If it takes the average considered purchaser and B2B customer approximately 18 months to work their way through the B2B funnel to arrive in the land of intent, why on earth is there often little-to-no long-term brand awareness activity running alongside the short-term bursts of sales activity?
When I entered the B2B marketing world, the B2B funnel was implanted into the right side of my brain. The path to intent made sense, but some project objectives were not always stacking up from a brand care-taker perspective.
Our team is motivated from the fresh findings[i] by Les Binet and Peter Field who recently partnered with LinkedIn to conduct B2B research on long-and-short term activation. Their findings validated and added to our thoughts around how B2B marketing should harness the power of long-term brand building to drive growth for business.
A consistent under-investment in B2B brand building
I’ve discovered that it’s not from lack of ‘long-term non-believers’ amongst marketers. Little-to-no investment and doing more with less is linked to the uphill effort required to sell the value of investing in long-term brand building, into the boardroom. As Lisa Ronson, Chief Marketing Officer Coles highlighted at ADWEEKAPAC Q&A with David Buttle, Global Marketing Director, Commercial Financial Times, brands are financial mechanisms. To pave the way to approval, the board needs to hear the core problem, what you are trying to solve, the initiative, and how you intend to measure, and when you are going to measure it.
Boards that have an over-reliance on short-term metrics and the ongoing focus to see short-term profitability appears to be a growing topic of conversation. A short tenure of a board can bring the need to create revenue in a short period of time. Long-term business plans are often in place, but they need to be a shared vision so Marketers can better prepare for the long-term. You can read more on this topic and how it is affecting the UK here.
Long-term must have emotional appeal
Long-term brand awareness gains traction over time but there is more competition than ever. It’s a fine balance of managing logic, emotion and brand code. This allows the not-in-market to become aware of the brand and experience a glimpse of what the business represents without the hard sell. Over time this marketing can present and maintain a stronger perception of quality and price. For those in-market it’s aligned with reassurance and the right road to making an informed, rational decision.
To be sticky, be relevant without being dry
It takes commitment and deep dive understanding to create highly effective work to represent a brand. And it takes bravery to have a distinctive personality in B2B. But this work is the glue you need to ensure your brand remains sticky in people’s memory. High impact advertising and smart creative is more likely to take up the head space of the customer.
You can be relevant without being too literal. The customer needs to know who you are, what you stand for, and what you sell, but by adding a touch of imaginative thinking to your B2B content you can build stronger engagement and memorable experiences.
The craft lies in your ability to make the channel choice and the narrative string well together. B2B can learn a great deal from B2C. Dare Iced Coffee is a great example of considered content unfolding across media.
Offshore brand governance can sometimes present a misunderstanding of culture. While a universal brand guide brings efficiency and clarity of code, it’s important to understand the idiosyncrasies of culture to avoid being beige. Most often marketing requires a tailored and cultural, subtly customised approach to achieve a stronger long-term connection.
Need an example?
Here is a powerful ad series example for Raymond James… imaginative, relevant, content well framed, confident and sincere, with wit.
Credit: Agency Martin Williams
Quick Tips for Long-Term brand Investment
Just like the stock-market, brand management comes with uncertainty but there are a few tried and true principles to help marketers boost their chance for long-term success. Here are some tips every B2B brand manager and marketer should know.
Take subjectivity out of the equation
Build distinctive brand assets and a clear set of brand attributes. This is one of the greatest aspects of long-term brand building, it almost entirely removes opinions from the equation.
When you develop an unmistakable brand code you have a clear set of owned and valuable attributes and assets to set your brand up for distinction. It’s essential to build a dedicated team around you who wholeheartedly understand how important it is to use the code and show that it’s you.
Define success and how it’s measured
Most businesses set growth goals. But if you don’t truly understand the goals or know how to measure them, it’s impossible to reach them. Be clear and share your measurable objectives, the brand positioning and revenue targets to support your marketing strategy. Bring all the important agency minds along for the ride.
If the key people are not in the brief, stop and wait until they arrive
Try not to brief an agency representative alone. Brief the team who will believe in your success for the year ahead. Ensure they are all on-board and understand your brand awareness expectations.
Don’t chase a hot tip
Regardless of the shiny new media source, never accept a tactical tip as a valid reason to gain more brand awareness. Always do your own analysis on whether it fits with your brand positioning, your objective and your business well before investing valuable marketing budget. Long-term success demands deep-dive research and considered alignment.
Set an achievable brand objective
It’s easier for all involved on a project it to measure one front-of-mind objective. This assists you to stay on track. Keeping the objective tight and reminding yourself to remain focused is the hard part.
Pick a strategy and stick with it
Marketers briefing an agency should clearly articulate brand values, the target segment, the growth target, and the positioning for each segment. Briefing your target revenue and asking the agency to help get you there paves the road to complete transparency and achieving your goals.
Manage the brand fatigue
Recognise the signs of brand fatigue and exactly who is visually tired. Identify whether it’s you, your agency, or your customers. The customer always wins… if you have a strong brand code and positioning stick with it, and work hard to remain fresh and connected.
Focus on the Future
Investing in brand requires making informed decisions based on things that have yet to happen. When it comes to B2B and considered purchase, the Sales and Marketing alignment remains important, but you must put energy into captivating your audience to remain sticky. Don’t simply focus on the here and now, focus on what could be.
It’s ok to admire larger B2B businesses. They demonstrate an investment in the long-haul. Many small companies have the ability to become the ‘B2B household’ names of tomorrow if they invest correctly for the long term to achieve brand salience.
The best brand managers and marketers work hard to grow brand equity and make money for business growth. The best agencies are passionate about delighting the audience to drive brand consideration and assist preference.
At Green Hat we acknowledge the B2B world is built on Sales and Marketing alignment and reaching goals. We take our clients on the B2B growth journey via brand partnership, considered strategy, effective creative, and best practice channel recommendations.
If you are motivated to achieve better synergy with your brand and short- and long-term B2B goals, let’s talk.