Digital channels. Make the right choice.
The number of digital channels is large. Some channels are simply obligatory. Others are good additions to make your own B2B brand visible and tangible in the digital world. New options that must be evaluated and selected are constantly being added. After all, there is no ideal channel mix for digital brand management and brand communication in the digital world. Every company and every B2B brand must make its own individual selection — depending on brand positioning, brand strategy, and brand messages. The individual marketing communication measures and the realization of successful campaigns — integrated in online and offline — must be able to unfold in this space. The interfaces to the semi-analog world with support, call center, customer service, and so on are an important component.
In the process, it is essential to have a clear view of the possibilities of the individual digital channels.
Website (corporate website)
The website is mandatory. It is and remains the business card, the digital company brochure. Today, the website is a decisive point of contact in the global world and in international business activities, and thus often the first customer touchpoint on the way to new customer relationships. But it is also this in the labor market. A good website presents the brand, conveys a feeling, and creates a basis of trust. It introduces the company. It presents the services and products.
But what makes a website a particularly successful website?
- First, the focus on the customer’s view — customers wish to have their needs and questions catered to and not have the organizational structure of the company explained via the products and assortments.
- Second, customers want to be surprised, convinced, and inspired by the B2B brand within the website at the customer touchpoints, which influence their formation of opinions and decision behavior.
- And third, the usability of the website from navigation to contact leaves a lasting impression on the brand.
Properly built, the website creates access to the customer. Through suitable content and good content marketing in combination with successful search engine optimization onsite, the chance to be found on the web grows. The integrated analysis tools provide information on the use and usage behavior of the website. This is valuable knowledge that contributes to ongoing optimization during the iterative process.
Microsites and landing pages
Microsites and landing pages are special theme pages. These can be special pages for digital product and service presentation. These can be special pages to create brand experiences or to focus on topics. Sometimes, however, microsites and landing pages simply have the purpose of satisfying special information needs by optimizing their content. The focus here is on search engine marketing. Such websites can have a runtime that accompanies the campaign or be created as a permanent website. It is important to link to the company’s corporate website.
Email marketing (newsletters and e-mailings) and lead nurturing
Newsletters and e-mailings are a popular and successful instrument for addressing target groups appropriately. Differentiation, personalization, control of content, information behavior, click behavior, linking with further offers — the possibilities are manifold. Reactions can be measured immediately. Therefore, tracking and analysis are essential in email marketing. It goes without saying that the design must meet the requirements of the digital brand image and the usability and mobile requirements.
Newsletters and e-mailings have a firm place in digital brand communication against a different background. Like the company’s own blog or social media activities, newsletters and e-mailings can be filled directly and exclusively with the company’s own content. You have information sovereignty and decide what to tell. So-called “owned media” can have editorial and purely promotional content.
As the trust of Internet users in editorial content from B2B companies along the customer journey steadily grows, this has positive effects on their own brand messages. However, this trust must be met with high-quality information, authenticity, and honesty. The prerequisite for successful e-mail marketing is the quality of the address data. Email marketing also requires that a contact has already taken place and interest in information has been expressed. Opt-in or double opt-in procedures are completed depending on type, intensity, and country.
Email marketing is about sending out company and product information — absolutely personalized and geared to the target group, needs, or interests — but lead nurturing as part of lead management goes one step further. Lead nurturing automatically sends emails to individual customers or prospects based on their needs and their interaction with the company. With lead nurturing, you support interested parties or customers with additional information based on their current information needs.
Whether email marketing or lead nurturing, what is important for professional brand identity is the visual appearance and the readability in the email. The corporate wording must also be reflected in the email in the sense of the brand. The signature in the digital corporate design creates a constant that ties it all together. But the most important thing is optimization for mobile use. The proportion of emails and newsletters opened via smartphone or tablet often exceeds 50%.
Shops, catalogues and directories (onsite and offsite, online and offline)
Anyone selling products today needs an online shop or an online catalog. This assumes that all product information (texts, images, and other data) is available in a structured form in databases. It also assumes that this data can be provided — for one’s own B2B online shop or for integrating the data into the online shop of a third party. The same applies to any catalogs and directories. Besides the content and recognizable design of the B2B brand, processes, interfaces, and payment and logistics processes all should be seen holistically, as being together. This is essential for the B2B brand experience of the customer along the customer touchpoints and the customer journey.
Corporate blogs and online magazines
Tell. Give insights. Share knowledge. Exchange opinions and experiences. Blogs, whether general or on specific topics and services, are the ideal way to get in touch with customers. In the blog, specific topics can be addressed and dealt with in different formats. The blog is freer and more diverse than the website with its general presentation. Tonality and wording depend on the basic blog content.
In online magazines, the combination of moving images, animation, and sound is another way to present the B2B brand interactively and in a variety of ways. Browse, read on, get inspired. Good online magazines are purely a brand experience. By displaying their own content and the option that the reader can rate, share, and recommend, additional interactions are created. Ideally, these interactions become recommender advertising or mouth-to-mouth advertising. It is hardly possible to build up more trust than this.
Whether a corporate blog, themed blog, or online magazine: The digital corporate design can be used and interpreted to suit the media. Depending on the focus, it can be factual, technical, and reduced or draw abundantly on the emotional.
Web applications, web-based software, and apps (online and offline)
Web applications, web-based software, and web apps can be provided online and offline. In the B2B environment there are fewer games and gimmicks. The content is usually closely linked to the products and solutions. These are often online catalogues, reference media, manuals, and typical FAQs — information that your own employees and distribution and service partners need. More and more often, however, customers use web applications and apps to control products and systems. The numerous smart home solutions are just one small example. Regardless of whether an application is aimed at partners or end customers, recognition is important in digital brand design, which is also expressed here primarily in usability and interface design (GUI). Here, the visual identity has to tie everything together and the user be inspired by the brand.
Social media and instant messaging services like WhatsApp
Which social media channels are very important in B2B brand communication? Which instant messaging services are used? Facebook and LinkedIn are at the forefront of international B2B marketing. YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram follow far behind. Here it becomes clear that in the sense of storytelling and content marketing nowhere near all possibilities for B2B branding and brand management are exhausted.
But it is also the case that only a nice account is not enough. The social media must be served with content. The content should be multilingual, because the Internet knows no borders. And it takes people in the company to communicate with the responding target groups, in the style of the brand. There is still a lot of potential on the way to user-generated content, at best in the sense of the B2B brand.
Messenger services are increasingly encroaching on working life. Communication via WhatsApp or Facebook and LinkedIn instant messaging services does not yet determine business activity worldwide. This is already different in China with WeChat. The world of work and business is blurred with the private world. Mobile phone numbers are exchanged; the communication channel is open; inquiries, quotations, offers, and more are processed here. This development creates new requirements. How can this communication be mapped and archived in CRM systems and ordering processes? Or do we have to break away from monolithic structures in business communication, open ourselves up, and trust in the fair and complete cooperation of employees and customers?
Speed and customer friendliness are pitted against the demand for data sovereignty and data security. More interactivity and more participation require an opening of the systems and a new form of media use.
The Internet of Things (IoT) and digital assistants (human-machine interaction)
Even if we may not be aware of it…. The interaction between man and machine is a part of our everyday lives — in both private and business life. Examples include voice control with Siri, Alexa, and their cohorts, smart home solutions based on geographical or weather data, or automated dialog via chat bots in Messenger. And that’s not all — from wearables to autonomous cars, the possibilities are almost unlimited. Human-machine interaction opens up completely new possibilities in communication and interaction with customers and interested parties and is an essential component of digitization.
In the branding agency, we deal with the audio-visual appearance and usability for a professional brand image and identity. When we work on the surface design of an application, there is always a reference to the brand experience. This is true no matter whether we are concerned with internal target audiences or external ones such as customers, suppliers, and partners.
The design speaks without words. The better it is understood, leads, and is likeable, the better it supports the brand. The more intuitive the handling of the respective user interface, the higher the usage and thus the customer loyalty. This closes the circle to customer experience, customer touchpoints, and trust in a brand.