It’s not every day that you hear branding pros say ‘let go a little’ when creating a compelling B2B brand story.
But they’re absolutely right. And that’s just one of the many fresh tips we gathered in ViB’s cozy fireside chat earlier this month, Branding That Sells in the B2B Tech Jungle.
On our talented panel of speakers were Rachel Pepple, former VP of Corporate Marketing at ExtraHop; Katie DeMatteis, Senior Content Manager at Hiya Inc.; Charles Waltner, Principal at RIF Studios; Mallory Busch, Senior Content Marketing Manager at Amplitude moderated by Mariah West, ViB’s VP of Marketing.
Catch the full webinar again, or read along for a quick crash course on B2B tech brand storytelling, plus 10 highlights we gathered from our marketing and content experts.
What is brand storytelling in B2B vs B2C?
A brand story is a narrative that communicates your organization’s history, purpose, values, mission and vision. It brings your brand to life and helps prospective buyers better understand why your company exists, what you want to achieve, and why your brand is different from other companies that offer similar products and services.
An effective brand story captures the essence of your organization that sparks an emotional connection to the brand and people behind it.
That’s what makes branding so powerful, whether it’s for a B2B or a B2C application, and it’s no surprise to see how today’s best brands boast loyal brand evangelists.
For B2B companies, a brand story is a larger corporate strategy that covers all touchpoints in lengthy customer journeys. It’s a low and slow process of building trust and expertise among ultra-targeted personas.
Things are a little simpler for B2C companies, who get away with less and simpler tactics like product marketing to capture their buyers’ attention in short sales cycles.
Why is B2B tech brand storytelling so important?
With the tech market getting noisier with competitors, a winning brand story positively shapes how a potential buyer views your offering and credibility.
Here are a few things a compelling brand story can do for you, which we break down further in our ebook, The Ultimate Quickstart Guide to B2B Tech Brand Storytelling.
A compelling brand story can:
- Humanize your brand so it’s not just an entity providing provides and services
- Establish an emotional connection to cater to the social and emotional qualities of people
- Stand out from the competition, especially when there’s little product differentiation
- Ensure you attract the right audience who identify with your values and mission
- Communicate your brand value – i.e. vividly telling the story
Learn more about how to incorporate a conflict, climax and a resolution in your brand story arc, plus get a step-by-step guide to start writing your story.
How to take your brand story from strategy to execution
While B2B tech branding isn’t a new concept, brand storytelling remains a tactically abstract one because it’s tricky to execute.
Plus, brand storytelling isn’t just a content marketer’s concern when building effective content teams, strategies and assets.
There’s no escaping brand marketing, which is everywhere from writing your B2B emails to developing an integrated marketing campaign. Brand storytelling is both a creative and a strategic challenge. It’s easy to say, ‘connect with your buyers’ and is a puzzle when actually getting the work done.
With that gap, we drilled down into the topic of execution and application during our chat, and came up with 10 actionable highlights filled with tips and tools you can apply in your field.
Our 10 favorite tips and tools on B2B tech brand storytelling
1. Consider the 12 archetypes when building your B2B tech brand
Our first tip is grounded in psychology – Carl Jung’s 12 brand archetypes that each present a semblance of personality in the conscious and unconscious human mind.
Because each archetype is generally easily understood by audiences, accurately identifying your brand’s most fitting archetype, and then communicating its values, helps create a consistent and memorable brand impression.
The framework isn’t a hard and fast rule though. What’s more crucial is mapping out your brand in a systematic way.
2. Empower your people to be a part of your brand
Easily one of the most reiterated ideas from our experts, this concept about enabling your own coworkers as brand evangelists is grounded in practicality. It makes perfect sense, with so many elements to a B2B brand, and applicators and enforcers not in your control.
The strategy is to create guardrails while putting the right processes in place. This helps enthusiasts hit somewhat nearer to the bullseye if they’re eager to tell their intricate tech brand story.
Think of guardrails as a brand guide that help define the brand, and processes like visual templates, a glossary of suggested dictions, a standard review process, or even recurring inter-team syncs.
3. Make use of these expert-picked tools for brand consistency
On that same note, processes definitely include subscribing to and using company-wide tools that can make brand consistency much more convenient to achieve.
Our experts recommended these tools that own different branding angles:
- Design Pickle – a professional design service that uses your brand guide to create visual assets
- Canva – an online graphics design tool for users to create their own assets using an in-system branding kit
- Grammarly – a style guide that automatically makes copy edits such as for word choice and naming conventions
- GatherContent – a content operations platform that provides branded templates to guide the structure of content created
4. Avoid potential brand storytelling conflicts with redirection
If your company’s eager desktop designers still don’t seem to nail the brand story, try redirection. The idea is to suggest similar solutions that don’t potentially hurt your brand’s reputation.
Having an honest conversation (with your co-workers) like, “Hey, you know, what is your goal? What action are you trying to drive?”
(If they) want people to explore this feature, I might say, “That is such a great idea. What if we add CTAs to these already high performing blog posts to explore that feature or what if we work with the social team to get a tweet out?”
We also love Mallory’s idea of directing people to post as part of their personal brand, such as on LinkedIn. It’s a clever way for your marketing teams to avoid excessive editing effort, plus give your colleagues more creative freedom and esteem.
5. Build brand trust with valuable content
Back to another framework, now the ‘EAT’ method, which stands for expertise, authority and trust. It’s one of Google’s frameworks to measure content quality.
Basically, your content needs to be by qualified experts and thought leaders, be internally and externally well-rated, and have clear information and organization.
Not forgetting another huge tip from Charles, getting the most qualified brand ambassadors – aka your leadership team – to help is as easy as conducting an interview. They won’t have to do any time-consuming writing, and repurposing their soundbites opens up even more content repurposing opportunities.
6. Remember your target audiences when communicating your brand
Despite having one unified brand, telling its story is still a matter of aligning your brand message to your target audience. To make this simple, Charles recommends splitting your audience into two main personas.
For me, for B2B, it always boils down to business decision maker and practitioner. The business decision maker will require somewhat higher level information that exemplifies the strategic value of your brand. And then for the practitioner, you really have to get into that practical information.
It’s really about demonstrating, giving them useful information, showing the expertise, making their jobs easier, without, you know, driving on your product.
Understanding your target audience is also about mapping the message to the appropriate stage in the funnel. For example, Charles chooses to focus on the problem and keep the message more product-agnostic when customers are at the top. The mid-funnel then warrants more product information for customers to make evaluations.
7. Take note how branding differs between incumbents and startups
Our audience posed a question about how a brand strategy might differ according to a company’s size and maturity, and it turns out there’s quite a few.
Startups and small businesses have it simpler, with the main objective of driving awareness, as Charles explained.
Larger companies might need to deal with changing perceptions if refreshing its brand story. Or may also be chasing bigger goals, like a consumer brand with societal level values.
To help the startups compete with incumbents in B2B brand storytelling, one key tactic is the skyscraper approach. It’s about identifying competing content that’s performing, and making it better by plugging the gaps and offering even more.
The best thing you can do is write a piece of content that’s better than what they did on that topic, that’s more extensive, more comprehensive, more helpful, more in depth. You could think about your graphics, does it have video with it? Does it have animations, even podcasts attached to it?
So however you can build up that skyscraper, that’s a key thing for young companies to start winning in those different keyword categories.
8. Experiment with your brand
There’s a good thing about startup brand storytelling though. Experiments are way easier to execute, and can even net out some really interesting results, as Rachel explains.
Creative experimentation is an organic approach to finding a genuine brand story. Large incumbents often miss out on this, since their rep is on their line or they might have ‘clean up’ issues.
Experimentation is still encouraged for these companies though, but needs to be done in test environments or with audiences outside your radar so as to not hurt your rep. A great option is to tap into contact sources such as ViB, where services like email marketing could be used to A/B test different brand stories.
9. Socialize your brand
Another closely related perk that startups and smaller companies enjoy is the ease in socializing the brand. It goes way beyond spreading a brand guide, but is also about getting buy-in, aligning on a common brand understanding and building genuine brand ambassadors.
There is something really special about being able to share your brand on that human to human basis, as opposed to when you’re at a company of thousands of people.
The brand owners are not gonna get to talk to every person who’s creating content and give them feedback and help them sort of shape whatever it is that they’re making to fall under the brand guides. And you do get to do that at a smaller company, which I think is really great.
10. Go with the flow of the market
Our last highlight is all about appreciating how brands are living beings. They’re dynamically shaped by people, or by the market. If there are changes proposed internally for example, be practical in your response:
But if huge market forces dictate a direction, it’s best to get your brand on that route too.
Go directionally with where the market is going, anchor yourself and your brand in a space where people have relatability.
And if you’ve got somebody coming in saying, “Right now you call it this, but I think we should call it this category”, make sure you’re stress testing through customer conversations, through prospect conversations, by talking to partners, by talking to internal stakeholders.
Make the most out of your brand story
It truly takes a village to raise a B2B tech brand, with each being a living, breathing thing that’s intricately built and evolves dynamically over time.
If we could give one final tip to sum it all, it’s to enhance your B2B tech brand story with tactics you already know and love. Think content syndication to push your hard-won brand story to more audiences, email marketing to test brand messages, or even market research to inform your branding direction.
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