Managing a B2B brand isn’t easy.  In a recent survey of 100 senior B2B marketers conducted for the B2B Leaders Forum by Circle Research, they named three major challenges:

  • Resources:  Brand building is a lower priority than activity which directly builds revenue in the short-term
  • Delivery:  Although the brand positioning may be clear, those on the front-line with day-to-day customer contact don’t always live the brand values
  • Positioning:  Many struggle even to articulate what their brand stands for as they find it tough to identify a positioning which appeals to all segments, is flexible enough to evolve and gets internal agreement

In this post I’d like to focus on the last challenge – finding the right brand positioning.

A brand’s positioning is essentially what it stands for in peoples’ minds when they think of it.  The important point here is that it lives in the individual’s mind.  This means that brand positioning isn’t simply a case of stating what your brand stands for; it’s about persuading others of this.  As the most powerful persuader is experience, this means it is essential that the desired positioning reflects the reality of delivery.

So how do you find the positioning sweet spot?  The trick here is to choose a positioning which is relevant, differentiated, authentic and flexible:

  • Relevant:  It needs to be based on dimensions which are relevant to customers and prospects.  Otherwise the brand won’t resonate with them and drive preference
  • Differentiated:  It needs to make you stand apart from the competition.  If the positioning is ‘I’m like them’, it’s unlikely to win you many advocates
  • Authentic:  It needs to reflect the truth.  If the chosen positioning isn’t based on the core essence of who your company is and what it believes in, people will see straight through it.  It will also be impossible to deliver the brand promise as employees simply won’t behave in line with it
  • Flexible:  It needs to be sufficiently flexible to stand the test of time and diverse applications.  If you redefine your positioning every few years or change it depending on which market segment is being targeted, people will become confused

And remember, where you are now is not necessarily where you’ll want to be.  This means that it’s useful to acknowledge the current brand positioning and build towards an aspirational positioning (see diagram below).

Choosing a B2B brand positioning

Choosing a B2B brand positioning

So, armed with this checklist, set out on your hunt for the optimum brand positioning.  In doing so be sure to:

  • Base it on solid insights into the target market’s view of the ‘ideal’ and perceptions of you as well as competitors
  • Involve those who need to deliver the brand promise so they buy into it
  • Involve HR as recruitment profiles need to ensure a certain ‘type’ is recruited
  • Monitor ownership of the desired position so you can stay on track

If you’re interested in reading more about how to build a strong brand and monitor your journey towards brand leadership, we’ve encapsulated our expertise in this white paper on B2B branding research

Read more about our approach to business-to-business (B2B) branding research.


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About Andrew

Andrew has specialised in B2B research for over a decade and co-founded Circle Research in 2006. He is a columnist for B2B Marketing Magazine, a regular contributor to Research Live and frequent speaker at leading events such as the B2B Leaders Forum, Customer Experience Live and the Social Media World Forum. Andrew is a Chartered Member of the MRS, teaches the MRS B2B research course and holds an MA in Psychology from Aberdeen University alongside an MSc in Marketing from Strathclyde University.

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