5 ways B2B companies can elevate their brand and reach new heights

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There’s an old story that gets to the heart of what branding today needs to incorporate:

A priest during the height of the Russian civil war would walk the same route every day from his home to church until one day he was stopped by a soldier who asked him, “who are you?”, “where are you going?”, “why?”. The priest, taken aback by these questions, thought for a moment and replied, “I’ll offer you a ruble every day you to ask me these same questions.”

In crafting your brand’s strategy,  leaders need to consider each of these questions. Because, to reach new heights, you have to have a clear vision and direction. Leaders must accept the uncomfortable truth that, if they want to achieve what they have never achieved before, they have to go where they haven’t gone. While it’s uncomfortable, it’s necessary, because the B2B landscape is changing. To thrive in this new landscape adapting is key.

The B2B marketplace can be tight-knit and the culture of your business can easily spill over into your overall brand identity. Culture can be highly visible. If your team doesn’t believe in your brand, how are they going to convince clients to? Leaders are coming to realize that the brand’s image on the inside is just as important as their client facing messaging.

Focus on your brand from the inside out by developing a culture that’s worthy of your brand’s aspirational identity. Here are six essentials to focus on when building your B2B brand:

Stand for something

Finding your purpose should be the starting point for any branding strategy. This is the “why” of your organization and provides the foundation of your brand’s identity. Something that people can easily stand behind.

While establishing purpose sounds like a daunting task, it doesn’t have to be. Your purpose can, and should, be a simple concept aiming to make the world a better place in an area relevant to your business.

Take Apple, for instance, their purpose is “to empower creative exploration and self-expression.” Notice how it isn’t to increase profit for shareholders or to increase ROIs. No, financial performance shouldn’t be a part of a brand’s purpose. The irony is that brands that focus on purpose rather than simply sales are more successful in the long run.

Businesses don’t want to work with those who are in it to extract as much money as they can out of clients for the short term then run to the next venture. No, they want organizations with a stake in the game working towards something.

Live your values

Many organizations pick values based on their marketing strategy. While it’s essential that marketing and culture collaborate, stated values have been shown to be irrelevant to brand success. Just consider how one of Enron’s stated values was “integrity”. Instead, what’s vital is the values you live. When positive values are lived, brands succeed.

Just consider what happens when brands say one thing and do another: brand cynicism. Brand cynicism is a curse to any organization. This is when your employees, or worse your clients, hear brand messaging they know it isn’t true and when the messaging itself becomes an inside joke. It happens all the time – whenever brand values and brand actions don’t align, cynicism emerges.

Don’t just repeat stale generalities, practice the values you preach. This means establishing concrete behaviors that your organization means by its stated values and ensuring that they are enacted. What does your organization mean by integrity? When establishing your values, define it with clearly stated behaviors.

When it comes to an organization living its values, it’s up to the most senior and visible members of that organization to enact them first. Which leads us to the next essential element:

Lead by example

Managers tell people what to do; leaders show people what to do through their actions. Both internally and externally leading by example is a perfect way to establish and elevate a brand identity.

When senior leaders aren’t invested in culture initiatives they inevitably fail. Maybe this is why 70% of all culture initiatives end up without changing anything. Culture, values, and purpose must be lived both from the ground up and the top down. No one should be exempt.

Of course, leading by example extends well beyond internal initiatives as well. More and more, today’s brands are expected to go beyond the goods and services they sell to make a positive impact on the world. Showing your brands leadership, by taking action on a cause to make the world a better place, is an essential way to distinguish your brand.

Focus on growth

For your brand to thrive, and your business to have a real future, your team has to see a future within it. This means offering real, tangible avenues for personal growth and professional development.

Business leaders are familiar with offering avenues for professional development, but personal growth is more novel. Personal growth in the workplace means creating an environment that not only develops professional skills but offers work toward a purpose.

There a number of initiatives that both facilitate this growth and offer opportunities for direct brand development. One of the most notable of these is paid days off for charitable work that’s up to the individual to pick. The charity could be anything – it just needs to be charitable work. Offering time off for charity helps establish the brand as a community leader, provides the individual an opportunity for personal growth, and of course, is a great addition to your brand identity.

When top talent feel their personal growth is intertwined with the growth and success of a business, they will take it upon themselves to make it happen. When talent feels they can work towards their individual purpose through the brand, you create lifelong brand ambassadors.

Tell your story

Telling your story is the final step to elevating your brand. Telling your story encompasses all the ways that your brand communicates its message.

Let’s face it, in the B2B marketplace there are plenty of others willing to provide what you provide. What distinguishes you from the crowd is how your brand’s message connects with people, and people don’t connect with value propositions – they connect with stories. Stories of transformation and success – stories that show the human element of what you do.

But stories aren’t just for prospective clients – they engage and inspires your team. When you tell your story you should be telling the same one to your team – allowing them to tell one to themselves about the bigger picture they’re apart of and working for every day.

But what’s included in your story and what does storytelling entail, exactly? Your story includes your brand’s why, its values, and demonstrate how it leads. In other words, it brings together all the elements of your brand and offers a coherent picture of your brand’s identity. Don’t seek to spread your message with disconnected metrics and services, seek to spread it through a coherent narrative of growth, transformation, and success.

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Hank Ostholthoff
Hank Ostholthoff is a best-selling author and the CEO of Mabbly, a Chicago-based digital marketing consultancy featured on the INC 500 list of fastest-growing private companies in the U.S. Hank is dedicated to helping his clients achieve solid growth, and has helped many of them become venture-backed and/or Fortune 500 companies. 
Hank Ostholthoff

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