With or Without a Positioning Strategy, Customers and Prospects Form Brand Impressions from Personal Experience
How is your brand viewed by customers and prospects? And how do these perceptions fit into your positioning strategy? Assuming they are aware of the brand, many customers have formed their impression of your company and brand through their interactions and the experiences they’ve had with your products.
Often, there is a first product or starting point in the brand impression. For instance, in banking that might be the first bank account, credit or debit card. With many categories, that first brand experience comes much earlier, in early childhood, where “before ABCs, toddlers learn Toyota, McDonald’s, Disney.”
Current Brand Impressions Also Need to Inform B2B Positioning Strategy
B2B brand impressions are also formed by B2B customers and prospects. These impressions are formed by:
- Direct experience with your products and services (for current or former customers)
- Sales and/or service representatives
- Communications (e.g., packaging, website, social media, content, loyalty programs, etc.)
- Referrals from colleagues and others in the industry
- Industry white papers and ratings from “objective” industry analysts
The fact is that most B2B brands, just like B2C brands, have a starting point for the positioning strategy. Fairly often, this is rooted in the historical starting product line for the company. One example is Ingredion, which changed its name from Corn Products Company in 2012 to better convey its ingredient solutions positioning, instead of its agricultural heritage.
A different example is General Electric. GE is a major player in a number of B2B categories including jet engines, wind turbines, medical equipment and financing. The customers in those areas have distinct impressions of General Electric from their experiences with the company. And, after 128 years, the company recently sold its historical lighting division in May 2020, ending the relevance of the “We bring good things to life” slogan.
B2B Branding Example: Enterprise IT
We worked recently with a leading brand in the enterprise IT space. Enterprise decision makers are leaders in the IT area of 5000+ employee firms. While organizational structures will vary, typically there are several IT decision makers with specific areas of expertise, for instance:
- Enterprise architecture
- Software licensing
- Cloud migration, and more.
These individuals may report to a head of IT, CIO or a CTO.
The firm we are working with is the recognized leader in one of these domains and has become known as the best in that area. Their sales team is highly proficient in this area. Over the years, like General Electric, they have expanded into related domains and new domains, such as cloud migration and optimization. But they are best known for the starting point (as is normal).
Unified B2B Positioning Strategy Approach
The positioning strategy challenge was to find a meaningful way to connect with the IT decision maker in the expansion area, while maintaining the positive impression among the strong current base. To address this challenge, we tested 22 ideas in five major benefit areas. Each of these areas had been shown through multiple sources to be meaningful to the enterprise customer.
The scope of the research was global, with particular focus on Germany, the UK and the United States. We worked with a firm that was expert in recruiting decision makers to deliver against the required specifications. In the end, 31% of the respondents were CIOs, while 34% were vice presidents, directors or senior directors of IT, and the balance were architects and heads of IT. The industry mix was controlled to represent the sectors that are heavier IT users such as financial services, manufacturing and insurance.
Unified B2B Positioning Strategy Outcome
The recommended positioning connected with these decision makers, and demonstrated an understanding of their complex environments and challenges. The most important product reasons to believe were highlighted (not all the reasons and all the products). To make the positioning easier to grasp, the brand also released a unified “one” product to package together the most important elements
The team moved rapidly to apply the B2B positioning strategy to its standard sales decks, talking point word tracks, and other marketing communications.
Outdated Branding and Naming Hamper Your Business Success
If your brand’s positioning or name do not convey the aspirational value proposition and fit the desired brand portfolio, then it’s time for a new B2B positioning strategy approach. Start a conversation with the Insight to Action experts and contact us today.