B2B Branding: The Importance of a Great Value Proposition
Branding. It’s something that B2C companies need to do well. Why? Because it’s a competitive world out there, and a lot of sales are based on being memorable in consumers’ minds. Everyone knows the logos and slogans of these two B2C brands:
These logos and slogans are part of a larger branding message that companies must relay to their customers. Those branding messages are within their websites, within all of their marketing and advertising efforts, and now, all over social media.
Do B2B Companies Need to Be Mindful of Branding?
The short answer is yes. The longer answer is that it may not be so easy. B2B products and services are not fun or exciting to individual consumers. Instead, B2B marketers have to appeal to other companies, often to a group of individuals within those companies, who make team purchasing decisions. This makes branding more difficult perhaps, but it is still important, despite the arguments often presented by naysayers. They go something like this:
- B2B customers are rational decision-makers. Branding is more of an emotional appeal to individual consumers
- B2B sales are consummated as a relationship between a sales rep and buyer(s).
- B2B products and services don’t have a cool appeal. What matters is price and efficacy of that product or service.
- A B2B target audience is often too small for a branding message strategy, so targeted advertising is more effective.
- A lot of B2B products and services are complex and cannot be reduced to things like logos and slogans.
But branding is far more than a logo or a slogan. It is about bringing value to customers, whether they are individual consumers buying shoes, or a company purchasing new project management software.
Branding means communicating value and benefits to a potential customer, and that is certainly within the realm of B2B marketing.
B2B companies need to ask themselves what value proposition is the most important to their customers and how can they turn that into branding so they, too, are recognized and memorable. When they nail this value proposition, they have a true identity. They can then begin branding initiatives and avoid the pitfalls that are common in this effort.
Take the Lead from B2C Brands
The value proposition of Walt Disney World is “Making Dreams Come True.” The value proposition of Maxwell House Coffee is that the last swallow is as good as the first.
What is the value proposition of your brand? It is this that will drive your branding.
Basecamp supplies cloud-based project management software to its business clients. It has done a great job of identifying its value proposition, with the slogan, “Chaos Organized.” And this is how it depicts that slogan on its homepage.
All of Basecamp’s marketing focuses on this value proposition – on its site and on all of its social media presences (yes, there is a place for B2B marketing on social media).
Once a B2B brand has identified its value proposition, it can then develop a branding message that permeates all of its marketing – both in person and online.
Avoid Branding Mistakes
B2C companies have been in the business of branding for a long time, and they have made their share of mistakes. B2B companies can learn from those mistakes, and here are five of them.
1. Asserting that Branding is Only a Name and a Logo
While these are certainly recognizable elements of a company brand, they are not the brand itself. A brand’s value proposition encompasses all of a customer’s experiences with the company – from an initial contact with a sales person to billing and after-the-sale support.
Staples decided, in 2002, that its value proposition was making things easy for its corporate customers. Its new logo and slogan reflected that proposition:
Behind this logo and slogan, the company introduced some major changes in its marketing and in its customer experience. These included lots of time saving practices, easy-to-find information, some changes in exchange and return policies, and improved inventory management. The goal was to make the entire purchasing process easy, and it worked.
Staples overtook Office Depot and became the top office supply company in the country. The key point is this: when you decide to initiate a branding effort, it must be based totally on the value proposition you see as your biggest selling point. Beyond that, you have to make the changes in your organization that will align with that brand.
2. Insisting that Branding Only Relates to Products or Services
A company’s products, whether they are lumber or software, are obviously the most important feature. But the other features of a brand and a branding message strategy are critical as well.
What are the services and benefits that exist behind those products that provide value to customers? What type of long-term support and other factors of customer service are an integral part of the company? Identify these things then make their value become a part of your brand.
Top quality customer service and reliability are a part of the FedEx brand. They move things well, and that is the service value they provide over and over again. This distinguishes it from the competition over 35 years of a great track record.
Businesses know that when they need a package to get from here to there, FedEx is their best bet. The brand name FedEx has become like a mini-mission statement that stands for a value proposition.
3. Believing that Brands Somehow Take Care of themselves
When companies hire new employees, they don’t put them in a cubicle or an office and leave them alone to fend for themselves. They train, they mentor, they support, and more.
Brands also need this type of nurturing. Things change, both internally and externally. For this and many other reasons, brand marketing, out of necessity, is an evolutionary process. . There must be a continual re-assessment of how a company’s brand reflects its key value proposition. When there is a disconnect, then things must change.
4. Making Decisions on Branding Purely an Internal Matter
Company decision-makers are incorrect if they think that they can decide on value and brand promotion by themselves. Customers have images of a company too, and their images are usually far more important than those of internal people.
UBS came to be as a result of some mergers and acquisitions. It became a very powerful financial services company but was just not recognized as such by its customers. It was divided into three different companies by the internal decision-makers who believed that each company had a special brand. Customers did not respond well and were confused about which company did which. There was not a unified brand.
When the company united those three very different brands into one with a common value proposition, it simplified its message to its customers. The result was great growth.
It’s important to listen to customers whether you are a B2C or a B2B business.
5. Thinking that Branding is Only an External Thing
Unless companies promote their value propositions internally to every member of their organization, there will be lack of coherence and commitment; there will be confusion and non-support. Failure to accomplish internal brand-building means that mixed messages are sent to customers. When this happens, customers have no unified perception of what the brand is.
When UBS re-branded itself as one company, it re-trained everyone – from top to bottom – so that a single unified and appealing written and oral voice message of brand went out to its customers, both business and individual.
B2B Brand Building Does Reap ROI Rewards
When a brand is solidly in place and when customers and potential customers see that brand as clear and consistently tied to value, the following occurs:
- They are more willing to try your product or service
- Closing a sale usually takes less time
- They are willing to pay a higher price
- They are less inclined to try the product or service of a competitor
Don’t listen to the naysayers – get your brand on.
Lead/Featured Image: Copyright: ‘http://www.123rf.com/profile_rawpixel‘ / 123RF Stock Photo
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