POV

Shift the Focus: Why B2B Brands Should Invest More in Business-to-Human Brand Building

Any B2B marketer is well aware that the quest for leads regularly steals center stage. Often hailed as a key strategy for to driving business growth, marketing budgets continue to be meticulously allocated to lead generation, with a relentless focus on driving immediate sales. However, research indicates that this tunnel vision approach overlooks a significant opportunity for long-term gains through the power of brand building.  

This is especially important during recessionary times. According to Analytic Partners, brands that increased paid advertising saw a 17% rise in incremental sales, while those who slashed spend risked losing 15% of their business to competitors who boosted theirs during a market downturn.1

A balancing act

A staggering 80% of B2B brands’ marketing budgets are devoted to lead generation efforts.2  Yet, studies reveal that the optimal allocation should lean towards a 60/40 split, with 60% dedicated to brand building, not the mere 20% seen currently. 3

It’s time for B2B brands to heed this call for balance and shift their investment towards a more holistic Business-to-Human (B2H) approach that prioritizes brand building alongside lead generation.

Why the emphasis on brand building? Isn’t that more for B2C brands?

The answer lies in the essence of human psychology and decision-making. While lead generation tactics are essential for driving short-term sales, brand building forms the bedrock of long-term success. Building a strong brand creates emotional connections with customers, fosters trust, and establishes credibility in the marketplace. In a B2B context, where complex purchasing decisions are made by individuals within organizations, these emotional connections can be the deciding factor between choosing one brand over another.

Let’s explore why B2B brands should rethink their budget allocations and prioritize investing more in business-to-human brand building.

  1. Emotion> Rational benefits

Studies have consistently shown that emotions play a significant role in B2B purchasing decisions. Referenced in an earlier article: Business to business human marketing: harnessing the power of emotion in decision making , in B2B marketing specifically, emotional strategies drive 7x more business impact than rational campaigns.

  1. Earning a spot in the coveted consideration set

A recent Bain & Co survey on B2B buyers found that 80%–90% of respondents have a set of vendors in mind before they do any research. And 90% of them will ultimately choose a vendor from the day one list.4 It is critical to get into the consideration set, and that isn’t achieved from relationship building alone. It requires broad reach to familiarize people with your brand so that you come to mind when they are in the market to buy.

  1. Competitive Advantage

A strong brand can serve as a powerful differentiator in a crowded marketplace. A study by McKinsey found that B2B companies with strong brands outperform their competitors by 20% in terms of shareholder returns.5 Not only does this help attract more leads, it also commands a price premium and sets the stage for longer term value creation.

What does this look like in action?

  • Medius, a B2B provider of anti-fraud software for finance professionals, was challenged with selling fraud prevention to buyers who think fraud is something that happens to somebody else. To combat this barrier, they launched a true crime style podcast series titled ‘Accounts Deceivable.’  This limited series features three real-life victims and perpetrators of fraud telling their emotional stories of crimes that racked up to tens of millions of dollars. The podcast earned over 40k downloads and was listed as a top business podcast alongside popular shows from Bloomberg and CNBC. It was so successful they launched season two in February of 2024, proving prospect education can also be an entertaining guilty pleasure.
  • NextMed Health, a healthcare consulting and medical device company, wanted to help surgical teams perform at their best to reduce preventable surgical complications. Their solution? Life Saving Radio– the first album and AI radio station design to optimize surgical performance. NextMed is supporting their audience to do their jobs better, not trying to get them to buy something right now. This builds trust, not to mention high mental availability for when a purchase need does arise.

Final Thought

As B2B marketers, are we content with chasing fleeting leads, or are we ready to invest in building enduring brands? The choice we make today will shape the trajectory of our businesses tomorrow.

Sources:

  1. How to Maintain Advertising Effectiveness in Challenging Times. Analytics Partners, 2022
  2. Cashing in on creativity, how better ads deliver better profits”. B2B Institute, 2021
  3. IPA Study – Marketing effectiveness in the digital era
  4. Harvard Business Review – what B2Bs need to know about their buyers https://hbr.org/2022/09/what-b2bs-need-to-know-about-their-buyers
  5. McKinsey:B2B business branding – https://www.mckinsey.com/capabilities/growth-marketing-and-sales/our-insights/b2b-business-branding