I’ve read my share of books on branding—and, when it comes to B2B branding, most miss the mark. There are some great books out there that offer good general rules on building a brand. Elements like maintaining brand focus, remaining consistent and driving differentiation all matter, regardless of context. But when it comes to great B2B branding, the most important element is to create a sense of safety for buyers.
It’s important to understand the ways in which B2B buyers are inherently different than B2C customers. A B2B purchase is a high pressure situation with a lot of money on the line. The purchasing decision will affect not only the purchaser, but others at their company and/or the company as a whole. A good decision can lead to increased profit for the business, and a raise or promotion for the individual. A bad choice can be devastating, leading to lost revenue and potential job instability. There’s a lot on the line!
As a result, B2B decision makers are notoriously risk adverse. They understand the consequences of a bad buying decision, and want to tread carefully to ensure that the purchase is the right one.
How can a B2B marketer allay the fears of potential buyers? Here are eight ways to foster a sense of security in your branding process:
- Use case studies: Nothing creates a greater sense of security than knowing that this buying decision turned out well for another company. Case studies work especially well when the industry and/or company issue is aligned with the buyer’s situation.
- Demonstrate solutions: One demonstration is worth a thousand brochures. A great demonstration cuts through the noise and shows the heart of the solution, whether it’s a product, service or specialized knowledge. For a software company, this can mean an online demonstration or webinar. For a more knowledge-based industry, like accounting, writing thought leadership pieces can be a great way to showcase expertise.
- Talk history: For certain industries, emphasizing the length of time that the company has been in business can build confidence in the company’s stability and products. Financial services companies often include founding date in their communications for exactly this reason. However, use caution: for industries where buyers are seeking deep innovation, such as technology or advertising, you may need to indicate the strength and stability of your firm without sounding antique.
- Talk size: Nothing establishes credibility like demonstrating company growth. A growing company means that others are buying what you’re selling. For a professional services firm, emphasizing the size of the employee or consultant base can be a good indicator of success. In other industries, where larger companies are viewed as less nimble and innovative, focus instead on areas like product growth and the size of the company’s customer base.
- Talk awards: Awards can be a great way of turning a potential buyer’s head. Saying “Winner of the Award for Top Innovator,” can work as an effective shorthand when building credibility and trust in the company brand.
- Provide guarantees: To help mitigate sticker shock, many companies in the tech sector guarantee their product or service, and promote this guarantee up-front as part of their marketing message. This can be an effective strategy when the number of digits before the decimal point are causing a buyer to hesitate. However, be aware that money only represents part of the risk that you are trying to mitigate. At the end of the day, companies are more fearful of the disruption associated with a poor product or service than they are with the cost itself.
- Offer references: For opportunities that are coming to the later stages of the selling process, offering unprompted references can be incredibly effective. It’s especially helpful to use the customer’s own words when describing your product/service, and showing quantifiable results.
- Get published: It’s one thing for you to talk about how great you are—it’s another if an external source does it for you. External publications not only get your message out, but also reinforce your role as an expert within the industry.
A sense of safety isn’t the only need you need for selling a B2B brand, but it creates a strong foundation from which to build.