B2B Marketplaces and Brand building in B2B marketing strategies
B2B Marketplaces and Brand building in B2B marketing strategies
I've heard several B2B professionals saying that relying on B2B Marketplaces was not compatible with building a brand. I heard this from executives as well as from B2B digital marketing experts with probably much more experience than I have accumulated during my career. Yet I still feel this sentiment is wrong.
Here are a few insights into how Brand Building and Marketplaces can play well together in B2B. These are valid in any domain, be it industrial manufacturing, consumer goods, pharma or others.
Insight 1: Your brand is not your sales pitch
Mixing Brand Building and Sales & Marketing Stories is really a dangerous starting point. Indeed, relying on a B2B marketplace gives you you way less space and options to develop your story and communicate your brand than, for instance, a branded e-commerce website or an in-person PowerPoint-driven meeting. But we should not take the shortcut and think that your brand only exists in, and because of, your sales story and how you present your product and your company during the purchase!
In fact, to get back to basics, your brand is not what you get to say about it to people; rather: “your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room” to reuse one of Jeff Bezos’s most famous statements.
The marketplace is a channel; it’s where people go to buy your product, not to build their opinions of your products and of your company too. The brand comes earlier. Actually, you'd better have a strong brand before featuring on a marketplace; as a matter of fact, by design, the marketplace will probably offer many options to your potential buyers. This might not be as important if you are operating in a highly commoditized market - on low consideration products, but it probably still matters!
Insight 2: Your "good old website" is still key
I can understand that some B2B companies willing to digitalize their sales strategies think about "marketplace" or "e-commerce" exclusively, however these are not mutually exclusive (see channel mix blog postour article on building your sales channel mix). Companies should never think whether their sales should hinge just on "marketplace" or "website", it’s not a matter of one over the other.
Marketplace or not, it is crucial to build a strong website on your own domain to build your online brand presence. Ensure your good old "corporate site" is one supercharged with content marketing and push to social media and of course, direct marketing. One of the main reasons for this is that Search Engines are still a leading destination for B2B buyers to discover options, explore possibilities and evaluate alternatives, and this is probably even more important in B2B than in B2C as the B2B buyer journey is way longer and more intricate. Another reason is that social media platforms have become asimportant in B2B as in personal consumer lives.
Insight 3: Your product or service might be the best vehicle for building your brand
Whether you are manufacturing industrial hardware products or delivering professional services, it's when your customers are using your product or services that you have the best opportunity to build a strong brand. Here, you can use any of these interactions to not only deliver satisfaction but also convey your brand elements: colors, visuals, messages as well as communicate your values, emotions and inspirations. That's when the customer will build loyalty with your unique brand qualities, and when they'll advocate about it all the more.
If you can augment your product or service with digital services (think self-service portal, online account management, subscriptions ...) you have an even greater opportunity to build your unique brand and take ownership of the customer experience - no matter if the customer purchased the product via a marketplace.
Insight 4: B2B e-commerce can power up your brand further
Marketplaces can be the perfect channel for your digitalization, this said, we rarely advise them as the only channel, except perhaps in early phases of a digital transformation.
Commonly, we see that combining marketplaces with e-commerce can offer the best way to widen your reach as much as possible. Marketplaces can be used to place the part of your inventory that appeals to a broad audience and can help in reaching manynew customers, you can then use your own B2B e-commerce site to offer more premium parts of your offering, or added-value services that cannot be delivered via a standard marketplace.
If you can take your customers from business marketplaces to your own e-Commerce area, you'll be able to further develop your brand story and make sure it has an impact.
Insight 5: And don't forget that Marketplaces still offer branding options
Last but not least, we should also state that while B2B marketplaces are often limited and will, most of the time, keep you at a distance from your customers, they all offer some sort of tools for branding or digital marketing such as minisites, user reviews, promotions and others. Admittedly these come with a price but they should not be underestimated. They can be instrumental in making a difference for the potential buyers when they are evaluating many options.
In short, don't just push your product to the marketplace and forget about it but consider the marketplace as a real extension of your digital marketing toolset.
Final Insight: A DXP is key for all the above!
Assembling your Digital Experience Platform is about mastering and leveraging all the above, to help you fully grasp the opportunity that lies in your company's digital transformation. How you build this platform depends on many elements and criteria specific to your business, but ensuring a consistent presence of your brand across channels, streamlining seamless buyer journeys and offering your team the productivity tools that let them run the show without having to be an army is key. And that's exactly the purpose of our Digital Experience Platform. Ibexa DXP is made of different components which you can adapt to your needs, integrate with your existing tools and compose a performant digital platform and operation to build your brand and digitalize your sales strategy.
Please feel free to reach out to discuss with our digital experts to see if we can help.
Image: Logorama, by the French animation collective H5, François Alaux, Hervé de Crécy + Ludovic Houplain