Five ways B2B marketers can build their brand

by Julie Schwartz    Jan 31, 2011

smarter planetIn ITSMA’s tenth annual Professional Services and Solutions, 2010 Brand Tracking Study, it came as no surprise that IBM tops the list when buyers name consulting and technology services firms; however, for the first time, HP dethroned Accenture for second place for unaided awareness. Indian-heritage companies, including Cognizant, HCL, Infosys, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), and Wipro, are making progress with building their brands, although they still lag behind the US- and European-based providers.

The study also found some marketing truths that apply to all B2B marketers. Here are five of them, as well as some things every marketer can do to address these truths and build brand:

Increase visibility
Market share is out there. While the study showed a few clear leaders, companies that were mentioned just once, or “other companies,” made up 40% of the responses for unaided awareness. That means that even if you’re not one of the big ones, there’s still plenty of room for you—but not if you just sit back and wait for customers to come to you. There are three things you can do now to build your brand recognition: (1) amplify word-of-mouth marketing (both on- and offline); (2) be relentless in your search engine optimization; and (3) court industry analysts.

Make sustained, persistent investments
Change is hard. The study showed that it’s difficult for IT and professional services companies to break free of their legacy reputations. Only HP and IBM are seen as innovators that can play in both the strategy and technology service categories. What’s more, no clear leader emerged for two market positions: strategic partner to transform the business and an outsourced provider of business processing. To address this, marketers have to make sustained, persistent investments in the brand and evolve the messaging in incremental steps.

Show, don’t tell.
In investing, the standard disclaimer is “past performance may not be indicative of future results.” But when it comes to choosing an IT or services provider, past performance is a deciding factor. A trusted relationship and proof of results matter. Your mandate is to show that you not only understand the customer’s business needs but also respect the culture. And if you really want to show you’re on the customer’s side, put your money where your mouth is—be innovative in your pricing and show that you are willing to share the risk.

Speak like a human being.
Words like visionary, entrepreneurial, and global scored lowest on what matters most to buyers. But if you deliver what you promise and can save your customers money, you’re in good shape. So don’t just speak; find out what the customer heard. For example, the study shows that business transformation has two meanings for respondents: for some, it means that IT or services providers can help transform business processes so buyers can be efficient and/or save money. But a few others see business transformation as a way for the provider to work with the buyer to develop new opportunities and have more of a revenue impact. See The Ultimate Challenge for Marketers: To Speak Like Human Beings.
Settle for second place. Many companies are ignoring potential revenue opportunities because they see a strong existing relationship with another provider. But who’s to say the customers aren’t looking for more help and to diversify risk? For example, while the majority of buyers that are currently not outsourcing have no intention of doing so in the near future, one-third of those that currently outsource expect to outsource even more. Companies that try to augment—rather than just displace—a competitor with a strong offering will often have a willing ear.

Building a brand takes time.
The companies that do it well do it really well. But that doesn’t mean they are the only ones who can do it. Marketers who continue to take a comprehensive approach to understanding their brand position and reputation can build a strong brand that can be used to differentiate their companies from competitors.

Methodology
ITSMA interviewed 510 senior IT and business decision makers based in the US, UK, France, Germany, Brazil, and Australia. Study respondents all held director, vice president, or C-level positions and represented organizations with revenue or operating budgets ranging from $100 million to over $20 billion in seven major industries:
• Communications
• Energy/utilities
• Financial services
• Healthcare
• Life sciences
• Manufacturing
• Public sector
Respondents qualified for inclusion based on their involvement in purchasing professional services and solutions, defined as “technology and/or related business services (such as consulting, systems integration or implementation, or outsourcing) applied to address customer business objectives and valued at $100,000 or more.” The report examined 13 professional services and solutions firms, including Accenture, Capgemini, Cognizant, CSC, Deloitte, HCL, HP, IBM Global Services, Infosys, KPMG, Mahindra Satyam, TCS, and Wipro.

For more information on the study, please see Professional Services and Solutions, 2010 Brand Tracking Study or contact Julie Schwartz at +1-781-862-8500, ext. 112 or at jschwartz@itsma.com.
Courtesy: www.itsma.com (Reproduced with permission)
Image Courtesy: Michigan Municipal League (MML)