Inbound marketing. Search and social. Customer personas. Buyer journeys. With so much emphasis these days on the customer, the one who is ultimately putting their hard-earned cash into businesses’ bottom lines, it’s easy to forget the ‘B’ word. Do so at your peril. These days, brand works in different ways, but it’s as integral to the success of your marketing efforts as it ever was.

In relative terms, brand has never been the sexiest area of B2B marketing. Often cold, impersonal, visually forgettable, brand has rarely fulfilled its potential in industrial circles. Here, feature-heavy products and services are developed to meet the complex needs of multiple stakeholders. In an environment where the currency is productivity and ROI, too often there’s the sense of personality bypass. What need for warmth and connection when, for example, your marketing proposition is based on increasing business efficiency?

Historically, in situations like this, it’s been difficult to activate intangibles such as brand loyalty. If a product did the job (and now we’re talking more specifically about the construction industry) it was bought and used. If it didn’t, it wasn’t. Simple.

Like virtually every other aspect of B2B marketing today, the shift in power from manufacturer to purchaser has had a fundamental effect on the processes of buying and selling, and on the part brand plays in these interactions.

Only right, then, that we should start with the paymasters. Your end customers are creatures of habit, they buy the brands they trust, that are reliable, and that makes them and their work look good in the eyes of their own customers, and just as importantly, their peers.

Right now, they don’t have a huge degree of loyalty to particular brands, reflecting manufacturers’ reticence to establish powerful brand personalities in the sector. Purchase is often based on product category or credit facilities with a particular merchant, and they’ll go somewhere else if they’ve a higher credit balance there.

For them, social means a forum to discuss specific products, good points, bad points, and they’re heavily influenced by the experience of fellow professionals.

From brand owners’ perspectives, the challenge is around changing mindsets and habits, the opportunity around bringing brands with values and personalities into the marketplace. Much of this is about listening and participating in the right channels. It’s about getting to know where your customers go online for information, about the issues they’re looking to solve, and working with this knowledge to build relationships based on loyalty and the ability to meet known business needs.

For merchants, the opportunity is in improving the customer store visit experience, and in using point-of-sale materials to maximise sales from promotions and special offers including cross-sell and up-sell.

When customer satisfaction is fundamental to word-of-mouth recommendation, tradesmen need to know and trust the products and brands they’re using. You can make this happen.