B2B companies have three groups that make up their brand:

  • Customers
  • Employees
  • Industry partners

This is what’s known as the B2B brand tribe.

brand tribe customers industry partners employees

Each group within the brand tribe helps define what the brand stands for, what it offers, and where it’s headed. The primary problem with brand tribes is that most companies simply observe who is attracted to them instead of designing who they want to be attracted to them.

This comes in the form of talent that just shows up for a paycheck, it comes in the form of customers that aren’t really enthusiastic about your brand, and comes in the form of a lack of industry partners referring work along (more on this later).

In all – most B2B brands are not making the most of their brand tribe.

In this article, we will walk through how to design each group within the brand tribe. We will also discuss the importance of each and elaborate on how they can affect growth and longevity.

It’s worth noting that navigating each of the groups is tricky and they all have their own unique pain points and desires in need of addressing. If done right, your brand should be able to utilize all of these groups to grow, garner recognition, and make a profound impact within your category.

Designing B2B Ideal Customers

We start with arguably the most well-known or talked about group within the brand tribe: the ideal customer (or client). These are the folks you’d gladly do more work for and what we find is, the better we design them – the better we can attract them.

ideal customers

There are several things in need of analyzing to design them:

Start with categories. Chances are, you work with several different types of clients. By breaking your customers down into categories (industries, markets, sectors, whatever), you’ll likely notice a few trends – demand for your services, ease of acquisition, recognition of your brand, as well as overall health of the category.

In all, you’ll notice the opportunity cost for some categories (or sometimes one category) are greater than others. This is essential in defining who you’ll want to name “ideal”.

Pain points, pain points, pain points. Arguably the most crucial of all to get right. In order to design an ideal customer, you must put yourself in their shoes and understand what makes them tick.

This can be done in a variety of ways:

  • In-depth interviews
  • Customer surveys
  • Social media polls

By understanding and defining their pain points, you’ll have a much clearer picture of how to attract more of the right customers and repel the wrong ones.

Profitability. Oftentimes certain types of customers yield more profitable work than others. As you scale, it’s essential to get a thorough understanding of which customers are worth pursuing and which aren’t.

With industries and markets fleshed out, you can add this element into your analysis of which are worth chasing.

These are the big three when it comes to defining ideal customers and, if you’re hungry for more in-depth analysis, be sure to check out our full article on designing your ideal client.

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Designing B2B Ideal Employees

You’re only as strong as your weakest link – harsh, but true. Staff is at the core of your brand and has a huge impact on the growth and longevity of your organization.

ideal employees

So why not invest time and energy into ensuring you’re not only taking care of your existing talent but ensuring they stick around? Not to mention attracting new talent…

It all starts with core values. Core values are essential for building the right culture and, when used properly, can be effective tools for grading staff. If you get this right, you will be able to mold your brand’s culture (the summation of your workforce) over a period of time, and therefore you will have reached an ideal (or close to ideal) employee experience and overall staff situation.

Core values should also be unique to your organization, include action, and be obtainable.

A bad core value example: Creativity

The better alternative: We think, we make, we do.

Map out and take interest in their careers. This is crucial for today’s workforce as working remotely has opened up the job market like never before. By taking a vested interest in your employees’ careers – not just the work they show up to do each day – you can instill a sense of trust (and therefore loyalty) like never before.

This is not the same as buying gift cards, treating them to lunch, etc. This is asking them about where they want to be in 10 years, what they want to accomplish outside of work, among other things – and helping them map out and achieve what it is they want to achieve.

Over time, you will see a shift in the type of talent that is attracted to your brand as you will have stressed the points that those folks chose you for in the past.

Asking these career-planning questions in the interview phase is a great place to start, but by following up in one-on-ones, performance reviews, and mentioning it at other opportune times – you’ll see that loyalty increases, churn decreases, and that most will take a vested interest in the organization in return (performance, going above and beyond, etc.).

Unearth why they chose you. The job market is hot (at the time of writing this) and candidates have many options to choose from. So, why not learn about why they are choosing you and put those uniques front and center of recruitment efforts?

By speaking with tenured and newly acquired talent alike, in the form of in-depth interviews and surveys, you can help build the right experiences to attract their attention and even favor you over alternative companies.

Over time, you will see a shift in the type of talent that is attracted to your brand as you will have stressed the points that those folks chose you for in the past.

In all, the benefits of dialing-in your employee experiences are plentiful:

  • It fills the new talent pipeline
  • It improves morale
  • It reduces churn
  • It gets people talking
  • It increases productivity

What’s not to love?

Designing B2B Ideal Industry Partners

Industry partners are arguably the most underplayed, underrated group of the brand tribe for B2B businesses. For those of you wondering, an industry partner is another person or organization that offers complimentary services to a similar audience.

Example: Architecture firms and construction firms offer different services to the same types of customers.

ideal industry partners

Industry partners afford you the opportunity to build recognition within your category, increase awareness, and, most importantly, receive warm leads and opportunities. Most importantly, they play a large role in new business opportunities.

There’s no question there are fewer B2B buyers than B2C buyers, as there are simply more individual consumers than companies. This makes finding qualified B2B leads and opportunities quite difficult, relatively speaking of course.

By finding and banding together with industry partners, you can quickly grow the amount of inbound opportunities coming in as they are already servicing customers and likely gathering new ones. If done correctly, these are two groups you can also tap into.

The beauty of this approach is that these opportunities are already vetted (by your industry partner) AND are biased towards choosing you, as you are being recommended.

Here’s how to design industry partners:

Start by defining who shares customers with you. For those of you who already have Industry Partners – skip to the next point. If you’re a construction firm and your customers are small to midsize businesses – there’s a good chance they deal with brokers. This would be an example of someone who shares your end customer and it would be silly to not look to them to potentially partner with.

Ask them what their customers often need help with outside of what they offer. This is where the value exchange occurs, as you learn what you can provide your potential industry partner and tell them what they can provide you with.

If we run with this construction example, we now know that both architects and brokers are both potential industry partners for construction firms. By having conversations with them, we can learn which group may send us more work and begin biasing our attention towards the group that yields more return.

Create experiences for them. With industry partners determined, you can begin mapping out their experience of your brand. This experience should be different than how customers experience your brand, as both have different needs:

Customers need your help directly.

Industry Partners need your help indirectly.

Chances are most industry partner relationships will be conjured up the old-fashioned way – by connecting with, one by one. For these folks, you may take them to lunch, out for coffee, or even to happy hour. Depending on the situation, you could show up armed with a capabilities deck, SOQ’s, or nothing at all.

For those you meet online – how can you ‘woo’ them during a quick phone call or Google Meet? Should you have a digital version of a capabilities deck or SOQ handy? Maybe you show up armed only with good questions and a great attitude?

Regardless of how you’re meeting with prospective industry partners, they will likely check out the tried and true methods: website, social media, Google search, etc. Perhaps there is a strategy where you speak directly to them on your site, or in your social?

In summary, by building relationships with and impressing prospective industry partners you:

  • open up opportunities to be spoon-fed new clients and projects
  • gain an advantage when it comes to building awareness and recognition
  • speed up perception of expertise and experience

When done right, this is an effective way of scaling your business and helping others in your space simultaneously. It’s a win-win

Summary – Designing your B2B brand tribe

In all, each group plays an equally important role to the health and success of a B2B organization. Staff allow you to produce top tier work and have fun doing it. Clients allow you to keep the lights on and pay the staff. Industry partners allow you to service more customers and build recognition.

Build your brand tribe right and you are well on your way to becoming a truly successful, memorable, scalable brand.

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