B2B brand marketing: why it's time to rethink your approach

Meercat

From market-musing meerkats to cymbal-smashing simians, in the marketing-verse, the traditional constraints of business etiquette rarely apply.

In industries everywhere, marketing teams launch campaigns from the platform of "there are no wrong ideas" and stimulate new concepts through a creative culture infrequently encountered in other departments.

In times past, this license to thrill has seen the industry tarnished with a Mad Men-esque, laissez-faire approach. But across all schools of marketing, a rigorous outlook of attract-nurture-convert-retain is found, and this mantra ensures the industry is heavily reliant on numbers, reports, and analytics.

However, there is no escaping the fact that, at its core, marketing is about exploiting pockets of creativity. Naturally, the examples of innovative branding above are a more familiar phenomenon within the B2C space, but even in B2B, expressive and innovative communication has its role to play.

What is a brand?

At its core, a brand is who you are. The idea it's merely an exercise in design is common, yet innately flawed. Branding is not just about looks. Undoubtedly, aesthetics plays a big part but brand marketing encompasses everything you choose to display. It's communicated through web content, brochures, sales collateral, e-books, blogs, and even email. Branding is how you choose to present your company. It's your agent of change. And it's most powerful when you combine a great product with a compelling idea people buy into.

Marketing guru, Seth Godin, summarises it thus:

The brand is a story. But it's a story about you, not about the brand. More than ever, we express ourselves with what we buy and how we use what we buy. [Brands are] extensions of our personality, totems of ourselves, reminders of who we are or would like to be.

A brand gives consumers and businesses something to believe in, something to stand behind. It helps them understand the purpose of the organisation and what it means for them, and it's a core aspect of any marketing strategy. However, even the most creative and engaging brand can lose its audience if not conveyed with simplicity and focus. 

Discover how to focus your marketing where it really matters – read our  introduction to B2B Inbound Marketing 

The attention economy

Today, everybody wants to be a marketer. And with social media, everybody can. 'Twas once claimed that engaging millennial audiences on Twitter and Reddit was the key to success. But, in reality, attention has become the modern-day currency across all demographics. 

Today's companies, including those in B2B, now exist in a race for clicks. And as the number of internet users continues to grow worldwide, they're finding it harder and harder to cut through the noise.

In the face of this need to be heard, new metrics must be established to measure your impact in the right areas. Social media can be great for brand awareness, but if you’re the one shouting in a shouting match, you’re part of the problem not the solution, and this is why you must consider rethinking your approach.

Flipping the script

At a BrightonSEO talk, How to Flip the Script and Make More B2B SalesNandini Jammi presented accounts of how certain companies have torn up the traditional marketing template. 

She recounted three separate B2B tales, from completely disparate industries, and outlined how each organisation redefined their brand by reinventing how they reach their audience.

In each situation, the companies stopped answering the question "what do we offer our clients?" and replaced it with "what outcomes do they care about that we can help them with?"

The results were impressive – greater interest in the brand, improved lead-generation, and more sales – but greater still, these companies have become market-leaders in their space. They started winning because they stopped shouting, started listening, and became part of the solution not part of the problem.

This is the true art of marketing. It's about focusing on your prospects and listening to their needs. It's about creating a they ask, you answer philosophy. It's about knowing how to help your clients, about using a creative approach to develop your brand into the perfect solution. And finally, it's about developing and nurturing this culture and distributing the message far and wide.

That's how you re-think your B2B brand marketing, that's how you re-define your own space, and, most importantly, that's the first step to improved results.  

Rethinking your approach with inbound

So why inbound marketing?

Well, for starters, inbound, unlike outbound, is an approach that avoids a shouting match. It’s a method that focuses on driving incoming enquiries and sales through targeted content that addresses common consumer problems. The value of an inbound methodology is that it lets you re-define your brand marketing and re-focus your approach. By turning your industry insight into targeted content, you can grow your footprint, bringing ever more visitors into your world and ensure that you're being heard by the right people. Inbound is the perfect partner to B2B brand marketing and the philosophy needed to extend your reach. 

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