In business-to-business (B2B) companies, branding, marketing and sales traditionally have been distinct and separate activities: branding created awareness, marketing created response/behavior and sales … well … sold. In over 20 years of serving in a variety of capacities in each role, I frequently saw tension and disconnect between the various players and factions. I saw disconnected strategies, battling over resources and a game of accountability “hot potato” that would make Congress proud.
Then I saw a shift occur. In the past several years, I have noticed that innovative companies don’t have this disconnect and tension. Instead, there is often polyamorous (look that up!) harmony amongst the three factions resulting in broad brand recognition, effective marketing campaigns and high conversion rates in sales. These innovative companies have figured this out: all three activities are now relational and synchronous due to the pressure (and opportunity) of Social Business. As Social Business becomes the norm and relational branding/marketing/selling becomes a requirement, there are lessons for any B2B company to learn:
- Practice Axiology — The first step is to purge all three activities from mass market thinking and focus on understanding and embracing the unique value of each individual that touches the brand. In practice, this means creating hyper-personalization through assessments/surveys, first-name marketing, 1:1 conversations and more. In general, treat your audience like you would your friends. Key: You must actually like people.
- Trigger Emotional Attraction — Most B2B brands suck at this. They constantly gravitate towards intellectual attraction — focusing their message on WHAT they do instead of WHY they do it. Emotional attraction appeals to the right brain — where decisions start. There is no language in this part of the brain — just desire, emotions and drive. In B2B, this happens in all three aspects of branding, marketing and sales — plus the client experience. Key: you must actually be interesting.
- Build Talent Brands — A Talent Brand is when as many people as possible inside of an organization are branded as thought-leaders and experts — sort of an intentional, strategic personal branding program. Similar to an independent record label, this approach amplifies each person’s specific talents, gifts, etc — lifting the entire brand up. Building a Talent Brand provides an endless supply of content sources, connections/influence, intellectual property and more. Key: you must have a culture that attracts and retains talent.
As with any Social Business strategy, you must have great leadership, a product/service that people love and a vibrant, positive internal culture. If you are experiencing the opposite of these in your organization, then branding/marketing/selling is the least of your problems.
While branding, marketing and selling will remain three distinct roles in most B2B organizations, the above three strategies will help ensure a unified and sustainable approach, a singular clear message to the audience, and co-accountability on results. And happiness, peace and love for all involved.