B2B brand strategy: when, why and how to re-evaluate it

Building and maintaining a strong brand requires constant monitoring and nurturing. On occasion, a B2B brand strategy needs to be refined, rejuvenated, or reset against an entirely new direction. For example:

  • When it’s clear: Your company is about to undergo a “Big Change”
  • When it’s fuzzy: The brand hasn’t been evaluated in some time
  • During a growth spurt: Getting through today without thinking about tomorrow

Why evaluate your brand strategy?

Because “what got you here, won’t get you there.”

Businesses operate in dynamic environments. Customer behavior changes, technologies advance. Competitor offerings, regulations and company goals change.  And that’s not a bad thing.

But brands that remain static are at risk of becoming irrelevant or stagnated. And that’s when bad things can happen:

  • Corporate and brand strategies become misaligned
  • The organization loses its sense of purpose
  • Employees disengage
  • Culture wanes
  • Innovation stalls
  • The customer value proposition weakens
  • Customers lose interest

Losing relevance rarely happens via a “lightning bolt” moment. It’s more like slow death by a thousand paper cuts. In business, as in nature, stagnation breeds decay.

Standing still is not an option.

When do you evaluate your brand strategy?

1. When it’s clear:
When your business is approaching a moment of Big Change, there will be brand implications. Instances include:

  • Merger or acquisition
  • Entering a new market
  • When a new or aggressive competitor enters your market
  • Launching a new innovation or product
  • New leadership and/or outside investors

These situations are typically accompanied by a shift in the vision or direction of the company, with tangible impacts on business strategy. Therefore it’s optimal for the  brand and business strategy to be developed simultaneously to ensure they are aligned.

2. When it’s not so clear: 
There are moments when it is much harder to realize “it’s time.”

Like the proverbial frog in the pot who doesn’t notice the water is getting hotter and hotter—and then it dies—a period of time may pass until someone “wakes up” one day to find that:

  • Customer needs have changed
  • Macro forces and trends have shaped the landscape
  • A product portfolio has become so large and/or complex that it is not only hard to sell, it’s hard to buy
  • Your brand has been neglected, or at least not actively managed
  • Your business strategies are shifting
  • You value-proposition and messaging have become “me-to”

3. You’re a victim of your own success
Often when a company is experiencing high growth, everyone is so enthusiastically busy trying to stay ahead of the demands of today that they don’t take the time to look at the longer road of tomorrow.

Evaluate early and often

A pro-active approach will increase the likelihood you can develop a strong and intentional strategy. On the flip side, delaying can force you into a reactive time-boxed situation, which will compromise your strategy because:

  • You don’t have enough time to properly assess your current brand strategy and evaluate how it will serve the anticipated new conditions and environment it must perform within
  • Your ability to conduct the proper research to gather the necessary information and insights for evaluation is limited
  • Your ability to explore multiple options and adequate time to evaluate/assess them is limited
  • Inevitably, in reactive situations the delayed start means a delayed “time to impact” with the new brand direction

For example, evaluating the brand strategy of two companies as part of due diligence in a potential merger affords far more strategic options and minimizes the typical scramble and “hurry up” to fix it problems post-merger.

In business, and especially in B2B, the distinction between brand and business is synonymous in the minds of employees and customers. The B2B buyer of today demands transparency and knowing the character and values of the company behind the product.

In general, the earlier you evaluate, the more time you have to optimally develop and implement your strategy. In order to anticipate and stay ahead of the dynamic environments in which they operate, B2B leaders should frequently and proactively evaluate their brand strategy in tandem with their business strategy. Aligning both strategies will ensure the  strategy remains relevant and will maximize the performance and value of the business.