There’s no universal set of rules for successful B2B branding, as much as we marketers would love for such a thing to exist. There’s barely even a universal definition of the word “branding” that all marketers agree on. What marketers do agree on, however, is that branding is an essential element of a successful business. In fact, 77% of B2B marketing leaders say branding is critical to growth (source). And yet, many of the worst branding mistakes continue to impact the success of modern businesses.
Branding is a fluid and all-encompassing component of your business strategy. As a result, there are so many details marketers have to get right — and many they often get wrong. And if your company’s branding misses the mark, the repercussions can ripple through your entire organization.
While that may sound quite ominous, don’t fear. In today’s blog post, we break down the most common B2B branding mistakes and help your business avoid them. Let’s get into it!
Mistake #1: You don’t understand your target audience.
We know what you’re thinking: how could a brand not know who their audience is? But hear us out, because this problem is more common than you might think. And if you make this mistake, you’re also doomed to commit many of the other ones we’ll discuss in this post.
If your company produces and sells products, you likely know who you’re selling to. Perhaps you sell a sales enablement tool, and your target customers are sales managers and executives at small and medium sized businesses. But in today’s digital era, your branding strategy requires a much more comprehensive understanding of your target audience.
What are their primary needs and pain points? Which actions do they take throughout the buyer’s journey? What platforms do they use to engage with brands? These are just a few of several questions you need to answer about your audience before you can implement a highly-targeted branding strategy.
Above all else, this branding mistake is the result of poor data hygiene. Without access to clean and accurate customer data, you’ll lack the insights you need to develop a comprehensive understanding of your target audience. At worst, you’ll target the wrong audience entirely. At best, you’ll target the right people, but fail to engage them with the right messaging or on the right platforms.
With access to high-quality customer data, you’ll be able to compile every important detail about your target customers. From there, you can create buyer personas that fully represent your ideal buyers. These personas will provide a blueprint for your data-driven branding strategy.
Mistake #2: Your branding over-emphasizes sales.
Unfortunately, this branding mistake is one of the most common among B2B companies. We’re referring to the brands who turn every advertisement, email, piece of content, and social media post into a sales pitch. Meanwhile, they offer no personal value to their audiences. Their brand messages are rarely helpful, inspirational, engaging, or thoughtful — only self-promotional.
To put it bluntly, modern audiences won’t give your brand the time of day if you only seem interested in their money. In fact, 45% of consumers will unfollow a brand on social media if their platform is dominated by self-promotion and sales pitches (source).
People gravitate towards brands that engage them on a personal level. They want valuable information, interesting content, and insights that will help them solve their problems. B2B customers are almost three times more likely to consider a brand that shows personal value over business value. What topics do they want to learn more about? What are their biggest challenges, and how can your brand help solve them? These factors — rather than your desire to earn revenue — should drive your branding initiatives.
Mistake #3: You lack clear brand guidelines.
Have you ever looked at a brand’s website, and then their social media pages, and struggled to believe it’s the same company? Perhaps their website features a minimalist design and professional, proper language. Meanwhile, their social media pages feature bright colors, gimmicky graphics, and language so casual it borders on unprofessional.
When you see this level of inconsistency from a brand, there’s one obvious reason. They either don’t have, or don’t enforce, brand guidelines.
There’s no right or wrong way to create brand guidelines. Some companies create exhaustive guides that cover every single aspect of branding in depth, while others prefer a more compact and digestible set of rules. While the specifics of your guidelines will vary, they should cover the following at a bare minimum:
- Your overall brand message or mission statement
- Voice and tone
- Color palette
- Logo usage
- Fonts and typography
Be sure to distribute these guidelines throughout your entire organization, not just within your marketing department. From marketers to sales reps to recruiters, all of your employees should understand how to properly represent your brand in their unique roles.
If you need more convincing, consider this statistic: brands with consistent branding expect to earn 23% more annual revenue than brands that are inconsistent (source). Without enforceable brand guidelines, consistency is all but impossible.
Mistake #4: Your brand follows every trend.
We get it: you want your brand to be fresh, current, and in sync with the latest online trends. But in the post-social media world, brands often take this desire to be trendy too far. They reference every buzzworthy news story that gains traction. They use every new meme that catches fire on Twitter. Even worse, many brands latch on to the latest hot-button social issues in order to gain visibility and earn unwarranted praise.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with adapting to new trends. The problem starts when these trends begin to drive your entire branding strategy. If your brand’s identity is an amalgamation of the most topical ideas, jokes, and talking points…then your brand has no true identity. Your followers will view your brand as gimmicky, inauthentic, and even untrustworthy.
Don’t join conversations or post about topical issues just to steal some of the spotlight or “fit in”. Instead, carve out your own identity. And, keep an eye out for trending topics and discussions that are actually relevant to your brand and target audience.
With that being said, there are many fun ways to keep your brand fresh without crossing lines. For example, many brands participate in unofficial social media holidays — things like “Love Your Pet Day” and “National Picnic Day”. These minor events are engaging, fun, and add some personality to your brand — without appearing ingenuine or overtly opportunistic.
Mistake #5: Your brand is static.
Here’s where branding becomes something of a balancing act. We just warned against changing your brand to fit every trend— but refusing to change your brand at all is an equally detrimental error.
The marketplace constantly evolves, as do your target customers. As a result, your brand must be dynamic. You must recognize important shifts and evolutions in your market, and refine your brand so that it reflects these changes. Stay true to your brand’s identity, but make the necessary adjustments to keep your brand from becoming stale or outdated.
In order to keep your brand dynamic, make sure your company has a process for collecting and analyzing market intelligence. You need access to the most up-to-date insights regarding your industry, competitors, and customers. These insights will help your brand adapt and grow, without losing the core identity that makes it unique in the first place.
Mistake #6: Your brand lacks transparency.
There’s no such thing as a perfect brand. Every company makes errors, falls short of expectations, and frustrates their customers from time to time. But, the biggest mistake you can make is to pretend your brand makes no mistakes at all.
Modern customers have access to endless information about your brand. They research your history, read reviews, monitor your social media interactions, and more. Brands often make the mistake of trying to hide every blemish to avoid scaring off future customers. They delete negative reviews and refuse to address their mistakes — all while crafting a pristine brand image and positioning their products as miracle solutions.
Don’t fall into this trap, because it will only hurt your business in the long run. Consider this: 94% of customers say they’ll remain loyal to companies that are transparent with their branding practices (source).
Be honest with the language you use to discuss your products, and never promise your audience a result you won’t be able to deliver. And when your company makes a mistake, own up to it. Use your public-facing channels to explain what went wrong and how your company plans to do better by its customers.
Final Thoughts on B2B Branding Mistakes
Don’t fret if your company has made any, or all, of the six mistakes we discussed in today’s post. Trust us— you’re not alone. B2B branding is an incredibly multifaceted process, and there’s not a brand in the world that’s gotten it right every time.
But, we hope today’s post inspired you to take a closer look at your brand and identify areas that need improvement. There’s no skill more valuable than the ability to critique and analyze your own strategy. Be true to what makes your brand special, but stay grounded enough to recognize your mistakes.
For more help building your B2B brand, contact ZoomInfo today. We’re a leading B2B contact database and we have the tools you need to scale your marketing efforts and grow your business.