Thousands of companies yell the same message in their marketing: save money, save time. Why should I care? Why should I believe you? Who are you anyway?
Let’s face it: for most B2B companies, brand identity is an afterthought. They design a logo, and it forms the basis for their brand.
That’s not the way to create a brand identity.
In my view, it’s time for marketers and everyone who plays a role in creating and selling technology to humanize the enterprise. While claims for technology may provoke a yawn, our message about who we are, why we matter, and what our customers are accomplishing through our partnership should inspire, engage, and provoke curiosity.
The fact is that your customers – and the general public – own your brand, because they are the ones experiencing it. All you can do is try to steer it and have an impact.
When you portray a personality, a point of view, an identity, people remember you and have feelings about you. This emotional backdrop isn’t a replacement for a great product but in a world where everyone else is parading a boring feature-function list, it can be powerfully differentiating.
Here are some lessons we’ve learned about branding.
A brand should not be a mask but a portrait of your company’s essential character, a representation of who you really are. At Evolved Media we have a reliable, friendly, intelligent and slightly edgy and comical personality. If you meet us or learn about us through our website, the same set of character traits keep coming at you. Our company creates and promotes content for B2B technology companies. But when people experience our brand personality, they naturally assume that our work will be smart and fun and that we can be counted on to deliver and to be flexible. (And, of course, that’s the truth!)
This works for us because our brand is natural to us. You must be yourself. Don’t use someone else’s cookie cutter. If it feels like a struggle to express the personality you’ve chosen for your brand, you probably don’t have it right. People quickly pick up on cognitive dissonance. If you are not consistent and authentic, it makes them uncomfortable because your brand is in essence a falsehood. To work, a brand must be true.
Every interaction with your company is an opportunity to express your brand, not just to buyers but also to prospective employees, investors, the press, and so on. Each choice of word, color, and photo can communicate your brand personality and identity – or fail to do so. The work comes in making sure you express your brand consistently across all touch points. Can our technical documentation really communicate our brand? Yes. Every touch point can convey a brand message, and the message conveyed should be the same.
Humanize Your Product Message
If you start paying attention to the way brand is conveyed for all sorts of products by the masters of the game, the consumer marketers who have the largest budgets and the most skill and talent, you see time after time that they use stories about people having feelings. Then, at some point in the story, the credit card, the food, or the car shows up, snuggled up to that feeling. In the B2B world, we must do the same thing.
Just saying, “save money, make more money” lacks a human element. The idea that enterprise buyers care only about cost savings is a myth. If we can connect with buyers on a human level, we’ll have more success. For example, instead of saying “Spend less time on operations,” how about “Less ops, more hops”? The message: spend less time worrying about work and more time doing things you enjoy. Just like the masters of consumer branding, B2B marketers must connect the product message to the human concerns and desires of the buyer, not abstract balance sheet concepts. Remember: it’s not about you; it’s about your customers. Empathize. Put yourself in their shoes. People have many roles in life. Don’t just appeal to their professional role. Enterprise companies like New Relic give you a clear sense that they have intelligent, energetic and real people involved in all aspects of their business. They express that through photography and statements from employees and customers.
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
Today’s buyers are accustomed to being sold to and they generally don’t like it. People resent attempts to trick them into a sale with a tag line or a clever message. If that is all you offer your prospects, you are implicitly showing a lack of respect.
Rather, buyers want to self-educate at their own pace. You must offer a great experience, interactions and content that provides value and serves them and creates the brand in their minds. Remember – they own your brand, not you. Claiming how great your product is falls flat. Showing how great it is changes minds. Focus on actions – things that you did: won an award, helped a customer achieve a transformation, moved into bigger offices because you’re growing, contributed to the community in some way.
Of course you want to explain your unique selling proposition, but if you fail to provide value at the same time, you will turn people off.
How You’ll Know It’s Working
We don’t recommend this approach because it is more interesting and more fun for the marketers, but because connecting with emotions sells more product. That’s why you must humanize: so that people have a feeling about how great your company is that is confirmed when they use your products. The chain of events toward a sale starts with people talking about how your company is different, how you “get it” when others don’t, how your B2B product doesn’t seem as boring as the rest. That’s the overt part of knowing it’s working. The more subtle reason that it works is that in the thick of a decision, on a subconscious level, buyers will want to work with you not only because your product is great but also because the way you treated them made them feel good. They will find the reasons to support that decision. Remember what Maya Angelou said: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Let your brand personality shine with authentic marketing collateral.