Brand building takes time and dedication. Unwavering fidelity to a consistent message that conveys a valuable differentiator will pay you large dividends and turn your brand into the most valuable asset you own.
From the buyer’s perspective, the brand is an insurance policy. A brand on the side of a potato chip bag tells the buyer exactly what those potato chips are going to taste like – every time. But in B2B sales, buyers often don’t know what they need, what’s available, or how it works. So a solid B2B brand communicates this message, You can count on us to help you figure out exactly what you need, provide a product that will fulfill or exceed that need, and show you how to use it. A reputable B2B brand, from the buyer’s perspective, insures the buyer against risk before and after buying.
From the B2B seller’s perspective, the basic purpose of a brand is to educate the potential buyer and reduce the impact of price on the purchasing decision. Research shows that people will pay more for products and services if they come from a well-known company. Consider the following.
The 4 benefits of well-branded B2B companies
Clients give well-branded companies greater leeway and more opportunities than their lesser-known peers. Clients let these firms have:
1. Access: Anyone who’s ever tried to see a C-suite executive knows half the challenge is simply getting in the door. Executives have rules that their staffs use to filter vendors, such as Have I ever heard of this company?
2. Permission to take on Bigger Projects: Clients place more trust in well-branded firms and let them extend themselves beyond their own stated capabilities and track record. That extra amount of trust gives branded companies permission to take on bigger projects than more experienced competitors.
3. Confidence in Potential: Often companies will invest in emerging technologies and services simply because they come from a company with the potential to set a standard.
4. The Chance to Recover: Clients want to pay for tried and true experience. The difference between a lesser-known company that fails and a well-branded company that fails is that the well-branded company will have the opportunity to restore confidence.
Basic brand building
Brand building is a science and it’s not complex. It does require strict adherence to simple guidelines and – most of all – diligent monitoring and follow through. Brand building is basically laying a smart foundation and paying attention to detail. Here are the eight steps.
1. Start with a quality product
A quality product/service that delivers superior performance is the foundation of a strong brand. High quality is a prerequisite to entry, but not enough to set your brand apart from the competition. Be sure every product and service you offer is the best possible.
2. Identify your brand’s differentiator
Once you’re sure you have a high quality product, decide on the singular distinction for your product that is most important to your target market. Put a lot of thought into choosing this differentiator because you want everything you do to reinforce that singular distinction in the market. If your brand is not first in your category then consider creating a new category where your brand can be first.
3. Create a brand name
Avoid anything that sounds generic or inauthentic. Generic words include national, American, U.S., advanced, precision, technical, reliable, general, standard, etc. Within every industry, there are one or two other generic words that seem to creep into company names and brands. These are words that companies think resonate with prospects, but usually don’t. For example, frozen foods brands often include some derivative of the words fresh and flavor, in an effort to combat the notion that frozen foods are neither fresh nor flavorful. The problem is that these words are used so often they’ve lost their meaning.
In addition, avoid words that are inauthentic. For example, the word fresh when applied to frozen foods is obviously not authentic.
The brand name doesn’t have to include the company name. In fact, you want the brand to be the focus, not the company. Consider an abbreviation, an acronym, your differentiator, the founder’s name, an alternative spelling, etc.
Finally, before you start using your new name and start investing in signs and printed materials, be sure that the name is legally available wherever you will be doing business in the next 10 years.
4. Create a logo and tagline
Now that you have a high quality product with a compelling differentiator and a great brand name, come up with a memorable logo and catchy tagline. Your brand logo and tagline need to make an immediate and lasting impression. Because of this, brevity and simplicity are important.
When defining your message, try to own a single word or short phrase. You want that word or phrase to be firmly etched in the mind of the target market – you want the market to associate that word or phrase with your brand.
The logo should be simple and include the brand name in a legible typeface. For maximum visual impact, the basic logo shape should be rectangular – about 2-1/4 units wide to one unit high. Be sure that your signature color is very different from your closest competitors’ colors.
Other logo considerations include:
• Does it tie into your brand?
• Is it distinctive?
• Will it morph easily for brand extensions?
• Does it reproduce well in black and white?
• Does it reproduce well in scanned documents?
• Is it scalable?
• Will it imprint or embroider well on merchandise?
Think about creating a brand style sheet that spells out exactly where, when, and how the logo and tagline should be used.
5. Protect your logo and tagline
As long as no one else is using a logo and/or tagline identical or very similar to yours, you can consider your logo and tagline copyrighted as soon as you finalize them. Copyright law, which covers text and graphics among other things, conveys ownership from the moment the materials are fixed in tangible form.
While this is true, smart companies have their logos and taglines trademarked – using the ï symbol during the trademarking process and the ï symbol once it’s approved. This prevents other companies from using your logo and/or tagline and trademarking them as their own.
This is how the law works, if you have not officially trademarked your logo and/or tagline, you own it. If others try to use it, you can legally stop them from doing so UNLESS, they apply for trademark protection. This means if you don’t trademark your logo and/or tagline, someone else can and YOU will have to stop using it.
You can do a logo and tagline search at The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office: http://www.USPTO.gov. However, this is an area where you definitely need legal services.
6. Develop a consistent message
Develop a consistent message by solidifying:
• Your target audience
• What your brand stands for
• Your differentiator
• Your logo and tagline
• Your business objectives
Brand attributes in your message need to be authentic and verifiable. Your brand should readily tap into your target market’s needs and evoke a gut-level response.
Once you know what you want to convey, create a messaging guide and distribute it to all employees.
7. Market the brand
Achieving and building on name recognition is the key to brand success. Get your brand message out there consistently and continuously through PR, advertising, and networking. Take advantage of every positive opportunity and be careful not to associate the brand with anything potentially negative.
Your branding effort must permeate your entire organization and communicate through all marketing channels with one voice, in the same tone, and in the same style. In other words, your brand image must be consistent and constant across all channels of communication, including:
• Print, online, and broadcast advertising
• Print, online, and broadcast media
• Internal publications
• Indoor and outdoor signage
• Web site and Web marketing
• Print collateral
• Point of purchase
• Phone system
• Delivery vehicles
• Trade shows
• Promotional items
• Employee, industry, shareholder, community, and government relations
8. Live the message
Whatever your brand image and differentiator, you have made promises to your market that you must deliver on. Remember, your brand is nothing more or less than these promises. If you’ve taken time to complete the first step – ensuring that all of your products and services are of the highest quality – delivering on your brand promises shouldn’t be an issue. Take an extra step and consider offering an unconditional guarantee on either your entire differentiator or one aspect.
B2B brand building is especially important to sales. Clients get their first sense of the company in the sales call and proposal. This is why you need a proactive plan in place. By selling the brand, you create a self-perpetuating cycle. The brand will help make the sale and each sale will reinforce the brand – making it, truly, your most valuable asset.