Part 2: Auditing a brand may make B2B consider brand building
If you are sitting on a beach right now, lucky you! If you have already had your summer holiday, welcome back. Now, there is still time to think about a fresh approach when rubber hits the road after the summer holidays. For B2B marketers, it probably isn’t a brand audit, but perhaps it should be.
In my previous blog, ‘Part 1: This is the audit that every B2B business needs right now’, I asked if it was time for a B2B brand renaissance? No, we haven’t partaken in too much of the local holiday tipple – we really mean it! Carry on reading to find out why.
B2B marketers are the poor brand cousins
As we know, successful businesses generally focus on what is colloquially known as ‘the big long’, which represents a long-term investment and measurement of brand. These businesses outperform their peers on profitability over the long-term.
Up until recently, many a B2B marketer would live in fear of mentioning the word ‘brand’. Yes, the ‘B-word’ was something of an anathema. To mention brand around the boardroom table could be met with derision and derangement. After all, with so many B2B businesses heavily reliant on the sales team to sell and convert leads, why would we allow marketing to ‘distract’ itself with brand? The result meant that the hardest-working of B2B marketers would look longingly at their B2C counterparts and their brand-building escapades and free-flowing budgets.
It’s all change on the brand front
The reasons for this are clear. Research has proven that long-term investment, careful development and measurement of brand performance generates superior returns. Yes, that also goes for the B2B world. In part 1, we talked about the internal pressures that B2B marketers face. In part 2, we focus on why you can’t afford to neglect your brand.
Why is a brand important at all? Put simply, a brand communicates what you do and what you stand for. Ideally, this happens at a glance at almost any and all of your brand assets and communications. The better the recognition, familiarity and trust in a brand, the more customers will buy from you and return to you.
Free sales? Not quite, but it certainly makes it more likely that prospects will listen to your pitch, buy your products or services and deepen their wallet share via cross-sell and upsell. But what about CX? That needs some consideration too if you want to create brand loyalty.
So, let’s see where we are today
A brand audit helps you to measure the health of your brand and see where the gaps are to set it on the path to achieve your brand goals. But, how do you know if you need it? How do you know where you want it to be? What do you do to get there? If your current brand needs a little TLC and aside from the occasional tweak to the logo your primary focus is broad demand generation, your brand needs an audit. If your current brand doesn’t lead to business simply because of what it ‘says’ to potential customers, you probably need to set a few milestones along the way.
As a form of research, the brand audit, when coupled with the appropriate measurement, will help to drive greater recognition and improved perception. Since most brands take years to build into something that generates real value, it can’t be a short-term test of a rebranding. We know that the temptation is to curtail brand-building spend if it doesn’t generate a direct return on investment.
Beat that brand drum with pride
Once we know where we are and where we are heading, regular measurement and careful planning take precedence. Like a lead, brands need nurturing, but over a much longer time horizon. Right now, you are probably asking how to achieve this with the pressing sales targets and number of MQLs that you need to deliver. That’s true and it isn’t as though the targets are going to disappear. After all, there is a ‘hungry’ sales team to feed with leads and commissions to be earnt and paid out.
A brand strategy off the back of the brand audit will need boardroom buy-in in most organisations. If the senior decision-makers take the long-term view to generate superior return on investment, they will understand the driver. In the end, much may come down to the ownership structure of a business and the vociferous nature of senior board members. Most will see the appeal of long-term profitability as long as you have supporters around the boardroom table.
Brands that power long-term profitability
So, maybe it’s time to think about brand. Think about where you are today and where it needs to be. Don’t be afraid to find out and get over that all-important first hurdle. The brand audit helps you to do just that. Where it goes from there depends on how well you can articulate the journey and what resources you need to complete it. The sales director may not always be on-board with brand management distractions, but other stakeholders may be. The COO and CIO may also be key because a business that delivers a poor customer experience is already hurting its brand.
As long as marketing retains a focus on filling the funnel with MQLs then the approach becomes two-pronged. Maybe B2B marketers can finally think about flexing their inner brand ambassador – just don’t forget to keep those leads flowing in the meantime.
Want to know more about the importance of brand and how to get people to love it? Check out this related article.
Our exclusive community for B2B marketers, Propolis, has an entire group dedicated to Brand & Content Strategy, where your B2B peers share problems and solutions, and receive guidance from the world's best brand marketers.