How to think about branding and digital marketing for a B2B company?


Businesses selling to businesses (B2B) are often in two minds about digital marketing and branding. And these are not just technology product startups. I often get questions like "What is relevance of B2B branding and digital? Our core strength is sourcing and manufacturing for B2B customers. We have a sales team but no marketing set up. How does it apply to us?" It is a great question and to answer this, we need to break it into two.How does brand-building apply to you?

Do you have customers, employees and investors? Do you have competition? If yes, you need to think about your brand. In other words, you need to think about how these different stakeholders perceive your company. Why should they choose you over the competition? And if you think, the answer lies only in product quality and price, you are mistaken.

How does digital apply to you?

As you figure out how you are going to interact with your audiences, it is very likely that you are going to use digital channels. Like your website and your LinkedIn page. Maybe emailers or even ads. You need to make sure these are in line with the image that you want to build. Do not discount their importance. In today’s world, nearly all potential customers and employees check your website. It costs very little. Take the time to create something you can be proud of and something that clearly communicates what you offer.

And once you're clear of that there is a need, how do you go about doing it? The trouble here is that for too long brand-building has been associated with advertising and therefore seen as the domain of B2C firms. In truth, branding is even more important for B2B players because their offerings have become increasingly commoditized. Here are some thought-starters:

1. Draw up a list of all the audiences you want to influence. Go granular. So for example, in your OEM customers, in addition to the department that places the order, is there someone else whose opinon matters? In the after-sales market, mechanics are very important influencers. Be sure to include them.

2. Define why each stakeholder should choose your brand over the competition. Low price is not an option. This is tough but you must find a clear, credible answer.

3. Now for each of the customer groups, define their pre-purchase, purchase and post-purchase journey. For each leg, identify possible points of interaction with your brand. For example, in pre-purchase ask what publications do OEM customers read? Is there an industry body to which they all belong? In post-purchase, ask how you stay in touch with these customers, even if an order is not immediately forthcoming. Defining what you do at each possible point of interaction will give you the foundation for your marketing strategy.

Do you have any such questions with respect to your startup? Feel free ask them in the comments or drop us a mail at and Meeta would answer them in the upcoming columns. Follow her at The Practitioner

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