What’s the difference between a successful B2B brand and an unsuccessful one? Imagine two houses side by side—both have the four walls, a roof, a door, some windows. On closer inspection, however, you realize that one house is far more preferable than the other. It’s built on a secure, solid foundation with durable materials and delightful structural details. It’s decorated nicely and well maintained in such a way that it has a homey feel.
The other house isn’t quite so sturdy. The roof leaks, the outer walls rattle in the breeze, it’s empty inside save for a few broken pieces of furniture. It’s livable, sure, but needs a complete renovation if it’s going to stand up to the house beside it.
Like the two houses, most brands have the basics: a name, a logo, a product or service, some employees, customers—but the standout, long-lasting brand will be the home that employees take pride in, that customers opt for, and that prospects are drawn to. There is no exact blueprint to build a brand like this, but there are many best practices that marketers should keep in mind.
We’ve listed them below—whether you’re building or remodeling your B2B brand, follow these tips to ensure that your brand will be a place that people call “home” for a long time to come.
Set a Strong Foundation: Get Organizational Alignment
CMO Insight: Jennifer Houston of D-Wave Systems was once asked, “Who owns the brand at your company?” Her answer: “Every one of us.”
We can’t emphasize this enough: Creating a successful B2B brand requires getting everyone on board. Marketers can’t drive meaningful organizational change on our own, and they shouldn’t have to, either.
Now, because branding efforts are often considered “fluff,” it’s up to the marketer to build consensus and trust among the other departments, to really bring home the fact that brand is the ultimate way to differentiate yourself in a competitive market. A great brand makes recruiting easier for HR, customer acquisition easier for Sales, and amplifies the success of the entire organization (plus a big breath of relief for the Finance department).
Here are a few ways to bring non-marketing functions into the brand building fold:
- Partner with HR to field an employee survey and get the pulse on employee satisfaction and brand perception
- Reach out to your CFO to learn about the financial mechanics of the organization
- Hop on Sales calls as an observer and then do a sales presentation of your own. There’s great power in walking in your most misaligned-functions shoes.
Equip Your Crew: Include Employees in the Process
CMO Insight: “Every great brand is built inside out.” — Chandar Pattabhiram, CMO Coupa
If your employees don’t buy into the brand, no one else will. End of story. This is perhaps one of the most overlooked steps in B2B brand development, and it’s a big mistake. Employees are your frontline brand ambassadors—if they’re not included in the branding process or they all have different messages, then customers and prospects are going to notice. It’s hard to put trust into a brand that isn’t consistent, isn’t it?
Here are a few examples of how to engage employees with brand:
- Develop an awards program that brings the new brand to life
- Set up a training program to reinforce your new brand promise (even better, gamify it!)
- Deploy an employee ambassador program
- Establish special days or weeks for coming up with new ideas
For more examples like these, check out our B2B Brand Strategy Guide.
The Annual Inspection: Establish a B2B Brand Study
CMO Insight: “It took until Years 2 and 3 to get our benchmarked questions that we now ask year over year, which we then align to the success of our brand campaigns and show our progress.” —Joe Toubes, previously CMO at Honeywell
There’s no point in developing a brand without fully understanding its strengths and weaknesses. The first step of B2B brand development is to conduct a brand study not only with your target audience, but with all other key stakeholders (i.e., employees, customers, industry experts, investors, etc.).
Most marketers know this, but here’s a really important step to ensure all this research doesn’t go to waste: Make sure the study can serve as a baseline for your brand efforts. It’s extremely difficult to show the success of B2B branding efforts without benchmarked data, so keep that in mind from the get-go if you want to really show how your branding efforts have transformed the org.
Get an Expert Opinion: Partner with an External B2B Agency
CMO Insight: “I really recommend, if you’re doing anything like this, to strip the emotion away, to get an outside view and get an agency to help you.” — Paz Macdonald, CMO Hyperscience
You might have a very good idea of what your home-in-progress needs, but an outside expert can make sure you aren’t being blinded by bias. As Les Brown once said: “You can’t see the picture if you are standing in the frame.” An external agency partner can help discover opportunities you may have never considered, and/or elements of your brand that obviously aren’t working but you feel emotionally attached to.
Here are a few questions to ask when looking for an agency partner (find more here):
- What’s their brand purpose?
- What have they done for other relevant B2B companies?
- How many of their recent clients will provide references?
- How do they measure success?
Not Just a Coat of Paint: Put Purpose First
CMO Insight: “Be fearless in your ability to infuse purpose into your company. Purpose is not an add-in, it’s not a cute tagline—it has to be a part of the messaging architecture from the beginning.” —Ali McCarthy, CMO Skience
Yes, your logo and colors are a critical part of your visual brand identity, they’re just the nice paint and shutters when it comes to building an unbeatable B2B brand. Enter brand purpose. It’s not a tagline or a slogan, it’s the reason why your organization exists. It unites employees, customers, and prospects. It guides every aspect of your branding efforts and influences how you make decisions as an organization and in the day-to-day. As your company’s North Star, your brand purpose should be unique, authentic, and guide people through all kinds of weather.
There are a whole lot of steps to get to purpose, but one key thing to keep in mind is that it should be succinct and easy to remember. Our idea purpose statement is 8 words or less, carefully chosen to be packed with meaning about what the company is and what it aspires to be. If your branding message changes over time but your purpose remains constant, you know you’ve successfully defined your brand.
Here are a few great brand purpose examples (and Renegade Marketers Unite episodes about how they came to be):