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Brand Strategy Build A Brand B2B Marketing

How to convince your CFO to invest in B2B brand-building

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By Hannah Bowler, Senior reporter

June 8, 2023 | 7 min read

By the time a salesperson is in front of a customer they've done at least seven online research inquiries with around 90% already having a company in mind. This means a B2B purchase is increasingly being made based on the company’s brand.

B2B brand marketing gaining momentum

B2B brand marketing is gaining momentum / Pexels

“For the next five to 10 years B2B is more exciting for a marketer than B2C because there is an enormous opportunity,” Paul Coxhill chief exec at WARC said.

B2B brand marketing is gaining momentum with marketers now adopting similar communications strategies from the B2C world and pushing into consumer-facing media platforms like TikTok and TV. While the sector appears to be growing, the brand is historically tricky to sell to a financial team, with more expensive marketing to produce and return on investment harder to prove.

Changing demands from buyers means investment in B2B brand-building is proving crucial to compete, but how do you convince C-suite to hand over the cash?

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What’s behind the trend?

Purpose has radically changed what B2B buyers are looking for from a company. More and more companies are integrating ESG reporting into their investor relations and going after B-corp status and with this comes increased scrutiny throughout the supply chain. B2B buyers are looking for companies that have branded themselves as trustworthy, sustainable, and ethical.

Why should a CFO care about brand?

“It’s true that brand is still a bit of a dirty word in B2B, particularly amongst the finance community as soon as you start talking about brand their eyes glaze over,” Coxhill explained. At WARC, Coxhill is trying to reposition what people think of a brand and talk about it as ‘future demand’. So if you’re investing in a brand, it is not necessarily to capture sales today, it’s actually to capture sales in the future.

There are multiple studies that suggest 95% of the buyers in your market are not buying right now, 5% might be, but 95% might buy in the future. So investment in the brand can enable you to capture that future opportunity and not just the current opportunity today. “CFOs are starting to wake up to that, and the conversation between CMO and CFO is starting to become more about the metrics so that you can invest for the future,” Coxhill has previously explained.

Brand-building lessons from S&P Global

The 160-year-old US bank S&P Global has undergone its own branding-building mission. Its chief marketing officer, Alice Cherry, split this project into three key parts: leaning into the bank’s heritage and original purpose; taking advantage of transformational moments and training staff.

S&P Global was initially owned by McGraw Hill but then later split off and repositioned and relaunched as S&P Global and in 2020 S&P acquired and merged with IHS Market. Cherry said: “Those transformations are the times to really lean in and hone in and focus on your brand and your strategy.”

The people element, Cherry said, is the most important part of executing S&P Global’s brand strategy. If you can train and onboard staff on company values and ethics then your employees will sell your brand to customers, she explained.

As part of its training S&P Global has also created ‘taskforces’ to help bridge the gap between finance and marketing to translate things like ROI and attribution and explain the funnel. On the board side, the company has explained brand trackers.

S&P Global has also included shared metrics that are related to brand and brand growth that the C-suite owns and has access to. “When you look at the brand, there is an opportunity to look at it and manage it as a business, the way you manage a portfolio. It is an asset to the business, so what levers and actions are you going to put in place to grow it and to leverage it?”

So how do you measure B2B brand-building?

Suzanne Kounkel who is chief marketing officer at Deloitte said brand-building goals have to be agreed upon by all C-suite functions and the business has to understand brand-building enough to invest in it.

There should be an agreed set of metrics for brand-building, some of these can be soft metrics and could just be an annual brand tracking study rather than measuring the ROI.

Kounkel admits it’s not easy to measure investment in B2B brand activities. One way Deloitte track brand perception is through annual summer surveys, quarterly brand tracking, and a bi-yearly report. Beyond that though, Kounkel’s strategy has been to get C-suite involved in the richer conversation around what audience the company wants to build and grow and then decide together how that audience growth will be attributed.

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Top B2B brand-building tips

  • Train existing staff and onboard new starts about the brand

  • Agree on a set of brand-building metrics with C-suite

  • Take advantage of company restructures

  • Educate finance teams about brand

  • Align a global business under one brand

Brand Strategy Build A Brand B2B Marketing

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