Reading a reliable source recently, I was surprised to hear that most B2B buyers don’t talk to a sales rep until they’re 57 percent of the way through their purchasing decision. God knows how that was defined so accurately, but upon reflection, I guess that this stat would be accurate enough. We all do basic research before making important purchasing decisions, do we not?
So how do B2B purchasers make such decisions? Will they find (and believe) all they need to know from the company in question’s website?
I doubt it, don’t you?
They’ll do what most of us do. They’ll look around elsewhere. They’ll Google to see where else the company name crops up – they need to be sure that there aren’t 200 bad reviews, or that the corporation hasn’t been involved in a big scandal. They will likely use the company website to find out the names of key individuals and then do a search on one or two of those folks on LinkedIn, maybe Twitter and perhaps even Facebook or Myspace (okay not Myspace).
What they’re searching for is the human face of the business. And that’s perfectly natural if you’re thinking of parting with one’s hard-earned. Which brings us onto the executive branding.
If you enter the term “executive branding” into our favourite tax-shy search engine, the description at the top of the page reads,
“Executive Branding is when an executive uses marketing 2.0 techniques to showcase their professional strengths as a way to attract the best career opportunities. Every savvy executive knows their reputation as a proven leader directly impacts their earning potential”.
“Marketing 2.0” techniques eh? You can tell that this was written way back in history (2012); does anyone use the term “marketing 2.0” anymore? Anyway, the description is also well out of date because, these days, executive branding means much more.
We would hope that executives realise that their branding is not just their own branding – it can also be an extension of the branding of the organisation they work for. This is becoming especially relevant in the B2B space.
Grant Wickes is an executive branding specialist, who says,
“Senior executives must create and develop their personal brand. Buyers want to know the ‘why’ and trust the leaders behind the companies they do business with. Some companies have adapted to this evolution, but many have not. And executives are most guilty of not embracing this new paradigm. Some feel there is no need, but 2017 will mark a watershed year for executive branding.”
It makes sense, doesn’t it? Unless we’re deliberately “off-grid”, we’re all easily discoverable online, and our customers and audiences may well be making purchasing decisions based on our online persona or brand.
Most of us have a nosey at LinkedIn when we’re very interested in a company and want to know more about one of the company’s individuals, but how disappointing is it when the profile just has a few basic lines comprising name and job position? Many can’t even be bothered to upload a photo. Okay, there are bigger disappointments in life, but in 2017, it’s not sufficient, especially because improving the situation is ridiculously easy.
Our audiences and customers may well want to know more about us, and it’s our responsibility to provide this. It doesn’t have to cram in personal details such as family life, David Hasselhoff Fan Club membership, UKIP voter, naturist. We don’t want to drive people away after all. Just include the great stuff that describes our rich seam of knowledge and experience in the world of work, learning and life.
If you’re relatively senior, then like it or not, you could be one of the main voices of the company, and your online presence needs to reflect that. This doesn’t mean you become a robot for your business. Your executive brand voice is your own, with your personality – not just a regurgitation of corporate speak and company news.
- Be visible. For example, a key person in a company with no LinkedIn profile could be viewed as rather suspect or odd.
- Be clear, honest and informative in your profiles (less is not more for LinkedIn).
- Ensure you are visible. If your position dictates that you are featured on the company website, make the most if it. If you are on LinkedIn (and if not, why not?) and Twitter, ensure that there are links to your profiles from your company site too.
- Check in regularly to your social networks, as you may need to respond to messages and conversations.
- Post regular updates, articles, news, photos (relevant business pics – definitely no cats), interesting links, etc.
- Can you contribute to online conversations? If relevant and pertinent, do so.
- Use personality, offer insight, give value.
If you need some help on how you should brand yourself and expand your current CV style history, have a Goole. Here’s just one piece that gives you more info on this topic, and may help you to create a great personal brand.
Genuinely useful activity can lead to many things including, of course, business leads. Let’s say that you regularly see insightful and helpful posts and conversations from Paula, an accountant in your network. If she provides good enough content, you may in time, begin to consider her credible and authority in her field.
She’s created a familiarity that increases trust between herself and her potential customers.
Further down the line, you may find that your organisation needs a new accountancy firm. Whose name may spring to mind? At the very least, you’ll probably investigate Paula’s business to see if it’s a fit. That’s just one advantage of making an effort with executive branding.
The internet, social media and the ubiquity of smartphones have meant the old “command and control” marketing, has now moved sides to give individuals the power. Both from a purchaser point of view, and from a company representative angle.
In the B2B world, we need to remember that this is particularly the case. We’re not going to look into the personnel background of a soft drink company before buying an unfamiliar Rola Cola, but if we need expensive new gas generators for our bottling plant, we may well ensure the supplier is a trusted company that’s likely to be around for maintenance and to outlast any guarantees. One of the key ways to do this is looking into the background of the team.
We don’t need to be C-level execs for this to matter either, everyone whom we are in contact with in business may be checking us out – so please ensure that you’re happy with the way you are represented.
Executive branding will become more and more important, and those not participating will become increasingly conspicuous by their absence.
Let us know when you last freshened up your online presence.