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February 16, 2019

B2B Branding - Three Audiences

Philip Grabfield

Philip Grabfield
Senior Vice President, Marketing/E&I Cooperative Services

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Branding is much more than the logo you use. Brand perceptions result from the cumulative touch-points customers have with your company. Your brand is only as strong as the weakest of these client connections. These are widely held brand truths that apply to companies across industries. How do they apply to B2B companies?

B2B firms have three basic audiences that collectively determine their brand image: customers, prospects, and definitely not least, their own employees. Branding efforts must start internally by deciding what senior management wants the brand to stand for. Brand attributes should be communicated consistently across all three groups and should be categorized as:

  • costs of entry (what all B2B firms need to do to compete),
  • competitive advantages (what your company does better than others) and
  • white space (open opportunities for differentiation).

Clients. To maintain and deepen relationships with their clients, B2B firms need to maintain the brand attributes for which they are already known (competitive advantages) while building others that are not owned by anyone else (white space). Many argue that more and more industries are commoditizing. I disagree. It is too easy to declare commoditization and fall back on offering the lowest rates to clients. There are many areas for differentiation that will much more effective in setting your company apart.

Prospects. How can B2B companies attract more and better clients? Get to know them. Demonstrate to them that you care about them by taking the time to understand their companies, strengths, goals and priorities. This will reap benefits not only in differentiating your firm in prospects’ minds, but also in enhancing your ability to deliver value to them when they become clients.

Employees. An employment brand enables firms to attract high-quality employees. The value proposition of any employment brand is a combination of career development opportunities, compensation, work-life balance and other factors. Recruiting employees is only the first step. The external value proposition and brand promises that are offered to candidates and to clients has to be communicated — and demonstrated — from the top of the organization to all employees. These employees need to buy into and deliver on the brand promises in everything they do. Examples of doing this successfully need to be celebrated and broken promises called out.

Which of the three audiences above is the most important? External clients (and prospects) should always come first, right? Not necessarily. The best external brand positioning that isn’t delivered on is worse than a more believable value proposition that is consistently reinforced by employees’ actions. 

Comments? You can contact me directly via my AdvisoryCloud profile.

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