Slightly Mad Thoughts

The things we used to tell ourselves…

Manufacturers USED to say:

“My sales force is all I need to get my message out there.”


“We make widgets, widgets are boring, therefore WE are boring. We don’t need no stinkin’ brand personality mumbo jumbo.”


“Branding and marketing is for B2C companies, our industry knows who we are.”

Maybe… but what do they know about you? Do they really know the YOU that YOU WANT them to know? Are you in charge of your brand and if not, then who is?

The truth is that brand positioning and careful messaging to the right folks and at the right time in their consideration journey plays a very important role in your success - whether you are selling to “C” (consumers) or “B”(businesses).

The other truth is - the world has changed (a lot!) since we (I’m speaking as a manufacturer, here) were able tell ourselves those “things” that I mentioned above.

You can no longer rely solely on your product differentiation to retain or increase market share in this GOOGLE driven world with buyers searching, sorting, and sifting through static data points in a sea of information. According to consumer insights from Google, 90% of B2B buyers use search specifically to research business purchases. This represents a drastic shift. The B2B Buyer’s Journey has moved from a seller controlled face to face scenario to a research driven (Google search, mostly) self-guided tour. By 2020, buyers will manage 85% of their own journey, without EVER talking to a human sales person (Gartner Customer 360).

B2B decision makers are consumers at heart, and they are so much more sophisticated in their research and decision making than they were pre-world wide web. With all of these search driven interactions, conclusions are made by B2B buyers much earlier in the decision making process. Because these buyers are consuming such vast amounts of online data about you, the need to establish a solid brand is more key to your success than it has ever been before. Buyers are more aware than ever before of your social and ethical behaviors, your "reason d’etre", and your behavior - and they are making their decision not only based on price, but based on whether they believe your organizations is a “good fit” or aligns with their world view. Because of this - your branding strategy must consider, very thoughtfully, your company’s vision, mission, and culture - and then LIVE it.

This is what we mean by “living the brand” and it can’t happen until you HAVE a brand.

  • We know this:
    • 45% of B2B companies have a formal marketing plan in place (Statistica)
    • B2B ecommerce sales are expected to outgrow B2C ecommerce sales by 2020. (Ecommerce Platforms, 2018)
    • For the B2B marketer, nurtured leads make 47% larger purchases than non-nurtured leads. (The Annuitas Group)
    • Companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales ready leads at 33% lower cost. (Forrester Research)

Compare your brand with the B2B brands that are with the program. Some of the world’s highest performing brands aren’t necessarily consumer brands - you may recognize the names like Cisco, Oracle, SAP - and some you probably don’t recognize like Allianz or Huawei. These brands are not, and have not, been saying those same “things” (the one's i mentioned earlier in this article) - instead they have put a good deal of work into building their strong brand positioning.

Back to the "things" we used to say:

“My sales force is all I need to get my message out there.”

OK, I will give you that the intimacy achieved only through face to face interaction is hugely important. For many B2B organizations, its the individuals that drive the corporate reputation. But this intimacy you seek can only come AFTER there is awareness. The IDEA of your brand needs to start well before your sales rep comes into play. The brand needs to be in the mind of that target before the first email is sent or hand is shaken. According to a recent Hubspot research study, almost 60% of front line sales reps said buyers are less dependent on them during the buying process than just two years ago.

If you don’t have a structured, well-researched customer journey mapped — with a seamless dashed line experience for every different type of target persona — one that starts well before any company representative is able to interact — then you may have a reputation, but you don’t have a brand.

Understand the power that your brand can have in the marketplace. As Philip Kotler (Professor of International Marketing at the Northwestern University Kellogg Graduate School of Management in Chicago) so artfully and succinctly said “If you are not a brand you are a commodity. Then price is everything and the low cost producer is the only winner.” But by winner he did not mean you’re going to be rolling in dough. The low cost producer is NEVER the real winner – why? They are not able to charge enough, its that simple. If you are not able to demonstrate your brand’s voice, as Professor Kotler says, consumers will gravitate to the guy who does, or if none exists - the cheapest option.

We know this, B2B companies with strong brands have higher margins - that is a fact. According to Forbes, B2Bs with brands that are perceived as strong generate a higher EBIT margin.

Business brand strategy is critical in driving brand awareness and the bottom line, and purchasers are willing to pay a premium for products and solutions with a strong brand identity that they can relate to.

Click here to learn more about how Slightly Mad can help you develop an effective brand strategy for YOUR business.