#6: Apply these 3 Principles to Successfully Position Your B2B Brand – John Rougeux

On the sixth episode of the 1 to 10 podcast, we sat down with John Rougeux, the VP of Marketing at Skyfii.

Episode Overview

B2C Branding is about recognition…

B2B Branding is a holistic discipline.

True, the tactics utilized in both B2B and B2C are very similar. However, the roles of brand in each context are dramatically different…

John Rougeux, the VP of Marketing at Skyfii, explained during the most recent episode of the 1 to 10 Podcast that, “It’s not just about the product itself; It’s about the entire range of ramifications these purchase decisions have on your business.”

Imagine the impact new software may have on a B2B technology company, for example:

  • Significant time invested in setting up the new product
  • Operating processes internally then need to be refined/created
  • Training Marketing & Sales around new product
  • Creating new ways of capturing metrics
  • Scrapping systems the business is used to in wake of new solution

The biggest takeaway from John’s message is this:

Once you understand the contrasting roles in the B2C and B2B spaces, you can then transform your company’s B2B branding for massive Marketing success.

John explained 3 Principles during the episode to achieve this end:

  1. Position your company in unclaimed territory
  2. Meet Customers halfway with your messages
  3. Consistently delivering on those promises

“It’s not just about the product itself. It’s about the entire range of ramifications these purchase decisions will have on your business.”

B2C Recognition vs. B2B Branding

There’s so many lines to be drawn in the sand when it comes to the differences separating B2B from B2C.

That’s true whether we are talking about the tools used or the methodologies implemented into practice.

But the biggest point of differentiation between the two is brand.

Traditionally speaking, B2C brands focus primarily on recognition.

In that sense, B2C branding has always appeared very advertising heavy – It’s all about helping the product up on the shelf to stand out as the more polished and sexy option of the many.

But when we think ‘B2B’, branding comes with a lot more baggage…

And the problem is that most people limit their conception of B2B branding to the logo, business card, the aesthetics and functionality of a company’s website even.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

One way to look more deeply at the whole iceberg is, “Your brand is the sum of the words, actions & activities that represent what your company is trying to achieve,” John said. That makes a lot of sense; but he didn’t stop there:

“Your brand is the sum of the words, actions & activities that represent what your company is trying to achieve.”

This applies to B2B Brands in two ways:

#1: SaaS Shelf-Life

The first, is that when B2B buyers are purchasing products and services, more often than not, they aren’t too keen on going with a company that seems like it’s not going to be around for too long.

There isn’t a huge incentive for invest into a software solution, whose respective company has a shelf-life of up to a couple of years.

#2: Continued Product Development

The second, is they need reassurance that the product will continue to be developed.

In other words, when the company’s marketing ecosystem grows, your customers want be sure that their initial decision to go with your solution was the right one, despite the plethora of other potential options originally at their disposal.

They want to be reassured that your solution will continue to play nicely with everything that happens and changes within their ecosystem, along the way.

Opposed to B2C, it’s less about the flair and more about the validation side of it.

It’s dependent on the brand’s ability to communicate that their product/service is going to be around, that it’s stable, and that it’s going to solve problems.

3 Principles for Successful B2B Branding

“Advertising can’t create your reputation or perception in the market. It can only reinforce it.”

John gave this quote by Regis McKenna (an old PR guru for Apple) in order to make a point about a phenomenon that happens in the B2B space:

There’s so much conversation that happens in the back channel. It’s not just a potential customer looking at your brand in isolation and making a decision on their own.

If they’re doing their job, they are probably talking to other marketers, looking at other sites and at the events your company might be present at or speaking at…

“In the b2b space, because the buying process is usually longer and we tend to do more research in making these decisions, there’s all this conversation that takes place that you really can’t control these decisions through advertising,” he said.

That’s why it’s critical for B2B companies – especially B2B Technology companies – to pay attention to the conversations happening around their businesses. It’s so important to make sure they are happening the right way and to really reinforce those messages.

Here are the 3 principles that john recommends that you constantly keep in mind in order to have massively successful B2B branding:

  1. Position your company in unclaimed territory
  2. Meet Customers halfway with your messages
  3. Consistently delivering on those promises

#1: Position Your Company in Unclaimed Territory

With positioning in the B2B space – there are so many B2B tech companies.

Pick any category, and you’ll find that there are probably at least another dozen companies doing something very similar.

For the buyer, it’s tough.

No one really has time to look into every single viable option, vet those options and then maximize that choice. It’s just not practical in most cases.

That’s why it’s so important to position your brand in a way that reframes the conversation in a way where you’re creating a new space, or you’re solving a problem in a different way, or targeting a specific type of person in the broad B2B space.

It all helps you to stand out and make the buying process easier for those you’re trying to do business with.

A lot of agencies talk about being full service and doing everything for everyone – which sounds nice, but it’s actually really hard to actually do that and make it a believable statement.

John explained that, “If you can say, ‘this is an audience we serve more closely than anybody else; this is the problem we help solve’; for the people who have that problem, then the buying decision becomes very easy.”

#2: Meet Customers Halfway with Your Messages

One of the hardest parts about positioning is explaining it in a way that’s understood.

For a lot of technology companies, it’s not clear what they tangible outcomes are for a given technology.

The technology might make sense, but what matters at the end of the day is the value added by the technology.

John said that what’s helped his company immensely is spending time talking to people out in the marketplace. For example, a common question they ask is, ‘What is it that you think we do?’

The answers you’ll get can be pretty surprising.

One group of answers you’ll get are from the people you already do business with:

Depending on why they signed up, or what the sales team may have been stressing that month when they brought them on board, or where the company was in it’s evolution at that time, those answers might vary a lot.

Another group of answers are from those who haven’t done business with your company (yet).

And they may not be the answers you want to hear.

But if you can bear through the entire process, you’ll start to emphasize with these individuals and companies that you’re trying to serve.

It boils down to this –

“It’s about finding out where people are and then changing your messaging to meet them,” John said.

And remember, it’s not something that’s going to happen overnight.

#3: Consistently Deliver on Your Promises

There’s always the temptation to over-promise – Then hope that you can deliver on those later.

John explained that he’s certainly fallen prey to this mentality before:

“You might get more leads, or customers in the short-term – it will feel like you’re doing the right thing – but if that promise isn’t delivered on, than it just lets people down.”

And that comes across in Customer Churn, or less-stellar-reviews, or they say something to a counterpart of theirs that doesn’t reflect highly of your brand.

Of course, you don’t want to be so conservative that you don’t promise anything.

Just make sure that you’re striking the right balance between:

  1. Promising something that will add a lot value and get them interested
  2. Setting the right expectations

If there are areas that you’re still working on or have a lot of bugs, make sure that you set the right expectations, because you don’t want to sign someone up who 6 months later finds out that all of the shiny objects promised aren’t really there…

It’s bad for them and it’s worse for you.

Don’t Make This Marketing Mistake!

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that as a marketer, you shouldn’t talk to your customers.

John explained that it doesn’t really matter how you choose to continuously engage. What matters is that you do.

He uses Trello.

He’s got a CRM board, with a card corresponding to every person he wants to build a relationship with. That might be a customer, it might be a partner, it might be someone on his team that needs to be kept up with.

Relationships take work (that’s especially true for new relationships).


“You really can’t be successful unless you go out and talk to people, and have those conversations,” John told me.

And he’s right:

If you want to build, you have to put something in place to make sure that’s moving along.

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This post is based on an interview with John Rougeux from Skyfii.

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