As many of you Technology Marketing Center members are aware, brand differentiation has been on the rise when it comes to top-of-mind and share-of-budget considerations for B2B marketers today. Especially due to ever-lengthening B2B sales cycles that involve growing numbers of decision makers, influencers and communication channels, a strong, differentiated brand has become a critical component of a successful B2B marketing plan and its related sales cycle.
According to a recent Forrester report on B2B sales processes (see Forrester-borrowed B2B sales cycle graphic above), B2B buyers have completed 90% of the sales process on their own before ever completing a form online or making a phone call to connect with the vendor. And because the lengthening of the sales cycle has occurred in the part of the process that isn’t controlled by you, brand-building via self-serve digital channels is equally as crucial to your B2B marketing success as the brand itself.
While delivering differentiated B2B brand communications digitally for a specific organization requires targeted research and discovery of where your specific audience is engaging – and how – online and offline, it’s also important to re-think 2 powerful myths when determining your digital brand-building steps forward.
Myth #1: Businesspeople Aren’t Consumers.
While on the clock, 64% of businesspeople spend time visiting websites that are unrelated to their work responsibilities or job function. Even off the clock, the personal / professional lines are blurred when it comes to digital content consumption with more than 80% of people logging into their work email accounts.
Outside of internet-related behavior, people simply don’t turn off their personal interests or personalities while in a business environment, and vice versa, contrary to countless B2B communication segmentation plans and systems. So, craft your digital brand content and distribution strategy accordingly, providing brand experiences that reach your audience as the integrated professional and personal beings they are.
Myth #2: Speak Directly to Your Audience.
The signpost of many-a-B2B marketing plan is a personalization strategy, especially through lead list-driven, segmented communications such as direct mail, email, display / search retargeting campaigns, etc; however, knowing more about your audience or user than they know about your brand can backfire quickly.
To avoid fallout from being too familiar with your audience, ensure that your online brand is strong at the outset and that your outreach matches the audience or user’s place within the marketing funnel or sales cycle. Are they an established customer? If so, using their name or referencing past purchases will support your communications with them. If they are a new prospect with no history of contact with your brand, this same approach will likely alienate them from your brand and possibly for good.
To further illustrate the value and connection between brand building and digital channels, I’d like to take you inside the annual THINK conference created and produced by the nation’s largest credit union service organization – CO-OP Financial Services.
Since the first annual, breakthrough conference in 2008, THINK has quickly evolved into a powerful thought leadership brand whose core audience is made of up of the credit union industry’s collective C-suite – a community-driven group of change makers positioned to disrupt the financial services vertical from the ground, up.
I recently had the opportunity to co-produce several digital marketing and audience engagement efforts surrounding CO-OP Financial Services’ THINK 13 conference in Chicago, Illinois – a 4-day knowledge sharing event that brought together visionary business leaders to share their diverse viewpoints and success strategies and move the credit union movement forward.
Amid the countless, disruptive strategies and game-changing thought starters shared by the elite group of speakers including Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Google+ pioneer and musician Daria Musk and Shark Tank’s Daymond John, a recurring topic of discussion among the THINK conference’s audience was finding the best way to educate those outside the movement about what credit unions are – or the credit union movement’s identity itself. Throughout the conference – from within round-table discussions on the general session stage, to questions posed by audience members from the floor and via comments posted on monitored social media platforms – the solution to the brand-building need most often presented was social media and related digital channels.
That’s Our Cue
Not only are CO-OP Financial Services and its member credit unions already putting this connection between brand building online in motion in inspiring ways in the coming months, THINK 13’s C-level attendees – the very segment your targeted B2B marketing efforts are directed to – are themselves vouching for the value of defining their industry’s brand and doing so online as a core need to drive their industry forward.
So, let’s take a cue and shape our B2B intentions accordingly, focusing on the substance of brand identity to support the entirety of our C-suite-destined marketing programs and doing so by leveraging and testing the strengths of the diversity of digital channels at our disposal. Then, the conditions will right and the stage will be set for self-directed digital brand experiences to be had, a deeper connection with your brand to be created and more, qualified leads to be generated.