I was doing some research recently in the area I loosely call the ‘B2B Tech’ space – looking at websites and how businesses present themselves. The thing that stuck out for me was just how similar many businesses are when it comes to ‘brand’. It felt like every other one I looked at conformed to the same visual and verbal convention.
The most obvious was their use of visual metaphors to communicate ‘networks’ or ‘connectedness’. For example, many of them will use a stylised globe illustration (stock imagery) with a blue/black background. Dots and lines or a grid over the image create the sense of connection. It might also animate or move to show how clever they are. The chances are there’s also some sort of abstract statement about how they’re “delivering tomorrow’s future today” – what we call Buzz Lightyear positioning statements. That’s perhaps a little unfair and stereotyped, but you get the gist – it’s basically what happens when there’s an absence of proper thought about how to create a first impression.
So – what’s the best way for B2B Tech firms to avoid the sea of sameness and create a distinctive brand? Here are 5 top tips:
Set out clear foundations
The best tech brands know exactly who they are and why they’re doing what they do. This sets the foundations for every strategic decision the business makes. We’re big advocates of creating a clear vision, mission and values. It doesn’t need to be complicated; but it offers guidance for all your brand and marketing comms. In our view this is the single most important thing you can do to start to create some differentiation within your sector.
Agree on the architecture
Many B2B Tech firms struggle with their brand and product architecture; and the problems manifest themselves in jumbled portfolios of sub brands and products. These are characterised by poor naming conventions, duplicates and overlapping products which have no relationship with the mother brand. This feeds confusion internally, and ultimately affects the customer who can’t simply navigate the portfolio or make a purchase decision easily. Our advice is to figure out where the equity lies (hint: it’s not in the product brands) and streamline the way the main brand and products face out.
Develop a suite of distinctive assets
This is the stage that B2B Tech firms can really begin to stand out against that sea of sameness. Once you’re clear on your foundations (who you are) and your architecture (how you’re structured) then you’re able to build a graphic representation of your business. Instead of opting for generic globes and connection metaphors; you’re able to create ownable assets which reflect your values – logos, typography, tone of voice and photography style. The trick here is to invest in creating them once and then leaving them alone. Successful branding is about building a salience and relevance in your customers’ heads. This takes time, so they need to see the same things repeatedly to build the associations and memories.
Keep the language simple
A major failing of B2B businesses in this sector is the language they use. Generally, it’s full of abbreviations, acronyms and technical jargon used in the mistaken belief that it adds a professional or ‘big league’ veneer to their marketing. Nothing could be further from the truth! It adds to the friction. We’re believers in developing a distinct tone of voice for your brand; but at the same time keeping it simple and easily understood. Of course, there’s room for technical language, but there’s a time and a place for it.
Treat the home page as a ‘soft landing’
Far too many brands in this space jump straight into detail before properly introducing themselves: whether that’s to tell us about new products, the latest news, or the most recent staff charity bike ride. And, as per point four, there’s also a tendency to use technical language or jargon, leaving the reader feeling overwhelmed. It’s a very common problem, but also very easy to fix. Our advice is always to take time to introduce and explain your business by creating a simple positioning statement: stating your name, what you do and who you serve. Simple language – no jargon; no acronyms. This soft landing allows visitors to orientate themselves and decide quickly if they’re in the right place. We all know how frustrating it is when sites make you work to figure out if you’ve landed in the right place. Make it as easy as possible.
In my opinion much of the B2B Tech space is driven by powerful category conventions which creates a sea of sameness. Taking the time to define and create your brand more professionally will drive huge benefits. Simple standout: elevated marketing and brand comms and less customer friction will aggregate to gains for the bottom line over time.