A few of us got together on a rainy Thursday afternoon with a cup of tea to discuss why we think brand purpose is important in a B2B market. Here’s what we talked about…
Jenny: "Brand purpose in B2B is often overlooked and therefore it is still a fairly undeveloped space when it comes to being purpose-led. But why is that?
The real question here, I think, is why do we continue to think about B2B and B2C brands as two different entities? Yes - they have different audiences, but all audiences have one thing in common – they’re all people. And people, as we know from the world of neuroscience, think and process information in the same way.
Part of the value of a successful purpose is speaking to audiences on an emotive level, and this is best done through real, human-led storytelling. Now this is something not many B2B brands are doing. I think it stems from dated perceptions that to do a business deal you have to be wearing a suit and talk in acronyms. Especially after the year we’ve just had, we know that this is just not true."
Charlie: "I agree. All communication is essentially human to human (H2H). It's not a business talking to a business. It's Tom talking to Matt. It's Beth talking to Amanda. This idea of B2B as the dull, socially awkward cousin to B2C is totally flawed and outdated. There's just as much scope for emotive selling and storytelling in the B2B space. Maybe more. Because when you look at it, businesses who sell to other businesses do a hell of lot more face-to-face interactions than consumer brands.
For me, the question B2B brands should be asking isn't whether purpose is important, it's how to define theirs in a way which is authentic and specific. We're seeing a lot of purpose statements along the lines of "cloud computing for a better world" which don't really say anything. You can plant a few trees and say it's a better world. But unless you're genuinely pushing that sustainability agenda inside and outside your business, it won't hold up to scrutiny. You need to find the thing that makes your business unique and own it."
Dickon: "Yes, brand purpose is the reason why people choose to engage with your brand, and why they would choose to come and work with you. Communicate it right and you’ll get customers who share your beliefs and values, as well as employees who are driven towards the same objectives. This premise is as relevant in B2B communications as it is in B2C. So, it's as simple as that really."
Sally: "To be purpose led is to stand for something – and that is just as true in B2B as it is in B2C, not only in terms of the image you present to the world, but also the culture you nurture within. Purpose-led brands build deeper connections for customers and employees alike."
A quote that has always stuck with me from Simon Sinek is:
Jenny: "And we know that more than ever, humankind in general, and younger generations in particular, really want to do something useful with their time on this planet, and as a huge proportion of our lives involves work, this desire naturally filters into the workplace. So a brand purpose, whether it’s altruistic or not, provides a clear intention about how a firm goes about its business and it’s possible commitments to the wider world.
But it is not just about culture or brand perceptions. When it comes to the boardroom, the actually benefit of a brand purpose is focus. Strategic focus and discipline. It provides something central to aim towards; it enables teams to pull together and row in the right direction, together. It streamlines business strategy. It provides a benchmark by which to measure everything against - Should we invest in this? Which markets should we enter? How should we engage with our employees? It makes answering all these questions a lot simpler, and therefore a lot more efficient."
Charlie: "I think that is an interesting point. It doesn’t have to be all about the touchy-feely stuff. If you zoom into the B2B sales process, a strong brand purpose gives the salesperson a natural hook for their pitch story. A vision they can share with the prospect. Yes, the financials have to work. They need the credentials to pass due diligence. But beyond those fundamentals, what sets their presentation apart? What makes them worth building a relationship with? What makes them likeable?
It's their brand. What it stands for, what it's trying to accomplish, where it wants to be in 20 years. You can call that a 'company vision', a 'mission statement' or anything you like. But essentially, it's purpose. And it doesn't take a team of data analysts to tell you that sells."
Jenny: "Ok, so back to answering the question – the value of a brand purpose in a B2B market is that it brings empathy and humanity to an often unnecessarily inhumane market. This doesn’t mean corporate brands should suddenly become all soft and touchy feely, but just real and genuine. Empathy simply means understanding, and we know that understanding audiences is key to successful comms. And in today’s world, on an individual, human level, who wouldn’t benefit from a bit more empathy?"