The recent release of the Prophet Brand Relevance Index® (BRI) uncovered three important ways B2B growth leaders can set their brands apart in their category. The study of 225 brands by 13,500 U.S. respondents is important because relevance is so closely linked to profitable growth. In fact, our data reveals that the most relevant brands have outperformed the S&P 500 average revenue growth by 230 percent and EBIT growth by 1,040 percent over the past 10 years.
While B2B brands aren’t ranked in our Index, a large cohort of well-known brands with significant business to business (B2B) revenues such as GE, IBM, Adobe and Amazon were included. The best performing B2B brands tripled the ratings of the remaining B2B brands in three dimensions – consistent promise-keeping, innovative differentiation and trust. Each dimension provides a guide to B2B brand relevance building.
Consistent Promise Keeping
Ruthless pragmatism, the brand’s ability to consistently make the user’s life easier, is a key driver of brand relevance. Three attributes stood out for the best B2B brands: “Lives up to its promises,” “Delivers a Consistent Experience” and “I know I can depend on.” Users and buyers realize that the B2B world is filled with brand options and choices, but no single brand is right for every situation at any given time. Honesty about what a brand can delivery matters enormously, as it makes reasonable and achievable promises to its consumers.
For example, Marriott consistently delivers on its promises to business travelers. They focus on the fundamentals—convenient locations, exceptional cleanliness, comfort without the frills—and they do it every day across thousands of locations, scores of staff members and a portfolio of brands.
A hallmark of relevant brands is pervasive innovation – pushing the envelope and finding new ways to meet consumers’ needs. They find better ways to engage with customers and create superior experiences through service and product innovation. The brands that excelled in B2B stood out in two key areas: “Is always finding ways to meet my needs” and “Has better products, services and experiences than competitors.” Pushing the envelope appears to be less of a differentiator than sustainable innovation that drives tangible benefits for consumers for top B2B performers.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) embodies the principle of sustained innovation and benefit delivery. Amazon didn’t pioneer the shift to cloud computing, nor do its web-service innovations depend on cutting-edge tools and applications. Instead, it relies on building an ever-expanding suite of web services that can be utilized at scale, by different types of businesses, with a wide range of applications with very different levels of data and platform maturity.
In-Touch & Trusted
Survey respondents agree that distinctive inspiration is an important driver of relevance. In doing so, they are focusing on several different aspects of the brand including, “Makes me feel inspired,” “Has a set of beliefs and values that align with my own,” “Is modern” and “I trust.” Top B2B brands spike on trustworthiness and being modern and in-touch. Trust in the B2B context is far-reaching because it extends from personal relationships with the company’s representatives, to confidence in the future behavior of the brand.
B2B brands that lose touch and trust are among the first to lose relevance as Union Carbide, International Harvester and Lehman Brothers can attest. Far more brands are building strategies focused on staying in touch and building trust. One example is Mayo Clinic, which is extending its relevance outside the hospital into the B2B world, offering services for executive health, which helps the brand build trust beyond its patients and into the top of the funnel of organizations.
Relevance is earned day by day, one customer at a time. Consistent promise-keeping, sustained innovation and being in-touch and trusted neither require lucky breakthroughs nor depend on macro-economic conditions. They are all within the control of company leaders. The relevance and growth they generate are achievable with dedicated focus and leadership attention.
Interested in increasing relevance in your market? Prophet assists companies with developing strategies that drive brand relevance.