Brand Development in Manufacturing
Like the rest of us, B-to-B does not live or function in a vacuum. We have all undoubtedly heard that we live in a world where we are constantly being bombarded by advertising messages. Everywhere we turn, from the TV to the bus stop bench to the blimps flying over sporting events, there is a consistent overwhelming presence of advertising messages. Even the pen on your desk, with a logo, is a marketing message.
While we see a plethora of consumer ads, we see very few strictly B-to-B ads. We forget that clients of B-to-B companies are consumers too. Quite often, the only way they may hear about a company is through advertising. A company may have the best new business development mangers in the world, but there is no way they can identify every potential client or industry with applications for their products or services. They can come close, but there will inevitably be some that fall through the cracks.
Most B-to-B companies are experts in the business of their business. They have to be. They present themselves as industry experts as well as experts in helping businesses. They are the experts, they have the products, and they know the business of their business.
No Brand Management
However, nearly all B-to-B companies lack coherent brand management to run the business of their brands. Contrary to the beliefs of many companies, their brand is vital for their long-term success. Creating a better brand is the key to creating a better B-to-B. Companies are in a constant battle to invent, borrow, re-invent, and perfect. First mover advantage, a term that marketing folks hold true like it’s the holy grail, does not mean as much as it once did. The recognition of being first to market is short-lived.
Those companies find their ideas being duplicated by the company down the street in a matter of weeks, negating their first mover advantage. B-to-B companies see this cycle all the time. It is characteristic of the industry. If all companies within a given sector are providing the same service, the only thing that they believe to be left for differentiation is price.
This is not true either. Price has become a table stake in the market space. Having the best possible price is a requirement of all clients seeking a B-to-B company. If a company does not have competitive prices, it will not be a successful company for very long. (See a case study on manufacturing brands here)
What do companies have left to differentiate them from one another? What companies do have left is brand. Since very few B-to-B companies are investing in their brand, this means there is great opportunity. The idea of brand probably seems foreign or nonsensical to many executives, but, when properly utilized, brand can be the difference-maker.
In their essence, brand development in manufacturing is not very different from other consumer products companies. They make something, whether it is a product or a service, market it, and they sell it. Most consumer products companies know that they operate in a market full of products just like theirs. They know that the only thing that separates products from one another is their brand.
Changes Are Needed
Companies must start behaving like consumer products companies. They must understand that if they want to differentiate themselves from the other companies in the market they must invest in their brand. Branding the company is not that much different than branding any other company. First, you must understand the market in which you operate, uncover factors in selection, and build your brand around the precepts (beliefs) of those who purchase your products and services. Brand is not about the company; it is about the consumer.
While there is surely a high degree of market segmentation for each B-to-B company, the branding message must remain unified. The marketing messages can be tailored to align with each segment of the market with the promise of the brand as the over-riding message. When brand is executed properly in any sector something amazing happens. The target market begins to covet your brand. In fact, in the case of these markets, it is often the way to get in the door of someone who currently does not choose you.
Prospects relate to your brand on almost an instinctual level. Margins begin to increase, and customers will seek you out even if that means they are inconvenienced to do so. You will become what your customers covet.
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