B2B Branding: B2B Does Not Mean Boring to Boring
When you hear B2B, what do you think?
Business to business (obviously)? Professional? Dry? Conservative? Boring?
B2B usually gets a bad rap – B2C marketing is seen as fun and interesting, but B2B marketing, well, it’s best left to the suits, right?
It doesn’t have to be this way (and it shouldn’t be).
It’s 2020 – and if COVID’s taught us anything, it’s that the world evolves and adapts rapidly when it needs to.
The B2B world is no different.
B2B does not mean boring to boring or building to building. Technically it is business to business, but those businesses are still made of people.
And people like dealing with other people.
People have personalities and nuance, and so does your business.
Sometimes a company’s personality just needs a little bit of encouragement to come out.
Every Business Has a Personality
Trust me, there is a brand personality within your business. In over 30 years of working in this industry, I haven’t met a company yet that didn’t have unique goodies that could be combined to create solid positioning and differentiation in the market.
So, why are so many businesses spending their hard-earned money blandly communicating dry, boring, and often hard-to-understand messages?
Because it takes guts to have a personality and be different. And it takes empathy and hard work to be clear.
Blending in is easy.
Being everything to everyone is safe.
Speaking in jargon is comfortable.
The problem is, blending in makes you invisible.
Being everything to everyone makes you nothing special to anyone – and often interchangeable with alternatives. You become a commodity, and that’s a race straight to the bottom – which is a lose-lose situation for everyone involved.
How to Avoid Bland and Boring – Even if Your Business Isn’t Fun and Sexy
I’m going to challenge you here. You may think concrete is just hard gray dirt, but concrete is definitely fun and sexy to the right audience.
Commercial probiotic biosurfactant cleaners may sound science-y and boring, but when the story is told in the right way to the right audience, it sells products and makes clients happy with their discovery.
Ok, maybe it’s not fun and sexy but it certainly can be compelling.
Branding is about making a promise, setting an expectation, and creating a perception of your product and/or service.
Most importantly, it’s about creating a feeling, as well as being clear about what you do and why. And when done well, you stake a claim on valuable real estate in your prospect’s brain. When they, or someone they know, need what you provide, you are top of mind.
Brands are built in two ways, by what you tell people and by what they experience. Being slightly aspirational is ok, but it’s imperative that your brand perception is closely tied to reality or this will be an epic fail.
You need to deliver on that brand promise you’ve worked so hard on creating – or customers simply won’t come back.
The Importance of Brand Authenticity
Authenticity is one of the most important factors that influence the sale.
To create that authenticity and credibility, you need consistency to win in the market.
This comes down to your branding and marketing – they’re meant to be dance partners. Branding is the feeling and marketing is the act of promoting that. The visual and verbal personality of your brand should be applied to all of your marketing campaigns.
Your brand personality is based on your business DNA, and your business DNA encompasses a lot of things – it’s what you do, who you do it for, why you do it, and why they care.
Brand Personality Is What Makes Your Business Human
Brand personality communicates through voice, tone, visuals, and experience.
If your brand does not have a personality defined, your prospects will have a much harder time connecting with you and deciding you’re the one for them.
People purchase from businesses they understand, like and relate to. If it isn’t easy to assess what it will be like working with you, they will keep searching.
Bland, boring, and inconsistent messaging that lacks strategy or intention aren’t going to get you anywhere.
The market is just too full of noise competing for your ideal clients’ attention.
How to Define Your B2B Brand Personality
Your brand personality is not your personality or that of your team. It is the human characteristics associated with your brand. The products, services, locations, and a bit of your customer. Many companies find this idea easier to grasp by describing these characteristics as adjectives of how you want people to see your brand.
Think of your brand as an artificial person, a ‘spokespersona’ if you will, that is the embodiment of your brand. If you sat next to your brand on a plane how would you describe them?
Write down a list of adjectives that encompass the character, values, and personality of your brand, for example is it:
It can be super useful to map the overall feeling of the brand on a spectrum, like in the chart below. Is your brand more playful or serious? More modern or traditional?
Both of these exercises will help define the visual and verbal personality of your brand.
How To Craft a Distinctive Brand Messaging (With Examples)
Once you have the personality defined, well, now it’s time to work on that messaging and avoid the bland trap.
Start by defining the messages you want your customer to remember
- What do you do?
- Who do you do it for?
- How do you improve their life?
Try and write your brand messaging in different ways, using clear language and eliminating any jargon.
When it comes to brand messaging, clarity is far more valuable than clever!
We all remember “GEICO. A fifteen-minute call could save you 15% or more on car insurance” because they made it clear, consistent, and somehow their cute gecko was credible.
Assuming you don’t have Geico’s marketing budget, to buy repeated ad exposure, you better be super clear and super consistent with the reach that you do have.
Now let’s imagine three companies – they all operate in the corporate floor installation sector.
Company A chose playful, personable, young, and modern on their brand personality matrix. An example of their brand messaging could look something like:
“Drop-dead gorgeous floors, guaranteed.”
Company B chose traditional, mature, professional, and conservative on their brand personality matrix. An example of their brand messaging could look something like:
“Professional flooring installation that stands the test of time.”
Company C chose small, modern, with an even balance between casual/sophisticated, and playful/serious on their brand personality matrix. An example of their brand messaging could look something like:
“No-fuss flooring installation with unmatched aftercare support.”
Now for three companies that provide the same kind of service, they all have unique personalities. You can imagine the type of companies they attract, and the kind of service they provide – just from one sentence.
If you compared your marketing materials with your closest competitor, can you tell them apart? When you load up your social media profiles, can you tell your latest updates from the next company that does what you do?
If you answered ‘no’, you may just be sinking into the sea of sameness that affects so many great B2B companies.
Think of the added flavor that could be added to your campaigns just from using the simple brand personality spectrum above.
Now I’m not saying it’s as simple as ticking some boxes and bam! You’ve got a brand personality you can market.
Investing in a Compelling B2B Brand Strategy Pays Off
There’s a lot of research that goes into finding all of the personality traits, values, and various goodies within a company.
This is just a tiny fraction of what goes into branding, but just from this example, you can already see a personality shaping up.
If your company has been around a while and has repeat and referral business… there are goodies to be found, descriptive words to be mined, and nuance to be gathered.
Branding is about finding out who you are, polishing it up, wrapping words and visuals around it to reveal your true brand personality. Then adding that visual and verbal personality to everything you do.
What is easy, safe, and comfortable could be the very thing that is undermining your sales efforts.
A strong brand voice makes you stand out – what you create is recognizable as uniquely you.
Stop marketing boring and start marketing your unique blend of badass brilliance.
About the Author
Tracy O’Shaughnessy is the founder/lead brand strategist of Branding & Beyond. Tracy and her team help B2B firms in the construction industry and professional services look and sound credible online and off. She has been in the industry since the early ’90s and is tired of great companies being treated as commodities and competing on price because they don’t look and sound as credible as they really are. You can find Tracy on LinkedIn.