Digital innovation has provided B2B organisations with new ways to bring their brands to life, taking their customer experience to a different level with higher engagement, interaction and user experience. Customers no longer absorb brands as they once did (by watching, reading, listening), they now have unlimited access to interact with branded content on so many different levels.
The amount of technology we have access to allows business leaders to build a more personalised, digital strategy around the wants, needs and attitudes of their customers. This level of connectedness is exciting but often distracting.
From a brand perspective, there are literally millions of ways brands can engage with their audience, but the aim of the modern marketer is to be strategic and targeted so that every interaction counts.
With the frantic rush to adopt the latest and greatest technology, there is often another tension that arises: to what extent are face-to-face business relationships critical in driving the strategy of the brand forward? We experienced this conundrum during periods of lockdown at the height of the pandemic, and now, we are seeing business activity shifting to more of a hybrid customer facing and digitally enhanced strategy from B2B businesses.
But the underlying concern surrounding this tension remains – we see stakeholders rushing to digitise systems, processes and channels, with a continual focus surrounding measurement and metrics, and other stakeholders resisting change in the desire to retain a more personal service model.
Success lies somewhere in between these two extremes. There are some areas where the accessibility, speed and agility of digital delivers a better outcome for the customer and the business, and some areas where human customer contact cannot easily be replaced. The key lies in ensuring that each of these approaches is consistent, and that neither is placed before the unifying promise of the broader brand.
In our most recent report, we explored the impact and importance of digital strategy in the banking and payments landscape and explained the two contrasting approaches prevalent amongst financial services organisations when managing their digital and brand strategies – brand informs digital, or digital leads the way. These two approaches are also frequently found in B2B organisations.
When B2B businesses lead their digital strategy around their tools and channels, the digital strategy tends to operate independently from the brand strategy. It is an approach that often results in digital being locked in at the tactical level. Without the underpinning of brand, digital communications can lack substance and become distracted by the latest tweet, the latest offer and the latest metric.
The main sacrifice is the consistency of customer experience, especially as there is no centralised guidance to fall back on. In the B2B context, if organisations are not careful, their brands can become driven and overwhelmed with consumer whim, and are soon found to be lacking direction, dimension and substance over the long term.
Alternatively, when B2B organisations integrate their brand strategy and use it to inform their digital strategy, they have a clear, amplified, guiding roadmap that helps navigate the organisation in a context of consumer flux.
Today, regardless of business or pleasure, lives and markets remain volatile. Brand provides B2B customers with reassurance, familiarity and easy, safe decisions in the digital world. In this sense, the brand strategy filters through to strengthen the digital strategy, where each digital touchpoint delivers an experience that is consistent with the brand’s promise. Digital platforms are treated as an opportunity to communicate the brand’s point of difference and are seen as a valuable channel.
If your brand positioning is not clear, this is the first place to start, defining your brand positioning is extremely important and we recommend you touch base with a brand agency such as BrandMatters to get your all-important brand positioning and narrative clear. We know from experience that having a clear positioning, makes every subsequent decision and strategy so much easier including the way your brand is communicating online across your digital channels.
In the B2B context, it’s not about doing ‘digital marketing’, it’s about marketing effectively in a digital world. Digital strategy should not replace, or operate separately from, the broader brand strategy. It should be treated as an important tool amongst the broader suite of communication tools.
While digital campaigns, social media initiatives and compelling content are instrumental in driving the growth of a business, these tactics have limitations in setting a long-term platform for the brand. However, when integrated into the business, brand and communications planning process, they become critical tools in communicating a brand’s positioning effectively.
This is the challenge for marketers. Brand doesn’t have an easy ROI measuring metric. When teams can follow and measure their customer’s online journeys through an immeasurable number of metrics – bounce rate, keyword volume, click through rate, conversion rate, followers, reach, shares, comments, likes or ROI – the numbers become somewhat of an obsession for businesses of all sizes and they deliver less value in the long term.
The diversity of marketing options that can be deployed – SEO, link building, content marketing, social media, email automation, lead magnets, opt-in pages, sales funnels, display advertising – can overwhelm even the most sophisticated business.
Marketers have access to more measurement tools than they would ever have time to analyse, utilise or act upon. But measurement for the sake of measurement is time spent wasted, and the analytics are only advantageous if the business takes the time to dissect and distil the important insights and translate these insights into actionable strategy.
Brands have the power to create meaningful connections between organisations and their customers. Strong brands have the capacity to inject humanity into large organisations by defining a purpose and instilling a positive culture.
The oversaturation of metrics-obsessed business leaves a massive void and opportunity for brand reputation and customer-obsessed B2B organisations, all of which are one and the same. When brand and digital are used in tandem, your business will feel as familiar as possible to your audiences.
Digital market strategies and measurement metrics are important for businesses of all sizes, but measuring a brand that has an evidenced, proven foundation will deliver far more favourable metrics than one that doesn’t.
Your brand strategy has the power to steer you and your business safely though this unparalleled period of change. Putting your brand strategy first will streamline your digital strategy and prevent your team from getting distracted from the endless stream of latest and greatest. It is important to use digital channels to create strong human connections with your audiences, whilst also ensuring your messaging is consistent, tailored and engaging.
Contact the team at BrandMatters to assess how your brand is performing and resonating across your digital channels.