In Italian cooking, anchovies - those salty little fish that usually come in tins or jars - are often added to a variety of sauces and dishes. Many people - including me - don't particularly like anchovies, so I'm tempted to omit them when using a recipe that includes them.
Professional chefs know this is a mistake. Anchovies add an important flavor element even though, in many cases, you don't specifically taste them in the final dish. If you leave the anchovies out, you will notice that "something" is missing, but you usually can't identify what the "something" is.
Strong brands play a similar role in the recipe for revenue growth at B2B companies. A brand that is well known and well respected will enhance the effectiveness of demand generation programs and make it easier for sales reps to win deals. And because brand perceptions tend to "stick" with potential buyers for a long time, a strong brand can make a significant contribution to long-term revenue growth.
The benefits of a strong B2B brand - and of investing in marketing programs that are specifically designed to build the brand - have been demonstrated in numerous research studies conducted over many years.
The CEB Research
For example, a 2013 study by CEB (now part of Gartner) 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. CEB 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 TechTarget Analysis
A 2017 analysis by TechTarget
(a technology-focused publisher and provider of marketing and sales services) found that brand marketing can boost the effectiveness of demand generation programs and elevate overall marketing performance. This analysis covered 1,675 branding campaigns run on the TechTarget network from 2015 to 2017.
The analysis found that consistent brand advertising increased consideration performance by 25%, while non-advertisers saw consideration decline 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%.
Binet and Field on Brand Advertising
A 2019 report published by The B2B Institute
(a think tank funded by LinkedIn) also provides persuasive evidence on the value of brand advertising for B2B companies. The 5 Principles of Growth in B2B Marketing
describes the findings of research conducted by Les Binet and Peter Field, two highly-regarded, UK-based experts in brand advertising.
This report was based on an analysis of data contained in the IPA (Institute of Practitioners in Advertising) Databank. The IPA is a trade association representing the UK advertising industry, and the Databank includes extensive data submitted for the IPA effectiveness awards competition.
Based on their analysis, Binet and Field argued that B2B companies should balance their spending on brand building and sales activation activities. They define sales activation activities as any marketing activity that is designed to produce an immediate response from a potential buyer.
Sales activation activities can produce quick results, and their short-term ROI can be high. But the effects of sales activation programs don't last very long, so they don't foster long-term growth. Brand building programs, on the other hand, excel at driving long-term growth because their effects persist a long time.
Binet and Field found that B2B marketing effectiveness is maximized with a company allocates about 46% of its marketing budget to brand building and about 56% to short-term sales activation.
The Elusive (but Critical) Impact of Brand Marketing
Despite an abundance of research showing the importance and value of building and maintaining a strong brand, many B2B companies aren't investing enough in brand marketing. One main reason for this under-investment is that the business impacts of brand marketing programs are more challenging to measure quantitatively than most short-term marketing programs.
The primary objective of brand marketing is to influence the mindset of potential buyers, but these changes in mindset become visible primarily in improved responses to other marketing programs. So like anchovies, effective brand marketing enhances the "flavor" of many marketing "dishes" even when you can't specifically "taste" it.
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