“A brand is a shortcut for all the expectations I have for what you’re about to do for me. It’s a shortcut for trust, for promises, for conversations.” – Seth Godin, author
At the heart of a successful brand is a strong USP – a unique selling proposition that summarizes the key point of differentiation. However, only 31% of B2B marketing and insights professionals believe their brand communicates a distinct purpose or strong USP. If the market can’t identify what makes a brand different, how can the brand position itself for success and command a premium?
The challenge faced by B2B brands extends beyond brand positioning. We are living in an age of the empowered customer where B2B suppliers have experienced a shift from mostly brand-driven touchpoints (like direct marketing and account reps) to customer-driven touchpoints where the customer drives the interaction (such as through search and online reviews). This means B2B brands must engage customers in the right place at the right time with the right message.
42% of B2B marketing and insights professionals cited “directing marketing communications and messaging to real people in a more personalized and relevant way” and 41% rated “connecting with customers on an emotional level to drive higher brand engagement” as major challenges. This highlights the difficulties faced not only with the brand essence and positioning, but also around increasing the resonance of communications so that each message generates maximum impact with the intended audience.
Our longitudinal survey shows that B2B marketing professionals have struggled identifying how to establish a differentiated position for their brands for many years. In fact, B2B brands are worse today than they were back in 2015, with the lowest performance since the study began. This suggests that it is becoming increasingly difficult for B2B brands to stand out from the crowd with a truly distinct and different position.
% Of B2B Marketers & Insights Professionals Rating Their USP 8, 9 or 10 out of 10
In spite of the challenge with differentiation, 50% of B2B brands are currently focusing on raising awareness, i.e. top of funnel brand building objectives, while 44% are seeking to build their brand position. The tactics for increasing share of voice might be perceived by marketers as easier than identifying the number one factor that differentiates their brand.
These implications are generating an increase in market research priorities. As of late 2019, 38% expect branding research to be very useful to their organization over the next two years, compared to 26% at the start of 2019. Those in North America in particular are placing an increasing focus on brand research, where 48% plan to prioritize researching their brand health over the coming years.
B2B brands must focus on establishing a stronger brand position to overtake the majority of their peers that lack a distinct USP. In commoditized markets in particular, this can go a long way in achieving a competitive advantage. Frameworks like the brand positioning bullseye are useful for identifying the defining characteristics of the brand:
Customer perceptions: How customers describe the brand
Customer feelings: How the brand makes customers feel
Brand personality: The brand’s key personality traits
Substantiators: Proof points or reasons to believe in the brand
Core proposition: The summary statement on the brand
Brand position: The ultimate brand essence
Brand Positioning Bullseye
Profiling the key personas served by the brand is an important foundation for brand messaging and targeting. Business to business has become person to person in that the target audience comprises individuals with emotions that influence their decisions and behaviors. The more successful B2B brands use personas to train marketing, sales, account management and product development teams to be more empathetic to individual needs, feelings, and pain points across all touchpoints with their brands.
Sample Persona Profile
In summary: how to win
Identify what lies at the core of the brand’s essence and ensure this is central to all messaging. This USP must ultimately drive value for the customer.
Obtain a deep understanding of the emotions felt by customers to connect with individuals on a more emotional level through more distinct and impactful brand positioning and messaging.
Create informative and engaging profiles of key personas served. Use these to train marketing, sales, account management and product development teams to be more empathetic to customer needs, feelings, and pain points, and to drive an internally aligned view of different customer groups.
Ensure communications target and speak to individuals in a more personalized and relevant way, through a detailed understanding of customers from first, second and third party data.
About the survey
B2B International’s B2B Marketing & Insight Study is based on online surveys completed by 302 B2B marketing and insights professionals at businesses across North America and Europe in Q4 of 2019. The participants work across a wide variety of sectors including knowledge based, process and construction, IT and technology, trade and services, among others. The average annual revenue of organizations responding to this survey is approximately (USD)$1 billion.
Contact Julia Doheny, President – B2B International USA, Inc.
Readers of this article also viewed: