Global pandemics. Natural disasters. Accelerating technologies. Any one of these can drive market volatility, disrupt industries and impact brands. In an uncertain world it’s easy for B2B marketers to wonder if planning for the future is a thing of the past. Is it really possible to lay out a path forward when every industry is undergoing tremendous change?
The good news is that long-term business continuity is part of what B2B branding strategies are designed to accomplish. Imagine the future as a blank canvas full of possibilities. Your job is to paint a picture that your customers, partners, and organization recognize as a representation of your brand, what it stands for, why it’s uniquely positioned to deliver value, who it serves, and where it’s headed.
As artist Pablo Picasso put it: “Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.” Whether you’re developing your B2B branding strategies for the first time, or revisiting them because it’s time for a refresh, the following steps will help guide you in the right direction.
Define: What are your mission and values as a company?
Stop for a moment and consider why your brand exists. Then, in simple and concise terms, answer the following: “What is your company’s purpose for being?” Is it to help customers overcome their greatest challenges? Or to enable them to achieve more than they could without your help? Perhaps it’s as simple and as noble as making the world a better place for humankind and the planet. The answer should be aspirational and future-focused. At the root of it you’ll find your mission statement. Your company’s reason for existing.
Next, craft your values statement by documenting your company’s guiding ethics. It could be a short paragraph, a sentence or two, or just a list of words. Accenture puts it this way: “Doing business ethically, legally, and with integrity are the foundation of our company’s culture.”
Your mission and values statements define what your company represents. The importance of taking the time to carefully consider both of these can’t be overstated. They’ll form the foundation of your entire B2B branding strategy moving forward.
Differentiate: How does your brand stand out in the marketplace?
Writer and visual artist Debbie Millman once said, “Branding is deliberate differentiation.” The question to ask now is: What uniquely separates your brand from your competitors’?
Your organization likely overlaps with competitors in the services or products that you offer, the customers that you serve, and the geographic area that you cover.
To differentiate your brand, you need to signal that it’s uniquely positioned to bring a kind of value that eludes your competitors. That might be found in your values, your product offering, the level of service you provide, the breadth of your partnerships, or your history of enabling successful customer transformation. You can express that differentiation through buyer-centric messaging that sets your brand apart.
Describe: Who is your ideal customer?
“Instead of focusing on the competition, focus on the customer,” Intuit co-founder Scott Cook once advised an audience. One way you can do that from a brand standpoint is to develop a solid ideal customer profile (ICP), or multiple ICPs if your product portfolio is diverse. Doing so will help you shape your brand for the right audience.
Start by identifying the target accounts you want to attract, engage, convert, retain, and grow into a recurring revenue stream. Glean information from conversations with Sales, your CRM data, and feedback from current customers. If your business is in an early start-up phase or shifting into a new market, build your ICPs around the direction your organization wants to go.
In either case, you’ll want to include the following:
- Employee headcount
- Maturity stage
- Technology in use
- Annual budget
- Buying triggers
Download PMG’s free resource, The Ultimate Guide to Digital Marketing, if you’re interested in learning more about creating ICPs. You’ll also find tips for developing buyer personas that represent the people who make or influence the decision to purchase your products or services.
Project: Where are you going in the future?
As GE’s Jack Welch put it, “Control your own destiny or someone else will.” His point was that, when planning for the future, you need to be the one to determine your destination and set your course. If you don’t, your competitors will be only too happy to take care of this for you.
Write out a short, simple, and specific statement that speaks to your organization’s goals for the future. This will help inform the focus of your marketing plans and ensure brand direction aligns with company goals.
If this is a bit murky and you don’t know where your company is heading, then now is the time to get clarity from your leadership team.
And what if the market pivots in an entirely new direction? Rest assured that if you understand your organization’s values and mission, the unique value your product or service brings, and the ideal customers for what you offer, you’ll be in the best position possible to successfully adapt and change course along with it.
Turn strategy into action
Whether you’re exploring B2B brand strategies for the first time, or refreshing your existing strategy, you don’t have to go it alone. PMG has a long history of partnering with B2B tech and SaaS marketing organizations to drive business value through high-impact content and digital marketing programs—helping companies like yours define their strategies, deliver on their objectives, and smash their KPIs. Contact us today for a free 20-minute consultation.