Is Your B2B Brand Strong Enough To Keep You In The Game?

Regardless of your politics, you had to be amazed at the depth and breadth of the discussion around the impact on the Republican brand during the recent government shutdown. At times, it seemed that the health, survival, and credibility of the Republican brand generated more press than potential resolutions to the crisis at hand. And with good reason. The strength of the party’s brand — and the messages it represents — will have a significant impact on its success going forward.

Maintaining a strong brand with a clear, compelling, and relevant message is a universal challenge, whether you’re marketing a Fortune 500 company or a political party. As a business-to-business (B2B) CMO, it’s time to put your brand front and center — and make sure that it accurately represents your company strategy, provides value to your customers, and delivers on its promises. Why now?

  • Strong brands deliver strong results. B2B companies with strong brands deliver 20% higher financial returns than those with weaker brands. Case in point, IBM, the world’s strongest B2B brand, has consistently grown its brand value since 2006. In a world where CMOs are held increasingly accountable for business growth, developing and strengthening your brand must be a key focus.
  • Empowered customers now define the “who, what, and how” of business relationships. Today, customers are fully in control of their buying journey, completing 60% of that journey before engaging with your company. Therefore, your brand must be strong enough to claim buyer mindshare early on — and own it across the entire buyer’s journey — establishing preference and maintaining that preference across all customer touchpoints.
  • Brands bring company strategies to life. Managed well, a strong B2B brand can go beyond establishing awareness of who you are and what you do. Your brand should serve as a guiding light that illuminates your organization’s direction, purpose, and value and provides clarity to all stakeholders.

Many of the B2B CMOs and marketing leaders I talk to underestimate the importance of building a strong B2B brand. Just as many also don’t have a clear road map for how to build their brands. And that’s where my new report, How To Build A Strong B2B Brand (subscription required), can help.

Over the past two years, my colleague Tracy Stokes has published a playbook for building a strong 21st century brand, providing guidance on how to build, grow and manage brands. My new report expands on Tracy’s work, applying the original Forrester 21st brand framework to help B2B marketers grow their brands in the age of the empowered customer. Here’s a brief look at how:

  • Identify a North Star to guide brand building efforts. To help you tell your story and show customers why they should do business with you, B2B brands must have a North Star that clearly illuminates what the brand stands for.  My new report outlines concrete ways to create the right North Star for your business
  • Use Forrester’s brand compass framework to guide your efforts. The Forrester brand compass was developed to help marketers balance brand building efforts across four dimensions — being trusted, remarkable, unmistakable, and essential (TRUE). Learn practical steps and best practice examples for integrating each brand compass dimension into your B2B brand building strategies by reading my new report.
  • Treat your brand as a strategic asset. Considering that a brand’s potential financial value is higher than any other item on the corporate balance sheet, it’s time for B2B CMOs to start treating their brands as strategic assets. As with any other investment, it’s important to build a business case and have a well laid out plan for brand investments.

In today’s customer-empowered world, building a strong B2B can mean the difference between adeptly navigating increasingly complex terrain — and getting lost in the wilderness.

Do you treat your brand as a strategic asset? What are you doing to anchor and build your B2B brand? I’d love to hear your comments and perspectives. You can reach out to me via email or on my blog or share your thoughts at my Twitter account. Or, to learn more, you can schedule an inquiry with me.

Comments

Good post Sheryl and I agree

Good post Sheryl and I agree 100%. However, with the majority of CMOs still struggling to measure revenue impact - not to mention make best use of their analytics resources - how would you suggest we measure brand strength and improvements towards that goal? What does the "Brand" business case look like?

Josh, the best place for B2B

Josh, the best place for B2B marketers to learn how to measure brand strength is from their colleagues in B2C who have been measuring brand strength for decades. It is still surprising to me how slowly B2C marketing and branding concepts are adopted by B2B marketers and the differences become smaller every day.

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