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Q&A: What Are the Keys to Effective B2B Branding?

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Hint: it doesn’t have to be as dull as a stock photo of a business meeting

It’s one thing to raise awareness of a consumer brand among the general public, but B2B audiences are even tougher in many ways. They don’t just want a catchy campaign, a clever social feed or, say, a tasty snack–they want products that will help them do their jobs better and deliver visible career benefits.

And yet, a recent survey conducted by Omnicom’s global branding firm Siegel+Gale revealed that B2B marketers and PR professionals might have something to learn from their B2C brethren: relate to your customers as living, breathing people rather than streams of behavioral data broadcast from office cubicles.

We asked Brian Rafferty, Global Director of Research Insights for Siegel+Gale, for some guidance on conclusions drawn from the research–and what they mean for PRs who represent B2B clients.

His answers and some interesting numbers after the jump.

First, your data fix: in surveying more than 10,000 consumers and 450 corporate decision-makers, S+G found that:

  • Target audiences are 10% more likely to “consider” B2B brands with which they’re “strongly connected”
  • From approximately 2010-2013, B2B brands that are familiar to customers saw a 27% increase in stock value, a 31% growth in revenue and 8% ratio of intangible assets to revenues

The biggest winners in the survey were brands that are already familiar to consumers/B2B audiences and also make the impacts of their products clearer “on a human level” via advertising, well-produced trade show events and interactive experiences: brands like Cisco and IBM.

How can brands best build awareness among B2B audiences?

By providing experiences that are truly relevant to each audience. This means focusing on demonstrating/ communicating the impact of their business in ways that are compelling and clear rather than, for example, just advertising to generate name awareness.

Once the message has been received, how do they most effectively build consumer relationships?

Per above, by demonstrating impact, providing experiences that consumers find relevant (per IBM with the “Think” exhibit linked above) and communicating simply and clearly.

Is the hard sell as ineffective for B2B companies as it is for consumer goods companies?

If hard sell means focusing exclusively on price/cost, then it will not be effective in the long term.

Across many B2B research studies we’ve conducted among decision makers in specific categories, we have seen time and time again that providing personal and business benefits trumps low cost in driving preference.

What key takeaways does this study provide PR professionals representing B2B clients?

For PR professionals, there are two key takeaways:

1. Communicating to consumers also drives consideration with B2B decision makers.

2. Communicating in ways that anyone can understand is an imperative. Just because a client is B2B does not mean that using specialized jargon is most effective. Simplicity is key.

What major changes in the sector are reflected in the study’s findings?

The importance for B2B brands to think beyond their core buying set.  Not only does public opinion count for overall reputation, it also influences buyer consideration and correlates to better financials.

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