The economic effects of the pandemic are undeniable, and B2B organizations are acutely feeling them. The pandemic caused a massive shift in consumer behaviors — yes, even in B2B — that is still in motion. Marketers are continuing to learn how consumers react, watch, listen, share and ultimately make buying decisions in this unfamiliar landscape.
While learning to tread new waters, marketers and marketing teams face the difficult task of doing more with less. Increased sales and engagement KPIs are more important than ever, but seem to ride on more conservative budgets and resources.
Under this mounting pressure, marketing teams need to get the most out of every tool at their disposal — including their brand. Because when all else is equal in the market, and B2B customers are holding their purchases closer to their chests, brand resonance may very well be the element that tips the odds ever in your favor.
Is your brand firing on all cylinders and inspiring the behaviors you want in your customers? Evaluating the effectiveness and equity of your B2B brand can help your internal marketing and sales teams tell the right brand story. And elevating your brand performance today can pave the way for success tomorrow.
Crafting an effective brand
Your brand is unique, complex and ever-growing (or at least it should be), so branding is a process, not a product. However, the most significant step in that process is often bypassed. Fuel your brand’s performance by starting with this crucial question: “What’s the strategy — and why?”
Starting with strategy helps marketing, sales and other internal stakeholders reach total alignment on three main brand elements:
Does your external brand reflect your answers to the three brand elements? Use our quick brand performance exercise to find out.
Marketing, sales and everyone else who will leverage your brand must be in lockstep on these three non-negotiable brand elements. They create the strategic foundation from which your organization navigates every interaction, and they are key to facilitating that ever-elusive unity between stakeholders. Leaning into strategy helps eliminate any personal biases that different internal stakeholders may hold (and may not even be aware of) to uncover the true core purpose of your organization.
Once we establish a strategic brand foundation, everything that comes after must point back to it. In many cases, we recommend including the strategic foundation in the brand guidelines we create. This leads the development of the brand’s look and feel and empowers those who create branded materials to deeply understand the “why” behind the assets they’re creating and put it into practice, resulting in more cohesive executions on behalf of your organization. Helping your brand ambassadors understand the strategy that informed your brand will, in turn, help them be more effective stewards of it.
When your internal stakeholders are fully aligned, it’s time to talk maximization.
How to maximize your brand performance
Whether B2B or B2C, consumers are all human. That’s why the most successful B2B brands are trending toward a B2C approach to marketing that maximizes the brand by leading with mission and purpose.
Maximizing your brand makes your customers feel seen and heard in two major ways:
- Serving them content that is custom to their challenges in the spaces they’re already spending their time; and
- Inviting them to be part of a story that will deeply resonate with them.
To achieve that level of personalization — and the engagement you’re looking for — you must continuously evaluate and optimize your brand’s performance to keep it firing on all cylinders.
While your brand may feel set in stone, the reality is that brands are living, breathing entities. When your brand is authentic and guided by your company’s mission, your brand strategy can — and should — flex to meet the demands of your audience, maximizing your brand’s reach and message. (And when it’s time to reposition your brand’s message altogether, that’s another story.)
The most mature B2B brands are cohesive enough to build equity across all audiences but robust enough to speak to them individually. It’s an account-based marketing (ABM) mindset employed at the brand level before it’s ever applied to tactical execution. Maximizing your brand gives your internal sales and marketing teams more runway to work with as they craft the personalized, effective messages that your customers crave.
Moving your brand to the next level
treetree has worked with numerous organizations across the spectrum of brand maturity. Our goal is always to get the most out of your brand in a way that’s useful at the stage you’re in. A B2B brand can be beautiful, thoughtful and robust, but if your business model and internal teams aren’t equipped to adopt it, “brand” will just be a pretty PDF gathering dust on your desktop. A brand should serve your business’s current state. When your market position outgrows it, expand and evolve.
Three reasons to tap an agency partner to help break through branding barriers:
- When you’re entrenched in a single brand all day every day, it can be hard to objectively evaluate your position
- When internal alignment seems out of reach, outside partners can take a bird’s eye view and find solutions hiding in your blind spots
- Working in and on a wide breadth of brands inspires daily learnings and unique perspectives on what makes an effective brand
Brand strategy case studies
Let’s look at a few of treetree’s B2B clients that represent three distinct stages of the brand maturity spectrum. In each instance, our work produced a strong brand foundation rooted in strategy. The main difference between them is the contents of the brand deliverables. Because again, and we can’t say it loud enough, the brand must be useful in practice.
- COMPANY A
- Challenge: Company A received investor funding and needed to get its name out in the market fast.
- Solution: We worked with Company A to identify its target audience’s key behaviors and drivers, and then created a visual identity and preliminary brand language based on that research for an efficient and scalable go-to-market strategy. When Company A is more established, the strategy will still be there as a foundation on which to grow.
- COMPANY B
- Challenge: Company B was a centuries-old organization with deep brand equity. However, it struggled to leverage its brand in new markets.
- Solution: We took the brand back to the studs to determine which elements were still driving equity and which were no longer effective. Then, we worked in tandem with Company B’s stakeholders to define how brand strategy could be executed, culminating in a persona-led brand approach rather than vertical-specific viewpoints. The result was an enterprise-level brand that could flex as needed for three distinct audiences while building the same level of equity.
- COMPANY C
- Challenge: Company C was an industry leader that recognized it no longer resonated with its audiences.
- Solution: Our research revealed that to reestablish itself as a power player in target markets, Company C needed to do more than revamp marketing tactics — it needed a brand refresh to better represent the evolution the company and its industry had undergone. Our strategy distilled the true meaning and value of the company into what would become the foundation of a new, highly effective brand that was rolled out across all the company’s verticals.
What do these organizations have in common? They all realized that brand was the key to breaking into new markets while remaining firmly entrenched in existing ones. Although every challenge required a unique solution, our work produced a strong and functional brand foundation based on the strategy each time.
Evaluating your brand’s effectiveness
How do you know if your brand is working as hard as it can? We’ve put together a quick guide that will help you audit your brand’s performance (and effectiveness). It’s not a replacement for a thorough brand exploration, but it will help you determine if you need to have more conversations.
This quick exercise includes questions such as:
- What is the one thing we do better than anyone else?
- How does our messaging compare to our competitors’?
- Do our materials consistently and truly represent our brand strategy?
If you find that your brand isn’t delivering everything you might have thought, let’s chat. Wherever you are in your brand journey, we can recommend a course of action to move your brand to that next level and ensure you’re telling the right story to the right people, helping your organization (and you) get more wins today and going forward.