As B2B technology companies focus on building new, agile products and creating scalable lean processes to serve their customers more efficiently, it’s easy to defer marketing as a “nice to have, but not mandatory” focus. But it cannot be underscored enough how essential building your brand position is to your ability to succeed in today’s fast-moving competitive workplace. A solid brand foundation will help you secure early investment, as well as attract, acquire, and keep customers. It can also significantly impact an eventual successful exit by enhancing the company’s long-term value.
Recent research supports the connection between a strong brand and private equity success, particularly when a PE firm is considering its own growth objectives. These firms correlate a strong brand with better deal sourcing and recruiting, and the same principle applies to tech-focused companies, who expect their brands to deliver customers, talent and investment.
So, how can you shore up the foundation of your brand? I’d like to take you through a branding exercise that will get you on your way to better understanding the connection between brand and growth. While there are many recognized processes for this, Chief Outsiders’ Co-Founders Art Saxby and Pete Hayes explain in their book The Growth Gears that they fundamentally include answering these types of questions:
From the beginning, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos realized that his company’s vision was much more technology company than purveyor of books and consumer products. This has enabled Amazon to expand in somewhat unexpected ways, such as with the wildly successful Amazon Web Services. According to Bezos, “If you're competitor-focused, you have to wait until there is a competitor doing something. Being customer-focused allows you to be more pioneering.”
If you are focusing on one type of product or service, instead of your customers and their needs, you may be missing out on ways to expand your business – and to communicate your value more effectively. Conducting simple market research, having discussions inside your company, and embracing feedback from your customers can help you determine exactly what you do -- so that you can communicate this value proposition in the most compelling and efficient way.
Dive deep as you consider this value proposition. Do your employees and customers agree that you have a superior solution, unmatched customer service, or unrivaled reliability? This is the time for brutal honesty – not wishful thinking. Make relevance an essential aspect of your brand – and support it with facts and testimonials. Remember to articulate your values as you define your brand.
Be clear about your singular value, and support it with evidence. Do a blind test to determine if the differentiators you attribute to your brand equally apply to your competitors, or are truly unique to your company. Using informal and formal research, along with competitive digital assessment tools, will allow you to find useful answers. Browse competitors’ websites and social media pages, as well as industry blogs, to understand their positioning versus yours.
Now that you’ve gathered critical data about your business from the inside and outside, try to define your unique value in one or two sentences.
In this process, remember that It’s increasingly important for B2B companies to build and reinforce emotional connections to their brands. According to CEB/Gartner, B2B brands drive much higher emotional connection than B2C. That’s because business purchases typically involve considerable business and personal risk for supplier advocates and decision-makers.
These steps will give you a solid foundation for your branding strategy as you gear up for growth. In Part 2, we’ll look at how to implement a four-step action plan to build your brand and increase your company’s value as you grow and scale.