Most branding strategies are implemented or geared towards helping consumer businesses reach their audience- Think of your traditional home goods store, or a soda company, possibly the latest and greatest fabric softener. However, the need for effective brand identity in business-to-business relationships is becoming more and more prominent.
The growing appeal for strong identity in a company that only deals with other businesses comes from our ever-evolving tastes as a society. Traditional business-to-business relationships could be developed solely through dialogue/communication. But we, meaning society in general, are more skeptical now (you can thank Nietzsche, or the fluctuating economic conditions of the past few decades for that). We are more visual; we are attracted with the eyes and then make assessments based on the supporting materials. We need validations that do not rely solely on persuasion. Because of this shift, it is more important than ever that companies who operate primarily on business-to-business interactions dedicate attention to their brand identity. They may only be trying to appeal to a handful of groups, rather than a few million consumers, but those few groups are going to respond as similarly as the general consumer would to effective brand identity.
So what needs to happen? B2B firms should first commit themselves to developing strong brand presence- laying a foundation for their brand so to say. This might include:
Revamping their logo, developing a user friendly and visually satisfying website, creating powerful support materials (both digital and print) that can be given to clients. (Areas that the strong B2C firms have been dedicated to for years now…not a bad idea for B2B to take a page out of B2C’s and model their brand identity in similar ways)
The second step would be to focus on areas that many B2B companies overlook or ignore: Building Brand Presence. This means getting involved in social media, with quality content and even specific ad campaigns that can be driven in modern spectrums (Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, etc.) that would be focused on reaching specific entities rather than a general market or consumer.
Beyond social media lies the arena of data and analytics. Knowing the cause and effect process of the products or services you offer also means knowing your reach. For example:
Based on your current business relationships, what kind of reach are you getting with them? Are they sharing your work with anyone else, if so how may others and who are they? If you have a product that eventually reaches consumers, do they know about you and what are they saying about you? All of these questions that relate to your reach come full circle in building your brand identity- whether that is good or bad. Companies that can be proactive in their branding approach will have the upper hand against the competition…and for companies that operate solely on B2B relationships; the competition may already be catching on.
To look at it from a humorous standpoint, consider a relationship between two spouses. If, once together, either of the two decided to let themselves go and not care how the other saw them, would that relationship last? Even if they stuck together, with the one taking great concern in staying healthy and active, and the other having chips hanging out of their nose and watching football all day long, there would at least be friction right? And the partner who dedicated time to their upkeep would not speak so fondly of the other to friends now would they? B2B businesses can act in similar ways. Once a relationship has been established, the establishing company can either be proactive in their identity, maintaining and improving themselves constantly, or they can settle and risk losing that partnership in the future. So, to answer the initial question:
“Is your B2B identity important?”
Well, why don’t we just let you think on that…
This has been a most pleasant sit-down. I hope you enjoyed the analogies given and the words presented in hopes of enlightening the needs for B2B brand identity. Now, I think I’m going to pop open a bag of chips and watch a little football.
-Alan Fowler, Oakey Agency