Sunday, February 18, 2018

Why Brand Building Still Matters in B2B

Most of you have probably heard the story about the inebriated man who had lost the keys to his house and was searching for them under a street light. A police officer comes over and asks what he's doing. "I'm looking for my keys," the man says. He points to a spot about twenty feet away and says, "I lost them over there." The police officer looks puzzled and asks, "Then why are you looking for them all the way over here?" The man replies, "Because the light is so much better over here."

For the past several years, marketers have been focused on measuring the performance of marketing tactics, channels, and programs, and many marketing leaders are now using performance data to allocate budgets. Overall, this has been a positive development. Using performance data to guide marketing investments can lead to more rational, evidenced-based decisions.

But, there's also a potential dark side to the current fixation on marketing performance metrics. The problem arises when marketers conflate ease of measurement with value, and choose marketing tactics based primarily on how easy they are to measure. Some marketers seem to believe that if an activity can't be easily measured, it's not worth doing.

Making ease of measurement the primary basis for using (or not using) a marketing technique is both short-sighted and dangerous. It's a classic example of the McNamara Fallacy, which social scientist Daniel Yankelovich described as follows:

"The first step is to measure whatever can easily be measured. This is OK as far as it goes. The second step is to disregard that which can't be easily measured or to give it an arbitrary quantitative value. This is artificial and misleading. The third step is to presume that what can't be easily measured really isn't important. This is blindness."

Brand marketing has been particularly susceptible to this way of thinking in the B2B space. Some marketing pundits have asserted that brand marketing is no longer important for most B2B companies and that new marketing techniques have made B2B branding largely obsolete.

It is more challenging to measure the impact of some brand marketing programs, but research has consistently shown that a strong brand creates significant value for many B2B companies. A 2017 analysis by TechTarget provides persuasive evidence that effective brand marketing can boost marketing performance. This analysis covered 1,675 branding campaigns run on the TechTarget network from 2015 to 2017.

The TechTarget analysis found that consistent brand advertisers increased consideration performance by 25%, sporadic advertisers improved consideration by 10%, and non-advertisers saw consideration decline by 10%-15%. TechTarget also found that when companies ran simultaneous brand advertising and demand generation e-mail programs targeting the same potential buyers, e-mail click-through rates were 22% higher compared to e-mail only programs. Equally important, targeted brand advertising improved funnel conversion rates (lead to MQL to SQL) by 25%.

Research by CEB has also shown the value of building a strong brand. In a 2013 study, CEB compared the behaviors of high brand consideration customers with those of no brand consideration customers. High brand consideration customers were those who gave brands high scores for trust, image, and industry leadership. The CEB study found that high brand consideration customers were:

  • 5 times more likely to give consideration to a brand
  • 13 times more likely to purchase from a brand
  • 30 times more likely to be willing to pay a price premium
The techniques used for brand marketing have certainly evolved over the past several years. Today, the creation and publication of compelling thought leadership content will be the most effective way to build the brand for many B2B companies. Recent research has shown that great thought leadership content will have a positive impact on buyers at every stage of the buying process. The tactics may have changed, but brand building is still a critical marketing function for many B2B companies.

Image courtesy of EdgeThreeSixty via Flickr CC.

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