The resurgence of brand marketing in a demand generation world
Demand marketing is big in the B2B world right now, but columnist Scott Vaughan believes brand marketing must be core to your marketing effort and suggests a "brand plus demand" approach.
Over the past several years, B2B CMOs have been earning a seat at the executive table by demonstrating their ability to contribute to revenue and company growth, largely via demand marketing.
B2B marketing teams are using data, technology and content to discover, engage, nurture, create and delight customers. What once was a unique and competitive differentiation is now mainstream. The modern demand marketing approach is widely available and used by many B2B marketers. Everybody has the same basic playbook.
While the role of brand has never gone away, its importance is being increasingly recognized as a critical piece of a company’s growth strategy.
In fact, based on B2B CMO recruiter conversations I’ve had over the last few quarters (strictly for research, of course), CEOs and boards of directors are now seeking marketing executives that have a proven ability to develop a sustained brand position and value propositions that differentiate a company and its solution.
In addition, 68 percent of B2B marketers say refreshing a company’s brand is the most critical effort for B2B marketers this year (Forrester Research).
If your prospective customer doesn’t know your company or solution — or worse, your company or product value proposition messaging doesn’t resonate with them — it doesn’t matter how savvy your demand strategy, how great your content or how effective your martech is. You’re not maximizing your impact unless your brand is core to your marketing effort.
This is especially true as more and more competing brands have the same modern marketing playbook. Which is why there’s a resurgence underway to refocus on brand and positioning, baking these necessities into the demand marketing effort.
There are many ways the “brand plus demand” idea is playing out. Though the best approach often depends on the business cycle and markets you compete in, here are a few ways to think about using smart brand strategy to increase the impact of your demand marketing results.
Nail your brand promise to build trust that powers demand
Many organizations don’t put in the necessary time and effort to define and constantly refine the company’s brand promise to the customer or establish clear, consistent value messaging. Delivering consistently on expectations is huge, especially in the first engagements. Brand and value proposition development deserve a committed effort.
This brand effort should inform your demand marketing strategies and tactics. It should also direct how you communicate, who you communicate to, the design and visual elements you use and so much more.
By being clear and consistent, you can make sure prospective buyers, customers, influencers and partners quickly see what your company stands for and what your brand is all about, so they can more easily decipher whether your solution is the right one for their organization.
Over time, you build positive brand trust and reputation. And, even better, prospects and customers will turn to you first for information and perspective. Done right, creating demand becomes more organic and, dare I say, easier.
Create unique brand experiences to drive demand
Brand is not your logo, a tagline or awareness built through ad impressions and messages. And you don’t have to necessarily shift your budget to launch a huge advertising campaign to build awareness and relevance before you execute demand.
Rather, companies that invest in delivering exceptional brand experiences and communicating thoughtfully produce positive associations around each customer touch point. In turn, these companies win engagement, business, preference and, ultimately, loyalty. This disciplined effort improves demand marketing results over time and allows you to scale.
One of the best ways this can be applied is in content marketing. Providing educational information that informs your prospective buyers is an approach nearly every B2B brand does today (yet not all do it well). So, it’s often hard for your brand, content or offer to stand out.
This is where brand comes in. Don’t do the same old white paper or boring webcast. Shake it up. Put your educational information, for example, into a workbook they can use for real planning, or make the info come to life using a video or live chat with your team members as subject matter experts. This will showcase your authentic, unique brand while creating demand for your solutions.
Leverage your brand to create customer advocates that drive profitable demand
As you build trust, you’ll find more of your customers becoming brand ambassadors and advocates. Ideally, because of the work you’re doing, it’s organic, and word-of-mouth referrals become plentiful.
Even they take a bit of heavy lifting or a more formal effort to organize, customer brand advocacy programs can be at the center of your demand marketing effort. We all know how valuable peer references are in the sales and marketing process.
It’s smart to put customer brand advocacy to work in your demand effort. And don’t settle for just boring old case studies (though they play a role). Mix in creative ways to have your customers share their story and their work.
For example, you can include them as subject matter experts on key topics at industry conferences, privately hosted roundtables or articles in high-profile sources. Note it doesn’t have to even be a full-on endorsement of your brand or solution (that would be great, of course). Rather, having customers talking about the issues provides brand association and lift. This fuels brand trust that can power demand.
Brand with demand is a winning formula
The reality is that sustained demand marketing success relies on brand strength and differentiation. It’s not brand versus demand. Rather, it’s brand with demand.
Having a differentiated, relevant solution with a consistent brand promise is essential to a marketing team’s ability to drive revenue and increase sustained sales.