A soccer ball next to several graphs and charts

The sport known to Americans as soccer — lovingly referred to as football worldwide — is built around the idea of scoring goals utilizing a collaborative strategy and playing as a cohesive team. A similar approach applies to B2B marketing. Ideally, your goal is to achieve sales and revenue goals while building strong and recognizable brands. 

Your team’s product marketers, business development representatives, sales engineers and others should work together seamlessly — just like players on a pitch — to effectively execute an approved marketing plan and achieve the desired results. But in addition to scoring wins with a well-defined strategy, it’s crucial to be able to adjust your approach based on market conditions and your customers’ buying behaviors.

Brand + Demand = Winning B2B Strategy

Effective B2B companies employ two different marketing growth strategies: brand and demand. When used in unison, demand generation produces qualified leads while your brand strategy builds awareness. Both play crucial roles in the buying process.

For example, if a company focuses too much on promotion, they may neglect the needs and wants of their customers, which can negatively impact demand. On the other hand, prioritizing demand at the expense of brand building risks missing opportunities to differentiate from competitors. 

But how do you find the right balance for your investment?

Build Your Brand by Owning the Open Space

The biggest soccer brands in the world understand that building loyalty with their fans is an ongoing process. They work hard to build a sense of community and stay connected through many different channels, even in the offseason when the team isn’t playing. Some of the strategies they use include:

  • Social Media: Teams use these platforms to share behind-the-scenes content, provide updates on the team’s activities, and interact with fans.
  • Community Events: Fan days, autograph signings and other in-person opportunities give fans chances to meet their favorite players and feel closer to the team.
  • Charity Work: Partnering with local charities and organizations encourages players to feel like they’re part of something bigger than just a soccer team.
  • Digital Content: Videos, podcasts and blogs keep their fans engaged with player interviews, game highlights, analysis of upcoming matches, and more.
  • Fan Loyalty Programs: These reward fans with benefits like exclusive merchandise, priority access to tickets and discounts on team-related products.

Even if you’re not a sports team, a similar approach is essential when marketing to a B2B customer base. Why? Because 95% of your audience isn’t in the game at any given time. 

Playing the Long Game

Many B2B marketers rely almost exclusively on short-term strategies targeted at customers who are in the market right now. Limited-time discounts or other special deals to encourage immediate purchases are common game plans. Although creating a sense of urgency in this way can bring you a few quick wins, it’s not sustainable in the long run — and typically has a negligible impact on the majority of your audience who isn’t currently in “buying mode”. 

Limiting your efforts to short-term campaigns is also short sighted when you consider the typical B2B sales cycle, which can easily last from six months to several years. A far more effective approach, favored by the most successful consumer and B2B brands, is to balance these short-term sales activation tactics with long-term strategies that focus on building relationships, delivering value, and establishing trust with potential customers. The most effective brand strategies need developmental time before they can be measured as results.

Positioning Your Brand to Score When Your Customers Are Ready to Buy

By the time they’re in the market, most B2B prospects have already decided from whom they want to buy. Your team’s goal is to be top of mind at this critical time. Your prospects not only need to know who you are, what you offer, and why your product or service is better — they need to feel an emotional connection to your brand if they’re going to buy from you.

Leading B2B companies understand how important it is to build trust with existing and prospective customers, which means placing heavy investments in brand awareness. This doesn’t mean flooding every channel with content; it involves providing relevant content at every critical point in the buying process to build a bond with your brand and increase your share of voice. This includes the long period (sometimes years) before a prospect even realizes they need your solution.

Teamwork: Setting up the “Give-and-Go Pass” Between Strategies

Nothing beats scoring a marketing goal and producing effective, quality leads with a demand generation campaign. But these goals become far easier to achieve if you’ve already built a strong connection to your brand. Without the right balance between the two, it’s easy for B2B companies to focus too heavily on one at the expense of the other.

It’s easy to understand why many B2B marketers rely heavily on demand generation. It drives fast, measurable sales in the short term and plays an essential role in generating demand, revenue and growth. 
But you won’t build a loyal following that way.

As effective as this kind of tactical activity is for short-term selling, it’s rarely very memorable. Its effects don’t last long and do little to foster long-term growth. If you focus exclusively on demand, you’ll struggle with a constant need to pursue fresh leads and get in front of new buyers.

Brand awareness is the ideal teammate to demand generation because it establishes your brand as trustworthy and knowledgeable in your field. It helps to create a positive perception of your company and its offerings, making it more likely that customers will turn to you when they’re ready to buy. This approach delivers positive experiences across the entire buyer journey — before, during and after the sale — rather than focusing on a single conversion point. This approach not only builds loyalty and repeat sales, it encourages referral business, generating new customers with much less effort on your part.

So what’s the right balance? Research by Les Binet and Peter Field identified that B2B marketers following a mix of 46% brand and 54% demand had the highest rate of “goal completion” by working together to target and nurture audiences. 

Achieving Your Gooooooooals!

Most B2B marketers bring their A-game to the task of converting short-term demand into revenue, but could do a lot more to generate long-term awareness and loyalty. If your team isn’t already doing this, consider a gradual shift in your marketing investments to optimize the balance between creating demand and strengthening your brand. 

Don’t confuse brand-building with expensive brand advertising or lead-generation activities. The goals are to connect with your customers and prospects, get the message right, and then find unique ways to encourage engagement with your audience. These efforts are tough to measure because they don’t produce immediate results. But the efforts are worth it to build a reputation that helps you create demand just by being in the game.