As a growing B2B SaaS company, you’re probably facing a million questions and have to make just as many decisions. You have a limited amount of time and money, and where you put these resources can make or break your success – no pressure! The key is to figure out what to focus on. Your focus needs to be right for your company and its place in the market.
One of your top priorities as a growing B2B SaaS company will be branding. After all, you can’t continue to grow without increasing your exposure. Customers or companies have to know who you are to buy your SaaS product. Today we’re going to be looking at brand marketing vs. personal marketing. Hopefully, by reading this article, you’ll have a clearer idea of where you should focus your attention. Let’s take a look.
What’s The Difference?
First, we need to understand the difference between brand marketing and personal branding.
- Brand marketing – Making your company identifiable through a company name, logo, design features, and communication style. Then performing marketing activities that increase awareness of your brand, differentiate it from your competitors, and make it memorable to consumers.
- Personal branding – How individual members within the company promote themselves as a brand. They have a reputation connected to the business but also one that functions independently.
7 Things to Consider
This section will cover the things you need to consider when choosing between personal branding and brand marketing. We’ll outline in bold which of the two approaches best aligns with the section for each point.
1. All Business is People-Centric
As a B2B company, your customers are, of course, other businesses. However, you’d be wrong not to factor in the importance of interpersonal relationships. It’s not the company who decides whether to buy your SaaS product or not; it’s people within the company. It’s the decision-makers.
These decision-makers all have preferences and personality quirks, and like all people, they are more likely to trust someone they respect. Through personal branding, you can establish your account managers or salespeople as trustworthy and reliable people – the kind of people companies want to do business with.
Want to know just how powerful personal branding can be in securing business contracts? Perhaps the most shocking example of personal branding’s success is Silicon Valley’s greatest disaster, the Theranos scandal. Theranos was a health technology corporation that claimed to invent a groundbreaking way of doing blood tests. They claimed that with a minimal amount of blood (a literal finger pricks-worth), they could identify a multitude of ailments, eliminating the need for invasive blood tests. The founder of the company Elizabeth Holmes was 19 years old when she started the company and managed to secure an eye-watering $700 million in funding from venture capitalists. At the company’s peak in 2013 and 2014, the company received a $10 billion valuation.
The only issue was the science was total bunk. It turns out Theranos couldn’t actually do what they claimed, and they were actually conducting traditional blood tests.
How did a 19-year-old Stanford University drop out fool Silicon Valley investors to become the world’s youngest and wealthiest self-made female billionaire? The answer is personal branding.
Of course, without interviewing every investor, we can’t say why they believed in Elizabeth Holmes, but we can make some educated guesses:
- Stories sell – Holmes would talk about her uncle, who was diagnosed with skin cancer, which later spread to his bones and brain. She wanted to invent technology that could detect cancer early with minimal invasiveness.
- She came across as intelligent and well-spoken.
- She drummed up excitement for her vision.
- Social capital – The early investors of Theranos knew she was following her vision, and there was a decent risk this blood-testing device wasn’t even possible. They were taking their chances. However, the initial investment sparked media coverage and attracted more investors later down the line. These later investors saw a product that many people had faith in and the risks seemed less severe. Also, these later investors were lied to (they were told a working machine existed), but it’s fair to say they didn’t do their due diligence in verifying this, probably due to her good reputation at this point.
- She had a Steve Jobs vibe – This one might seem silly, but it’s true. She would wear black turtle neck shirts like Steve Jobs. Maybe people made the connection and believed she shared other qualities with Jobs too.
2. Thought Leadership is More Important Than Ever Before
Leading on from the last point but getting down in the details here, thought leadership is paramount in 2021.
Thought leadership is:
- Creating high-authority content on industry topics.
- Coming up with new ways of approaching industry challenges. This can be a new way of framing a problem that causes readers to say, “wow, I’ve never thought of it like that”. Or innovative solutions to problems that cause people to say, “huh, how come we didn’t think of that before? That’s a great idea”.
- Adding value to discussions. Readers should come away with better tools to approach their job or a greater understanding of a topic.
- Cultivating excitement in the future of the industry. Thought leaders make people excited to be a part of the industry.
Studies show that salespeople repeatedly underestimate the importance of thought leadership, where C-suite executives do not. In one study, 60% of C-suite executives said they were more willing to pay extra for companies who create thought leadership content and have a clear vision. When salespeople were asked whether they believed thought leadership had pricing power, only 14% said yes. Clearly, there’s a disconnect here between what actually works and what salespeople believe works.
Thought leaders have personal brands. They are typically well-known and well recognized in the industry for regularly providing great content. By having thought leaders in your business, you can attract high-value targets through your authority.
3. Making a Memorable Impression
Personal Branding and Brand Marketing
A key aspect of branding is being memorable. Companies devote a lot of time and energy into creating a logo and name that is easy to remember and instantly recognizable. When Jack Dorsey invented Twitter, he paid $15 to a graphic designer to make the logo. Twitter is now a multi-billion dollar company, and yet the logo has changed very little since then. Sure, Dorsey could have paid thousands of dollars for a new logo by the industry’s best graphic designers, but he didn’t. He didn’t do this because the Twitter logo was already cemented into people’s brains – it was memorable, and memorable counts for a lot in business.
Creating a memorable impression can be done through brand marketing and personal branding. If you have an account manager who is a thought leader and regularly interacts with other companies, they are probably memorable. You may get new clients through word of mouth because of this employee and their personal branding. However, brand marketing does the bulk of heavy lifting here. Without strong brand marketing, you can’t be memorable. And without being memorable, you won’t grow your company.
4. Cultivating Familiarity
It’s essential to recognize the difference between being memorable and being familiar. Scientific studies show that we are more likely to like something if it’s familiar to us. They are usually done in tests where people are shown various faces and asked to pick who they think is most attractive. One face will always be shown for a longer time than the others, and this face is selected as more attractive most often. The same study has been done with Chinese characters. Scientists showed two groups meaningless Chinese characters and were asked to identify the characters they felt ‘more positive’. The group which was shown specific characters several times before they were asked the question selected those characters as more positive.
The more we see something, the more comfortable we get with it, and the more we prefer it. We see this in action with consumer preferences. Most people will buy from familiar brands even though an alternate brand might offer a higher-quality product for a similar price or a more affordable option.
Growing B2B SaaS companies should cultivate familiarity by being active and present in the places their target companies inhabit. For example, LinkedIn or industry magazines. If you can get your brand in front of decision-makers several times, it will become familiar to them, and they are more likely to reach out to you over your competitors.
5. Leading With Values
Personal Branding and Brand Marketing
People today are more conscious than ever about who they engage with and show their support to. This goes for companies too. Companies want to align with other companies who share similar values to them because it shows their continued commitment to that value. This is why it’s a good idea to be explicit about your values, whether those are values integral to your business like “providing software that improves employee happiness through increased efficiency” or broader values like sustainability, being anti-racist, and so on.
It’s a good idea to take a two-pronged approach here. Your brand marketing should absolutely include your values. You should take opportunities to engage with other people about your values via social media or blog posts. Additionally, you can strengthen this value lead approach by having your employees mirror your values in their personal branding.
Your brand marketing is how you differentiate yourself from your competitors. If people frequently mistake your company for another in your industry, your brand marketing is failing. There are many ways you can differentiate your company beyond just your SaaS product, for example:
- Customer service differentiation – Providing exceptional customer service, having 24/7 availability, and so on.
- Brand Personality – Having a unique voice, style, and maybe even characters (like a chatbot as an animated character).
- Pricing strategy – Offering more for less or opting for super high quality with high-value targets.
However, you differentiate yourself, you must include these differentiations in your marketing material. You know why your company is different, but your target companies might not.
7. Reputational Resilience
There’s often more room for flexibility in personal branding because the content doesn’t have as many approvers. With brand marketing, many eyes will see the content before it is eventually rolled out. This allows opportunities to spot mistakes or remove phrasing that might be off-putting to some viewers or readers. However, with personal branding, it’s a bit more of a wild west. You may trust your thought leaders to create content on their own and post it when they’re ready. There are advantages to this:
- Content gets out quicker
- Content is more personable – it’s written in that employee’s tone and appears more human.
However, there are downsides too. If one of your employees takes a hit to their reputation, it can also impact your business’s reputation. With that said, the impact is generally less severe than if your brand itself is marred with a bad reputation. You can apologize for one poorly spoken employee, and people will understand. People are less forgiving when it’s your brand.