Although every company requires a unique and customized marketing approach, the fundamental steps to building a great B2B brand remain the same regardless of where you begin the marketing process—no matter the series or size of the company. Startups, however, hold a unique advantage with the opportunity to start fresh, start right, take chances, and go BIG!
In this Leadtail TV episode, Kelly Seelig shares some great tips and tricks she has used to shape brands from startup-infancy to the big market players they are today. She also shares her predictions of where B2B marketing is headed. Spoiler: Our Leadtail team entirely agrees!
First Steps for Building a Great B2B Brand
Starting something at the ground level is exciting and riddled with opportunities. Kelly says she has loved to create something entirely new each time she has worked with a startup. No single approach works for every business and every industry, so here are her go-to first steps to determine her gameplan.
When Kelly arrives at a new company, she’ll first and foremost seed the market early by going to the publications and media outlets that are talking to them and having their teams write contributed content—pointing them to article ideas that would provide the great content their audience is searching for.
“Before you do anything you have to understand the market you’re talking to. I think we, as marketers, all know that, but it is incredibly important.”
Only after really gaining that understanding, Kelly moves into demand generation and webinar content with a focus on offering value for their audience.
Building a B2B Brand Is About Much More Than the Brand Itself
Times have changed and trust has eroded. Which brings the question: What can be done to earn the gaze of a weary audience?
Kelly points out that a brand used to be about letting only its executives speak to the public—but this isn’t the case anymore. To reach an audience with a modern B2B brand, you need to allow your audience to have a peek behind the curtains and let employees do some of the talking.
“It’s bigger than the company. It’s the people within the company, and you have to put them forward. Let them be part of the conversation,” Kelly says. “The way I can build that [trust back] is to have people talk to people—making those connections, having people be able to share their stories (even if it’s not ‘on brand’).”
Kelly urges people at all levels of the company to “be involved in the conversation; come at it from your perspective; bring your authenticity to the table because I know there’s someone out there on the customer front that…maybe they don’t connect with me, and they don’t connect with the CEO, but they will connect with you.”
Bringing the human side of your brand to the forefront will help you build community, partnerships, and an audience.
There Is One Requirement for Growing a B2B Audience
The one non-negotiable element required for growing your B2B audience—no matter the size of the company or industry you are working with—is time. It may be a tough pill to swallow, but it’s about more than just sitting and waiting.
“One thing I’m seeing in marketing right now is that everybody wants everything to happen so quickly. And it does take time. This is about earning the trust, and earning the respect, and understanding what that win-win looks like with your audience. It takes time to build and grow.”
When You Start Small, Do What It Takes to Look Bigger
While patience is key, take that time to build a relationship with your audience, and don’t be afraid to make bold moves as you do it. Kelly shares one of her favorite campaign stories about a time she and her team decided to punch above their weight class with a strategy that would make their new B2B brand stand out.
In this campaign, she was working with a video conferencing company, BlueJeans, on a strategy that would make them stand out in a sea of much bigger brands at the Sundance Film Festival.
“We had our little team of maybe ten people that were going to make this work,” Kelly says. “We just believed we could.” And they did.
They took over an art gallery on Main Street in Park City and reformed it into a full-on BlueJeans experience—including a BlueJeans phone booth that was built with the help of one of the employee’s fathers. They also sponsored one of the films at the festival and invited attendees to come and watch it with them.
Kelly enthusiastically recalls that the BlueJeans team pulled off their goal to stand out against bigger, more well-known brands. “We did all of these little things that amounted to such a big experience for us,” she says. “I think why it has such a warm place in my heart—this experience—is that we were this little company, and we looked so much bigger than we were.”
Kelly strongly encourages others to get out of the box and try things that might scare other marketers away.
“I do believe startups give you the opportunity to try those kinds of things and push the envelope.”
Where Is B2B Marketing Headed?
The business world has changed, and the need for connection is greater than ever. Kelly believes that for that reason, the future of B2B marketing is in building partnerships. She advises B2B marketers to concentrate on partnering with those who are speaking directly to the audience they care about.
A great place to start is with influencers. And, yes…B2B also has influencers! They are people your audience trust and listen to. “Find those people. Engage with them! Ask, ‘How can we help you,’ and then build those relationships and those partnerships,” Kelly suggests “That helps you start talking and is a gateway to your audience.”
If you haven’t already, get on social media and start identifying where your audience is and what they’re talking about. Once you do, Kelly recommends looking for a conversation to join rather than just talking about your company and what you do.
Building a B2B brand should always require some version of the above-mentioned steps. But, as Kelly has so eloquently highlighted, the old marketing adage, “know your market,” still holds true today. It seems the more things change, the more they stay the same. Do your due diligence when you start out and understand it’s a living process. Look at market changes, be willing to pivot, and be open to changing the way your brand communicates.
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