confident purpose.

Creating a distinctive strategy requires work. This includes market research, competitor research, data analysis, stakeholder interviews, and creative work.

Know your audience  

Knowing your target audience is key to creating a great brand. It’s impossible to create an emotional story that connects with a person’s challenges if you don’t know what they are. Invest time into creating personas and a cheat sheet of personalised messages.

Talking to the sales team is a great place to start. They know the questions prospects are asking, what customers were sold on, common challenges, and what people care about.

Measure, report and review performance 

Data is a key part of decision-making throughout any department, and marketing is no exception. It should be used to first understand your market, company and audience, and identify opportunities for your brand. Is there a gap in the market you can form a niche in? Is there a strength you can capitalise on?

Then, tracking and reporting on the performance of brand marketing is key. As we said, it’s difficult to attribute sales and conversion metrics to the ‘brand’. But, you can measure the performance of brand campaigns or activity using engagement metrics. For example, likes, views, and interactions is a good way to gauge your brand awareness and how people have responded to your brand.

Get diverse team skills  

Hopefully now you know that branding is more than just a logo. A great brand has a marketing team that includes content writers, designers, data analytics experts, campaign managers, social media managers and more behind them. Having diversity in your team skills helps create a brand with real depth and authenticity.

Most importantly, these people all need to work together to create something cohesive. You don’t want your brand being represented differently on social media than on your website for example.

This is where having a solid brand strategy is really helpful.

Market your brand on all touchpoints  

“Around 47% of B2B buyers consume between three to five pieces of content before engaging with a salesperson”  

Having one voice that sings out loud and clear is essential to having a well-received brand. No matter who is creating the material, or what channel it’s on, your marketing should be distinctive to your brand. In doing this, people are reminded of you wherever they go for content: on LinkedIn, Google, and email.

Equally, having a brand presence in multiple places is important for conversion. Brand marketing across channels caters to the different buying stages that a potential prospect will go through.

  • For awareness, they might discover you on organic social media.
  • For consideration, they may want to read your blogs on your website.
  • For decision, they may be prompted by targeted email marketing.

Engage people across departments   

A good (authentic) brand is a reflection of the company. It portrays the values of the people and the culture just as much as the products being sold.

That’s why getting your entire team (especially decision-makers) bought in is critical. Inside out, top down, down up, and across departments…

This helps with the consistency we discussed earlier. Team members should use the same messages when they’re communicating with prospects for example. Or use the company branded headers on LinkedIn.

This shows outsiders that the brand is unified, representative of who you are, and more than just a ‘show’. One way to achieve this is to get many stakeholders involved in the branding process.

Be a thought leadership champion 

Engaging with topical themes in your industry is a great way to get engagement. Having a unique point of view about these topics is even better. This is how you can build your brand voice. Talking about your area of expertise and presenting unique ideas has many benefits.

It helps you stand out from the myriad of brands out there saying the same thing as everyone else. It gives you credibility in your field and builds your reputation. And t gives your brand a human feel – as someone with genuine thoughts and opinions. And it attracts an audience that shares your views, or at least is inspired by them!

Empowering your team to be thought leaders is an even better way to personalise your B2B brand. Encourage them to create their own content or repost company material with their own thoughts. Doing this will reinforce your company’s position as a team of trusted experts.

Use marketing technology   

This is a more nitty gritty brand component, but having the right tools is very helpful. It doesn’t speak to the heart of the brand, but it does help ensure all the above runs smoothly.

Consistent communication across channels is much easier done with marketing automation tools. Understanding what’s resonating with people can only be done if you have analytics in place. And, with the time a technological infrastructure will save you, you can focus on evolution.

Always seek out brand growth  

As your company changes, so will the proposition and brand identify. Just like humans, change is important and authentic for growth. Don’t be afraid to let go of messages, strategic business models, or design styles that don’t feel like you anymore. All great brands have had a reinvention of sorts – from Netflix to IBM.

A brand that remains static is a brand that won’t continue to succeed.

Start your B2B branding journey  

So how can you justify investing in everything that goes into a brand; MarTech, market research, regular brand strategy evolution, reporting and more?

Because B2B branding doesn’t just produce return on marketing investment (ROMI), it can produce exceptional results. This example from BCG shows that, although you may not see immediate outcomes, brand equity contributes to a more sustainable approach to marketing success.

“BCG worked with a B2B company on an experiment to determine the gains it could generate from brand marketing investments. The company found that the long-term ROMI of those initiatives—including cross-selling opportunities for current customers, the acquisition of new customers, and the retention of those customers after their initial purchase—was approximately 640% over four years.” – BCG

These stats are hard to ignore.

Creating a B2B brand that can achieve this all starts with some strategic exploration, research, and creative decision-making. Then, it’s something you need to keep investing in through consistent marketing activity and strategic reviews.

In this blog on building brands, we discuss how to go through a branding process that will produce something authentic, impactful, and scalable. Head over now to learn more.