Without a brand strategy, your marketing efforts will lack consistency. And that can lead to confusion over what your company, your people, and your products stand for. But even the most effective B2B brand strategy can sometimes go stale. Messages can become repetitive. The competitive landscape can shift. And buyers can change. If your marketing efforts aren’t as effective as they used to be, it may be time for a refresh. To refresh your brand strategy, follow these four basic steps.
Re-examine your audience
B2B companies often think buyer research and buyer personas are unnecessary; they feel it is obvious who their customers are. This comes from believing that B2B technology purchases are cut-and-dried, that they are made by companies for business reasons, rather than people. And though they must look out for the interests of the company, decision makers have wants, needs, pain points, and motivations of their own.
To truly understand what motivates your buyer, you must do buyer research, conduct customer interviews, and develop detailed buyer personas. You may have done this before. But remember that the competitive landscape, underlying technology, even societal attitudes may have changed since then. Your current buyer's attitude may be different from even two years ago.
Who do you interview? Having more contact with actual customers, your sales team is a good place to start. However, it’s a bad place to stop. Interview both customers you've won and those you've lost, to uncover out the real reasons they made the decisions they did. It may make the difference between being effective when talking to your prospect and missing the mark.
Of course, you want to understand the problem the buyer is trying to solve, but you also want to know, among other things, what position do they hold in the organization, whether or not they have decision-making power, and what specifically they were looking for in a solution or service provider. This is the information that lets you create a website, marketing messages, and content that resonates with your specific buyer.
Update your core messaging platform
Companies are living things. They age, and they change. And branding that once was a fit may not be anymore. After you know what your current buyers are struggling with and what’s driving their purchasing decisions, examine your current messaging to make sure that it’s still addressing those concerns. And if you don’t have formal messaging, this is the time to create it.
A brand's core message platform will contain most or all of the following components:
- Brief history of the company
- Situational analysis (in this case, why you are refreshing the brand strategy)
- Brand essence (distilled to a single word or phrase)
- Brand personality (key "human" characteristics you want your customers to associate with your company's brand)
- Internal positioning statement (so everyone is on the same page about how to talk about the company)
- External positioning statement (how you describe yourself to the market)
- Messaging opportunities (approaches to positioning the company against its competitors using these definitions)
- Message house (key taglines, value proposition, and three or more "pillar" statements with proof points)
The message house is the tactical piece that should be used to create the actual messages to take to the market. Each piece of content—be it a web page, byline, press release, and so on—should tie back to the core messaging platform and one of its pillars.
Refresh your official brand guide
A core message platform guides how you'll "talk" about your brand. Most brand strategies also include an official branding guide that governs how the brand "looks." This includes fonts, colors, logos, preferred types of images that help convey the company's personality and core messages on its website. It also applies to every piece of content it publishes—including the company's printed stationery.
Changes in your audience, competition, market, or product landscapes may require changing your messaging or tone—which may require a new look. Besides, if it has been three to five years, your existing "look" may be a bit dated anyway.
Whatever the change or reason, your colors, fonts, and imagery should support the brand characteristics described in your core message platform. For example, conveying stability, peace-of-mind, and supportiveness requires a different color palette than a startup trying to convey that it’s cutting-edge and energetic.
Execute your new B2B brand strategy
The final step in refreshing your brand strategy is to create or refine a plan that details how you will apply (and stick to) all the above changes on an ongoing basis.
At a minimum, you'll need to refresh your company's website and collateral. This effort will vary depending on the extent of changes you made to your buyer personas, core messaging, and brand guide. This is why refreshing your brand strategy should be done with care and without omitting any steps—you don't want to repeat it often.
Once you have re-branded your existing assets, it is simply a matter of enforcing that all future content:
- Incorporates the new brand messaging,
- Follows the new brand guidelines,
- Speaks directly to your ideal customer.
A new brand strategy that addresses your customers and goals better equips you to attain the growth you’re looking for.