Branding for IT B2B’s: Why It Matters
A common sentiment amongst marketers in the IT sector is that B2B companies do not need to consider branding a priority. People in this school of thought see developing a brand as a B2C activity. Geoffrey Moore, a highly respected voice in the tech community, goes as far as to say that describing companies such as IBM, Cisco, and Siemens as “great brands” is “highly misleading.” Those against B2B branding argue that businesses do not get influenced into making a decision based off a brand in the same way that an individual consumer would. However, there is a growing contingent within B2B tech marketing that does believe branding has an important role.
As previously mentioned, one of the primary arguments cited by those who see little value in branding is that “B2B buyers are rational decision makers (or a committee of rational decision makers) who are not swayed by emotional factors such as brands.” While it may be true that a buyer would attempt to temper their emotions while contemplating a tech purchase, to say that they are not swayed by emotional factors is simply implausible. Otherwise, wouldn’t more purchasing decisions be made by simply entering criteria into a computer and picking the first name to pop up? There is more to these decisions than just raw data and price points.
A common saying amongst IT buyers in the 1980’s was “you never got fired for buying IBM.” For IBM, brand influence transcended logic in situations where they did not have the best products or pricing. Management can see a name like IBM and know, at least to some degree, what they could expect as far as customer service, goodwill, etc. In most scenarios, a business cannot develop this sort of reputation without a concentrated effort on developing a holistic brand.
Buyers can have dozens of different companies to choose from, with mind-numbingly similar products, services, and pricing. Having a well-established brand can help your business stand out as potential purchasers use heuristics (simple, efficient shorthand that simplifies decision making) to pare down their options. For larger B2B’s, a branding initiative can also help to ensure consistency in values, messages, and accountability across the multiple individuals and departments involved in a sale. No buyer wants to have the nature of their relationship with a company fundamentally altered due to what should be minor personnel changes.
This idea of fostering brand consistency becomes even more important when one considers the growing influence social media and content marketing have within business. A company with an online presence will probably be distributing content through several online channels. If they do not factor in their brand within each channel, they run the risk of projecting inconsistent or contradictory messages.
Having your employees well versed in what your brand stands for will help increase customer satisfaction, as they will have a more focused set of expectations for dealing with your business. In addition, having a well-developed brand identity can actually help you create content. It will give you a “voice” to work with, values to discuss, and facets of your products/services to highlight.
On the surface, it is not hard to see why marketing professionals can be dismissive of B2B/IT branding. However, we must always keep in mind that behind the facts, figures, and technologies involved in businesses, there are still human decision-makers. Developing a brand can be an incredibly valuable asset for any B2B looking to humanize their business and stand out in a buyer’s mind when the time to make a purchase comes around.