Your product is solid. It solves a real problem for your target audience. You've been growing for years with a sound demand capture strategy. But something has changed—your growth has slowed, it's taking longer to close deals, your cost-per-acquisition keeps rising. Leadership wants answers—what is going on?
Well one place to look is your marketing mix—have you been investing in your brand? Have you been investing enough in your brand? Does your total addressable market know who you are or just the people in-market right now? Investing in brand building efforts just as much as short term sales efforts is shown to fuel both short- and long-term growth—it can even give you a leg up on pricing power and category expansion.
We've done the homework for you and gathered some of the best research on the effects of B2B brand building. If you're like us and get giddy about data—here is all the research. But if you're short on time and want the TL;DR, here are our top findings on how brand building fuels growth for B2B:
1. Brand building is a potent boost for short- and long-term sales.
Most of the emphasis in recent marketing efforts across all companies has been on activation, which creates a burst in sales that fizzle out just as quickly as they peak. Compare these results to brand building. Creating a strong brand has a positive impact on both short- and long-term sales. In the short-run, consumers are much more likely to buy from a brand they are familiar with, and brand awareness establishes a sense of familiarity and trust. This rooted awareness lays a foundation for sales activations, which lowers acquisition costs. By following this formula, one brand saw a 6X performance lift in their activation, and another had acquisition costs decrease by 17% and ROI rise by 316%.
While it has immediate benefits, brand awareness is a long game. According to the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute, “at any given time, only 5% to 10% of customers are in-market in a given category.” Sales activations only reach that 5% to 10%. The longevity of branding allows companies to capture revenue in the future from some of the 90% out-of-market consumers. Brand creative is “sticky”—it will get glued into consumers’ minds and is more likely to be recalled when they shift into the market for that product or solution. Ever had a company’s jingle stuck in your head? Exactly.
We think LinkedIn's B2B report depicted it best with this chart, showing the sales uplift from branding compared to sales activation:
2. Brands strengthen customer loyalty and increase pricing power.
A brand name sets expectations for a customer’s experience and lowers risks for their next purchase. When a customer is faced with two brands, they tend to choose the one they have built a positive association with. Loyal customers invest more in the brand and are 50% more likely than new customers to purchase new products from the brand. Additionally, these dedicated customers are often willing to spend a higher amount than new customers—around 31% more, according to research.
Strong brands not only garner more sales from loyal customers, they increase a company’s overall pricing power. Consumers are willing to pay premium prices for brand they perceive as high-quality.
3. A strong brand gives a company the ability to hold onto consumer trust while transitioning into new categories.
Change is inevitable, and categories are not exempt from this. As old categories fall and new ones rise, the only way for a company to successfully make a switch is to lean on their brand. Brands signal the quality of a company’s output to customers, which is transferable. Want some proof? Nokia went from being a timber company to a multi-product conglomerate to a cell phone manufacturer. Nintendo started out producing playing cards before leveling up to video game consoles. These companies’ successes hinged on their already well-established brand reputation.
4. Trying to find an edge? A brand is the competitive moat you’re looking for.
All those sales activations and lead generation tactics? Easily copied. A brand, on the other hand, is one of the only assets in a company that can be completely unique to them. This makes having a strong brand one of a company's greatest assets. Branding is one of the best ways for a company to distinguish itself from its competitors and create a buffer between them.
Sales activations = shallow moat. Brand = deep moat.
5. The most talented candidates want to work for the most renowned brands.
Brand building is a multi-faceted marketing strategy. With the majority of marketers’ attention focused on sales and ROI from activations, talent retention and acquisition are often overlooked. For similar reasons that consumers want to buy from top companies, candidates want to work for top companies. LinkedIn experts report that “professionals list in their headlines that they are 'Ex-Apple, Ex-LinkedIn, Ex-Google.' Even when employees leave the business, they still don’t want to leave the brand.” A company’s brand aids in bringing in and retaining top talent.