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Brand awareness in B2C has had its importance recognized for some time now. Nowadays however, more and more businesses are starting to see that it is just as, if not more valuable, in the B2B setting. But do they know how to do it right?

What is brand awareness?

According to Business Dictionary, brand awareness is: “the extent to which a brand is recognized by potential customers, and is correctly associated with a particular product.” This definition intrinsically leads us to identifying the place of brand awareness into the wider perspective of the buyer decision process. The buyer decision process has been formalized by Engel et al, dubbed as “The Five Stage model”:

Where brand awareness comes in the picture, is the third step – evaluating alternatives.

Why is brand awareness important in B2B transactions?

Let’s take the following example: Michael, a young entrepreneur, who recently got his startup funded is looking to purchase a warehouse. Chances are that he will contact different real estate agencies that he knows or are recommended by his friends/associates. He will then evaluate all the propositions they offer and will choose one. But what if there is another real estate company with better properties but no one knows about it? Every company’s marketing efforts are (or at least should be) directed either towards getting into the consumer’s point of view during this process or constantly being in that point of view so that when the alternatives evaluation begins, the company is among the first ones to come to mind.

The latter being really important, since research shows that consumers are more likely to purchase brands they already know and trust. Also known as the mere-exposure effect, this simple principle remains equally valid in b2b transactions as it does in b2c.  If your targer prospects encounter a problem that your product/service solves then they are highly likely to put you in the ‘consideration set’ of alternatives, which highly increases the chance for purchase. Of course, that is not to say that consumers will definitely go for your selling proposition but we are talking about maximizing chances here.

How should I build B2B brand awareness?

In the B2B world, content is still a king, when it comes to online positioning. TMG Custom Media reports that 90% of consumers find custom content useful. Quality and custom content not only attracts attention and builds awareness of your brand, but it also tends to get shared among professionals and for those reasons, you should not refrain from spending on it on a regular basis.

Of course, it is equally important to target your audiences properly. Targeting goes beyond directing your content towards the right people; it also means posting at at the right time, in the right place and in the right situation, when the audience is in the mood for it.

What are the channels for spreading B2B brand awareness?

Marketingweek’s survey among B2B marketers hints us at the following channels:

Keeping in mind that this survey would hold valid for the USA (and we could speculate on that basis about other cultural regions), let’s elaborate on some of the channels:

(A) Social Media Channels:

Hubspot’s research points at social media as a major lead source for B2B marketing:

When we talk B2B, the first social media channel that comes to mind is Linkedin. It also stands out in effectiveness when it comes to B2B lead generation. Showcase pages, advanced search, search saves, search groups are all effective strategies to build B2B in Linkedin. These methods allow you to sift through the sheer number of contacts and establish the group that is to be targeted, based on industry, location and a number of other criteria. Then, you can reach them in Linkedin or switch to Facebook and present your content there. As mentioned earlier, this allows you to build a lot of awareness with a limited budget.

(B) Webinars:

The nature of webinars is to gather people interested in a certain topic, which makes them an excellent place to meet your target audience. Emarketer’s report, based on Webmarketing123’s data shows that even though webinars are more effective in a B2C setting, they are still among the most popular marketing tactics in B2B:

(C) Industry Magazines/ Journals:

As is evident from Marketingweek’s survey shown earlier, industry specific magazines are still the most widely used medium among professionals for B2B purposes. The issue we face there, though, is that campaigns in industry magazines can be costly, as per the big industry-focused audience. So placing content in magazines is the natural progression after the social media campaigns have yielded results (and hopefully revenue). Placing display and native ads in this medium, while costly, can really help bring a lot of new business connections and take your business to a whole new level.

(D) Trade shows and conventions:

Trade expos bring the unique advantage of face-to-face meetings. This has both its advantages and disadvantages, so apply with caution. Live meetings make it easier to explain your value proposition as you would be using the most natural form of communication – live dialogue (vs reading a text or watching a video). If you have strong presence and great sales skills, that’d help a lot, too. On the other hand, prospects would remember your personality, rather than your brand, which is meant to be far more than a single representative of the company. Live meeting also shortens the distance between you and the prospect, whereas the artifically created distance of media presence usually creates an air of specialty, exactly because you and your brand remain in the distance, just the way special things are not accessible for everyone to easily see and touch.

Case Studies:

(A) Google:

When we think Google, we think market leader in all aspects of their vast brand. For the last couple of years, however, a lot of marketers started drifting towards Facebook and all of its advertising tools. So Google came up with their own content-based website. The platform, targeted at marketers and agencies, explains thoroughly how all of the company’s tools can be effectively used in today’s marketing world through the use of infographics, videos and articles. Showing their expertize and providing value to their users, Google has managed to rebuild their authority, which as we discussed earlier, is vital for building awareness.

Even though it’s tricky to find actual hard data about how successful the platform was in building awareness, we can safely assume that any platform casts light on the way the Google mother ship works, would attract a lot of attention.

(B) Shopify:

Shopify is a great example when it comes to targeting the right content and products at the right people.

The company caters to its B2B customers of all sizes through its quality, user friendly e-commerce products. The packages are now also integrated with ad channels such as Facebook and Google. The company also develops its plugins based on the needs and wants of its users and creates case studies with success stories. And as we said earlier, good content and stories are shared quite a lot between professionals between industries (in Shopify’s case – e-store owners and marketers).

Conclusion:

Similar to B2C, building brand awareness in B2B strongly relies on good content. But just like in any marketing endeavor, engaging the correct people is just as important as the way you engage them. So don’t go head first into trying to engage as many people as possible and instead take baby steps in awareness building. If you put in the effort to correctly segment your audience, however, can transform those baby steps into long distance leaps pretty quickly and get your business and CRM growth to the next level.

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