Let’s break a myth
What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of branding?
Nike’s tagline “Just do it!”?
The logo of Coca Cola or Apple?
If so, you’re not alone!
When it comes to branding, most people think it’s more suited to B2C companies, and not really relevant to B2B.
Branding is typically associated with emotions, and a lot of people don’t associate B2B purchases with emotions, which is another major reason why they don’t associate branding with B2B.
A common perception is that B2B buying decisions are entirely rational in nature and not driven by emotions or feelings.
Is that true though? Is B2B buying devoid of emotions, thereby making branding the sole domain of B2C? Should B2B companies ignore branding? Not at all!
Branding is just as important for B2B firms as it is for B2C companies, if not more. The fact is, whether you are B2C or B2B, you are ultimately selling to people.
When you’re negotiating a large contract with a target client, you’re dealing with the decision makers in that organization, who are humans...with emotions.
Their perception about you and your company is based not only on the functional/tangible aspects of your products/services, but also intangible aspects of your business, such as your brand’s personality, values, and the level of trust and comfort they feel while dealing with the people in your organization. All this is part of your ‘brand’.
To understand this better, let’s understand what a brand actually is.
What is a brand anyway?
A brand is not just a logo, tagline, color palette or typography. Yes, those things are an important part of your brand’s visual identity, but they are not everything.
Is Apple the most valuable brand in the world just because of its logo? No!
It’s because of the customer experience they deliver, their commitment to offering high-quality products, their minimalistic aesthetic that spans their products, stores and website, their launch events, the personal branding of their leadership, among other things.
That logo is globally recognizable (and desirable) because of all these aspects of the company as a whole.
Apple is perceived as a lifestyle brand, rather than just a smartphone or computer manufacturer.
When it comes down to brass tacks, a brand is how a business or an individual is perceived. It is the first thing people think of when your name is mentioned.
As Jeff Bezos famously said, “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.”
One of the biggest goals of branding, is creating a specific perception about you, so that people say what you want them to say, when you're not in the room.
For B2B businesses, branding isn’t necessarily about being a household name like Nike, Coke or Google (though that’s what you should aim for). It doesn’t even have to mean that you should have the best product or service in the world. Many brands don’t.
What it does mean is that you have to be bigger than the product/service you’re selling. It means that your name should inspire tremendous trust and positivity in the minds of your target audience.
It also means that you should have a clear positioning. In other words, what do you want your business to be known for?
It should be very clear to anyone who comes in contact with your business exactly:
What you offer
Whom they are best suited for(both in terms of the type of business and size)
Why should they buy from you?
By consistently talking about who you serve, you differentiate yourself from other companies in your domain and attract your ideal customers.
For eg. Canva has clearly positioned itself as the go-to design tool for individuals, startups and small businesses that can’t afford to hire expensive designers but still want to create professional designs. The Australian startup has now developed into a global brand loved and used by millions of people. It has an affable brand personality.
By the way, another way of understanding branding is imagining if your business was a person. What kind of person should it be? How should it make people feel? That’s something that you need to consciously decide and work on, based on your company's long-term goals and vision.
Now that we know what a brand is, let’s understand why B2B companies should invest in branding.
Why branding matters for B2B businesses?
Branding helps you cut through the noise & attract your dream clients
Whether you sell a product or a service, odds are that yours is not the only business offering it. Why should people buy from you and not from one of your competitors? What sets you apart from them?
If the answer isn’t obvious, you have a problem.
Given the considerable competition in every industry today, including the B2B space, if you’re not a brand, you’re just a commodity.
Which is why it’s vital for your business to have a unique brand identity to be able to stand out from the noise. The key to this is positioning.
By positioning yourself as a thought-leader or expert in your niche, you can become the first name potential buyers think of, in other words, their preferred choice. This can significantly negate the competition, at least psychologically.
This is particularly important for small and medium-sized businesses, which cannot spend millions of dollars on advertising and celebrity endorsements to build strong brand awareness.
If you are an SMB, you should try to focus on a niche within your industry, clearly define your buyer personas (ideal customers) at the outset, and communicate your expertise and value proposition to your target audience.
Doing this consistently on the right platforms over a period of time would help you build a strong brand identity that would make it easier to stand out and acquire your dream clients.
Remember, it’s easier and more cost-effective to build a strong brand when you are targeting a niche, rather than going after everybody in the world.
As they say, “If you’re selling to everybody, you’re selling to nobody.”