Updated: Jul 15
This is the second in a series on B2B marketing strategy. In our first Blog, we talked about the importance of strategy development in identifying how to achieve the fundamental goal of marketing tactics - delivering the right message to the right person at the right time, in the right place, to drive the right action. Delivering the right message requires an understanding of brand, our value proposition, messaging hierarchy and how to personalise our content based on persona needs. This blog will consider brand strategy.
What is a brand?
In his recent bestseller, Seth Godin talks about brands as building 'trust' and 'permission' with your target market, which I like a lot as it identifies the context of the brand as being the target customer. Brands can too often be associated merely with a company or product name - which of course is what is ultimately intended - without thinking through what associations are intended to be evoked by the brand, and how authentic those associations really are.
For all intents and purposes a brand is the essence of what a company (or a product/ service of that company) is all about - its values, its people, its offer to its target market: its right to exist. So pretty important then!
Yet too often it is described, even by Marketing people, in terms of logos, colours, font styles and icons - its visual representation. This is of course an important piece of execution (for consistency etc) but hardly a rallying point for the company's stakeholders. If you get to a point in developing your brand strategy where all anyone cares about is your logo treatment - or your boss just wants to ‘nail the strapline' - you know that something is wrong!
So what (and how) is a great B2B brand?
Direct Line is a great example of a consumer brand that has been able to compete in B2B with the same brand promise.
Direct Line is the brand name of a UK insurance company that has defined itself by the experience it delivers direct to its customers. It was the first insurance company to go direct to consumers - initially by phone - and change the customer experience of buying insurance. As they say on their website:
'Since its launch in 1985, Direct Line’s aim has always been to put the customer first. This began with cutting out the middleman, the forms and the jargon — all revolutionary changes in insurance at the time. It started selling car insurance from a single call centre in Croydon, with just 63 employees and one product. Speed, simplicity and a practical approach lead to 80,000 policies sold in its first year.'
Here is a clear brand promise - which disrupted the market, long before the Internet made direct sales the norm - built on putting the customer first and making insurance buying simple and fast. Now they have taken the same brand essence and applied it to their B2B offering as seen in this video:
You can find more examples of B2B companies with a clear brand proposition here. We all have our own favourites (Apple, Google, etc) and the Brand Essence model shown below –
can help to workshop all of the elements needed to define the brand and create written brand guidelines for use in brand activation.
Now let’s look at how the brand is articulated in terms of value to the customer, which is at the core of driving messaging and content personalization.
Wikipedia defines a value proposition as:
‘.. a promise of value to be delivered, communicated, and acknowledged. It is also a belief from the customer about how value will be delivered, experienced and acquired. A value proposition can apply to an entire organization, or parts thereof, or customer accounts, or products or services.’
HubSpot has this Infographic on the importance of a value proposition in conversion and how to go about creating it.
All of our messaging and content aimed at potential and existing customers is rooted in the value proposition, since every purchase, whether by an individual consumer, or an individual, or buying group representing an organization, is made with an expectation that some value will be delivered to the buyer. So it is no surprise that our brand and our value proposition need buy-in from all key stakeholders and must be understood by everyone involved in go-to-market planning/ execution. They are not 'owned' by Marketing. They represent what the business does, why we do it and, by defining the offer of value, why a potential purchaser should care.
You can find some good examples here of how a value proposition may be communicated on a Website or landing page, which is often where you will be found first (if your SEO and content strategy is well executed – more on that another time). I like this one from Unbounce:
This Blog has considered the first couple of steps in strategic development of the‘Right message’– brand and value proposition. As we have seen these are the anchors upon which messaging and content will rest and need to have input and agreement from all stakeholders, particularly the executive and company founders, since they define the company’s reason and right to exist.
In my next Blog I will look at how messaging and personalization leverage the insights developed in our brand strategy and align them with buying personas and buying stages to drive content needs.