Key to B2B Marketing Success

The GistBrand differentiation matters. True brand differentiation significantly boosts marketing effectiveness in B2B scenarios.Customer feedback crucial. Differentiated positioning must be researched with customers and compared against competitors for effectiveness.Stand out strategy. Achieving data-backed differentiation in B2B requires understanding customer needs and avoiding “safe,” indistinct marketing approaches.If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard (or used) the phrase “differentiate or die” I could retire, but it’s a neat mantra for B2B marketers. And now brand differentiation is data-backed, too.New research by Considered Content looking at what the most successful B2B marketers do differently has found that true brand differentiation has a substantial effect on overall marketing effectiveness. Businesses that have managed to carve out a differentiated position in their sector are significantly more likely to be top performers in lead generation, demand generation and brand building.Businesses that have managed to carve out a differentiated position in their sector are significantly more likely to be top performers in lead generation, demand generation and brand building.faraktinov in Adobe Stock PhotosIn fact, those with a validated level of differentiation see greater effectiveness from every single tactic they use, without exception.But there’s an important caveat. To be effective, a differentiated position must have been both researched with customers and reviewed against competitors. While over three-quarters of marketers who have done each describe their demand generation efforts as very effective, that figure drops to 20% among those who’ve only researched customers and to just 2% for those who’ve only completed a competitor comparison. Fail to do both and the advantages will largely evaporate.But how do you achieve brand differentiation in B2B? That’s the million-dollar question when there’s so much overlap between products and services. Add to this that the mere presence of well-established market leaders makes the objective even more challenging. These incumbents, while often poorly differentiated themselves, enjoy the benefits of being perceived as the safe choice. Their automatic entry onto buyer shortlists makes it difficult for anyone else to wrestle away lucrative buyers.To make things harder still, B2B sales are often gnarly, dragged-out affairs. The many decision makers involved don’t relish the pressure of final sign off — their jobs are on the line after all. This is why many companies play it safe with their marketing strategies. They stay close to their competition so they, too, can be perceived as a safe pair of hands. In reality, it doesn’t work like that. The result is identikit, cookie-cutter brands that fail to inspire and that lose out, all too often, to brand leaders. It’s why research from LinkedIn found that, in advertising, half of brands are mistaken for a competitor. In a very real sense, smaller brands are paying to boost the results of larger ones.So what’s the alternative?In reality, true differentiation comes from a place of understanding your customer inside out. Take your lead from them and their problems. This is where you’ll find a point of differentiation that’s relevant and believable, that you can deliver upon, and which is different in the market.View allRelated Article: How to Leverage Customer Insights to Shape Product Strategy and GrowthBrand Differentiation: What Are the Real-World Problems Your Customers Are Grappling With?As marketers, we should be the customer’s voice inside the business. But too few can clearly articulate what’s important to the real people who buy our products and services.Getting closer to your customer involves talking to both existing and former buyers. Using a third-party market research company can be helpful here so as not to skew the results. Try commissioning a survey of your target demographic with no greater objective than simply getting to know who they are, what they’re trying to get done and what really matters to them.Once you have outlined their challenges, you can make sure your messaging is directly relevant to the worlds they live and work within.Related Article: Mastering Customer Feedback Management for Better ProductsNext, Nail Your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)Too many ICPs and buyer personas fail to deliver the insights you need to improve your focus and craft a strong positioning. They are often too vague, too skewed toward an in-house view of the market or, in the case of personas, too steeped in irrelevant details.A workhorse ICP should be based on research of the key catalysts driving the broader market and the barriers to change. It should assess the competition and how they’re positioning themselves. It should determine your company’s particular strengths and weaknesses.From this, you should be able to find potential relevant points of differentiation, agree where to focus your sales and marketing activity and create an actionable buyer profile — one you can use to sharpen who you target and what you’ll say to them.Related Article: Customer Insights Can Seriously Elevate Your B2B GameFinally, Reframe What You DoWhile not impossible, what you sell is unlikely to be a unique point of differentiation in B2B. In any category, most products and services are broadly at parity and any advantage is often short-lived.Differentiation will likely come from a combination of how you serve customers and a singular focus on helping to solve their most important challenges in your category. You’ll bring this to life both in what you say and, importantly, how you say it. And you’ll need to support this with brand assets that make you instantly recognizable and easy to remember.What you can’t do is play it safe and go with the crowd. Consider the fact that, according to research from Bain and Google, 90% of B2B purchases go to vendors that buyers already have in mind before they ever do any research. This is the raw power of having a strong brand.Get differentiation right, and you too could be on this list. Learn how you can join our contributor community.

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