Whitepaper | Robert Davis

3 ways your B2B brand should be accelerating business growth

The Brand Change Canvas: A step by step guide to brand change strategy for B2B marketers

When we meet with our B2B marketing clients to “talk brand,” the conversation often turns to the need to grow awareness. Usually we’ll pivot to talk about change – specifically, the changes their brand can drive that will accelerate sales growth for their innovative solutions.

Why shift the conversation to change? Most of the time awareness just isn’t a strategy. It’s more of an untested assumption that investing in awareness will fatten the top of your sales funnel. I’ve worked with B2C clients with large markets who have conducted extensive testing and analysis and become comfortable projecting sales lift from an incremental lift in awareness. B2B clients can’t usually get there because of their small audiences, fuzzy view of the top of the funnel, cost of developing meaningful brand analytics, a bias toward focusing spend on converting demonstrated intent signals and so on.

It’s not surprising that the awareness line item in B2B marketing budgets is perennially under-funded. In the increasingly quantified world of B2B marketing technology and practice, for many B2B marketers, brand awareness hasn’t earned a share of marketing spend.

Focusing on change

Change strategy disrupts that reality. It starts with developing a clear view of the potential impact that change could make on your market, and establishing measures that link brand-based change to financial payback. For marketers of complex, innovative B2B solutions, I’d recommend focusing on three specific types of growth-driving change your brand can help you deliver:

  1. Changing buying processes that limit growth of your close ratio among in-market buyer decisions
  2. Changing category conversations that limit the growth of consideration for your solution, and
  3. Changing the culture that is limiting the overall growth rate of your category

Each of these types of change align specific goals with measurable outcomes directly tied to the growth of your business. With this kind of linkage to meaningful metrics, your B2B marketing initiatives are far more likely to attract marketing dollars than a campaign with a squishy “awareness” goal.

Keep reading or scroll down to download the Brand Change Canvas. The canvas includes “how-to” instructions to help you develop a transformative change strategy for your brand.

Level 1 change: Upsetting the standard buying process

Once you’ve sold into the small percentage of the market made up of the segment Geoffrey Moore calls the “early innovators,” growth requires penetrating the more conservative “early majority.” To succeed with them, your innovation has to be seen as the best outcome of a logical buying process. To achieve this, you’ll have to understand the dominant buying process and shift it to favor your way of looking at the world. That’s exactly what “no software” did for Salesforce by effectively establishing a native cloud-based platform as a key criterion in the CRM buying process for emerging majority buyers. If your innovation makes you different, you’ll have to teach buyers to change their buying behavior to make your difference part of their decision. Your brand should help you drive that change.

Level 2 change: Changing the category conversation

In any category, there’s a broad, early-stage conversation taking place among buyers, brands and experts. Whether it’s at events, in social media, or in webinar content and comments, buyers navigate what they see as authoritative conversations to understand what they should be doing and who could help them do it. Typically the existing conversation reflects established category concepts, creating opportunities for you to focus your brand on re-defining the conversation to frame your innovative worldview. Keep in mind that buyers aren’t looking for things they don’t know about, so it’s essential to identify known need-based entry points and find ways to redirect the conversation so it naturally leads to your experts, your ideas and your innovative solutions, rather than to the same old answers.

Level 3 change: Changing the category culture

Solutions categories often exist in a cultural context that can actually limit the growth of demand for your solution. Culture is easy to overlook because it may affect your category but not really be a part of it. For example, when you download our brand change canvas from the link below, you’ll also receive a sample canvas for a fictional security brand. In this example, C-suite executives in mid-sized enterprises often see security threats as “IT issues” – a culturally-inspired attitude that limits their understanding of the existential threat risks pose to their ability to do business. In other words, a cultural understanding that lives outside of the category is limiting the potential for category growth. Changing that cultural understanding is the key to unlocking net new category growth, and the brand that drives that change will be well-positioned to gain an outsized share of the newly-enlarged opportunity space.

For Red Hat, PJA developed a content program designed to help business-minded CIOs develop their C-suite business transformation skills – and in doing so, shape the business culture that governs the CIO’s ability to implement new, more flexible technology infrastructure – the kind that inevitably favors Red Hat’s open-source model for enterprise software. The result for Red Hat was access to the C-Suite as they’d never had it before.

Building your change strategy for growth

Planning for brand-driven change is a fundamentally different way of thinking about your brand – and about B2B marketing. Most businesses see brand as a fuzzy top-of-funnel construct, but shifting that perspective to see your brand as a key lever for change at every stage of the buyer’s journey, can help marketers create the potential for transformative, brand-driven business growth.

Build your own growth-oriented change strategy with our Brand Change Canvas. The free PDF includes “how-to” instructions that will help you develop a transformative change strategy for your brand.

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