ACCM Show Daily: Branding, the B-to-B Way

Chicago–In the end, product will be your biggest differentiator. That was the thrust of the opening segment of “The One-Two Punch of B-to-B Branding: Print and Web Creative,” held Monday. George Hague, senior marketing strategist for Mission, KS-based catalog consulting firm J. Schmid & Associates, said business-to-business companies can differentiate by service and price, but the product remains the driving force behind branding.

Branding, Hague said, is a “promise” to customers. Hague solicited some examples of this promise from the audience. One attendee said that his company guarantees the product will last 20 years; another said that a customer can return any product for any reason at any time at no cost; a third said her company will repair any other company’s products.

From the outset, said Hague, “you have to determine who you are and who your competition is. You have to know who you are before you can present yourself to the world with a united front.”

Creating a recognized identity and understanding the power of merchandise are integral parts of the branding process. “Your brand is going to springboard from your merchandise,” Hague said. “Your brand needs to maintain consistency across marketing efforts and response channels.” Coordinating a synergy between a catalog and a Website requires more than “putting your logo on the Website.”

Another important factor, Hague said, is maintaining a consistency between your outbound e-mails and your outbound phone communications. “You might find that your phone operators aren’t necessarily communicating your brand accurately,” he said. “Brand insistence is when a company consistently delivers on its promises and consistently communicates its message.”

Jennifer Wells, senior marketing director for Covington, KY-based e-commerce services provider DMinSite, discussed the ways catalogers can integrate their customer channels with their Websites. For starters, your contact center phone number must easily be seen at the top of the Web page. “Catalogs and the online channel reinforce each other,” Wells said. “Reinforce your catalog mailings with e-mails, promote store events, and reactivate old buyers through the mail.”

Wells advised attendees to use catalog content to generate new and meaningful ways to categorize products into various themes. “Provide detailed product information to help guide shoppers’ decisions,” she said. “Prominently display the ‘catalog quick order’ form on the Web page, and allow a customer to enter multiple products and quantities on a single page. And allow shoppers to activate customer-specific pricing based on their account.”

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