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Rebuilding a B2B Brand

Adjusting your marketing message for a world in which your audience directs the conversation

Whether as a result of a merger, acquisition, divestiture, new CMO or other major catalyst, you may be involved in an effort to refresh or rebuild your B2B brand. In today’s sales and marketing environment, it’s a bigger challenge than ever before. But it also has a much higher potential impact on your business.

In the old days, rebuilding a B2B brand meant addressing brand expressions such as the logo, tagline, corporate identity, business cards and letterhead. Behind the scenes, the more important work involved brand positioning, based on a good understanding of the competition and the needs of the customer. Layered over this are the core messages used to project the brand in the market.

In addition, in today’s marketing environment, B2B branding has picked up some practices from the consumer world. For example, brand personality – the voice, the tone, the vocabulary, the visual vocabulary. To more fully connect with the audience, a B2B brand has to have these human attributes.

But all of this is still in the “push” mode of putting together branding messages and pushing them out into the market in a controlled manner. Many B2B marketers still assume customers and prospects will see these messages, engage with a well-trained sales force that will follow the company line, and everything will go according to plan. But the fundamental change in the digital environment is that the audience is in charge of the conversation. They can choose where they go and who they talk to. They experience the brand – online – long before they engage the sales force. So rebuilding a B2B brand must include addressing the look, feel, message and functionality of the brand’s Web presence.

Brand Is the Experience

We were recently asked to evaluate how a B2B brand’s website reflected its brand. The conversation was not about the logo and color palette. It was comparing the site user’s experience against what the company claimed as its brand attributes. (For example, if the brand claims to be innovative, how does the site deliver that to users beyond saying, “we’re innovative”?)

This is what we refer to as “living the brand.” Since so much more of the marketing and early buying process is online these days, rebuilding a B2B brand must include giving customers and prospects a positive experience online. It entails taking all of the elements of the brand and figuring out how that brand “behaves” in all situations – how it speaks, how it looks, what it stands for, how it provides service, how it is to do business with, etc.

Of course, “living the brand” online goes beyond the website. Social media provides a different environment where many people throughout the company could be engaging customers and prospects…in their own way. It is essential to make sure they are aligned with the tone and key messages of the brand. This takes internal branding and brand guardianship to an entirely new level. It isn’t just about how the switchboard operator answers the phone. It’s making sure that many more people are informed, empowered and motivated to engage the market and customers online in a way that benefits the marketer.

This may sound like B2B branding is about everything and how it is communicated everywhere. Well it is. When we say branding, we think about everything. Brand is the experience…every interaction with your customers, your suppliers, your audience, your market, your world. If you do that right, then the logo and tagline are the symbols, the shorthand of the customer’s brand experience.

For more information about B2B branding, visit http://bit.ly/nZmUKR.

Russ Green, Executive Vice President and partner at Godfrey, has 35 years of B2B marketing experience and leads the company’s branding efforts. One of the largest B2B marketing agencies in the United States and a member of Worldwide Partners Inc., Godfrey specializes in helping highly technical manufacturers market themselves better.