Consumer and retail brands have long served as the standard for best-in-class, highly-visible super brands. Today, however, business-to-business (B2B) marketers are faced with a new reality – the brand is of equal importance to B2B marketers as it is to their consumer counterparts.
For B2B marketers, selling a superior product at a competitive price no longer guarantees success. Customers need to understand the value of a potential business relationship above and beyond the product they are buying, and be assured of a positive customer experience. Simply put, the value and relevance of B2B brands are becoming increasingly recognized. Consider that in 2016, Millward Brown included a B2B ranking for the first time in its BrandZ report, and maintains that B2B brands drive value more consistently than their consumer counterparts.
B2B companies recognize that strong brands are linked to customer relationships and underpinned by positive customer experiences. A strong brand is not merely a logo or identity, it is the essence of a company with the potential to add value to every aspect of the organization – financial, brand, customer experience, marketing and people.
Successful B2B marketers understand the financial contribution of the brand.
A Forbes article penned by brand and marketing experts at McKinsey & Company stated that some analysts estimate B2B brands may be worth well over $100 billion. Further McKinsey maintains analysis shows that B2B companies with strong brands outperform weak ones by 20 percent.
A brand influences the choices of customers, prospects, partners, employees and candidates. In an environment of abundant choices, this influence is crucial for future growth and the long-term success of the business.
In successful companies, brands play a critical role in B2B decision-making.
B2B companies must be prepared for the growth of markets, the introduction of new technologies and the complexity of the customer’s buying process. This complexity drives the need for a strong brand that provides leadership, meaning and value to prospects and customers. It’s not enough for a business to state its brand proposition, brand attributes must filter throughout every aspect of the organization internal and external.
The value of the brand as a strategic business asset is fully realized when it flows seamlessly from the company vision and mission. If the vision defines where you are going, and the mission is how you are going to get there, the brand defines your marketplace advantage to help customers make choices. These strategic planks all work together toward a common direction.
Brands are about a relationship, not a transaction. They represent the trust and emotional connection between a buyer and seller.
A strong brand helps achieve the company vision, deliver a positive experience and build long-term relationships with customers. Looking again at the BrandZ ranking, this is increasingly evident as many of the top 20 B2B brands have stayed in the B2B ranking over 10 years, while fewer of the B2C brands have kept their ranking. Research continues to show that the brand is an important consideration in B2B purchase decisions as companies understand the value of leveraging key points of differentiation.
Strong brands make selling easier. A well-defined brand can provide a strategic advantage over competitors.
The brand is the foundation for communicating with customers and prospects and should be reinforced through every customer touchpoint — marketing tools as well as personal contacts.
Successful B2B marketers know how to reach and inspire customers with both a rational, product-based message and an emotional, benefit-oriented message. A clear and focused brand strategy helps customers understand what the company promises and what makes it unique. And when the company delivers on the promise, and exceeds customer expectations, the relationship is strengthened and continues to build over time.
Brands are a source of employee unity, pride and purpose, serving as a rallying cry.
Employees who understand and “live the brand” will have a sense of pride in their organization and deliver a positive brand experience to customers. Brands make a real and measurable difference when the brand is seen as vital to business success, supported throughout the organization and practiced every day.
Long-term success is achieved when all employees consider the brand in every decision, action and communication.