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Why branding matters for b2b firms…& it’s not all about sales

The importance of positive branding for consumer-facing firms is a given, but it is equally important in the business-to-business (B2B) space– It just doesn’t get spoken about as much.

However, at Experian – a data technology company with more than 125 years of history – it is crucial to our entire business strategy, especially in Asia Pacific where we don’t currently have a direct-to-consumer offering.

Of course, no business is going to embark on building a strong B2B branding campaign without wanting to see tangible business results in terms of high-quality sales leads and conversions.

But B2B branding and broader marketing strategies need to be about much more than simply filling the sales funnel.

Here are three reasons why I believe B2B companies need to build stronger brand recognition; to attract the best talent, to grow in emerging markets and to better engage with prospective customers.

Firstly, a strong and recognisable B2B brand helps attracts and retain the very best people. Put simply, how many people want to work for a company they have never heard of, or those that don’t have a clear mission or reputation?

There is a constant battle to find the best talent – often pitching B2B enterprises against their more fashionable and well-known consumer counterparts – especially in Asia Pacific.

By having wide recognition for thought leadership and innovation, and being clearly viewed as a trusted brand, companies can ensure they attract the best people in a highly competitive recruitment marketplace because they know what drives the company, and they see what gives us, hence them, the edge.

Also, by talking publicly about not only our business objectives, but also the importance of diversity, values and working practices, the deeper the engagement becomes between our teams and the company.

This helps maintain a clear employee understanding of our ethos and our brand, which then filters back into the sales process to provide a consistent message for our customers.

Secondly, a strong and trusted B2B brand is vital if you want to expand in Asia’s emerging markets.

The vast majority of organisations in South East Asia – be they government bodies, PLCs or start-ups – want to collaborate with strong service providers.

This is because the reputation and standing of the companies they choose to align with confers an added sense of legitimacy and security to their own operations, as well as building trust with regulators.

This is especially evident today in countries such as the Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia.

Thirdly, having a strong and recognisable B2B brand improves the chances of staying engaged with customers – past, present and prospects.

The number of marketing touch points needed to close a deal have increased considerably in recent years – as has the length of time it takes customers to sign on the dotted line.

Recent data from Bright Funnel revealed the average path to sale for “high growth” tech companies is 512 days from lead to revenue.
Of course, this timescale will vary from business to business, but without having the benefit of a strong brand and clear values, it will be a lot harder to keep those potential customers engaged and in the pipeline.

Key to maintaining this relationship is providing quality content that allows prospects to educate themselves with valuable information that is crucial to their business. The messages that the brand communicates fills the information gaps in between sales touch-points during the longer B2B sales cycles.

Data shows that 80 per cent of business decision makers prefer to get information via articles than adverts – but they will only trust content from a credible brand. That is why our reports and studies such as the Global Fraud and Identity, APAC Fraud Management Insights, and Digital Consumer View Reports and SBF-DP SME Index are anticipated by regulators and the business community to help guide business decisions.

With the proliferation of digital platforms, data and analytics, there is no longer any excuse for B2B firms not to make branding a priority.

Gone are the days when a B2B company could send the occasional press release to the trade media or attend an exhibition. Today, 55 per cent of B2B buyers say they search for products on social media.

Digital, and indeed social, platforms have evolved so much that we can now have a very good understanding of who we are marketing to, as well as receiving back detailed analytics to enable us to measure the success.

I believe we will increasingly see trends such as influencer marketing, the utilization of artificial intelligence and apps, and greater executive branding take a greater stake in the B2B marketing space across Asia Pacific.

Even then, B2B branding may not attract the glitz and glamour, or indeed the budgets, enjoyed by our cousins in the consumer space.
But if a business is serious about driving quality leads, attracting the best talents and tapping into emerging markets, it is a vital strategy for success.

Sisca Margaretta is the Chief Marketing Officer at Experian Asia Pacific.
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