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🔨 Brand Building in B2B
TikTok, lead-gen vs. longevity + comparison page 101
In The B2B Bite, I break down the most interesting marketing stories into fun-size, actionable chunks to kick off your week.
Sent every Monday AM. Best enjoyed with coffee.
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🍸 The Aperitivo
Marketing Twitter was ablaze this week around the story of Tony Piloseno, a paint-mixer-turned-TikTok-star, who was fired from US-based paint manufacturer Sherwin-Williams after amassing 1.4 million followers on the platform by making videos of himself simply doing his job.
Why did the story gain so much traction? Beyond Sherwin-Williams looking aggressively out of touch (what company willingly gives up that much free publicity?) Piloseno was immediately picked up by rival Florida Paints, who is “setting up a studio where he can continue to do his art.”
Founder, Don Strube, has even hinted at the prospect of giving Piloseno the chance to develop his own line of paints.
This is interesting. By Florida Paints own admission, they are a B2B company that doesn’t have a budget for traditional forms of advertising and most of its growth is through relationships and word of mouth. So why hire a TikTok star?
Brand awareness. In one fell swoop, the company became a recognized name in the minds of millions across the globe. And this will compound as long as Piloseno is given the space to continue creating and building his audience.
Sure, these millions won’t be direct customers. But their influence on Florida Paints’ customers is what’s important here. While the long-term effects of brand recognition in B2B is difficult to measure (and convince CFOs of their value…) there is no question that the more eyeballs on your product, the greater your chance of commercial success.
So what’s the lesson here? Invest in your brand and get comfortable with tactics that don’t have a direct pay-off against revenue targets today. Your long-term future may depend on it.
📜 Comparison Page 101
Comparison Pages - the virtual equivalent of tech companies entering a rap battle, except where one of the contestants has a sock stuffed in their mouth.
A dependable feature on almost every SaaS organization’s website, it is designed to give the potential customer an objective answer to a single question; “why should I be choosing this solution over another?”
The problem is, of course, trust. No company in their right mind is going to claim their service inferior to another. There will always be a bias. And this inherently counteracts the supposed purpose of these pages - to provide an objective answer.
And this is where Ahrefs, the SEO software suite, has tried to shake things up a bit.
Their page eschews the common result of simply becoming a tedious side-by-side comparison of features that can overwhelm a buyer. Instead, they do three important things:
List the features that only they offer against the likes of SEMrush and Moz, highlighting the points of difference a customer would care about.
Present a bucketload of social proof on the sentiment held towards their product against their competitors, both from customers and software review websites.
Offer a clear opportunity for readers to try the product after every proof point with a clear CTA - a 7-day trial for $7.
Sure, these are small decisions. But they are far more impactful in highlighting the core points of differentiation that Ahrefs possess which, in turn, helps the customer do the most important thing - make a choice.
Be transparent. Buyers can smell from a mile away the scent of an organization trying to pawn off an opinion on their company as objective. It’s just something that can never be.
Use competitors as a launchpad to highlight the uniqueness of your proposition. Maybe you have award-winning customer service, unparalleled operational reach, or a set of features other companies in your space are at least a year out from developing.
Don’t focus on the comparable; highlight the incomparable proof points that set you apart.
🔨 Benefits of B2B Brand Building
I’ve been thinking a lot this week about the friction between brand building vs. revenue activation in B2B companies. This comes after devouring the report 2030 B2B Trends: Contrarian Ideas For The Next Decade from Peter Weinberg and Jon Lombardo.
The two make a compelling case that many organizations are missing a trick in where they assign their budgets, prioritizing short-term revenue gains and sacrificing the brand building that is critical to long-term survivability.
And they’re right. The benefits of investing in name recognition are obvious - pricing power, category optionality, talent acquisition and, of course, commercial success.
For me, Instagram is a fantastic place to start looking for examples of B2B brands who are prioritizing their longevity over short-term sales. Familiar names like Microsoft, Oracle, ZenDesk, Slack, Invision, Dribble and many more leverage the platform to tell the ‘real stories’ lurking beneath the surface of their organization. It may not generate sales, but it creates the pathways in a buyers mind that this is a company worth remembering.
(PS. if you’re interested in learning how to use Instagram to promote people and culture within your business, check out this episode of B2B Better I recorded with Nicole Tabak.)
One of the most important skills for B2B marketers to master over the next ten years, will be to present a compelling, financially-sound argument on why an investment in brand is critical for the long-term success of an organization.
This is no easy task. It is much simpler for CEOs/CFOs to understand “$X equals Y leads” and believe that simply ratcheting up the investment in activation will equate to a relative increase in results.
But this short-term thinking will only produce short-term results. And, as Weinberg and Lombardo accurately point out, “businesses are valued not on current cash flows but on future cash flows.”
With your leadership, identify the proof points and corresponding marketing tactics that will help you determine the health of your brand in 2, 5 and 10 years. Then put in place the processes to start tracking these today.
Things like year-on-year increase in pipeline, talent acquisition cost, positioning/perception survey scores and pricing power are all good places to start.
Really enjoyed reading about this interview with MJ Peters, VP Marketing at Firetrace, on how to launch a product into new customer segments.
...and one more thing
Every two weeks I sit down with a marketing leader to lean how they hit their goals by thinking outside the box - and dig into how this can be applied to other B2B businesses. Here are a few of my most recent episodes.
You can also find the B2B Better on Apple Podcasts and almost all other podcast directories.
And that's it! See you next week.