Does branding work only for consumer goods? Does my services firm risk to be perceived as too funky if I start branding it? What are the advantages of branding a law firm, a raw materials supplier, or, to that matter, any company which provides services to other companies?
These are the questions I often read in emails from people who are, on the one hand, attracted to the benefits of branding, but, on the other hand, hesitate that it's something relevant to their business-to-business activities. Some of them are concerned that branding can make them appear as unprofessional, over the top, and even too glamorous.
Why do such questions arise?
One of the reasons why B2B companies hesitate about the benefits of branding is, ironically, due to the vague brand of...branding. The very concept of branding is often perceived as an activity to do with marketing beer, sneakers or chocolate bars. Here, I have to take a step back and make a reference to my article about the difference between branding and marketing. To summarize, branding is all about getting your value proposition right - it's the WHAT of your business strategy. Marketing, on the other hand, is the HOW -- it's all about promoting the WHAT. Marketing tactics "become much more powerful when driven by brand strategy and aligned with business goals." (see source)
And isn't it of use to a law firm to get its value proposition right? The truth is, any B2B company can reap many rewards from applying the brand strategy framework to its business:
1) Your clear brand positioning will work as a form of shorthand to help you attract clients. Instead of spending hours searching, analyzing, comparing, and making decisions, people will be coming to your firm because they've already heard about it, and know in advance how you can help them.
2) Your strong brand will create barriers to competitors -- this logically follows from point #1.
3) Don't be afraid of infusing your brand identity with emotional associations. They work not only for consumer brands. The truth about B2B is that many collaboration and partnership decisions between companies are based not only on purely rational criteria. B2B is about forming relationships with people, and that's when branding can greatly help.
4) A strong brand will also allow you to command a price premium. If you are known to be an expert in your field, people would be willing to pay you the fee commensurate with your experience, and your brand.
5) Finally, a strong brand will create opportunities for growth. When you want to introduce a new product or service, a strong brand will serve you well. Even if you are a small company with clear brand positioning that you've made known to your target audience, you will find it easier to expand your services portfolio.
Your strong brand will help you build trust -- the essential ingredient of all good business transactions. If you are in B2B, go for smart branding -- you deserve it.