Building brave B2B brands

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Getty Images

Why branding matters — even in B2B.

In B2B, branding is often seen as an omittable luxury. But that risks real success. 

Brands that are known and understood automatically convert better.

You probably didn’t dream about becoming a B2B brand builder. Few people do. Since, well, forever, B2B has been widely regarded as the uncool department of otherwise cool agencies. It’s where interns and junior creatives can prove themselves in a safe environment. 

Yet, it’s often where much of the agency revenue comes from. 

It’s not just agencies that have undervalued B2B; it’s B2B companies themselves. The traditional approach has focused on the product or service and it’s features and benefits. There’s a belief that there’s less competition for, say, a human resources management system than there is for shampoo, and therefore less of a need for a brand. 

Branding has been undervalued in B2B because we haven’t given enough attention to our buyers. Rather than thinking of them as individuals with different drivers, we’ve treated them as groups of titles: CEO, CIO or COO. We have ignored that a CTO of a cloud-native Silicon Valley company probably has very little in common with the CTO of a family-owned manufacturing company in Nebraska.

Building a brave B2B brand

In B2B, the safest approach is to do what’s always been done: market the features and benefits of the service you’re selling. Nobody is getting fired for that. 

Thirty years ago, this probably was the best approach. B2B companies didn’t have huge competitive sets. If you represented a company of a certain size for HR software, you probably bought Peoplesoft, and that was that.

Today, the barriers to entry are lower than ever. The evolution of SaaS means providers can focus more on building good products and less on computing power or hardware. That’s led to an explosion of technology and more competition. Each corporate department now must build their tech stack, and there are tens if not hundreds of ways to achieve similar results.

Take a look at this graph, which gives an overview of the HR tech market.

Brave branding is the answer

By brave, I don’t mean jumping out of a helicopter at 20,000 feet. I mean taking some smart, creative chances to build a brand that knows itself and what it stands for, and, from there, is willing to be heard and take part in conversations, wherever they happen. 

Brands that become leaders offer a consistent experience at every touchpoint. They value the importance of branding and recognize that along with the technology they sell, they need to connect with consumers. 

Our client Snowflake is a good example. They continue to be bold creatively with things like the Data Cloud Summit, integrated campaigns like ‘Say Hello Data Cloud’ and OOH billboards on the 101. The branding is also consistent. The marketing team has built recognition, which eventually helped it achieve one of the largest software IPOs in history. 

Branding for long-term survival

Lead gen is crucial and marketing automation is fantastic. But it doesn’t replace a great brand. Both need to work together.

A good brand takes time, commitment and consistency. Every moment your brand makes an appearance in the wild — in a logo, an email, a blog, a banner or a whitepaper — it’s making an impression on prospects, consumers and advocates. Every touchpoint needs to impress, because every single experience matters. 

So, don’t lose sight of your brand. Track and automate, but continue staying on-message with creativity, quality and consistency for long-term success.

Jenny Sagström is CEO and Founder of Sköna

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