In order to create a brand that stands out from the rest in the B2B space, we must first look at what makes B2B buyers ‘tick’.
It’s simple: trust.
Trust is at the center of every buying decision and, unfortunately for those in the B2B space, it acts as a double-edged sword. On one hand, B2B service brands can grow rather quickly as individual relationships play a bigger role than convincing large audiences (unlike their B2C counterparts). However, because of this emphasis on fewer relationships, most B2B service brands place less of an emphasis on their branding and focus more on relationship-building and client acquisition – the brand itself misses out as brand equity and awareness are harder to develop.
This has resulted in a lot of B2B service brands doing great work but not standing out.
Let this article serve as a few ways to do exactly that.
Craft your positioning
One great way to stand out amongst the competition is to niche (or specialize) in a particular market or demographic. For B2B companies just starting out, it’s recommended to work with an array of clientele first before declaring a niched position in order to see what will work best over time (profitability, future of industry, working relationship, etc.). When in doubt of crafting your own positioning, there are B2B branding and strategy firms that specialize in honing in on the right position for your type of organization.
Generally speaking, there are two primary forms of positioning: vertical and horizontal:
Vertical positioning is a form of positioning where an organization specializes in a particular market:
- An accounting firm that only works with car dealerships
- An analytics firm that only works with CPA firms
- An architecture firm that only works with eco-friendly clothing companies
Horizontal positioning is a form of positioning where an organization specializes in a particular demographic:
- A PR firm that specializes in reaching members of Gen Z
- A marketing agency that specializes in reaching the Central American market
- A consulting firm that specializes in helping CEO’s improve their personal brand
To get an idea of what positioning makes the most sense, brands will start by looking internally to see what type of work it is they like doing, what’s most profitable, etc. They’ll also consult with external stakeholders to see what makes them unique and to better understand why their customers have chosen them. It’s in combining these efforts where something truly unique is created.
And lastly, successful positioning is one that is crafted carefully over time, is hard to replicate, and provides unique value to the needs of the customers it’s serving.
Use competitor strengths against them
Most companies in most categories work in very similar ways – they have found the path of least resistance. However, this also creates a phenomenon in which companies become indiscernible from their competitors and become “just another option” in the eyes of consumers.
- When competitors amass large teams – assess whether it makes sense to have a small team.
- When competitors do everything for everybody – specialize in a market or within a demographic.
- When competitors refrain from creating a podcast – create a podcast!
Chances are your competitors don’t want to take risks and don’t want to stray from the charted course. It’s in this abdication of exploring the unknown where opportunity exists and market share is to be claimed. This is called “judo strategy.”
Differentiate the offering itself
Out of all three, this is the least “risky” way to differentiate a B2B service brand. This can be done by differentiating the type of offering, the process the offering goes through, or the benefits the offering provides. In order to best understand what will yield success, it’s recommended those responsible for the brand in question understand a few things:
The needs of the market. Everything from researching popular keywords on Google to interviewing ideal clients.
The conditions of the market. Is the sector expanding or shrinking? What are the immediate threats to the sector?
The competitors in the market. Who are the existing players in the space? Who is the market leader and what are they doing differently?
By having a firm grasp on these items, those responsible for the brand in question can pivot and create new offerings and solutions to better fill the gaps in the market (AKA brandscape).
There is no one-size-fits-all “framework” to differentiating a B2B brand. However, there are several key questions and items that need to be addressed in order to do so. From crafting a positioning and using competitor strengths against them to differentiating the offering itself – there are a whole slew of ways to stand out in the marketplace. And remember, it never hurts to get an outside perspective on the situation as sometimes it’s difficult to read our own label from inside our own jar.