Today, the world of marketing is obsessed with metrics and conversion rates. Due to the increased demand for measurable results, brand awareness often gets overlooked. While it is more difficult to measure brand awareness tangibly, it’s still critical for B2B brands. Some argue that it’s not worth investing in brand awareness because it doesn’t have an instant payoff or result in immediate sales. However, not paying attention to B2B brand awareness can have an indirect negative impact on visibility and overall growth initiatives.
There’s a catch twenty-two when it comes to brand awareness: not investing in B2B brand awareness strategies could inadvertently hurt your conversion rates. Brand awareness is the “first impression” of marketing, and it only takes buyers seconds to determine whether or not they’ll open your email, click your link, or learn more about your solution. While it may seem trivial, it’s human nature to judge based on first impressions. Especially for B2B sales cycles that are long, layered, and have multiple decision-makers, you must deploy brand awareness tactics as part of your overall marketing strategy.
The following are brand awareness tactics specifically for the B2B market:
Understand and Define Your Value Proposition
Can you explain the value of your products in one sentence? Or why you are different (and better) than competitors who sell similar B2B services? If you can’t confidently say yes, you must revisit this foundational element of your brand identity before attempting to raise awareness.
Keep the following in mind when refining your value proposition:
- Frame the value around your audiences’ priorities rather than your capabilities. Highlight what your customers can achieve utilizing your products, speaking their language. Do you build efficiency into their invoice processing or reduce the risk of security breaches? There is a time and place to present the minutiae of technical details, but your brand messaging is not it.
- Do you cater to a specific niche or B2B audience? If your target audience can be summarized with a single word, you have work to do. For example, do your products better serve the needs of small business owners or large corporations? Are you the best option on the market for jacks-of-all-trades or highly specialized experts? The better you can refine your audience, the better you can craft brand messaging and targeted strategies to build awareness.
- How do you compare to similar companies? If you’re promoting your brand as the affordable option, you better confirm that you are actually amongst the cheapest. Stay abreast of what direct and indirect competitors offer to ensure your self-perception aligns with reality. It’s tempting to get drunk on your own kool-aid, blinding you to harsh truths that you may not create the most innovative, customer-friendly, or comprehensive solutions for customers.
Nurture an Original, Consistent Voice
HubSpot is an excellent example of a company with a distinct brand voice. HubSpot provides value by producing a variety of free content, most falling under the “how-to” category. They break down marketing concepts in ways that non-marketers can understand using an informal, casual tone that’s appropriate for their audience: small business owners.
The main B2B brand awareness tactic we can learn from this example is to strategically craft your voice by doing the following:
- Make sure your voice reflects your values. Review your company’s mission statement and make sure your copy is aligned.
- Understand your audience. A college professor and a kindergarten teacher have very different ways of addressing their students. Make sure your voice is appropriate to your audience.
- Create voice rules as part of your brand guidelines. This will help when hiring designers, writers, and anyone who has a say in creating content for your brand.
- Train channel partners on how to accurately represent your brand. A growing number of B2B companies utilize channel partners to sell their products and elevate their brand awareness. This tactic has led many to reap the rewards, but it is not without small risk of partners misrepresenting your company. Therefore, it’s important that you recruit partners that align with your brand identity and corporate values. Additionally, equip them with targeted training and supporting materials so they can convey your brand voice throughout their sales conversations and materials.
Strategically Leverage Social Media to Amplify Awareness
Social media marketing is a huge opportunity to build brand awareness while reaching large B2B audiences. Its power lies within its accessibility considering there are 3.8 billion people active on social media.
Effectively incorporate social media into your brand awareness strategies by executing the following:
- Create thought leadership content on platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter. By posting engaging content regularly, your brand becomes the authority in the very same industry you’re trying to reach.
- Focus on providing value rather than selling. Remember, B2B brand awareness strategies are about raising the perceived authority of your company on the whole, and not to immediately sell services. Therefore, craft your social media messaging around building a positive relationship with the readership, possible tactics including thought leadership pieces, free templates, industry news, etc.
- Create highly targeted paid ads. If you’re trying to get in front of IT directors at SaaS companies that have between 500 – 5,000 employees, you can run campaigns on platforms like LinkedIn that target specific job functions at companies.
- Track results of different B2B social strategies to evolve your brand awareness tactics. Think of social media as a platform for two-way (though unconventional) conversation. The level of engagement different posts generate grants insights into what types of messaging and materials your audience responds to best. Use the quantifiable data to identify behavioral patterns and test your theories.
Keep in mind, the prospects you reach on social media may not be in the buying stage just yet. Nonetheless, when you build brand awareness early on, your company will be top of mind when they’re ready to embark on the buyer’s journey.
Elevate Individuals Within Your Organization as B2B Thought Leaders
A significant goal of brand awareness is to define the company’s outward-facing personality through which it connects with audiences. While color choice and web design can go a long way in this regard, such measures cannot rival the power of a human face and voice. Shaping select members of your organization into industry leaders opens new doors for building B2B brand awareness because:
- It’s individuals, not companies, who are often invited to partake in PR opportunities. After all, a company can’t take the stage at a TED Talk or provide an expert quote to a journalist. While finding such opportunities may take time at first, they’ll gradually present themselves with greater frequency as the individual’s industry credibility grows.
- In many cases, individuals’ social media posts will generate more interactions than ones coming from companies. Simply put, this is because people want to engage with other people rather than faceless organizations. For this same reason, individuals will have an easier time than companies building rapport with other B2B influencers.
- Your people drive your offering. Most B2B purchasing decisions are not made lightly—customers want the promise of professionalism, dependability, and superior quality. Flaunting members of your team with well-established reputations provides this reassurance in ways generic web copy cannot.
Some words of warning when choosing unofficial spokespeople to help raise your B2B company’s brand awareness:
- When assessing candidates for new hires, consider whether they’ve built up a reputation from which your brand can benefit
- When determining which individuals to cultivate into thought leaders, choose someone with proven loyalty and who won’t be easily poached by competitors
- Take into account your candidate’s natural speaking abilities. Media training may be helpful
- Figure out how the chosen individual can have the necessary bandwidth to participate in PR opportunities
Assess Whether You’re Reaching the Right B2B Audience
To determine if your strategies are raising awareness amongst the targeted B2B audiences, execute the following:
- Evaluate the quality of leads. We said earlier that brand awareness tactics are not about instantly increasing sales. However, with time, a natural progression of an elevated company identity would be an improvement in leads. An important step is to audit your sales funnel to determine if your messaging is resonating with the individuals. For example, if your basic “how-to” series speaks to new entrepreneurs and entry-level employees, the resulting leads may be unqualified or best described as “small fish.”
- Collect qualitative feedback, not just quantitative. The insights of channel partners regarding your brand identity can be invaluable. Not only do they offer a fresh perspective from outside of your immediate organization, but they may be in contact with new audiences with which you’re unfamiliar. You may have built up significant goodwill in your home country, but how is your brand perceived overseas? Moreover, does your messaging connect with these unfamiliar prospects? Partners who are in direct communication with such audiences may have the answers.
- Make sure that marketing persona information is up-to-date. Revisit this important asset annually and consider what new tidbits apply. Is there a growing Reddit community of industry professionals you should note? Are conferences no longer as influential as they once were? Are the responsibilities of the targeted job title shifting, suggesting a need for a new persona entirely? The events of the past few years (global pandemics, supply chain interruptions, increased cyber security breaches) have forced the B2B world to swiftly react, re-strategize, and recalibrate priorities. Understanding your audience’s needs today has never been as crucial to your brand awareness strategies. To get started, check out our SaaS Buyer Personas for CTO, IT Manager, CISO, and other B2B roles.
Create Original Content on a Regular Basis
Creating original content is imperative in building B2B brand awareness and increasing subsequent sales. We know that right after a prospect has identified their need, the immediate next step is research. Creating SEO-optimized, informative content allows your company to show up in prospects search results during that research phase.
There are several different strategies to take when it comes to putting out B2B brand awareness-focused content:
- Give value for free. If the prospect will consume content to do their research, why not have them download your white papers or read your ebooks? Yes, they may read other publications at the same time, but when they use your free materials, your brand and logo become imprinted on their minds. Although it costs money to create free content, it pays off when they ultimately decide to become your customer. As they say, familiarity breeds trust.
- Praise your customers publicly. Most companies know that they should be creating case studies, but they usually take the wrong approach. Your case studies should be focused on your customers and what they’re doing—not the features and benefits of your product. While it may be tempting to talk about your own brand in brand awareness efforts, flip the focus back onto the customer. Showcasing your partnership will actually be more effective in building trust because people are more likely to take recommendations from peers versus advertisements.
- Refresh old tactics to give them new life. The ways the public finds and consumes information continues to evolve, meaning that the brand awareness tactics that worked five years ago may no longer apply. However, you don’t have to rid yourself of old materials entirely. Instead, assess new ways to repurpose some elements of the older copy. For example, if you have an industry study from 2017, why not do a similar survey in 2022 to spotlight how much times have changed? Similarly, why not transform a blog post into a webinar or use its talking points to inspire a training video?
Pursue Strategic Channel Partnerships
When asked about the benefits of building a channel program, most of our minds immediately jump to the generated profit. While this first instinct holds true, it fails to account for the increased brand awareness that can come from a thoughtfully mapped partner ecosystem.
Channel partners may operate in different regions or industries than your Direct Sales team. By having them promote products on your behalf, you can utilize their accumulated clout. Even if their advertisements or initial talks with B2B prospects don’t lead to immediate sales, they will plant early seeds of brand awareness, nonetheless.
Take the following steps to make the most of the brand awareness advantages of B2B channel partners:
- Actively court channel partners with strong reputations amongst your desired target audiences. In addition to “wining-and-dining” such candidates, consider how you can further incentivize them to join your program. For example, you may want to make them the premier partner for the region with the guarantee of no competition. Alternatively, you can offer them better than usual commission rates or marketing development funds.
- Take advantage of B2B co-branding opportunities. Take advantage of any opportunity to place your logo next to theirs so you can piggyback off of their brand awareness. Examples include research papers, hosted events, web content, and case studies.
- Allocate extra marketing development funds (MDF). If you’ve successfully recruited influential B2B companies into your partner program, you’ll want to enable them to spread the word. Fully or partially fund their marketing efforts, whether that be web banners, conference booths, or YouTube ads. It’s a win-win; your partners will earn more customers to which they can sell your goods, and you can cement their loyalty while swiftly building both awareness and credibility.
Bottom Line About Brand Awareness Tactics for B2B Companies
To build brand awareness and authority, craft a unique voice that is consistently used throughout your marketing and sales strategies. Leverage social media to build tactical audience-focused marketing. Create original content that provides value and positions your brand as a leader in your industry. While building B2B brand awareness isn’t as measurable as other forms of marketing, its importance cannot be overstated.