B2B branding, marketing and selling – Setting the scene

The Big 3 is a David Reid Group blog series designed to give you insight into the big issues in branding, marketing and selling. We break each topic down into 3 straight-forward points, so you can get the picture and get on with your day.

DRG has worked for over a decade with numerous B2B clients, researching them and their customers and helping them understand and overcome the unique challenges they face. As always, we want to share what we’ve learnt so that you can benefit from our experience. With apologies to our retail clients (we hope to cover your area soon) we now begin a 3 part Big 3 series on B2B sales and marketing that will offer important insights into how to grow your B2B business. We start, as we often do, with a Big 3 analysis of the B2B landscape and the difficulties many of these businesses encounter with the branding, marketing and selling of what they do.

1.    B2B companies are built on relationships

Most B2B businesses grow from the direct networks and personal efforts of the directors or owners of the company. These confident, driven entrepreneurs develop their businesses by enthusiastically building their contacts and expanding their networks in order to win work. They nurture these relationships and build up the business they have with their clients, spending significant time getting to know and understand them, and catering to their needs. When we research and interview the customers of our B2B clients, we consistently find that they talk about and refer to the owner, director or account manager they have a relationship with, not the business or the brand.

2.    B2B businesses want to continue to grow

These B2B businesses are generally great at what they do; they deliver what the customer needs and they’ve built significant trust and loyalty with them. But eventually the owners or directors want the business to grow beyond these initial relationships. They’re still as ambitious as ever and they see market opportunities beyond their own networks, perhaps in different industries. However, since establishing their business they haven’t needed to aggressively, proactively win work and may be out of practice. More importantly,  they may no longer have the same personal appetite or capacity for the business of winning work: the management of the business may now command their full attention. Many B2B businesses are also uneasy about the fact that they rely on a small group of very profitable clients – they know this over-exposure could be risky in the medium to long-term. B2B businesses wanting to grow need to win new clients, but in a very different way than they have in the past.

3.    The barriers to growth

B2B businesses face some difficulties in achieving significant growth. Although they probably get their fair share of referrals, beyond this they may find it hard to gain new clients. Reasons for this could include:

  • Having focused their efforts on a core group of clients, the business has never developed the capacity or skills needed to win new work beyond the networks and relationships of the owner or director. As discussed, these people may no longer have the time or energy to devote to this but whether they look to existing staff or external hires to fill these roles, it takes significant time and expertise to develop the sales skills and processes needed for success.
  • A weak brand. For a B2B business to grow, they need to be known beyond just their relationships – they need a strong brand. Perhaps their brand is not known outside their networks, or it only resonates with their existing clients. More likely, the brand or brand story have never been invested in or fully articulated because the business never saw the need, but even their existing clients may not know exactly what the business offers.

Even once new clients are found, there are further issues to contend with. It’s certainly more difficult to maintain the high level of relationship your B2B customers have grown to expect as the number of clients grow. Among other challenges, this might necessitate finding new employees and up scaling or overhauling systems to accommodate the increased work volume.

We apologise for the catalogue of problems, but we promise to provide some solutions in the weeks ahead. In the next two Big 3 posts we’ll be outlining key marketing and sales strategies to help B2B businesses grow and how to implement those strategies.

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