Thoughts on branding for small B2B technology companies.

In 2001, while living in Austin, Texas, I had the pleasure of hearing a marketing director from Dell Computer speak at a Central Texas Direct Marketing Association meeting. Dell, of course, was built as a direct marketing company, selling to businesses and consumers through the mail. Their brand was established through the products they sold, the catalogs they sent out, and Megaphonethe referrals they got from one customer to another. In fact, our speaker made the statement that Dell didn’t spend a dime on branding until it was already a $50 million company.

Despite that, everyone knows that brand is important. Too many times have I heard the old mantra “no one ever got fired for buying IBM,” meaning, of course, that picking a known brand gets the decision-maker off the hook if the chosen solution doesn’t work out. Buying the leading brand is always the “safe” decision. This understanding explains the glory technology marketers revel in when their company is selected to appear on a Gartner Magic Quadrant. Then once the company makes the “leaders” quadrant, the brand has made it.

Unfortunately, branding is expensive. In slow economic times like these, it’s even harder to justify branding because every dollar needs to directly generate leads and sales. So how can you brand if you’re not yet the leader and times are slow? Here are three low-cost ways to support brand-building while you are filling your sales pipeline.

Maintain consistency in look and message — Establish and follow guidelines for your logo, Web site, emails, direct mails, brochures, and all material used for your company. Whenever a prospect sees anything about you, they get the same image and impression.

Develop a tag line and put it with your logo — If prospects see your logo and there is always a strong tag line with it, you will be building recognition of what your company does and/or how it differs from its competition. Between the company name and the tag or positioning line, you will be establishing your brand.

Here are some B2B tag lines that fit my criteria for telling people what a company does and/or why it’s better than the rest:

– AT&T — The world’s networking company.
– DuPont — Better living through chemistry.
– ZDNet — Where technology means business.
– Epicor — Global Software Solutions. Local Expertise
– Innotas — Powering the business of IT
– Salesforce.com — Success. Not Software.
– Webroot — The Best Security in an Unsecured World.

Watch this blog for a future discussion of what makes a great tag line and why I disagree with what many others have said are great.

Establish and support active PR through traditional means, social media, and partnerships — Issue press releases announcing product enhancements, new client acquisitions, and other company news to keep your name in front of your market and industry. Use social media for exposure and interaction with your industry and potential customers.  Participate in Webinars with partners on 3rd party venues.

These ideas by no means represent a full branding campaign. But they can help your company cost-effectively support and build brand while generating business.

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