What is the relationship between digital marketing strategies, brand authority, brand positioning, and brand awareness?
To solve this puzzle, let alone answer the question as to how digital marketing strategies can be used to improve branding, it is essential to be on the same page regarding brand strategies, their core elements and how they are useful to businesses.
The B2B brand strategy is perhaps the most significant factor in establishing a strong foundation for downstream marketing and sales initiatives. A brand strategy is particularly important especially for industrials that contest in crowded spaces and sell highly commoditized products.
Even though many B2B businesses believe that they are in a ‘commodity trap,’ others argue that there’s no such thing as a ‘commodity trap’ when it comes to B2B sales. Either way, the power to take control of such situations lies with the B2B company controlling their destiny. Essentially, this means having a branding strategy.
A brand strategy shapes the brand elements that will be designed, organized, and deployed in a manner that is in line with the business plan. The brand strategy, therefore, incorporates all touch points that shape market behavior and determine perception over time. These touch points include:
- Image assets and corporate identity including the company logo
- Message systems, naming, and nomenclature
- Product branding and brand mix
- Brand architecture
- Brand portfolio
- Visual systems and a visual brand language (VBL)
Successful brand strategies always benefit from strong branding that allows the business to stand out in its category. The center of such a strategy is relevancy and believability that is built on strong foundations of credibility, trustworthiness, and compelling truth. Such brand strategies attract more customers, ward off competitors, command higher prices, gain favorable treatment from distribution channels and, generate healthier/higher earnings.
Since a brand strategy is vital for a successful business, leaders should invest, measure, and improve brand equity. Brand equity measures brand strength and consider three vital metrics:
- Knowledge metrics: measure brand awareness and association attributes (functional and emotional associations)
- Preference metrics: measure competitive position (ranging from preference to loyalty) and how it benchmarks relative to the competition.
- Financial metrics: measure the brand’s financial value using parameters like price premium, market share, transaction value, lifetime value, revenue generation, the rate of sustainable growth, etc.
Elements of a strong B2B brand strategy
A company’s brand position must be believable, relevant, and defensible to thrive, be sustainable, and support business performance. Strong brands own a mindset because they stand for something compelling and claim the highest moral ground. To achieve this, a brand strategy must include the following basic elements:
- A defined business model including documented channels, value propositions, customer segments, key partnerships, customer relationships, revenue streams, branded communications, and critical activities.
- Positioning and statement: purpose, core focus, core values, and association attributes (emotional and functional) that prevent the brand from being commoditized
- Competitor analysis: SWOT analysis and identifying industry trends
- Customer audit and definition including profiles (goals, needs, behaviors), psychographics, and demographics.
- Strategic planning outlining a critical assessment of resources, capabilities, assets, target market, Unique Value Proposition (UVP), guarantees, and proven processes,
- Assessment of business equity: a measure of knowledge, preference, and financial metrics
- Data-driven process
Brand authority and brand positioning
B2B marketers must, therefore, counteract the temptation to commoditize and lower their products prices by finding ways to differentiate their offerings from the competition. There are two primary methods to achieve this:
- Through customer centricity and establishing a sustainable CVP (customer value proposition) and
- By delivering an exceptional customer experience
At the end of the day, buyers will prefer one seller over another because they have been referred by a trusted advisor or because of a pre-existing brand relationship with the seller. Basically, people buy what they know and trust. Brand authority is, therefore, the businesses way to become an entity that is known and trusted.
Brand positioning complements and contrasts with brand awareness by seeking to identify a business’ unique attributes and pairs them with a distinct customer promise. Essentially, brand positioning for a B2B entity is about:
- Who they are
- What their brand stands for/how they do it (core values)
- What they do (core focus)
- Who they serve
- Why they do it (Purpose)
- Where they are headed, and
- How they will get there.
B2B digital marketing strategy
The next piece of the puzzle is to appreciate how a digital marketing strategy and a brand strategy relate. Let’s pay attention to a few statistics to guide the conversation:
- According to the Content Marketing Institution, 89% of B2B marketers state that brand awareness is a more important goal than lead generation and sales. Also, 91% of B2B marketers use content marketing for brand awareness.
- Circle Research, cites that 77% of B2B marketers say branding is critical to growth.
- On Brands ‘2017 state of branding report’ shows that over 70% of brand managers value building an audience greater than direct sales.
What do all these numbers mean? The conclusion here is that, to a large extent, demand generation is driven by customer interaction with touchpoints that are mostly dependent on online references. From the perspective of B2B buyers/recipients, 75% of them want branded content that helps them research business ideas.
Given these statistics, we know that digital properties are capturing an ever-increasing share of the B2B decision-makers’ attention in highly crowded, global marketplaces. As such, it is critical for companies to prove their value and differentiate their brands through B2B digital marketing strategies.
A digital marketing strategy includes a series of actions that help a business achieve its overarching business goals through well-chosen marketing channels that support a campaign around a specific brand mix. The digital marketing strategy defines how businesses:
- Approach channel leads and sales targets
- Budget to acquire, convert, retain, engage, and grow customers
- Prioritize available products through the channel
- Prioritize targeted audiences through the channel, and
- Communicate the benefits of using this channel to enhance brand awareness and brand authority.
Elements of a B2B digital marketing strategy
A strong and effective B2B marketing strategy starts with a sales funnel. Businesses should have distinct and personalized sales funnels depending on the different industries or B2B recipients. Each funnel should map out a sales cycle and how it specifically relates to the buyer’s journey.
For example, a blog could be the first step in a sales funnel that helps a lead get answers to questions that they may have.
The business should prove that they are a reputable source and keep producing high-quality content that engages and leads the visitor/potential customer to the next stage of the sales funnel. At this point, the visitor will probably join an email list and become a lead.
If the blog is designed based on a strong brand strategy defined by credibility, trustworthiness, and a compelling truth, then the result of such a consistent effort will not only be to build brand awareness but also loyalty (from distribution channels and the consumer), better pricing, and healthier profits.
Although the above example may be a simplistic view of a highly nuanced digital marketing strategy, the idea is reinforced by the fact that 45% of consumers unfollow brands that focus on self-promotion at the cost of totally ignoring their audience.
Businesses should take time to ask themselves, why does this lead need us? How can we make their life easier? What is our UVP? And Why would the lead choose us over our competition?
To answer these questions, the brand should:
- Build a buyer persona.
- Identify specific goals and choose appropriate digital marketing tools
- Evaluate existing digital channels and assets.
- Audit and plan; owned, earned, and paid media campaigns,
- Bring it all together in a digital marketing strategy.
B2B digital marketing strategies
Since the business lead usually wants to know more, marketers should seek to answer the above questions by creating a digital marketing strategy that addresses these needs.
Due to the peculiarities of each business and its customers, each company shall have different digital campaigns and different digital marketing strategies. That said, below are some of the standard techniques used in B2B digital marketing strategies:
B2B website design:
Where landing pages and websites are built with lead generation in mind.
B2B Content marketing best practices
Brands build awareness by consistently creating high quality and popular content that search engines can easily relate to customer queries. As such, content is the engine that drives brand authority.
High-quality content boosts SEO rankings especially when Google (and other search engines) deems it to be from an expert who is trustworthy. There are several ways to build content authority including by:
- Segmenting content for different audiences,
- Collaborating with influencers,
- Utilizing social media and
- Conducting webinars
- B2B SEO Best practice
SEO attracts visitors that have an inherent interest in the business’ products, services, and/or brand. However, understanding and improving SEO through the lens of a brand strategy can grow reach, brand image, and brand authority.
- B2B Email marketing
Email automation has become a must in B2B digital marketing strategies that have become highly personalized, targeted, and data-driven. B2B marketing automation and email automation make email marketing simpler, more effective, and efficient.
- B2B Social media marketing
Businesses should have a clear distinction between producing social media content and creating social media ads. The purpose of content is to give value and not make a sale, whereas ads are designed to convert visitors into leads and eventually into customers.
B2B Digital Marketing Strategies to Improve your Brand Authority
A research study conducted in 2014 showed that 93% of brands focused their content marketing on their own products and services. More current studies show an increasing reversal in this trend where activities around building B2B brands show:
- A greater value-based, customer-centric approach for brand positioning as opposed to price-driven strategies. And,
- A stronger emphasis on creating an enhanced customer experience.
Brand Positioning: a value-driven, customer-centric approach
B2B purchasing decisions continue to become increasingly complex. Often, social positions and corporate culture are infused into the buying process. According to, ‘The State of Branding Report 2018’, 88% of customers believe that businesses have the power to influence societal change and should, therefore, address societal issues. The same report cites that 79% of B2B marketers think that social and cultural issues will play a role in their B2B marketing and branding strategies in 2018.
A more holistic approach to marketing is therefore required. Today, marketing leaders with successful brands no longer market to the world but instead play a role in the world (and behave strategically) that boosts their brand authority.
Also, B2B relationships are not just vendor-buyer relationships anymore. Instead, they have become partners and participants in the value chain.
With this in mind, there are three fundamental changes that businesses can use to position themselves as a valuable B2B selling company:
- Identify and actively solve customer issues through involvement in the development process
- Align business operations to customer needs. And,
- Communicate measurable value to customers as part of a digital marketing strategy
Using customer experience to define value
Delivering high-quality value to customers is at the heart of building brand awareness, positioning, and authority. To provide increased value, it is essential for the business to:
- Understand different value profiles according to customer segmentation
- Understand what drives value for buyers within purchasing groups and functional areas, e.g., procurement value drivers vs. operations value drivers.
Some strategies to improve B2B customer experiences include:
- Avoid selling and instead serve leads in the buying process
- Leverage thought leadership/influencers
- Leverage social media
- Continue to build customer relationships after the sale.
Additional digital marketing strategies that can enhance brand authority and positioning include:
- Offer visitors valuable content for free
- Content should be memorable, enjoyable, educational, and useful, so that target readers can view the site as a reputable content marketing destination
- Distribute whitepapers, infographics, and other visuals that convey your brand authority and professionalism
- Co-create content with thought leaders, influencers, and existing partners to maximize credibility and exposure.
Create content that praises your customers
- Create behind the scenes videos
- Participate in live events
- Give the brand a human face.
The bottom line
By understanding how B2B audiences research and learn online, brands can improve their presence and authority by using digital marketing strategies that focus on building trust, thought leadership and the right kind of exposure without having to compromise on website traffic, lead generation and revenue.