Building a B2B Brand Strategy: Becoming a Real-time Media Publisher

A successful B2B brand strategy requires the evolution into a media company powered through process, people and platforms (technology).

By: Michael Brito

Category: Analytics

B2B buyers are interrupted by ads 32 times a day while trying to work. In addition, they are exposed to 84 brand messages daily outside of work. So it’s no wonder buyers, and decision-makers have become so good at ignoring spammy marketing messages; they have no other choice if they want to get their jobs done. This post discusses how technology and enterprise brands can create a successful B2B brand strategy by adopting a brand publisher model.

An image of a B2B branding strategy

B2B brand publishing companies create relevance through content and stories. This is not a new concept, but it requires a business evolution through the people, process, and technology operational model.

B2B Branding Strategy is About Content Operations

Previously, I talked about why the content gap analysis is essential for B2B brands because it provides different ways to understand audiences through their content on social media.

In this post, I’d like to discuss the business dependencies needed to operationalize a B2B branded content program and scale it efficiently.

Years ago, there was a concept called “brand as media company” that B2B brands must adopt the “Brand as Publisher” model. Both buzzwords mean the same thing. I even wrote a book about it almost ten years ago, called Your Brand: The Next Media Company. It was a blueprint for technology companies to use when up-leveling their B2B branding strategies through content marketing and storytelling.

The Forcing Factors of Building a B2B Brand Strategy

Five factors force companies to rethink their B2B brand marketing strategy to change how they market across digital platforms and engage with customers and prospects.

  1. There is a surplus of content in the market. There is no shortage of media, mobile phones, devices, and notifications that demand the attention of business decision-makers across every path on the Internet.
  2. There is a deficit of human attention. The amount of information B2B buyers can store in their brains is finite, causing awareness to slip and details to be forgotten. Customer attention also comes at a premium.
  3. Multitasking is very real. Buyers are constantly trying to do more each day for the same time. As a result, it’s not uncommon to use multiple devices simultaneously, using split a screen with hundreds of Chrome tabs open at once.
  4. Buyers have tunnel vision. Whether B2B business decision-makers or consumers shopping for sneakers, tunnel vision happens because of the wealth of information trying to grab their attention. It’s a way to ensure that buyers consume only the content they find to be relevant.
  5. The buyer’s journey is no longer linear. It changes daily. It’s dynamic and unpredictable. Also, their journey can last between 6 to 18 months, most of that time spent researching products and services.

If you combine all 5 of these factors, you can imagine how difficult it is for brands to reach their audiences and think differently about B2B brand marketing. So it’s no wonder enterprise and technology companies are adopting a new B2B brand strategy to help them reach new audiences, create agile content, and map their content and stories to the B2B sales funnel.

B2B Brand Strategy

To do this, brands must build an organization that can foster an agile, data-driven, and creative team; and it boils down to three components.

  • People
  • Process
  • Platforms (or technology)

The People, Process, and Platforms Framework is a business model commonly used to create organizational change. It refers to the balance of people, processes, and platforms; and how they are used together for strategy. In this context, it’s the B2B brand strategy.

The Role of People in a B2B Brand Strategy

The “People” part of this framework represents the culture, talent, and organizational structure of a B2B marketing team. To fully embrace the beta be publisher model requires enterprise companies to operate as a traditional newsroom. In most newsrooms, there is an Editor in Chief, Managing Editor, reporters, journalists, producers, and the entire production team– video producer/editor, graphics and design, and a copywriter.

For companies to make the brand publisher model work, there needs to be similar roles accounted for internally. And in some cases, brands may have to hire an agency specializing in real-time content creation, distribution, and publishing.

Here are the critical internal roles:

  • Analyst: An expert in social analytics tools and can find market whitespace using social media data analysis.
  • Creative: A hybrid creative and copywriter is always a good start. With real-time B2B branded content and creative, the production quality isn’t as high as an extensive creative campaign. Agility and speed, in this case, take priority. In either case, this person doesn’t need a creative brief to create something spectacular.
  • B2B Brand Strategists: One or more people who understand technology, the buyer’s journey, brand storytelling, and how branded content fits into the digital ecosystem.
  • Paid Strategist: Someone who can launch and manage real-time paid social programs. This might also be the role of the analyst.

The Operations Behind B2B Branding Strategies

Operations might not be the most exciting term for building a B2B brand strategy. However, it’s probably critical to scale a program efficiently and ensure integration with other digital marketing functions.

Going back to the traditional newsroom, the operations behind these teams’ functions are built around processes and workflows. It works like an always-on content engine that helps get content quickly and without error from point A to point B.

From a process perspective, B2B brands must maintain a content operations model to help optimize workflows to ensure that content can be created quickly and complete the entire approval process within 24 hours.

More specifically, the operational workflows start with identifying all the stakeholders that will be a part of the approval process. This also means documenting their exact roles and responsibilities so that each one knows what to expect and that there are no surprises. Once all stakeholders are identified, there must be processes and protocols around content ideation, submitting content for approval, making edits, publishing to a digital channel, and amplifying that content through paid media.

Several B2B technology marketing platforms provide this editorial workflow and process level, which I will cover in the next section.

Platforms Are the Foundation of B2B Brand Strategy

Some B2B brand strategists look for technology to solve their content challenges. They tend to bypass talent, organizational structure, processes, and workflows. Technology should be the last thing to focus on when building a B2B brand strategy.

There are a few things to consider when sourcing B2B technology publishing software. First, there’s the project management/workflow software and technology for real-time social media listening. Traditional project management software like Asana, Trello, and Monday.com can work in this capacity for B2B brand marketers. There are also software providers that focus on content workflows specifically for long-form content like Contentstack, Co-Schedule, DivvyHQ, Percolate by Seismic, and Upland Kapost. These content marketing platforms specialize in scaling content operations that map the customer journey.

Traditional social media monitoring platforms like Brandwatch and Netbase Quid from a real-time monitoring perspective. There are also providers like Newswhip or Buzzumo, which can track the virality and engagement of long-form content across the Internet.

However, as you talk to different B2B technology publishing vendors, make sure that you ask them all the right questions before adding to your marketing technology stack.

B2B Brand Strategy Examples

Finding B2B brands that have internally built and operationalized a brand publisher model is challenging. You’d need insider knowledge to understand what decisions were made, how it works, and their strategy.

Another way to identify companies that have built strong B2B branding strategies and tactics is to look at what types of long-form content they publish and the customer experience surrounding it. It’s important to note that many companies build brand newsrooms and external-facing websites where brands post company news. For the most part, it is just a press release hub, providing resources for the media. This has nothing to do with brands adopting a publisher model and operationalizing their team internally like a newsroom. Here are a few B2B branding case studies that will help you think through your plans for the coming year.

That said, below is an example of Google Cloud’s Blog. I spent some time on their site and could not find a brand newsroom. Their corporate page may have all the product-specific news and press releases. However, the content on the site is targeted toward a technical audience, most likely their potential buyers. Therefore, there’s no fluff, product announcements, or press releases.

The navigation also tells you how the content is organized and managed. For example, the content is broken down by specific topics, various social technologies, specific Google Cloud product news, and the latest stories.

Google Cloud B2B Branding Strategy

I’m not sure how Google Cloud is organized internally, but it’s clear that they take content and B2B publishing seriously. This is a good model for enterprise companies to follow if they want to build an agile B2B branding strategy to reach audiences with smart content and real-time.

The Social Media Brand Newsroom is the Future

Before diving into the details, let’s first break down the components of a traditional newsroom since that is what a social media newsroom is modeled after. A newsroom is a space where journalists work to gather, write, and produce stories. It’s staffed with writers, editors, reporters, designers, and producers who work together to create content.

The entire process is done with a sense of urgency because they report the news when it happens and in real-time. In addition, the general public wants to stay up-to-date with what’s happening in their local communities and around the world, so they look to the news media to stay informed.

Breaking down the social media newsroom

A social media newsroom takes the same concept and applies it to a digital marketing strategy. This type of newsroom is focused on creating shareable real-time content across social media channels.

It’s important to note that a social media newsroom is not the same as a press room. A press room is where you would find information about a company, such as its mission statement, contact information, and press releases.

A social media brand newsroom is different.

There are two ways to think about how you might use a social media newsroom as a part of your digital strategy.

  • Operational: This is the practical day-to-day work needed to keep the newsroom functional. The staff of a social media newsroom should include an analyst, writers, designers, and even influencers. The key is to have a team in place that can create content quickly and
  • Strategic: In addition to the operational tasks, strategic planning is also needed. This is where you would develop long-term goals and objectives for the social media brand newsroom. You would also create a roadmap of what types of content you want to produce and when you want to publish it.
  • Destination: Another way to manage a brand newsroom is to think about it as a content hub. This would be where you would publish all long-form stories and aggregate all of the brand’s social media content in one place. You would then use the ‘operational’ newsroom to create real-time content and drive traffic back to the destination.

A social media newsroom is a platform where brands can share their stories and connect with their audience deeper. It’s where consumers can learn about the brand, its values, and what it offers.

It Started With Oreo Cookies and the Super Bowl in 2013

I don’t know how many times I have referenced the Oreo tweet from the Super Bowl when Baltimore beat the 49ers. During halftime, the power went out in the New Orleans stadium. The Oreo team, prepared for anything, tweeted a picture of an Oreo with the words “You can still dunk in the dark” and included the hashtag #OreoSuperBowl.

This one tweet generated hundreds of thousands of retweets and shares and was featured in case studies.

Since then, many marketers have tried to insert themselves into cultural and societal events like various award shows or sporting and entertainment events to provide visibility for the brand. Some brands have been successful, and others have it. But unfortunately, most brands try too hard to be relevant to audiences who don’t care.

This type of opportunistic media doesn’t come around so much anymore. Most brands have unsuccessfully tried to do this and have failed. I would also argue that Oreos got lucky. They had a clever copywriter and creative team to respond to the outage of the stadium in a timely manner and not tweet generated the most engagement in conversation, most likely in the history of Oreo content.

Brands today aren’t so lucky. They must do the work necessary to find the audience that matters to their business and create content relevant to them, not the entire world. The way to do this is to build real-time audience profiles and track their conversations.

Bill time listening is pretty self-explanatory. It’s listening to a group of people that matter to your brand and responding accordingly.

The process works like this.

  • Start with audience profiling.
  • Analyze their historical conversation media consumption and sharing habits.
  • Add them to a listening panel in a social intelligence platform like Brandwatch, Netbase, Infegy, or Pulsar Platform.
  • create alerts so that you’ll be notified when your audience mentions a particular keyword or phrase.
  • Perform a human analysis 3 to 5 times a week to mine through the data to search for opportunities for engagement.

Several factors come into play here. Number one is having a social media newsroom that can execute quickly. This means that once you spot a trend or opportunity, you have to turn on the content engine and create and publish content promptly. I call this the agile content creation process.

In some cases, the reality is that this process can take a long time. I call it the content supply chain or digital content operations. If you think about a supply chain, you have your raw materials, which turn into a finished product. That entire process is the supply chain, and it’s the same thing. With this, you have an idea based on the data that you want.

The finished product is the content you want to publish. That’s the supply chain. It represents workflows. It means approvals or feedback, so the reality is that you want to get that content posted quickly? Do you want to get it done in 24 or 36 hours? In some cases, it takes longer than that.

So that you need the roles and operations required to get it done, it operates very much like a newsroom. I wrote about this in 2013 in a book called your brand next media company. I talk about optimizing your content operations so that you can build a social media intelligence panel and create content quickly and with relevancy.

And then the back end operation side of it, where you know how you can structure your social media newsroom, how you can structure agencies and your agency partners so that you can, you know, have that model of swift and agile responses based on what the audiences are talking about. So that’s pretty much it. I mean, you know? Again, I’m oversimplifying it, but it’s building an audience that your social newsroom can execute.

It’s uploading into a listening panel. Real-time marketing refers to listening to audiences in real-time. It’s creating content in real-time. It’s about operationalizing that process in real-time and using robust operational processes and various social technologies.

B2B Brand Strategy FAQ

What is a B2B brand?

A B2B brand is a business that serves other companies rather than consumers, ultimately resulting in financial gain for the organization. This can be done through selling products to corporations or partnering with clients’ other suppliers. While this may sound simple, several factors differentiate a B2B tech company from others.

There are several types of B2B brands, including Resellers, Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM), Systems Integrators, and Value-Added Resellers (VAR). Each of these differentiations entails a unique approach to serving the business community. For example, a reseller purchases products in bulk quantities, often at prices below manufacturing cost, and then resells them to companies. OEM manufactures products that customers can later purchase from other businesses or the OEM company. A Systems Integrator aims to create a turnkey solution for their customers by preassembling parts, such as computers and servers, into custom computer systems and data centers. Finally, a VAR has extensive technical knowledge of multiple technologies and sells products alongside many other brand-name items.

B2B tech brands can also be categorized by their business model. This includes solution-based businesses offering a complete package for customers to use and sell individually when needed, product companies specializing in one type of technology such as hard drives or routers, and service providers offering aftermarket services and technical support.

What is a B2B Publishing?

B2B publishing is a content approach that helps brands curate, create, and publish content in real-time. Organizations that take this approach operate similarly to a traditional newsroom. They are agile enough to create content quickly and efficiently, reaching existing customers and prospects with targeted brand stories. In addition, sophisticated B2B brands use the LinkedIn Podcast Network to amplify executive voices through podcasting and other emerging media.

Should Reddit be included in a B2B strategy?

Yes, Reddit should be included in a B2B strategy. Reddit is a community-driven site, and as such, it can be a great way to connect with potential customers and build relationships. Additionally, because of the upvote/downvote system, content that is posted on Reddit is typically high quality and relevant, making it a great source of information for research. See here for several Reddit case studies.

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