“People are people and when it comes to B2B marketing, that shouldn’t be forgotten” agreed all five panellists at last Wednesday's B2B networking event, hosted by the Marketing Associations B2B Special Interest Group.

The event, which centred around the ins and outs of implementing effective B2B brand strategies, saw the panellists discuss where a brand can play a big part in B2B, and such is the way with marketers, evolved into a healthy discussion around internal buy-in and how to keep the customer at the forefront. After all, we are the voice of the customer.

The first question posed to the team was what does a B2B brand mean for them in their jobs today - and unsurprisingly, the responses were all of a similar nature. "Brand simplifies choice and makes it quicker for a customer to make a decision" - ultimately that decision is you. With the decision-making process being longer in B2B than it is in B2C, the part branding plays in that buying cycle makes it crucial to bring customers along that story.

When asked how brand can help maximise growth and revenue, the panel provided some great insights around looking at the long-term game vs short term. In the short term, think about where your quick wins are and place attention where you know you’ll convert but equally, ensure you think about what you want to achieve long term and what will help you get there. Relationship building, loyalty and retention was a key theme here, B2B relationships are incredibly important, not only with a lens of retention but an emphasis was put on utilising your loyal customer base to generate word of mouth for acquisition.

Next, we moved on to re-branding and with a few of the panellists having recently gone through the rebrand of a product, their advice was to bring your customers along that journey with you. In B2B we have the advantage of direct contact with customers, use that and engage them - find out what is most important to them and what your company means to them.

With every big change though, comes big expectations internally, so how does one bring internal stakeholders on that journey? One panellist states “Involve stakeholders early on and be upfront about expectations - back up what you’re doing with customer research to help stakeholders clearly understand the why, bring some customer aroha awareness into it, we are the voice of the customer after all".

And for a final round-up of great discussion, the audience was given an opportunity to ask the experts, here are just a few of the parting words of B2B wisdom:

  • Successful B2B marketing looks like companies who have managed to bring emotion into B2B and used some of those key B2C tactics to communicate that.
  • Don’t be afraid to test new things on a trial basis, the risk to the business is relatively small when you ask for budget for a 3-month test to then prove ROI - and even if it fails, you’ve lost no more than a small amount of spend and gained key learnings.
  • Always do what’s right by the customer, there is no right or wrong channel, it’s more about understanding where your customers are at the point they’ll engage with you and not only understand the rational needs but the emotional as well - at the end of the day, B2B customers are people and emotions matter.

Written by Jess Scott
Lifecycle Marketing Manager - B2B at Trade Me