How to Adapt B2B Marketing For What Your Brand Is Now

Updated on
May 22, 2024

This two-part guide is a roadmap for how to market your B2B brand.

Whether your B2B company has just successfully disrupted an industry, leveled up to a category leader, or anything in between—this two-part guide will be your brand’s roadmap to follow based on who you are and where you’re headed. Feel free to hop around through these sections and create your own curated marketing checklist. Here’s a look at what’s ahead:

This part will give tips based on what kind of brand you have (read all that apply):

  1. Disruptors
  2. Category Leaders
  3. Selling to the Skeptics
  4. Challenger Brand

1. Hello, Disruptor

There’s an inherent pressure to be a first-mover—to do something that hasn’t been done before. Companies will quickly launch into a space in order to disrupt the current system and own a new category. While this enthusiasm has proven successful for a lot of companies, it leaves brand recognition slowly simmering on the back burner.

The challenge for a disruptor is to simultaneously create intrigue and teach consumers about a service they’ve never seen before, all while growing brand awareness to gain credibility and avoid being overshadowed by well-established second and third-movers.

Disruptor Checklist:

  1. Teach people about your product
  2. Create a personality
  3. Make your audience feel

How we solved it — Slack

Our work with Slack was two-fold. First, we tackled awareness and intrigue. We let consumers know there’s finally an alternative to the drab workplace email. Second, we wanted our work to embody Slack’s quirky, fun personality and make our audience feel happy. So we transported them to a happy place. Cue the rainbows, ice cream, balloons, and kittens. The result? Slack became the fastest-growing B2B software in the world. See the full project here.

2. You're a Category Leader

So, your first-mover advantage led you right to the top of a category. You’re well known by early adopters, but now you need to build awareness amongst the masses to gain credibility and equity so that when big players move into your space, you can hang onto your market share.

Category Leader Checklist

  1. Show don’t tell
  2. Demonstrate your value
  3. Go big with the launch

How we solved it — Slack (again)

A few years after the Euphoria campaign, Slack began feeling the pressure from Microsoft and Google setting up camp in the space. We used a 30-second awareness spot to bring the lightbulb moment to life. To bring the vision to life, we created a 64-foot-long set separated into 4 rooms, each representing a different Slack channel. And did we mention we launched during the 2018 World Cup? Slack is now rated higher than Microsoft in Gartner Peer Insights’ list of Social Software in the Workplace. Check out the campaign that helped make it happen.

3. Selling to Those Pesky Skeptics

Now that you’ve won over the initial early adopters and risen to the top of your category, you’ve hit a wall of skeptics—or maybe your target audience is just inherently hard to please. In the world of B2B marketing, it’s not uncommon to face a perception problem. There are a few innate human characteristics working against you. First, it’s very hard for people to unlearn their old ways. Second, it’s hard to gain people’s trust. Third, people want to be sure they need your product before switching or adding it to their repertoire.

Selling the Skeptics Checklist

  1. Don’t shy away from the skeptical audience—target them
  2. Speak their language
  3. Simultaneously work to grow awareness amongst non-skeptics

How we solved it — OutSystems

OutSystems completely disrupted traditional coding with its low-code development software and found itself at the top of the leader quadrant in Gartner’s 2018 Magic Square report. However, while continuing to gain brand awareness, OutSystems also needed to sell both its product and the category to a skeptical audience—developers. We had the idea to talk to this audience the way they talked to each other. And we knew exactly who to call. Improv actors. We leaned heavily into humor, landing on a concept that featured two developers discussing their workload and mishearing the phrase “with OutSystems”. The result? 20 million impressions and a second year atop Gartner’s leader quadrant. Read all about it here.

4. Challenger Brand, Accepted

Trying to enter a large, crowded space after it’s already been established? Challenge accepted. Challenger brands have to be strategic—growing awareness around their brand with the assumption that consumers already know how the product works. In order to gain market share, you’ll really have to prove that it’s worth it for people to switch from their current way of doing whatever it is that you do.

Challenger Brand Checklist

  1. Don’t show people how to use your product—chances are, they know
  2. Differentiate. Differentiate. Differentiate.
  3. Relate to your audience on a personal level

How we solved itEmma

Emma found themselves bumping elbows in the crowded email marketing space. And as an added challenge, they had to differentiate from parent-brand, Campaign Monitor, as well as outside competition. First, we refreshed their logo and gave them a new look for their website. Illustrations were designed to bring users into the Emma experience. Emma helps marketers build connections with their customers, so our next order of business was bringing this connection to life in a video. When all was said and done, Emma became the warm, approachable email marketing software option. Want to read more about this work? Right this way.

Conclusion

If there’s one thing hidden in the folds of this roadmap, it’s the realization that every company is unique and there is not a one-size-fits-all marketing solution. A lot of companies occupy more than one space and are headed in more than one direction. Personalize these checklists and iterate on your strategy as your company grows and changes.

There are some overarching lessons we’ve learned through our work in this industry that can help you start out in the right direction. First is the trend away from B2B lead-gen and toward B2B brand building. While the execution of this might look different depending on who you are or where you’re going, the idea is the same—people don’t need another lead-gen tactic, they need to buy in.

Which brings us to the next conclusion. People buy emotionally. Use that to your advantage when deciding on a creative direction. Transport your audience. Make them feel something. You can no longer get by presenting them with a list of features and waiting for them to convert.

Lastly, partner with an agency that can help guide you strategically—not just creatively. The lines are blurring between agency and consultancy, and it’s one less bump in the road when you’re able to be guided through a strategic process by the same people who will execute on that strategy. It can be a long road—you’re going to want good company.

If you’re looking for marketing strategies for where your brand is headed next, read part two.

A few cool things we've done

Brand Building

CESAR®

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Slack

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