Why clear and long-term brand building will always reap success for years to come
The power of a recognizable, clear, and distinctive B2B brand has often been underestimated – and underinvested. Marketers are under pressure to deliver on short-term targets, but many tech companies are so “down among their tech weeds” that they never come up for air, so asking C-suite level execs to look at investment plans beyond demand generation and performance marketing can prove to be quite a stretch.
Your brand is your biggest unique differentiator, that with sufficient investment and time can hold the key to build a strong reputation, establish a clear market position, improve trust, loyalty, advocacy, and deliver the ultimate end goal: more B2B sales.
Now, unlike what the Italian IBA Christmas elves may have claimed, Rome wasn’t built in a day – and neither is a brand. Cultivating an engaging and recognizable brand takes long-term investment, and requires time, effort and persistence. Too often, brand building has been put on the back burner. But with the correct investment and industry expertise of PR and Marketing pros, brand building can achieve meaningful differentiation, encourage additional short-term growth, and improve overall company value.
The B2B sales cycle typically lasts up to six months or more – depending on the value and involves an average of seven decision makers . The sales process really is no “quick fix” and a stellar reputation from the brand or company thought leader will go the extra mile with B2B prospects. But still only a minority of B2B organizations recognize this. Recent Forrester research uncovered that 23% of high-growth B2B companies plan to invest more into their brand, intending to increase reputation program budgets by 10%.
Don’t take any unnecessary risks – create a strong brand purpose and stick to it…
Brand purpose is a key component in any long-term investment and typically involves how a solution will make a change to the world, its role incorporates corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs and/or environmental, social, and governance (ESG) policies. It is indeed a cunning mix of all and there’s a reason why it is called brand building – the brand will develop, stretch and may move into new markets over time.
Ultimately, developing brand purpose will help build trust and loyalty – a key factor in B2B purchasing as today’s B2B buyers expect more from businesses. A drive to make better purchasing decisions has encouraged brands to be more authentic and transparent in their operations – a point we have made in our “How to” blog for building a positive and genuine ESG brand image.
Brand and Brand Building is not to be confused with the 22 busy Power Point slides that occasionally spew out of corporate departments with too many pillars holding up too many floors and personas everywhere, or the company mission statement that reads the same as every other B2B company. It’s succinct, powerful, crosses vertical and horizontal markets, can be embraced by your buying persona and can grow with company aspirations
…because it’s worth it!
The same Forrester research outlined some of the many benefits to brand investment, including:
- Increased sales due to an increase in awareness, correct brand perceptions, and more credibility and trust
- Avoid the risk of “memory corrosion” and ensure your brand makes the B2B purchasing shortlist
- Increased brand awareness will reduce the risk of demand generation efforts going to waste and requiring more investment
- Customer renewal, cross-sell, and upsell rates improve: Customers aren’t leaving for more relevant brands
- Market category positioning expands, and you’re still viewed as an industry leader
Marketers continue to bet on brand – don’t crumble budgets in the face of uncertainty
Current global economic pressures have put great strain on industries and marketplaces – and often, marketing is in the firing line for tighter budgets. The good news: B2B marketers are fighting back! LinkedIn research found that around two-thirds of global marketers will maintain, or increase spend in brand building over the next six months, with continued investment in brand from sectors such as tech, realty, financial services, and professional services. For CMOs, brand awareness is now one of the key metrics to prove marketing effectiveness and subsequently increase future budgets – in the UK, 63% of B2B marketers will maintain or increase brand awareness spend to ensure they are front and centre in B2B buyers’ minds when their budgets return.
It not called brand building for nothing
In a recent trip down to the B2B Marketing Expo in London, I was able to sit in on a talk by Jennifer Shaw-Sheet, EMEA Lead at B2B Institute – LinkedIn, discussing the harmful and potentially devastating impacts of “memory corrosion”. In the talk, Jennifer explained that much like bridges, our memory corrodes. The painting of the Golden Gate Bridge never stops, when the painters reach the end, they have to start again. Constant maintenance is the most prudent and practical way to prevent corrosion and keep the bridge running.
Jennifer explained: “Like bridges, our memories corrode. And when it comes to advertising, corroding memories mean lost sales. Put more pithily, the brand that is remembered is the brand that is bought.”
To create a successful brand, first we must establish the simple messaging pillars that will communicate values – these must be consistent and backed up by company actions, simply greenwashing won’t suffice in an eco-conscious market. As qualified leads make their way through the long sales funnel, they will always be on the lookout, researching solutions, and here’s where credible thought leadership content – not just content but content that supports your brand messaging – proves its worth. By establishing your brand as an industry leader, with exceptional knowledge and expertise, prospects are much more likely to buy your products or services, especially if you’re establishing dominance in a growing sector.
Don’t be the pioneer that got the arrow in the back after getting so far – it’s all about getting ahead of the rest and owning the market you’re in…
Drive increased brand awareness with timely thought leadership
In a recent blog on executive profiling, we spoke about the value of placing thought leadership content that supports brand messaging in relevant, well-respected publications to boost brand positioning and drive organic requests from journalists to further establish a market leading position. Well, we did it again and just last month the IBA Pitch&Place Team was able to secure a placement for the CIO of our leading automotive retail software client in the Wall Street Journal – no pay-for-play, just a credible thought leader speaking on valuable topics. With an average circulation of 3.7 million in 2022, it’s put brand awareness in pole position for our client! And with the authority of the WSJ behind it, our client had take-up in a whole raft of relevant top tier vertical media.
Purpose, budgets, and awareness: the three-pronged case for continual brand investment
It’s clear to see the value of a strong brand – and there’s no time like the present to get ahead of the market and establish yourself as an industry leader. With the right investment, and a helping hand from PR pros in the know, the journey to a successful brand doesn’t have to be a struggle.
Georgia Harris is a PR Account Executive at IBA International.
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