Before we get started, consider this perhaps oversimplified and playful adage that branding your company is like building a fort: no one really cares about the materials you used to build it, they just want to know if it will keep their parents out. Or maybe the bonafides are the fort’s solid construction and plenty of room for comic books and the greater value is being free of watchful, judgmental eyes and the shared love of said comic books. Hmm…getting closer but still not quite hitting the mark. Let’s try for real.
Many B2B websites like to talk about tradition, quality and excellence. They proudly brandish ISO certificates and show glamorous photos of clean looking products with headlines that boast of reliability. These are all good things, and once upon a time, they were enough. A smart logo on a box did most of branding’s heavy lifting, and attentive customer service did the rest. Again, these are all really good things for a company to be known for but today they’re more or less expected. Additional bonafides such as being open 24-7 to every country around the world and the ability to contact almost everyone at the company when it suits the customer is somewhat industry dependent but for the most part also par for the course.
So now that your competitors have as much opportunity to get in front of your customers and prospects as your company does with “never closed” websites that are accessible with handheld devices everywhere there is Internet service, how can a company truly set themselves apart? The answer lies in user-focused messaging that shares your customer’s values. To better understand what that means, let’s look at some key points about what branding really is or has become.
A brand is a company’s personality and represents its relationship with its customers.
Personality is most often expressed by a company look and logo, but it’s much more than that. Personality involves shared values in terms of not just excellence and dependability but also caring about things that go beyond our day-to-day routines. Harvard Business Review defines it as “a belief that both the brand and consumer have about a brand’s higher purpose or broad philosophy”. Do you manufacture your products to make a living and help others make theirs? Of course, but you may also make them to help the world become a healthier place or advance our knowledge about who we are and where we’re going. Think bigger picture and find a way to express it succinctly.
Good branding is about quality of interactions, not quantity.
I’ve heard many times that it’s important to “hit” your customers and prospects as often as possible in order to be there just when they need you. I would say it’s better to anticipate when they’ll need you and be there in the right way. If it’s obvious that your marketing initiatives are template based or “boilerplate”, you could be scaring business away. Everyone wants to feel special, so make sure your interactions with them are designed to do that. What really helps is to genuinely believe your customers (and, I might add, your customer’s customers) are special. If you don’t, you may need to rethink your profession. And here’s a doozy of a stat from HBR: 45% of consumers will unfollow a brand on social media if their platform is dominated by self-promotion. Whether your company is B2C or utilizes social media or not, there’s plenty to take from that.
Successful branding boosts customer loyalty…and profits.
Consistent branding that focuses on building an audience instead of simply direct sales pays dividends. According to desktop software publisher Lucid Press, there’s a 23% average revenue increase resulting from branding consistently. Think content marketing is a waste of time? Okay, but 91% of B2B marketers disagree with you. In fact, according to the Content Marketing Institute 89% of them think branded content is more important than sales and lead generation, and 72% think it’s more important than traditional print advertising. Customers want to be seen as more than just a customer. They want what the cool kids around the marketing cooler call “relatability”. In modern, colloquial terms – they want to feel you.
When I was a kid my friends and I had the greatest fort you could ever imagine. It even had running electricity and was located on the banks of an irrigation pond with actual fish in it. At first we built it for us so that we could be away from those oppressive, watchful eyes. Over time we realized we also built it to share with others, and while telling them all the cool stuff it had made them want to see it, it was their knowing that they could stop by anytime and be themselves that brought them back.
– S. Norton