With B2B buyers investing so much time to ensure they purchase the right products, the best sellers explore every possible location to be “brand smart,” including with excellent customer service.

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Lauren Freedman, president, the e-tailing group inc.

Branding in B2B selling may be seen as secondary to the selling experience, but it doesn’t need to be a stepchild.

According to our B2B Buyer Behavior research of 100+ B2B buyers, B2B buying is both labor- and time-intensive. Our findings suggest that there will be visits to multiple sites where 38% of buyers visit at least four sites to research prior to making a first-time B2B purchase.

The time spent evaluating specialty product purchases may even be more significant as more than half will spend a few weeks or more to find the right item. These buyers are likely to encounter your site multiple times, so reinforcing your company’s mission is opportunistic and likely to have an important impact on both customer acquisition and retention.

The research also reveals that 56% of buyers indicate that brand perception and trust is very important when selecting a B2B website. The chance to make an impression and build a bridge that rewards you with that all-important trust is the focus of this post.

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Savvy B2B sellers believe in branding

Contrary to expectations, there are a multitude of opportunities to brand smart. Beyond the home page, branding can be integrated into the shopping journey all the way through the shopping cart and even customer service. To elaborate on this notion, I believe that B2B branding serves three purposes: education, conversion and confidence building. Our complementary mystery shopping of 25 sellers revealed that some sellers are going the extra mile and the examples below will illustrate the unrealized opportunity.

Taking the brand stance

When buyers arrive at a home page or at a landing page from an online search, they may have no idea who the seller is. It can be a split-second decision that encourages a prospect to potentially become a customer. It is a critical opportunity to inform the customer about the company and why they are ideal as a business partner.

By emphasizing what its brand stands for, a company can capture the attention of buyers. Wasserstrom leads with and reinforces their trusted family name in the restaurant supplies and equipment business. They dedicate important footer navigation to branding, letting buyers know they have the top brands from the industry’s leading manufacturers. Their home page visual imagery also serves as a differentiator, showcasing the range of products they offer.

 

Bulbs.com

Taglines are another way to position one’s company. Bulbs.com, “The LED Authority,” brilliantly lets buyers know they should be a trusted source. They take it one step further with their well-crafted tagline, “Experts in lighting everything that’s important to your business in the most efficient and effective way possibl.”. This sets the tone for a seller who means business. One additional element that is sure to be well received is their positioning of speaking with a lighting specialist, once again reinforcing their expertise in their category and a desire to connect with their customers.

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Branding educates

Branding creatively takes place on HDSupply as their home page allows for easy access to sales and specials, new products, guides and checklists, along with top brands. They position their mobile prowess with an easy order app—note their 24/7 online solutions and safety data sheets. This combination of merchandising, informational capabilities and know-how is powerful for first-timers and serves as a reminder for repeat customers.

 

HD Supply

A lesson from CDW

Another branding opportunity comes from highlighting the specialized expertise at a company. CDW plays off their strength in this area by showcasing their level of experience and suggesting prospects get to know their process. Home page integration is surely not to be missed and, given the range of complexity in IT, this should work well for the brand and their customers. We would also expect that conversion would be forthcoming as questions are answered and buyers become more educated.

Integrate branding; build confidence; drive conversion

Tire Rack

When branding is integrated along the path to purchase, it reassures buyers that they are making smart decisions. Tire Rack knows that finding the right tire for their car is non-negotiable. By positioning “why TIRE RACK?” below this tool, Tire Rack gives customers a clear sense of their product selection, their ability to delivery quickly and an option to choose an installer. All of these are strongly branded time-savings elements, sure to satisfy any buyer.

 

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Engineer Supply

Engineer Supply leads with product but is quick to point out both “What We Have To Offer” and “Why Shop With Us” via their home page treatment. Their customer learning center  and customer testimonials round out this rich location and suggests a strong positioning that satisfies both the shopping and educations needs in their category.

Freund Container & Supply / Berlin Packaging

Freund, which recently took on the brand name of its parent, Berlin Packaging, takes a distinctly B2C approach to visualizing their assortment. One unique tactic in support of establishing their brand is to reinforce Packaging Passion and Building Business. Rather than just singing their own praises, they let their customers tell the story by sharing how packaging is bolstering their businesses.

 

Steelcase

Steelcase, a leader in seating does a beautiful job of introducing their “Steelcase Seating Difference.” They incorporate a video to bring the products and manufacturing to life. This type of effort can be very effective to reinforce the product as the shopper peruses the site and its assortment, putting information in context.

 

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Customer service seals the sale

The last area I’m going to focus on is customer service, which is often ignored when it comes to branding. One of the most opportune times to turn a negative experience into a positive is in customer service.

Apple Inc.’s “Apple and Your Business” provides guidance for choosing products and customer support, as seen a buyer clicks into its section, “Shop for Business.” By positioning four options—a store locator, an 800 number, “Have us contact you” and “Shop for Business,” Apple lets the buyer make their own choice for interacting. This “feel good” approach is comforting, particularly for first-time business buyers.

OfficeFurniture2go

OfficeFurniture2go makes their shopping cart a one-stop experience. A nice layout tees up an option to talk to an expert. Their phone number is readily available, as their “Shop with Confidence” messaging highlights their free lifetime warranty, plus privacy guaranteed along with satisfaction. They indicate that they’re happy to handle a customerss queries, anyway they like, letting the customers make the call.

 

B2B Branding Moments

Every B2B seller should seize the moment and take branding seriously. It’s more than just a home page visual. It requires messaging that is integrated throughout the site experience.

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With B2B buyers investing so much time to ensure they purchase the right products, sellers would be wise to explore every possible location to “brand smart,” including with excellent customer service. Understand where you have the opportunity to differentiate, and test messaging and marketing that you believe will resonate with customers and prospects.

It is the consistency of deployment, complete with the sharing of one’s expertise, that positions a business for success. By educating your prospects, there will be an opportunity to showcase who you are in hopes of driving conversion while simultaneously increasing retention among existing customers.

Lauren Freedman is president of the e-tailing group, a research and advisory firm covering B2B and retail e-commerce.

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