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The B2B Brand Conundrum

By Ray Baird

Branding as we know it has changed. Has your brand evolved to stay relevant?

RiechesBaird was recently invited to pitch a major brand development project for a large, well-established B2B brand. During the pitch, the potential client asked a great question – one that most B2B companies need to ask themselves to protect their brand relevance. They asked, “What has changed in the B2B world and how do we need to think about our brand and business to stay ahead?”

So, what has changed in the B2B world in the last five years? Or has the B2B business model changed?
In our opinion, there has been a fundamental shift that most B2B marketers are experiencing, but there is also reluctance to change or insecurity around which strategies to take – and that’s the conundrum.

Marketers – who are supposed to be champions of change, are sometimes the last to change.

Before the Internet, Google, social media, and mobile devices, the classic B2B model operated in a “push” delivery fashion where corporations were in control of the message and the means by which it was delivered. Corporate marketers created ads, decided what content resided on their websites, staged trade show booths, armed sales forces with key talking points and instructed PR teams to get the desired message in ink. Companies designed their internal marketing departments to deliver on this model and developed outside relationships with specialized agencies. But that was then, and this is now.

“What once what was delivered, is now found.”

Today, marketers need to make a fundamental shift away from pushing information upon their audiences to providing value via a new, more engaging thought-leadership model. This brand mindset and value-based model will help to position your brand in the immediacy of the interactive world and leverage your organic SEO efforts. It takes a blend of powerful focused positioning and search strategy marketing along with an integrated media and brand relations program (throw the standard press release method out the window). B2B marketers need to not only shift brand investment from traditional methods to smart interactive experiences, but they need to shake up the structure of the organization – the various roles, responsibilities and reporting to deliver relevance in the new age. Trying to change with the same delivery mindset and people is a slow and sure death. Today it is all about connecting, sharing and monitoring the brand strategy – both for B2C and B2B.

Here are some things to consider when embarking on this new model:

  1. Think thought-leadership. What can you do to provide value and stand apart from the competition?
  2. Rethink your strategy around being found. What can you do to drive more engagement with customers?
  3. Content is king. Rich content, relevant content, timely content. For brands to stay ahead, they need to connect their brand position to a voice customers trust
  4. Rethink your existing structure and reinvent partnerships and merchandising approaches to reflect this new thought-leadership model.
  5. Get your entire team on board. Explain this new shift to your internal employees/stakeholders and get them excited and eager to participate.

A great example of a B2B brand that is doing just this is American Airlines Cargo. RiechesBaird worked with American Airlines Cargo to design, develop and launch www.aircargoinsights.com – a central resource where customers can find valuable data to help drive business and learn from industry experts. This strategy took on a whole different approach and way of thinking around how the organization developed and shared content. Look at how American Express has built a similar community for its customers. These are the types of strategies that are driving leadership and brand value.

So, if you’re going to remain relevant to your customers and create differentiation in the marketplace you need to ask yourself the right questions: “Are we doing what it takes to be “found” and delivering the type of relevant content that positions us as a leader?” If not, maybe it’s time to rethink your approach and really address the conundrum.