How Brand Influences Enterprise Technology Buyers

Although many marketers feel that B2B professionals choose between technologies based on tangible functionality, CCgroup’s research has found that non-functional attributes heavily influence buyers and purchase influencers. Even oh-so-rational industry analysts use information that is at least a quarter non-functional and sometimes as much as half. 

Companies significantly benefit by communicating non-functional attributes, including brand, culture, ESG, market segmentation, strategy, and thought leadership.

My experience is that B2B tech firms that are late to analyst relations are especially likely to be without this sort of brand story. The opposite is true: you can ‘hack the analysts’ and get on their radar quicker by giving them the full range of information they seek. 

Compelling brand stories are made, not born. Brand-aware analyst relations operationalises the impact of brand-based information by reviewing their touchpoints with analysts to optimise the balance between functional and brand information. 

In a recent webinar, Dan Miles and I discussed the findings of an independent study of B2B technology buyers with Duncan Chapple. Dan is the director of marketing services at CCgroup, and a veteran architect of powerful B2B tech brands.

During the conversation, Dan outlined:

  1. How B2B solution providers can talk more about customer and employee experience
  2. How industry analysts use non-functional and brand-related information
  3. How to use the brand for competitive advantage with analysts
  4. How to plan a brand audit that can diagnose any shortage of brand-related information.

I found it striking that few of these questions are really discussed often by AR managers. That’s because it’s rarely the topic of a structured conversation with senior colleagues who ‘own’ the brand. My thoughts are:

  1. More customer insight is a powerful catalyst for AR and other marketing activities. AR can powerfully accelerate the firm’s capabilities to look across reviews, social media, insights into customer pain points and analyst comment to spotlight the firm’s specific strengths and distinctive sweetspots.
  2. AR needs to more strongly guide business leaders to expand to a narrative that reflects the brand. The key here is to look at granular data of what analysts ask. Many analysts feel they want information that centers on the firm’s technology offer. However, in a granular analysis of hundreds of analyst interactions we have found that most questions asked by most analysts are about non-functional aspects.
  3. Brand is as powerful with industry analysts as with consumers. One proof of that is the power of trust. Analysts who understand and value a brand’s non-functional stance are more likely to recommend it, even if it’s not a technology leader. However, brands take a long time to build, but are fragile. Firms that decelerate their analyst relations often give the unintended impression that they are decelerating in the market. That can turn analysts into a powerful source of caution about your firm.
  4. A brand audit sounds like a substantial activity, and it should be. I think a key goal of a brand audit should to spot a perception gap. First assess the brand you want to project. Independently, gather insights into how your colleagues, channel partners, clients and prospective customers see you. Presenting these two views side by side to managers is a powerful intervention for change.

To find out more about brand impact on sales, download CCgroup’s research paper.

Duncan Chapple

Duncan Chapple is the preeminent consultant on optimising international analyst relations and the value created by analyst firms. As the head of CCgroup's analyst relations team, Chapple directs programs that increase the value of relationships with industry analysts and sourcing advisors.