"I don't care about brand. I care about revenue." We've all heard some variation of this countless times.
One of the most pervasive and value-destroying misconceptions held by many business leaders is their belief that brand only — or mostly — matters for consumer products.
“We build serious products that solve serious problems for serious buyers,” say these B2B leaders. “We identify pain and position our solution to alleviate that pain.”
Dials. Emails. Leads. Meetings. Demos. It’s all very logical. Clearly measurable.
Marketers Contribute To The Problem
We marketers are often complicit in this value-destroying mindset. We’re data-driven marketers, aren’t we? We’re modern marketers. We scoff at the old days of billboards, television commercials and ads in newspapers and magazines.
That world is over, grandpa.
We use serious tools to deliver serious messages and to report on every activity taken. “Good” marketers speak the language of MQLs, SQLs, lead scoring, conversion and attribution.
It's Not Brand OR Revenue; It's Brand FOR Revenue
Here's the thing: Brand marketing vs. revenue is a false dichotomy.
Brand is an absolutely critical revenue driver. More vital even in B2B than it is in B2C.
Why? Because in B2B the stakes are higher, the decisions are more complex, and the outcomes are less certain. This means trust reigns supreme.
The Stakes Are Higher
What’s the worst that can happen if you buy the wrong running shoes? Even big-ticket consumer goods — let’s say the car you choose — may lead you into unexpected repairs and other costly hassles. But not to the extent of B2B purchase decisions.
Make the wrong B2B buying decision and you might endure months, even years, of painful frustration.
You might burn your reputation. You might get fired.
Do you really want to be the one who chooses or champions the unknown solution?
Choose a respected brand and if things go wrong, they take the blame. Choose the unknown provider and all eyes will be on you if it turns into a painful and expensive mess.
It’s much more appealing to advocate for a company with a clear market vision and a solid reputation for strong product, great service and lots of successful clients.
The Decisions Are More Complex
Brand matters immensely in B2B because decisions are much more complex than in B2C.
Most consumer products can be compared across a handful of dimensions. Spend a little more, get a little more utility, durability, ease of use, luxury or some other somewhat tangible benefit. This is true for only the simplest of B2B products.
Far more often, you’re looking at a confounding web of products and services all within the offering of one vendor. Numerous configurations, implementation and service packages and more.
Every one of your many stakeholders cares about different aspects of all this, and values things very differently. Perhaps even in directly contradictory ways, such as when ease of use conflicts with security.
A sense of confidence that this supplier has faced all this before and knows how to lead you to success works wonders in calming these turbulent waters.
The Outcomes Are Less Certain
Brand matters immensely in B2B because outcomes are much less certain than in B2C.
Many companies have embarked on long implementation and rollout journeys with little to show for their large financial, time and leadership capital investments. Reputations have been tarnished, budgets slashed, teams reorganized and careers put in jeopardy.
Where fault lies is nearly impossible to assess with any certainty.
You’re much more likely to be able to roll out decisively and with the full and wide enthusiasm when everyone believes that this is the very best solution and nothing is to be gained by holding back or hedging your bets in anticipation of disappointing outcomes.
Brand Is Trust At Scale
When stakes are high, the decisions complex and outcomes uncertain, trust is paramount.
Brand is trust at scale. And it's a different world when you are truly trusted.
While others are hunting, you’re a magnet for high-intent conversations. While others are flogging features, benefits and promotions, and gunning for the near-term transactional win, you’re building something bigger and more lasting.
And what does that trust earn you?
- Higher win rates (because they really want to do business with you);
- Shorter sales cycles (because they prioritize making it work);
- Larger deals (because they're confident to move assertively);
- Greater client loyalty and retention (because they enthusiastically deploy and get to value fast); and
- More advocacy and referrals (because they're proud to be associated with your brand).
It’s not brand OR revenue. It’s brand FOR revenue.
You Can’t Build A Trusted Brand Without Trusted People
Trust lives at the edge of the organization. It lives in the people who sell, market, implement and serve clients.
Trust lives in the way every client-facing employee demonstrates their expertise, passion, integrity and commitment to doing the right things every day.
Those firms that empower and enable their people to show up and speak up on social media, and on LinkedIn in particular, are activating an incredibly powerful brand multiplier.
It’s transformational when people share high-quality content and authentically add value, and when they engage in conversations that demonstrate that critical expertise, passion, integrity and commitment that builds trust.
And it’s a much deeper, far more authentic and longer-lasting trust than any centralized “brand-building” campaign could dream of delivering.
This is the future of B2B sales and marketing and it’s very different from the stale mindsets and approaches of the past.
Steve Watt is VP Marketing at Grapevine6, the enterprise social engagement platform trusted by many of North America’s largest banks, wealth management firms, insurance companies, and technology providers. Grapevine6 enables salespeople and financial services professionals to confidently engage on social media within brand guidelines and regulatory compliance. Users strengthen client relationships and grow their business while their firm benefits from critical reach, engagement, and impact analytics.