B2B Personal Branding… what impact does it have on sales performance?
By definition, B2B involves transactions between organisations… but at the end of the day, it’s always people who decide, based on objective factors (technical quality of the offer, price, payment facilities, etc.) and subjective factors (affinity with the people they are dealing with, perceived image of the service provider, etc.).
Moreover, the economic literature has produced the theory of bounded rationality (Herbet Simon), which postulates that an individual’s decision-making capacity is altered by a set of constraints such as lack of information, cognitive biases and lack of time. “Decision-makers tend to choose satisfactory rather than optimal solutions”, reads the paper developing the theory.
Against a backdrop of unbridled digitalisation, and in the wake of a pandemic that has literally driven people away from their contacts, subjective elements seem to be gaining in importance in the decision-making process. What if Personal Branding was the missing link in your LeadGen strategy and your sales efforts?
Personal Branding: principles, formats and objectives
In the broadest sense, Personal Branding is the practice of promoting an individual through the marketing techniques usually used to advertise a brand or product offering. In a B2B context, Personal Branding consists of promoting a “company figure”, usually the CEO (SMEs) or a senior manager (large companies), as another channel for LeadGen.
In practice, the professional in question will be very active on social networks, particularly LinkedIn, sharing his or her Insights, studies, ideas and issues in line with the interests of the company’s target audience. This is known as “Thought Leadership”.
Personal Branding actions also include.
- Maintaining a blog;
- Taking part in professional events;
- Publishing books, usually to gain author status. This is more about status than book sales per se;
- Speaking in the specialist media. Here again, it’s not so much the audience for the programmes and other appearances that is sought. The aim is to disseminate this content to your audience on social networks in order to gain legitimacy.
It is interesting to note that Personal Branding is a ‘borderline’ practice, insofar as the ‘branded’ professional also benefits from positive spin-offs for his or her image… spin-offs that can eventually benefit him or her on the job market. Naturally, this dynamic is not necessarily in the interests of the company.
Thought Leadership: a key challenge, a mixed performance
The impact of Thought Leadership on companies’ marketing and sales performance has been the subject of a ground-breaking study by public relations giant Edelman. Summary:
- For 49% of B2B decision-makers, the quality of content published on LinkedIn by potential suppliers influences their purchasing decision;
- 89% of B2B decision-makers say they place more value on a service provider offering relevant content on LinkedIn;
- Finally, 59% of B2B decision-makers believe that employee communication on LinkedIn is an excellent indicator of a company’s capabilities and expertise. This criterion exceeds that of “corporate communication”.
So the stakes are high… but performance in this area is more than mixed. According to another LinkedIn and Edelman study, 71% of B2B decision-makers believe that half of the Thought Leadership content published by their peers on LinkedIn “does nothing for them”. So here are four actionable ideas to meet the challenge:
- The expertise highlighted from a Thought Leadership perspective must be limited to a small perimeter. In B2B, Personal Branding is expected to focus on niche expertise to attract and retain a hyper-qualified readership;
- While the content must demonstrate a certain expertise, it must not be cryptic. The form has to fit in with web culture, with short, light, incisive (the art of the punchline) and intuitive formats. Speaking should not be without a certain lightness, or even a dose of popularisation, where appropriate;
- Personal branding is also driven by interaction and exchange. The “branded” person must go beyond the monologue to take an interest in the content of colleagues, congratulate them on the quality of their publications and suggest ways of enriching them;
- Insofar as it impacts the brand image of the individual and the company, Personal Branding must claim a certain elegance. Not everything you say should be transformed into a frontal sales pitch for the company’s offering.