You need to become an “internal influencer” if you want to convince senior leadership of the value of brand marketing in B2B firms.
Despite the seemingly unstoppable momentum within B2B towards the benefits that brand marketing can bring to business – senior marketers are still finding it a battle to convince leadership of its worth.
“All the influencing skills I’ve spent all these years trying to build up that I thought I’d be using to convince the market to lean towards Xero, I seem to be using more internally to convince the business to give us the space we need to operate in,” John Coldicutt, marketing director at Xero, told the audience at Marketing Week’s Festival of Marketing today (5 October) during a panel on building brands in B2B.
Xero: ‘Consistency’ is key for B2B firms investing in brand buildingHe even went as far as to hire marketing expert Les Binet to hold a presentation for the leadership team: “I figured if they wouldn’t listen to me maybe they’d listen to him.”
Coldicutt added: “It takes quite a lot of energy to keep people on the same page and accepting this is the right type of investment.”
It was a theme that struck a chord with the panel. Professional services firm EY’s marketing director Katherine Bailey spoke about how “everyone knows that long-term investment in brand building pays off” but yet she’s constantly battling against a sea of short-term decisions looking to grow the business immediately.
‘A time of transition’: Why B2B brands are becoming more ‘human’Cloud platform provider ServiceNow’s senior director of global strategy, Christopher Stemborowski, finds it frustrating that if a product lead comes in and says they’re going to build a server farm over eight years and it’ll cost this much and return a profit, it is “readily understood” by the board. “Yet if a CMO says I’m going to build brand and it’s going to take eight years and will cost this much – [leadership] just glaze over,” he said.
He believes struggling to get brand to be understood on the same level as a new product line is the “root cause” of many brands’ addiction to short-term measures.
Friends in finance
Each of the assembled panel was clear that to secure investment for brand marketing in B2B you need to make sure you are building relationships within the business. Bailey explained how she “consistently” keeps in touch with her CFO and nurtures that relationship closely to keep brand investment high up on the agenda.
While Coldicutt added that something that always gets the CFO “excited” is the ability to put up prices. “If you can demonstrate that brand building builds price elasticity that will get their attention,” he said, noting that the more your brand cuts through with your audience, the less price point becomes an issue.
‘It has to translate into wins’: One B2B CMO on his framework for measuring brand and business impactStemborowski believes that to get brand to the forefront of a business means to accept the “reality” that a lot of companies can grow and be profitable without marketing. Having a great product with a good sales team can be enough to get a business publicly traded, he believes. “What we need is a focus on incremental growth,” he says. “And when we frame it around that and how we can’t achieve that with just the great product we have and the amazing sales team we have. That is the role for brand.”
As to whether this switch towards the power of brand within B2B is here to stay, Coldicutt believes the idea you can’t get brand building messages that “resonate” with the top table to be a real missed opportunity. “We forget we’re selling to human beings that have emotions,” he said, adding that it’s almost like a “marriage” between two firms when you consider the level of investment and the time they will put into the relationship.
“It’s more important than FMCG where consumers are having a fling with a brand. If there’s another brand available which is more convenient then they’ll choose that one,” he concluded.