A recent LinkedIn B2B Institute and System1 Group study highlighted the importance of branding. The findings revealed that 75% of business-to-business (B2B) brands don’t create advertising that drives long-term growth. Surprisingly, many B2B companies overlook the value of building a robust, cohesive brand. This widespread failure presents a valuable opportunity for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) like yours. Investing in B2B branding can allow you to gain a significant competitive market advantage over your competitors. 
Although branding and marketing are interconnected ideas, they’re not the same thing. This piece takes a fresh look at the importance of branding and how it is distinct from B2B marketing. It also offers tips and suggestions to address your B2B SMB’s branding internally or with the support of a digital B2B agency.
What Is B2B Branding—Exactly?
Branding is not merely your company logo or tagline. Nor is it solely about advertising or B2B promotional tactics. Its purpose is to serve as an easily identifiable symbol of your company that can be used to build trust with your target market. So, your brand identity must be unique if it’s to stand out and not be confused with other brands in your industry and beyond. Hence, a strong brand identity lays the basis for growth and success in a competitive B2B market.
Consider this, great branding makes the audience feel something, while marketing makes them act. And it is emotions, much as we individually might dislike it, that drives conversion actions. So failing to recognize the importance of branding in a B2B marketing strategy has consequences.
Let’s use the technology company IBM to illustrate these distinctions.
|Branding (Feeling)||Marketing (Action)|
|Perceived as a trustworthy technology leader||Engage in consultations for solutions|
|Inspires confidence in pioneering innovation||Upgrade to a new model or product|
|Evokes a sense of reliability and stability||Invest in IBM’s enterprise IT solutions|
Without solid branding, you will struggle to shine, miss opportunities, and fail to differentiate your products or services. Plus, inconsistent messaging and a diluted brand image undermine your organization’s credibility and reputation. And low credibility has a direct, negative effect on customer attraction and retention.
We’ll dig deeper into the branding and marketing characteristics in a moment. But first, it’s worth noting the distinction between B2B and business-to-consumer (B2C) branding.
B2B vs B2C Branding
In B2B branding, the company’s visual identity and messaging must accurately reflect its operations. Doing this creates a consistent and genuine experience for customers. Thus, B2B branding lays emphasis on trust-building and addresses rational considerations. Firms highlight their expertise and how they can fulfill the unique requirements of a target buyer. It’s an approach that aims to foster long-term relationships with business clients.
B2B branding’s emotional approach is often subtler than B2C. Primarily this is because B2B purchasing decisions are often made by multiple stakeholders. Even so, branding in the B2B space shouldn’t be boring. It still must aim to create an emotional connection to tap into the human element of decision-making.
B2C branding prioritizes emotional appeal, impulsive purchasing, and connecting with consumer aspirations. It lays strong emphasis on the personal benefits and experiences that resonate with consumers. However, the lines between B2B and B2C branding can blur with companies catering to business clients and individual consumers.
The good news is that your SMB business doesn’t have to suffer from a weak or confusing brand that can hinder your marketing and sales efforts. So let’s explore those elements that help shape a winning B2B brand.
B2B Marketing and Branding Are Different
There remains a muddled misconception that branding and marketing are the same thing, but they’re not. They are quite distinct and require very different strategies. Branding involves defining your mission, company values, and target audience. Moreover, it should represent an emotional connection with your customers or clients.
B2B marketing focuses on delivering your offerings and brand to attract and convert leads. When optimized together, branding and marketing enhance your online presence and improve customer loyalty. And when the two are not functioning in lockstep, your marketing efforts will likely confuse and frustrate your target audience. You can see why branding is important in marketing.
Forming a quality branding strategy takes knowledge, resources, patience, and persistence. An expert digital marketing firm comes prepared with the powerful tools, knowledge, experience, and skills needed to quickly understand your business’s situation and craft a branding strategy that will help your company achieve its goals. It’s why many SMB B2B companies partner with a qualified B2B agency to outsource most, if not all, of their branding or rebranding endeavors.
We’ll explore the pros and cons of partnering with an agency later in the piece.
The Importance of Branding Elements for Success
The concept of effective B2B branding is easy to grasp but harder to implement and sustain. All good branding starts by identifying your ideal customer and their unique needs. That’s how you develop a clear value proposition. But you must communicate your message consistently across all touchpoints. Only then can you build trust, convey your expertise, and confidently pledge to deliver on your company promises.
Bold Entity’s Results-Driven Approach to SMB Branding Success
Bold Entity’s results-driven approach to branding and marketing speaks for itself. As a B2B agency, we know the importance of branding and marketing for your SMB businesses. Our experts ensure the left and right hands are on the same page while creating success for your SMB business. Trust our expertise to drive your branding efforts forward and help you shine in a crowded market.
Stand Out, Stay Cohesive, and Avoid Confusion
Unless your B2B business stands out from the noise of the marketplace, it risks being confused with and buried by competitors. Therefore, ensure your branding is unmistakable and unique. A strong brand identity is a combination of several essential parts that come together to create a cohesive, recognizable image.
Visual branding elements typically include the following:
- Bold, high-quality visuals
- Consistent, carefully selected color schemes
- Visual hierarchy, showing branding elements in order of importance
- Precise guidelines for layout and composition
Remember to maintain brand consistency for your B2B marketing materials across all touchpoints, both online and offline. It may surprise you just how much there is to update.
This table highlights areas to consider, though this will differ between companies.
|Online Items||Offline Items|
|Website design||Physical signage|
|Social media presence||Business cards|
|Online advertising||Storefront appearance|
|Email marketing||Print advertisements|
|Online brand voice||Uniforms or other attire|
|Online reviews||Product displays|
|Online customer support||Event or trade show booths|
Updating your materials during a rebrand is crucial for B2B businesses. Not only does it avoid confusion for your audience, but it also presents a professional and consistent image from every angle.
OK, now for the big question. Should your B2B firm hire a digital marketing agency for branding or rebranding, or use an in-house team?
B2B Agency vs In-House Branding/Rebranding
The choice between using a B2B agency or an in-house team depends on several factors. Start by considering the complexity of your branding/rebranding project. Other considerations are the available budget, time, and resources (including staff with the right expertise). Only you can answer these questions, so give them careful thought. You can then conduct a cost-benefit analysis to determine the most economical and practical approach.
Here are a few additional points to add to the mix when considering a B2B agency.
Lower Business Overheads
Hiring an agency can lower overhead costs as you don’t need to hire and maintain an in-house team. That means no extra salaries or benefits, office space, or equipment.
Instant Access to Specialized Expertise
Partnering with a B2B agency gives you immediate access to a professional team with diverse skills and expertise. That saves valuable time and money on hiring and training.
Agencies can scale their resources to fit your project needs. Scaling allows them to allocate the right number of people and hours to achieve your branding goals.
Advanced Tools and Technologies
Digital branding agencies have the powerful tools and resources needed for high-quality branding solutions. That saves you from costly tech investments and updates.
Reduced Project Management Burden
Partnering with a B2B agency for project management frees up internal resources you can better use for other business-critical activities.
Unleash the Power of Bold Entity’s SMB Branding Expertise
Bold Entity is a digital agency that creates powerful B2B brand strategies that raise visibility. We know what it takes to reach top-of-mind awareness and shape iconic brands. Let us help drive your SMB business branding efforts with proven techniques, powerful tools, and in-depth research.
Potential In-House Branding ROI
Despite an attractive digital agency ROI, you may still find an in-house approach is your best solution. For example, an internal team will better understand company values, culture, and goals. And direct oversight and fast communication channels help with quick decision-making. So despite the initial hiring and training costs, your B2B business may save in the long term.
However, you don’t have to settle for either or.
When Agencies Complement In-House Teams
Many SMBs find success using a hybrid approach. The B2B agency works on certain aspects of the branding while the in-house team focuses on others. By leveraging the strengths of both sides, business owners can achieve a comprehensive and effective branding strategy. This collaboration fosters more overall creativity, brings specialized expertise, and distributes the workload efficiently. And the result of that is a cohesive and impactful brand identity.
There are pitfalls to avoid however. With two different teams working together it’s absolutely vital that the level of communication and collaboration stay consistent. Otherwise the teams, their vision, and deliverables can deviate in different directions and can make a mess of your branding efforts.
Branding is crucial for B2B SMBs, yet many firms suffer from poor identity. And there remains a lot of confusion between branding and marketing strategies. Remember, branding shapes client perception and builds trust, while marketing encourages action and drives conversions.
Overall, investing in branding is vital for SMBs to stand out, build credibility, and achieve long-term success in competitive B2B markets. Finally, consider balancing agency support and internal resources for a successful branding strategy.
<title>The Importance of Branding for Small to Mid-Sized B2B Business Cannot Be Overstated</title