You have already experienced it- generating B2B leads and increasing conversions is becoming harder.
On one hand, digital platforms have opened up the world’s opportunities for businesses- small and big alike.
On the other hand, digital media spoils the customer with options, making it even harder for businesses to compete. And worse, the changing trends and behavior of B2B buyers has only made sales more challenging.
The reality is, to increase sales your business must find a way to stand out from the competition.
Sounds simple enough. Only it is not.
It’s one thing for you to see a difference, but it’s another for your buyer to see it the same way you do.
If you look at it from the buyers’ point of view, they must be able to:
- Identify your key differentiators
- Relate strongly to your business value proposition
- Perceive you as their irreplaceable business partners
And that’s the role of branding i.e. maximizing customer relevancy and competitive distinctiveness.
So, what should you do?
Well, the first thing you need to do is adjust how you think about branding. Too many companies think that their brand building work is done when they have established a brand’s name and logo.
Don’t get me wrong here.
Visual aspect of the brand design is a very important. In fact, as a branding agency that’s where we excel. Consistent brand design sets the expectations for the experience that customers will have every single time they interact with your brand. But there’s more to branding. Here’s an excellent introduction to branding for your reference by Philip Kotler, who is considered as the father of modern marketing.
Next, understand the role that branding plays in B2B sales and what actions you can take. For that, I’m going to look at the decision phase and the post-purchase phase of the B2B buyer’s journey.
Here’s one of the most important impact of branding on B2B sales.
1. Role of branding in aiding the final purchase decision
Let me ask you a simple question.
If you decide to buy accounting software for your organization today, would you choose a vendor purely based on the sales pitch of the first sales rep who walks into your office?
I sincerely hope your answer is No! At least you’ll do some research about the vendor.
Your B2B customers are no different.
According to a study by Accenture , 94% of B2B buyers conduct online research at some point in the buying process.
In fact, 70% of the buyer’s journey is complete before a buyer even reaches out to sales (SiriusDecisions). Their reliance on sales team’s assistance is not of the same nature anymore as it was a decade ago.
Here, take a quick look at the B2B buyer’s journey:
The buyer’s journey is the process buyers go through to become aware of, consider and evaluate, and decide to purchase a new product or service.
The Decision stage of the buyer’s journey is the point in which your potential customer decides on a solution to their problem. They rely on thought leadership content, case studies, reviews and peer recommendations to make the final purchase decision.
So how can you leverage this changed trend of B2B buying to get more business?
Clearly, traditional sales tactics won’t help you leverage this so-called 70% of the buyer’s journey that you’re missing out on.
So, what should you do?
Aid your prospects in their buying journey to make faster decisions.
Create content for the decision stage, make it brand-specific and highlight your company’s unique value proposition and competitive advantages that you can offer to the buyer.
Make your brand the obvious choice.
Branding is, in effect, a method of creating an image around your company, product, or service. For that the business must have a clear and consonant brand-positioning–differentiation standing. Else, I can say from my experience that it becomes a huge internal challenge to create content that can convince your prospects to make the decision in your brand’s favour.
I’ll share one of my favourite quotes that defines brand positioning in a very interesting way:
“Positioning is finding the right parking space inside the consumer’s mind and going for it before someone else takes it.” -Laura Busche
Here are some more branding quotes to inspire you to shape the right brand image.
2. Impact of brand loyalty on profitability
According to research (Bain & Company), increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%. You know, customers who are happy spend more and buy more frequently from you. Many of them also recommend it to people that they know.
It simply means that loyal customers are profitable customers and help keeping the customer acquisition cost low.
In B2B, brand image results in loyalty.
The importance of branding is in building better customer relationships and loyalty that at least keeps the company in the consideration phase or gets a second look at the RFP and keeps the referrals flowing in.
In fact, B2B buyers want to find brands to be loyal to. They want to forge long-term relationships with trust-worthy vendors/ dealers because it helps them to make decisions faster and easier.
An important part of branding efforts in modern B2B marketing landscape is the customer reviews. In fact, sometimes it matters to prospects even more than their own research.
But not all clients care enough to share good reviews or to recommend customers. That is simply because they’re not engaged.
Here’s the good news.
If you’re already creating content to aid the B2B buyer’s final purchase decision (referring to point#1), you are equipped with a customer engagement tool to stay in customer’s mind. You just need to update your content strategy to incorporate content to engage existing customers.
3. Adding branding to acquisition campaigns increases conversion rates
When it comes to dividing marketing funds, too many B2B companies focus on lead generation campaigns. Lead generation marketers are increasingly winning the war against brand marketers.
But this war is not worth fighting.
According to a marketing study by IPA, balancing brand and demand in digital and traditional marketing will get the best result. So the best results happen when lead generation and branding work together.
If your campaign is skewed towards lead generation, you may have generated plenty of leads, but without brand equity, there’s no motivation for those leads to convert to sales.
On the other hand, if you focus too much on brand marketing, you may not have enough leads to convert for sales.
Now the question is, is there an optimum split?
IPA’s study shows the ideal split between brand building and activation is 60:40- 60% branding(long-term impact) and 40% direct response (short-term sales impact).
I’ve worked with B2B clients across different sectors and interacted with many businesses. One thing that’s common among all the decision makers of these companies is that long-term brand thinking is a challenge because of the pressure to deliver short-term sales.
Its high time businesses accept that the digital natives have changed B2B purchasing process and older buyers are adopting their ways too. So stop selling like you’re still in 90’s. Start influencing your buyers’ purchase decisions.
B2B Branding matters more than ever!
What are your thoughts on the relevance of branding today?
For corporate branding contact:
OH! Design Studio
About OH! Design Studio
OH! Design Studio is a Mumbai-based branding & design agency.
Founded in 2006, OH! Design Studio is an integrated creative and digital agency with a passion for launching, rebranding and accelerating brands. Our goal is to create lasting and meaningful relationships between our client’s brand and their audience through distinct brand experiences.