I understand the reason for branding and marketing in consumer goods, but are these important for business to business brands?
The short answer is yes, but I’d have to admit a vested interest in this considering around 80% of Silver Bullet’s current business is from B2B companies for whom branding is a huge factor in their success and of vital importance in their marketing.
However, there has long been a perception, which actually still exists in a decreasing number of organisations, that whilst branding is important in consumer goods ranging from detergents and other FMCG to major purchases such as cars and new homes, it is of less importance for B2B companies where sales are driven by the product or service and the sales force. In fact, it is now increasingly recognised, that nothing could be further from the truth and marketing is just as important, if not more, in B2B sales as it is in the B2C sectors.
One of the best ways I came across to differentiate the two sectors is that in B2B you’re marketing a product or service that the buyer doesn’t want, but needs, whilst in B2C you’re marketing something he or she doesn’t need but wants. In simple terms, I don’t want to shell out for a new van for my business but I need one, whilst although there’s nothing wrong with my current TV, I’d like this new one.
So the old perception was that you simply stated the facts or features in B2B whilst B2C sold the benefits or the dream – as the old “Mad Men’ used to say, “Selling the sizzle, not the steak” with B2B marketing rational rather than emotional.
Moreover, B2B purchases are usually higher cost, long-term affairs with an extensive buying process and also often involve different people purchasing than those who will be directly involved with the product or purchase. In addition, sales targets for B2B goods and services are inevitably short-term so that brand building is increasingly important and beneficial to sales – creativity, story telling and relationship building pay very real benefits – and it shouldn’t be forgotten that procurers of B2B services and products are human too and just as influenced by the power of brand their B2C colleagues. As one marketing consultant put it, “Businesspeople do not park their emotions and personality in a cardboard box when they come to work and buy products and services.”
Historically, B2B in-house marketing staff were generally seen as the poor relations of the sales team – the people who organised the corporate golf days and the product photography! Fortunately the Internet changed that perception by clearly showing how leads were generated – the sales forces began to understand that buyers were not simply interested in a list of functions but were buying into the stories and content behind them – the brand was clearly important, especially given the fact that the purchase decision would probably be made by more than one person, would be taken over a long period and would probably involve a considerable investment.
Recent research by the global marketing agency, FleishmanHillard, into how brand affects B2B marketing and sales revealed that 32% of people rank brand reputation as the most influential attribute they look for in a supplier, second only to value for money (57%). Buyers also want to work with brands that have built up a reputation and management is now paying closer attention to how branding can help businesses stand out in a crowded market where the buying process is long and complex.
Claudia Bate, head of technology at the agency, commented, “Modern B2B marketing needs to appeal to both hearts and minds. The decision-makers that matter do not leave their emotions and personalities at the door when they go to work. Creative storytelling, quality content and a distinctive brand identity are hugely important tools for breaking through the noise to drive real business value.”
What’s really interesting and incredibly effective is when marketing tactics from one sector can be used in the other and ‘hybrid’ marketing, where a company with both consumer and corporate customers applies B2C techniques to B2B markets, and vice versa, tapping into emotion through creativity and storytelling. The sales person used to be the face of many companies – today their story is told through a host of other channels including their B2B marketing and website.
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