Brand Strategy for B2B: A Comprehensive Guide

by | Jan 6, 2024 | Branding, Essays, Featured

A brand is a revenue driver.

Built correctly, a brand aligns every department, team member, offer, and decision around a single goal: attracting, converting, delighting, and keeping your ideal customers.

Just look at Apple.

People line up around the block every time Apple releases a new iPhone.

That didn’t happen by accident. Apple spent years building a brand that resonates with their ideal customers — and it paid off.

According to Statista, Apple’s total net sales amounted to $383.29 billion for its 2023 financial year.

Granted, your business is no Apple, but the principles behind how they built their brand will also work for you.

And it all starts with a brand strategy.

Understanding Brand Strategy: The Key to Your Business Success

Let’s clear something up here — a brand is not a

  • Logo
  • Color scheme
  • Design
  • Message

A brand is the gut feeling people have about you, your company, or your product — and that gut feeling is built through every interaction someone has with your business.

Creating a brand starts by determining the gut feeling you want to develop and deciding how you will make it.

What is a Brand Strategy?

A brand strategy outlines the brand (gut feeling) you want to create in the minds of your ideal customers and how you will create it.

It’s a composite of your company’s:

  • Purpose, vision, mission, and values
  • Ideal customers
  • Character and Identity
  • Story
  • Promise
  • Differentiation
  • Messaging
  • Touchpoints

brand strategy full

Your brand strategy outlines what your business stands for, the promises it makes, the personality it wants to convey, and how every facet of your business will act.

In other words, a brand strategy is a whole-company strategy for attracting, converting, delighting, and keeping your ideal customers.

Why B2B Companies Need a Brand Strategy

A brand strategy is your business’s guiding light, blueprint, or north star.

It provides a clear sense of purpose and direction for every decision you and your team must make.

Decisions like:

  • What position should you hold in the marketplace?
  • Do Google ads make sense for your company?
  • What message should be on your website?
  • How will you differentiate your company?
  • How can you improve your product line?
  • Should you invest in that ad campaign?
  • What platform should you focus on?
  • What tone of voice should you use?
  • Should you hire for that new position?
  • Should you start that podcast?
  • How will you generate leads?
  • How can you reduce churn?
  • Is your pricing correct?

A brand strategy provides direction for all that and much more — all to ensure that every decision in your marketing, sales, product development, operations, finance, legal, and human resources departments is aligned to provide a consistent experience for your ideal customers.

Talk about the cheat code for business growth!

Moreover, it develops customer loyalty, as people love connecting with brands they share values with. This connection goes beyond a fancy logo or catchy tagline—it’s about emotions, trust, and satisfaction.

Step-by-Step Guide to Building Your Business’s Brand Strategy

Creating a brand strategy is no easy task.

This process will require you to dig deep into your company, get to know your ideal customers, research your competitors, and make hard decisions about how you will show up in the marketplace.

There are seven steps to creating an effective brand strategy:

  1. Defining Your Brand Purpose
  2. Understanding Your Ideal Customers
  3. Positioning Your Brand in the Market
  4. Uncovering Your Differentiation
  5. Defining Your Brand Identity
  6. Developing a Consistent Brand Message
  7. Creating a Brand Experience

Let’s dive in.

Step 1: Defining Your Brand Purpose

Every business has a purpose, a reason why it exists beyond making money.

That purpose serves as the backbone of your brand and consists of four attributes:

  • Purpose – why the business exists beyond making money
  • Vision – what does the business hope to achieve
  • Mission – how will the business achieve its vision
  • Values – how the business will act in the process of achieving its vision

Defining your brand purpose doesn’t have to be daunting.

1 brand strategy purpose

Ask your team these questions:

  • Why do we exist beyond making money?
  • Where do we want the business to be in 5, 10, and 50 years from now?
  • What actions are we committed to in our pursuit of that vision?
  • What values will guide our daily actions and decisions?

Your purpose, vision, mission, and values hide in the answers to those questions.

Step 2: Understanding Your Ideal Customers

Identifying and deeply understanding your ideal customers is the foundation of an effective brand strategy.

Remember — a brand strategy aims to attract, convert, delight, and retain your ideal customers.

So, this whole strategy revolves around them.

What are their needs? What problems are they looking to solve? What desires do they have? What motivates them to solve their problems? What personalities resonate with them?

This understanding goes far beyond basic demographic and psycholographic information.

2 brand strategy customers

Uncover the following information about your ideal customers:

  • Their greatest fears
  • Their desired outcomes
  • Their deepest felt pains
  • Their desired experience
  • How they define success
  • How they make decisions
  • What motivates them to change
  • The problem they are trying to solve

The insights you gather here will help you make decisions about messaging, positioning, touchpoints, and even your brand identity.

So, how do you get to know them?

Identify your Ideal Customers

Start by defining your ideal customers.

A bit of clarity here: ideal customers and target market (or buyer persona) are different.

  • Ideal customers are those you WANT to work with.
  • Your target market is any business you CAN work with.

The difference seems subtle, but with a brand strategy, it’s enormous.

ideal customer vs target market

Your ideal customers are a subset of your target market and can be found by:

  • Looking at your current customers
  • Asking yourself: which of these would I want 100 more of?

Those are your ideal customers, and they are the people around whom you want to develop your brand strategy.

Perform Customer Research

Once you have defined your ideal customers, it’s time to research them.

The best way to do this? Interview them.

Get your ideal customers on the phone (or Zoom) and ask questions about who they are, the problems they face, what they are after, the type of experience they want, what motivates them to change, what they like about your offer, what they think you can improve on, and so on.

The more you can dig into their minds directly, the easier the following steps will be.

Don’t have current clients you’d call ideal?

No sweat — there are a few other options for customer research:

  • Social listening: stalk them online to see who they interact with and what they post
  • Surveys: hire a market research company to do some surveying for you
  • Interviews: you can still interview people who aren’t your customers

Create a Customer Persona

After you’ve done your research, create a customer persona document that your entire team access.

Consider including this information:

  • Demographics: age, gender, relationship status, job title, company size, company industry, company revenue
  • Psychographics: interests, hobbies, social platforms, content they consume, behaviors, personality
  • Beliefs: core beliefs, core values, mindsets, activism
  • Personality: demeanor, characteristics, humor, communication preferences, attitudes
  • Buying Habits: buying journey, how they make decisions, who influences them
  • Pain Points: greatest fears, challenges, problems they face

You can build your own or download our customer persona template here.

Step 3: Positioning Your Brand in the Market

Brand positioning is the art of owning a unique position in your potential buyer’s mind.

Simply put, it is how you differentiate yourself in the mind of your ideal customer in a way that creates a strategic competitive advantage.

3 brand strategy position

The best way to do this:

  1. Research your competitors
  2. Create a positioning statement

Research Your Competitors

Positioning starts by understanding the market.

You can’t position your business in the minds of your ideal customers if you don’t know what already exists in the market.

Take some time to analyze your competitors across these attributes:

  • Category – the category they claim to be in.
  • Strengths – what they do exceptionally well.
  • Weaknesses – the areas where they struggle.
  • Message – how they talk about themselves.
  • Differentiated Claim – what they say they do differently.
  • Price – what they charge for their product or service.
  • Trends They Set – what their competition copies.
  • Trends They Follow – what they copy from their competition.
  • Their Disruptive Idea – how they try to disrupt your industry (if anything).

The goal here is not to steal ideas but to look for gaps in the market.

Where are your competitors failing? How are they not living up to their promises? What can you do differently?

Ultimately, you want to pay attention to

  • What they can’t do
  • What they won’t do

That’s where your position lies!

Not sure how to get started? Our Competitive Analysis Template can help.

Create a Positioning Statement

A positioning statement outlines what your business does, who it serves, and how it uniquely solves your customer needs.

It is not a customer-facing statement.

Instead, a positioning statement offers internal guidance for your business efforts.

We use two templates to craft positioning statements for our clients:

Onlyness Statement

Coined by Marty Neumeiers, an onlyness statement based on the idea that if your company is strategically positioned correctly, you should be the only something in your specific category.

An onlyness statement looks like this:

Our [OFFER] is the [CATEGORY] that [BENEFIT].

onlyness statement

Position Statement

A positioning statement goes a bit deeper than an onlyness statement and looks like this:

For [CUSTOMER] who are [PROBLEM], [BRAND NAME] provides [BENEFIT], unlike [COMPETITION].

position statement

Don’t list out your competitors here. Instead, you want to mention a classification, such as

  • Brand agencies that don’t collaborate
  • Software developers who pass you onto a junior consultant
  • Coaches who push you into a Facebook group

Step 4: Uncovering Your Differentiation

The goal of positioning is to help prospects answer their one burning question:

Why should I buy from you?

Now, you probably started rattling off a list of features or claims about your business:

  • We’re the number one…
  • We’re top-rated…
  • We care about our customers…
  • We offer this feature…

Those are great, but they won’t differentiate you in the market.

4 brand strategy difference

Remember: your ideal customers can find 1000s of your competitors in 2 seconds on Google.

If they can make that same claim, using it won’t make you different; it will make you sound the same — which is a dangerous place to be.

So, how do you find your differentiation?

Try these two exercises:

Deep Dive

Differentiation is rarely about who you are and more about what you do — meaning, it is often buried in your:

  • Processes
  • Deliverables
  • Operations
  • Results

Do a deep dive into your company and look for anything you do well.

Let me give you a few examples from our clients:

  • 2 candidates in 10 business days — recruitment company
  • Only hire senior-level consultants — software development company
  • Work with employees to develop processes — consulting company
  • Use positivity experiments to improve productivity — consulting company
  • TurboTax-like wizards for cloud deployment — SaaS platform

All of these differentiators are a result of their processes and operations.

Intersections

Next, grab a sheet of paper and sketch out a 3-circle Venn Diagram.

Label each circle as follows:

  • Our Company (what we do well)
  • Our Competitors (what they can’t or won’t do)
  • Our Customers (what they need and want)

differentiation diagram

Go back to your customer and competitive research and fill in your diagram.

Your differentiation is found at the intersection of all three.

Still struggling? Follow this proven process to uncover your differentiation.

Step 5: Defining Your Brand Identity

Creating a brand identity can seem daunting. It’s why branding agencies like SHFT exist.

A brand identity aims to encapsulate your brand’s essence so that ideal customers can FEEL your differentiation through every interaction.

5 brand strategy identity

It consists of

  • Personality
  • Tone of Voice
  • Brand Vocabulary
  • Opinions/Points of View

Brand identity is a deep and nuanced topic that deserves a series of essays to cover it all.

However, you can get started with this exercise.

Brand Persona Exercise

Gather your team around the table and ask this question:

If our brand were a human, what would they be like?

Think through every facet of an actual human:

  • How do they think?
  • How do they act?
  • What do they wear?
  • How do they walk?
  • What celebrity are they like?
  • What’s their fashion style?
  • How do they talk?
  • What are their values?
  • How would you describe their personality?
  • What do they do for fun?
  • How do they respond to praise and criticism?

Be as specific as possible with your answers.

They will give you insights into your brand’s personality, tone of voice, and unique points of view.

Step 6: Developing a Consistent Brand Message

Brand messaging includes the words and phrases your business uses to describe itself, its offerings, and its value.

6 brand strategy message

Consistency here is crucial.

Regardless of the medium or platform, your brand message should be uniform.

Marq (formerly LucidPress) researched the impact of brand consistency on revenue and found that a consistent presentation across all platforms increased revenue by up to 23%.

That’s a significant increase from consistency alone!

Brand Messages to Write

So, what messages should you create?

Here is a list we provide in our brand strategy packages:

  • Tagline – 3-6 word phrase that highlights your key benefit
  • One-Liner – 1 sentence elevator pitch that covers the benefit you provide, to whom, and how
  • Customer Vision – the audacious vision you have for your customers
  • Key Guarantees – messages that counter the concerns your prospects have
  • Key Benefits – how you’ll talk about your product features
  • Brand Story – the story of your brand that relates to your ideal customers
  • Founder Story – what caused your founder to start the company
  • Marketing Messages – key messages to use in marketing

You can write many more messages, including quotes you’ll use.

For example, the quote above from LucidPress is part of our brand message. You’ll find it on our website, proposals, content, and resources; I even share it on podcasts and in my keynote speeches.

Understand the Nuances of Brand Messaging

Brand messaging is incredibly nuanced; the words you choose matter.

Let me give you an example.

Our current tagline is: Become the Only Choice.

That message gives the connotation of being intentional. Customers are actively choosing you.

Now imagine if we changed out the word ‘choice’ for ‘option’ — how does this sound to you:

Become the Only Option.

It feels different, doesn’t it? This version connotes that your ideal customers could choose you, but they could choose a competitor.

Not the feeling you want to portray when you build brands.

Play around with your messaging: change out words, try different sentence structures, ask others how the message feels.

Remember — you only have one chance at a first impression. If your brand message gives the wrong impression, you’ll repel your ideal customers instead of attracting them.

Step 7: Create a Brand Experience

The last step is the most fun (for a branding nerd like me, anyway).

A brand experience is how customers interact with and feel your differentiation and identity.

7 brand strategy experience

Think of it this way: Whenever an ideal customer interacts with your business, it leaves an impression.

Be that through:

  • Outbound marketing
  • Cold emails
  • Visiting your website
  • Consuming your content
  • Jumping on a sales call
  • Getting a proposal
  • Onboarding
  • Going through the delivery process
  • Paying invoices
  • Getting customer support
  • Interacting with your product
  • Offboarding

Every interaction is an opportunity to delight your customers.

Designing Brand Touchpoints

Creating a brand experience is about crafting those interactions to leave a favorable impression.

Ideally, you’ll want to think through and craft touchpoints for every possible interaction an ideal customer has with your business.

But let’s be honest, you’ll spend more time creating touchpoints than signing contracts if you try to cover every interaction.

Instead, focus first on a few critical interactions across

Sales
Marketing
Operations
Policies

These are the most deeply felt by your ideal customers.

Example Brand Touchpoints

Let me give you a few examples of brand touchpoints we developed for our customers:

  • Low-cost audit with the proposal to speed up the sales cycle.
  • An ROI dashboard to land more contracts with the same companies.
  • Share profiles of team members to communicate that you get 5 people on your project and persuade clients against trying to do the work in-house.
  • Creating an onboarding video to reduce churn.
  • Developing a personality quiz to increase leads.
  • Sending a ‘discovery call thank you email’ with stories from the founders to build trust.

Understand that these touchpoints work for a specific strategy and ideal customer.

While they are incredibly effective for those clients, you may need something else.

Implementing Your Brand Strategy: Practical Tips

Creating a brand strategy is just the beginning.

The next step? You have to implement your strategy!

As I like to say, a strategy that doesn’t get implemented is just a wish.

There will be unique steps in implementing your brand strategy. However, the following tips will help you implement your strategy internally and externally.

How to Effectively Communicate Your Brand Strategy Internally

Building a brand strategy is futile if the team doesn’t understand or commit to it.

You must develop a clear, concise communication plan to keep everyone focused and on the same page.

Here are a few ways to do that:

Foster Open Communication

Open, regular communication helps reinforce the brand strategy.

Make it a habit to discuss why the brand strategy exists and how it impacts the business.

Regular team meetings and updates provide a platform for reinforcing your brand vision.

This non-stop awareness helps keep your brand strategy top of mind for everyone.

Internal Branding Campaigns

Create campaigns that keep your brand strategy top-of-mind for your team.

A few examples include:

  • Leadership videos from the CEO
  • WOW spaces highlighting team achievements in serving customers
  • Interactive tutorials explaining new processes
  • A custom GPT trained on your brand strategy to help your team stay consistent

Let your imagination run!

The more fun and creative you make the campaign, the more likely your team will adopt your new brand strategy.

Easy Access to Brand Documents

Communication is essential, but if your team can’t access the information they need when they need it, they won’t be able to stick to your strategy.

Your entire team needs access to the various elements of your brand strategy.

Consider these ideas:

  • Create an interactive ideal customer persona document
  • Set up a custom GPT trained with your brand strategy
  • Develop an internal brand guidelines website
  • Host all of your documents on a shared drive

Don’t forget to train your team to find and use these documents!

Ways to Integrate Your Brand Strategy into All Aspects of Your Business

Your brand should not be an isolated part of your business, nor should it be owned by your marketing team.

An effective brand strategy impacts every part of your business, from operations, finance, sales, and customer service.

When marketing owns your brand, it’s often confined there. Don’t limit the power of your newly created brand strategy!

brand strategy over all

A brand is a whole-company endeavor. Implement it throughout the whole business!

Ingrain Your Brand into Your Company Culture

Your brand is activated first and foremost by your team, so make it a part of your company culture.

Training and workshops can help employees understand the brand’s purpose and allow them to embody its values in their everyday work.

Give them guidelines — no, I don’t mean design dos and don’ts.

Show them the freedom they have under your new brand strategy.

  • What decisions can they make without approval?
  • What responses should they consider when faced with different circumstances?
  • What are examples that work under the brand voice?
  • How does your differentiation look for each department?

The more examples you give, the easier for your team to embody the brand will be.

Implement Touchpoints Across all Departments

The touchpoints you created in Step 7 of your brand strategy?

Implement those.

If you created your strategy correctly, you should have touchpoints across every department — sales, marketing, operations, product, customer support, finance, and human resources, to name a few.

Look for touchpoints in each department that:

  • Are easy to implement
  • The team is excited about
  • Can lead to a quick win

The faster the win, the better. Your team will be excited to see their efforts paying off, and it will inspire them to keep going.

Consistent Branding

I said this before, and I’ll say it again: be consistent with your brand.

Every department must use the same voice, tone, and style across all channels.

If marketing says one thing, onboarding says another, and customer support says a third, your brand won’t stick in the minds of your ideal customers.

For the first few months, run every new communication through a brand manager, director, or your Chief Branding Officer (CBO) for consistency.

Monitoring and Adjusting Your Brand Strategy as Your Business Grows

As your business grows, your brand strategy should evolve.

Active monitoring helps you realign your brand with the growing needs of your business and audience.

Keep Listening to Your Customers

Regular customer feedback is essential to ensure your brand remains relevant and resonates.

Create feedback loops, document insights gathered from every department, and review that feedback regularly.

Remember, a brand strategy is about THEM, not you.

Listen to them and adapt your brand strategy to their growing wants and needs.

Regular Brand Audits

Regular brand audits help identify areas where the brand may not resonate with your ideal customers.

I recommend performing a brand audit once a year.

Doing so will help you notice areas where your brand strategy could be more effective and prioritize what needs to change.

Bringing Your Brand to Life: Bold Strokes & Conscious Choices

At the end of the day, a brand strategy is a list of decisions — whom you are trying to attract, how you will attract them, and why on earth they should buy from you.

Answering those questions is not a one-off project. It’s an ever-evolving process to stay relevant to your ideal customers.

Get your whole company involved in the process.

Bring in sales, marketing, product, operations, finance, and human resources. Involve them in the decision-making process. Empower them to live out the brand every day.

And, for the love of everything sassy, be bold with your choices.

Bland brands are forgettable.

But bold brands? Brands that are created FOR their ideal customers?

Those make some serious money.

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