Why a marketplace is not the end of B2B brand building: 5 key insights
Putting your products on a B2B marketplace inevitably involves some loss of control over the customer experience. But it doesn’t have to lead to the slow erosion of your brand, as many B2B professionals fear.
Here are six insights into how brand building and marketplaces can go well together in B2B. These are valid in any domain, be it industrial manufacturing, consumer goods, pharma or others.
1. Your brand is not your sales pitch
We shouldn’t confuse telling sales and marketing stories with building a band. Of course, relying on a B2B marketplace gives you less space and fewer options to communicate your message than a branded e-commerce website or a face-to-face PowerPoint-driven meeting. But we should not take the shortcut into thinking that our brand exists only in those stories, and because of those stories.
The marketplace is a channel; it’s where people go to buy your product, not to form their opinions of your products and your company. The brand precedes all that, or it should, because if you go on to a marketplace without a strong brand how do you differentiate yourself? This might not be as important if you are operating in a highly commoditized market or in low consideration products, but it still matters.
2. Your “good old website” is still key
Some B2B companies think about “marketplace” or “e-commerce” as either/or options, but they are not mutually exclusive. A digital sales strategy shouldn’t hinge on just “the marketplace” or just “the website” – it’s not a matter of one over the other.
Marketplace or not, it is crucial to have a strong website on your own domain to build your online brand presence. Make sure your good old “corporate site” is one supercharged with content marketing, with a confident push to social media and of course, direct marketing.
One of the main reasons for this is that search engines are still a leading destination for B2B buyers to discover options, explore possibilities and evaluate alternatives. Another reason is that social media platforms have become as important in B2B as in our personal lives as consumers.
3. Your product or service might be the best vehicle for building your brand
The best opportunity to build a brand is when your customers are actually using your products or services. That’s when the customer really starts to build loyalty with your unique brand qualities, and advocate it.
If you can augment your product or service with digital services (think self-service portal, online account management, subscriptions) you have an even greater opportunity to build your unique brand and take ownership of the customer experience, regardless of whether the product was purchased from your site or via a marketplace.
4. B2B e-commerce can further power your brand
Marketplaces can be the perfect channel for your digitalization, but we rarely advise having them as the only channel, except perhaps in the early phases of a digital transformation.
What we typically see is that combining marketplaces with e-commerce offers the best way to widen your reach as much as possible.
Marketplaces can be used for the part of your product portfolio that appeals to a broad audience and they will undoubtedly help you reach many new customers; you can then use your own B2B e-commerce site to deliver the more premium elements of your overall offering or provide added-value services that cannot be delivered via a standard marketplace.
If you can take your customers from business marketplaces to your own e-commerce area, you’ll be able to further develop your brand story and make sure it has an impact.
5. Marketplaces still offer branding options.
We should also say that while B2B marketplaces are often limited and will keep you at a distance from your customers most of the time, they all offer some tools for branding or digital marketing such as mini-sites, user reviews, promotions and others.
Admittedly, these come at a price, but they should not be underestimated. They can be instrumental in making a difference for potential buyers evaluating many options.
In short, don’t just push your product to the marketplace and forget about it but consider the marketplace as a real extension of your digital marketing toolset.