What is a brand promise and why does a B2B business need one?

A strong brand promise adds differentiation between similar, largely indistinguishable offerings.Most B2B businesses don’t have the commodity problem. They are at the other end of the spectrum. They have a complexity problem.

Think of the word “brand” and it’ll likely conjure up iconic names like Nike, Apple, Amazon, McDonalds, Coca-Cola, Starbucks, Disney, Google, and hundreds of others.

Most of the brands you’ll think about will be consumer brands.

That’s because they spend billions to create that recall in your head. For instance, the megabrand company Proctor and Gamble spent over $8 billion in advertising in 2021. Amazon spent $4.8B, Disney, $3B, and Apple, $2.7B. In total, consumer brands spent more than $140B that year in just digital advertising placements.

You get the idea. Getting inside your head is big business.

And since it’s consumer brands that spend big, you’ll think about them first.

And because you do, if you lead a B2B business, you might conclude that brand building is not for you.

That would be a mistake. 

The kind of mistake that psychologists refer to as availability bias–relying too heavily on what most easily comes to mind. Consumer brands come to mind easily because you are directly targeted by them.

Don’t confuse the amount of spend with importance. They have to spend that kind of money because they’re not only trying to get inside of your head, but everyone else’s too.

B2B businesses don’t have massive markets like that.

But that doesn’t mean developing a B2B brand is any less important. 

In fact, one might argue that building a B2B brand is even more important than a consumer brand. 

Why is building a B2B brand is important?

Consumer brands spend so much to position their brands because they have a larger market and because, by and large, they are commodities. A strong brand promise adds differentiation between similar, largely indistinguishable offerings.

Most B2B businesses don’t have the commodity problem. They are at the other end of the spectrum. They have a complexity problem. The differentiation between B2B competitors is often only in the technical details–the speeds and feeds–of their offerings. That lengthens their customer’s decision making process.

Unlike consumer brands who need to add something to distinguish their products from their competitors, B2B brands need to simplify and speed the decision making process. And because they don’t have as many selling opportunities as consumer businesses, securing that decision is even more important.

The big benefit of a strong brand promise for consumer businesses is repeat purchases. B2B businesses with a strong brand promise also benefit from repeat purchases, but their biggest benefit is a faster first-time sale.

So, how does a compelling brand promise help you get that first time sale faster?

First of all, a brand promise establishes the desired way you want your customer to think about your business. It is the value you want your customers to rely upon you bringing them every time.

How does a strong brand promise accelerates B2B sales?

A strong brand promise can accelerate a sale in three ways:

  1. A strong brand promise builds trust. Trust is essential to win the sale of a B2B offering, especially one that is complex, expensive, and takes time to deploy. And since humans are making the decision, they’ll be weighing the risk of their decision to their projects, their company, and their careers. They need to know what you stand for and that you’ll be a reliable partner. The cost of failure for them is far greater than a bad experience at Starbucks. 
  1. A strong brand promise creates differentiation. When companies compete only on the features of their products, they assume the customer knows how to cut through the complexities of comparison to make the right decision. Yet, most of the people evaluating your offering don’t have the time or skill to do so. They must rely on easier to understand differences, which is why decisions are often made on the one thing they do understand–price. 
  1. A strong brand promise facilitates buyer agreement. It’s very likely that more than one person will be involved in buying your product or service. When that’s the case, each buyer evaluates the aspects of your offering that are most important to them. Consequently, they may form differing opinions about the merits of your solution. Gaining agreement can take some time, unless there’s a common denominator they can agree on. Often, the brand promise serves that purpose, to unify agreement among multiple parties in a purchase decision process.

What makes a strong brand promise?

Generally speaking, strong brand promises have three characteristics:

  1. A strong brand promise is meaningful to the customer.  This should go without saying but far too often a company's brand messages are more about themselves than the value they bring to their customers.
  1. A strong brand promise is reliable. Never convey a promise you’re not committed to delivering. Every time.
  1. A strong brand promise is a top priority within the company. A strong brand promise is top of mind when making important decisions in your business. It acts as a decision making filter: Will the path we are contemplating increase or decrease our brand promise?

A strong brand promise is one of the most important elements of a solid growth strategy. When you can clearly articulate the reliable value you want to be known for, you can align your resources to make that promise stronger with every customer you acquire—without having to spend a boatload of money on advertising to do so.

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