Successful branding can make or break a business. For consumer brands, it’s central to building an identity, increasing awareness and carving out a larger market share. So, why do so many B2B companies neglect their branding?
Contrary to popular belief, branding plays just as important role in B2B marketing as it does in the B2C space, yet data from the 2022 CMO Survey found that B2B brands in the UK invest just 7% of revenues into marketing, while this figure was around 10% for consumer brands.
Approached correctly, branding can be a powerful tool in B2B marketing, not only helping to build an identity for a business, but actively boosting other marketing efforts.
Why B2B branding is important
There’s a common assumption that branding plays a more limited role in B2B buying decisions that those within the B2C realm. Hard facts and tangible factors are generally seen as much more important than “emotional” buying, but this view does not account for brand awareness and loyalty that we often see in B2B buying.
For example, The Harvard Business Review found 90% of B2B buyers chose a brand they already had in mind at the start of the buying process. This implies building brand awareness is key, as is carving out a bigger share of voice on the market.
Many B2B companies operate in niche markets, with many offering similar services, but good branding allows a business to position itself apart from its competition, while building awareness and trust in potential buyers. Salesforce are a prime example of exactly this. While there are countless cloud software service providers, few have attained the broad reach and awareness that Salesforce has, and this is due to its heavy investment into brand marketing.
Branding vs. performance marketing
It takes time to establish a brand identity, and long-term brand building requires both a cost and time investment. Understandably, many B2B companies, especially those operating on a limited marketing budget, want to see fast results, meaning many opt for standard performance marketing techniques, focusing on immediate, measurable results through paid social campaigns and search engine optimisation.
It goes without saying that lead generation, driving traffic and converting sales are fundamentals of good marketing, but an exclusive focus on performance marketing without any brand building is essentially a wasted opportunity.
Though brand value is harder to measure than the concrete KPIs of performance marketing, a strong brand identity and connection with your audience can enhance campaigns, driving higher conversion rates. B2B companies often take one approach over the other, but both are more effective when integrated into the same holistic strategy, maximising results.
Do your research
One of the most common mistakes B2B companies make when approaching their branding is a lack of research. With so many operating in niche industries with limited audiences, they assume they already know the needs and motivations of their potential buyers without conducting the relevant research, and the result is a mismatch between the buyers needs and the brand’s messaging.
Instead, conducting the relevant primary research with audiences, and clients past and present gives a clearer view on what is needed to address pain points, and how this can be worked into messaging and values. Once these core considerations are established, it becomes easier to position a brand within the market.
While we are used to seeing creative messaging in consumer brands, there’s a common misconception that this kind of emotional marketing isn’t appropriate in the B2B space. However, B2B buyers are humans first and foremost, with messaging and branding that incorporates effective storytelling and visuals playing just as an important role, while setting a brand apart from the often-generic messaging used by many B2B companies.
Emotions can and do effect B2B buying, in some respects even more than in B2C. It’s important to remember that the B2B buyer is taking on a certain level of risk with regards to their credibility and reputation when making a buying decision. In fact, LinkedIn’s Ads Blog found that B2B marketing strategies that appealed to the emotions of an audience drive on average 7 times more value in terms of sales, profits and revenue than purely rational campaigns.
Consistency is key
The most successful brands understand the value in maintaining consistency across all their marketing materials, presenting as a unified whole with a consistent image and messaging. This might include following a content style guide across various marketing channels, or ensuring all creatives reflect wider company branding and messaging reflects core values.
This is because the core of a brand should be focused on building an identity for a company. With many B2B brands appearing faceless, this can go a long way in encouraging familiarity and brand recognition beyond the specific products or services a business offers. This is key to driving a sense of brand loyalty and trustworthiness, while also boosting the performance of wider marketing campaigns, such as on paid social channels.
Branding is often neglected in the B2B space, but there is a lot of evidence to suggest it plays just as significant a role in B2B as it does in consumer buying. While a nice logo alone won’t drive many sales, when integrated with data-backed messaging and performance marketing campaigns, branding becomes a core part of building awareness and share of voice.
Sam Martin-Ross is UK Managing Director of digital marketing agency, Eskimoz.