History is littered with B2B companies failing to adapt quickly enough to changing markets, evolving revenue models and waning stakeholder attention spans. Often, lack of a salient brand strategy and the ability to address customer needs, emotions and the competitive landscape are to blame.
The first step in developing an effective brand strategy is accepting that stakeholders, customers and brand advocates are in charge, and their expectations are on the rise. They demand more choices in B2B technologies and services, and where they get their information. They engage in conversations about industry trends and issues, and how they impact business. With this increasing desire for depth and accessibility, companies must accept that while making money is a priority, operating under that notion alone does little to set their business and brand apart from others in the industry.
Couple the power of customer/stakeholder control with the realization of the dynamics of a changing marketplace and intense global competition, and brand strategies should become a more frequent priority for any company, technology, product or service. But, please, if you take nothing else from this post, remember that a brand is so much more than a logo, tagline or website. A brand is your competitive advantage that differentiates you from your competition. It’s how others perceive you, and you can leave it to them to shape your brand or proactively do it yourself.
Here are cornerstone elements to consider:
- Deliver on expectations. It’s not just a brand promise that separates you from your competitors. It’s consistency and accountability that will create brand equity, which in turn, will generate repeat/increased business and company value over the long term.
- Create an emotional connection. Utilize emotional triggers to connect with target customers and stakeholders on a deeper level. Are you addressing specific pain points? Are you providing information/content that makes their lives easier and gives them piece of mind? Are you making them feel part of your brand with personalized engagement?
- Be consistent. Consistency in positioning drives brand recognition and, in-turn, fuels loyalty and creates revenue. A brand messaging strategy often includes multiple target audiences (e.g., potential clients, potential employees, potential partners, influencers, etc.), and while your core positioning must be the same for all, you’ll use customized messaging to address each group’s specific needs.
- Tell a compelling story. Create a memorable experience for your stakeholders that is attractive enough to repeat. Tell a brand story that brings people together, keeps them engaged and shows that you understand their needs. Remember, you’re not writing a three-page-long essay about your brand. You’re communicating the value your stakeholders receive when they engage with your technology or service. You want them to tell your story.
- Understand you target audience(s). Once you’ve identified your key stakeholders, it’s important to understand what they’re looking for and how your brand can help. Addressing pain points, offering solutions and providing value are paramount. Your audience segmentation should always be research-based, which will save you time and resources. Remember, sometimes smaller is bigger.
- Research your competition. Stay in tune with your competitors’ strategies and services, and use their experiences to improve your brand strategy. Where do they receive media coverage? How do they utilize social media? Are they positioning their company executives as thought leaders?
- Define your value proposition. What differentiates your brand from the competition? Why should a customer use your technology or service? What expertise positions you as an industry leader? Use these qualities to your benefit. See them as a guide to brand strength and profitability.
Successfully address each of these areas, and you’ll be well on your way to a cohesive brand strategy.