Strong branding, insightful content, and a continuously growing and engaged fan base. That is the trifecta in B2B marketing that brand leaders should aspire to achieve. It starts with a serious commitment to build marketing as a central and strategic business function that is truly customer focused.
Let’s unpack it.
Brand strategy driven by insights
Strong branding is only possible when you truly know what matters most to your customers. In B2B this is complex because you typically have multiple decision makers, in various business segments, that buy different products for different reasons. This makes strong branding even more important. Across your offerings and segments, your brand is your stake in the ground—it should stand for something meaningful to your customers and be evergreen.
One of the most important roles of a CMO is to ensure that brand strategy is anchored to business drivers and in sync with the vision of the CEO. This is key to inspiring high-impact branding that resonates from the halls of your C-suite to the heart of your customer. If you haven’t done the work to clarify your brand positioning and strategy, add this to your priorities. It is an exciting opportunity to align with leadership and elevate the creative magic that draws people to your brand.
Content is your trojan horse
Insightful content is the reward that you deliver for someone paying attention to your brand. It brings your brand to life within the hearts and minds of your target like nothing else. Every creative campaign should have content that adds depth and value. The expertise that resides in the minds of your employees is the lifeblood of this content. They often know what keeps your customers up at night, and how your company can help them. Your challenge is to unearth it and turn that knowledge into content through storytelling. It can take many forms—the key is that it focuses on the solutions and insights that inspire your customer, not selling a product.
Brand building content is about education, not sales. Business relationships are based on trust and mutual benefit. Content is the trojan horse that builds trust before your sales team arrives. Powerhouse B2B brands build content practices that make their customers smarter and help them get better at their craft. This translates into appreciation and preference for their brand and it fuels the effectiveness of all of their marketing. The impact shows up directly in the higher performance of lead-gen programs that strong brands enjoy. To take it a step further, when your content is great—your lead-gen becomes an integral component of branding strategy. Performance marketing and branding begin to merge.
Great content will grow your fan base and your influence
With the pace of change and innovation, developing an engaged audience is a strategic imperative for brands that want to lead. Marketers have to think like publishers and produce content that prioritizes the interest of the reader. Be interesting—not interested. Distributing interesting and helpful content across the digital and social ecosystem has a multiplier effect—your prospects will voluntarily stay connected to your brand. They will follow you, welcome your email and send your content to their peers. Create content tailored for the channels that are influential with your target and you will amass audiences and weave your brand into the lives of your target customers.
Who is winning in your industry?
If you look across any B2B vertical, you will find a few examples of brands that have large and engaged social followings. Dig deeper and you will find that it is almost always a powerful, leading brand or a challenger brand that is growing fast. These brands invariably have impactful creative, excellent content and a strong share-of-search. The best of them are also actively engaged with influencers and communities that are critical to their business - building lasting connections to an audience that they leverage for research, lead-gen and e-commerce. These are the brands that committed to the ideas within this article years ago.
Benchmark against your competitors
Evaluate how well your brand is building its fan base. Your web traffic, lead-gen, email and ecommerce data offer valuable concrete KPIs, but there are other strong indicators of marketing success that you can use to monitor the effectiveness of your marketing and establish goals.
Share-of-search data can tell you how you compare to your competitive set in terms of search activity across Google and other platforms. Social followings and engagement metrics give you data that can paint a clearer picture of the impact marketing is having. Brand tracking studies can offer in-depth insights as to how your brand is currently perceived and where growth opportunities exist.
It is not too late
Mega brands such as IBM, McKinsey or Salesforce execute this trifecta at a level that can make this concept feel out of reach, but it is not. There are success stories with much smaller companies. Our agency has helped B2B brands in niche industries build incredibly effective programs—building engagement with an audience of passionate followers in complex business segments to drive high-value returns.
We have found that this approach demands close collaboration between client and agency teams. The deep product and customer expertise can only come from client stakeholders; outside perspective and creative that is tailored for, and distributed across modern media is where agencies excel; and technical competency with continuously evolving tools and tech is needed on both sides. More than anything, you need a marketing leader that sees the potential and has the passion and perseverance to leverage technology and navigate continuous change.
As B2B marketers, this is the challenge of our time. Our industry is fun, creative and complex, and when we get it right together it is also incredibly rewarding.
I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject or examples of brands you know of that are getting it right. If you would like to audit the winners in your industry and see where you stand, contact us and we can help you take a look.