Strengthening your B2B brand

2 February 2022

In the past, B2B was regarded as the smaller, less interesting brother of B2C. Now we know better. Today we'll show you how you can make a difference as a contemporary B2B brand and get the edge on your competitors.


How do you make a difference in B2B marketing?

In the past, marketers had a very specific view of B2B: it was rational, often only about product, price, and relationships, and B2B marketing was often a purely executive job that mostly existed to support sales.

Today, B2B marketers are becoming more creative. Just think of the world famous Volvo Trucks campaign in which Jean-Claude Van Damme demonstrates how stable the trucks are by doing the splits, or Slack’s “What it feels like” campaign. It’s becoming increasingly clear that the best B2B brands invest in strong branding and emotional storytelling.

If we track that trend, we will see what B2B marketing will look like tomorrow: the boundary between the professional world and private lives will continue to blur. B2B brands continue to focus more on the emotional value of their services and products rather than just communicating about technical product features. This is where marketers can make a real impact — delivering short-term sales results and building long-term brand equity.

6 steps to eliminate your competition in B2B

Now the question remains: how will you strengthen your B2B brand? The answer: follow these six steps.

Step 1: Identify your focus

To know how to strengthen your B2B brand, the first thing you need to think about is the change you can – and want to – bring about as an organisation. Asking yourself “What do I want to achieve?” is a very different approach from asking “What do I need to finish by tomorrow?”.

To achieve this it is useful to set a fixed moment in the agenda (e.g. every two weeks on Monday morning). At that moment you decide what the focus will be in the coming period. Based on this plan, you can easily evaluate which steps you have already taken and decide what your next steps will be.

Step 2: Take advantage of the challenges in B2B

Just like in B2C marketing, in B2B there are many challenges that you have to face to stay one step ahead of the competition.

For example, competition will come from every side — both from established companies in your sector and small start-ups. You will face local and international competition, and this competition will not only come from your direct competitors.

It’s no longer the case that the organisation with the biggest marketing budget will automatically be the winner. Focus on using your budget in the right way and your impact will be greater with the same euros.

The job of a B2B marketer is becoming increasingly complex. Compare it to a history course: new knowledge is constantly being added, but that new knowledge often does not automatically go hand in hand with more people or resources. The B2B marketer has to be familiar with more and more markets.

Finally, it is becoming increasingly difficult — and more important — for organisations to find the right people.

Step 3: Evaluate your options

There are many models available today that help you to evaluate where you stand as an organisation. One of our favourite models is BAM's Meaningful Marketing Framework .

It’s important to realise that, as a marketer (both B2B and B2C), you have influence on different domains in your organisation. For example, your colleagues in strategy, content and creation, and technology often depend on your knowledge.

In this phase you start by taking a step back to look at the needs of your customers, prospects, and colleagues. At iO, we identify the needs by using the brand key and the Double Diamond method.

Only then is it time to take the next step: ensuring that your investments are effective contributions to the profits and future growth of your organisation.

Step 4: Make the right choices

This is, without a doubt, the most difficult step, but it is also the step in which you can distinguish yourself as a marketer.

If you want to make the right B2B choices, you have to think about two keywords: relevance and performance.

Relevance is all about the end customer: what does your brand mean to them? Why is it useful to invest time and energy in this campaign?

Performance is about results: what are the KPIs? How do we achieve those goals?

By asking these questions, you will discover whether you are making the right choices as a marketer — and as a brand.

Step 5: Integrate the roadmap into your overarching strategy

Now it is time to integrate this roadmap into your marketing and business strategy.

To achieve frictionless integration you should be able to answer four questions key questions:

  • What are my priorities? Choose 2 to 3 focus points on which your organisation is fully committed. Do not try to be a jack of all trades.

  • Who are my stakeholders? Which internal and external stakeholders have to agree in order to translate the plan into the correct execution?

  • What is the ideal timing? Will you opt for an agile approach or work with a hard deadline?

  • Which touch points will I use? What content do you distribute and on which channels? What is the customer journey you want to achieve with that content?

Step 6: Execute

We would love to show you how we at iO make a difference every day for different B2B brands, with the following two cases.

HAVEP, the original Dutch manufacturer of workwear, needed a rebrand. The brand approached iO and our experts were more than happy to get involved. With a new corporate identity, strong employer branding campaign, and an integrated e-commerce platform, HAVEP is ready for the future. also came to iO. Their challenge? To help Belgian retailers sell online during the 2020 lockdown. We built an online platform with a series of helpful, interactive sessions in which subject matter experts provide retailers with the necessary information. The initiative was supported by Belgian comedian Kamal Kharmach — proving that influencer marketing also has a place in B2B.

3 steps to build a successful B2B inbound marketing strategy

Read on to discover how to build a successful, authentic, content driven B2B inbound marketing strategy. From A to Z, for B2B.

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Recap: how to sell smarter in B2B

We’ve summarised everything — in a handy overview that you can refer to later.

  • Step 1: Determine your focus

  • Step 2: Respond to the challenges in B2B

  • Step 3: Evaluate your options

  • Step 4: Make the right choices

  • Step 5: Integrate the roadmap into your overarching strategy

  • Step 6: Execute

Are you ready to get started with B2B branding? Or would you like some extra information? Our experts would love to help you.

Hans Van Eemeren
About the author
Hans Van Eemeren
Marketer & Partner - iO

Hans is a marketeer pur sang and partner at iO. As a strategist, he advises clients and helps brands become more relevant and perform better in a changing world. 'Imagine tomorrow. Let's build it today!' is a quote from him that sums up his inspiring, hands-on, get the job done mentality.

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