Brand vs. performance marketing for B2B tech companies

What is brand marketing in B2B tech? 

Brand is the identity of your tech company and how it is perceived by your audience. This is not just the visual identity of colours and logos, but the overall impression your audience has of your organisation. Brand infiltrates company values, reputation, personality and tone of voice in all communications. 

Brand marketing is how you as a B2B marketer shape this identity. It’s a long term strategy with long term results that shouldn’t be measured immediately. Identity is an impression built up over time. It is embedded in the relationships you have with your audience. 

Snoop Dogg Klarna campaign
Source: forbes.com

Examples of brand building in B2B tech

One notable example of brand building in B2B was born in the rivalry between ‘buy now pay later’ companies. Klarna, a Swedish FinTech company with pink colouring, hired famous rapper Snoop Dogg and 6 afghan hounds for their recent campaign. Klarna renamed Snoop to ‘Smooth Dog’ in alignment with Klarna’s slogan ‘smooooth shopping’. 

Brand building will result in a positive reputation for your company, so that your target market chooses you over competitors. In the ‘buy now pay later’ space, companies have to choose between smooooth shopping and other promises like Clearpay’s ‘live life your way.’ 


Source: Clearpay.com

It is argued that in B2B marketing, brand is more important than in B2C. This is because B2B decisions are motivated by strong emotions and personal stakes are higher. To elaborate, the security of professional reputations rests on a B2B decision. With a high risk, B2B buyers need to know the brand, trust the brand and depend on the brand to keep their careers afloat. 

Even more specifically, B2B tech companies need brand building because their innovative products are often unknown to an audience. To define a category and position yourself as an industry leader, your B2B tech company should have a focus on brand building. With brand, you can establish yourself as reliable, valuable and well-intentioned in the face of audience unfamiliarity. 

B2B brand marketing includes content marketing, building a social media presence and presenting customer testimonials. It permeates every touch point your audience has with your brand to build a strong impression over time. 

What is performance marketing in B2B tech? 

Performance marketing is a short-term approach to business growth that can directly produce immediate results. Paid, cost-per click activities make up the majority of performance marketing, as they incite action from your audience. 

For example, performance marketing is an ad on the side of your target audience’s LinkedIn feed, showcasing a new product. Your target audience sees that ad, gets tempted to buy and clicks through to your website. Then, they will become a marketing qualified lead or even a paying customer. 

If you like the sound of this buyer journey, read a comprehensive guide to building a LinkedIn ads campaign. Through LinkedIn you can tailor your reach, frequency and segmentation, while monitoring the success of your campaigns to adjust accordingly. LinkedIn is a particularly useful social media platform for B2B tech ads, as you can segment by company, job title and other vocational attributes. 

Performance marketing is effective for B2B tech companies because it generates quick results and allows for sudden shifts in a fast-paced tech space. Because B2B tech products are often new and category-defining, testing marketing strategies is necessary to find the optimum way to reach a new market. 

Performance marketing provides useful indications of what’s working and what’s not, so that you can shift priorities according to analytics. To determine what is working and what is not, use A/B testing. A/B testing tells you if your audience responds best to certain messaging, or even a specific placement of an ad on their screen. 

A/B testing graphic
Source: bizprospex.com

The most extreme type of performance marketing is growth hacking, which aims to generate massive results with minimal input. Coined by Sean Ellis in 2010, growth hacking can be attributed to the success of leading tech companies like DropBox and LinkedIn. Read the top 5 growth hacking strategies to see if it would suit yours. 

Benefits of brand marketing 

In a data-driven world where marketing attribution is necessary to prove the value of marketing, brand building can be put on the back burner. When performance marketing can gain leads and revenue tomorrow, it can be difficult to ask the C-Suite for a year to get a brand building channel off the ground. 

The year of hard work is worth it. Brand marketing is fundamental to business longevity and it has many benefits: 

Traffic quality

Brand building increases traffic quality because prospects who perceive your organisation as reliable, superior and valuable are more likely to convert to customers and retain their loyalty. This is because they have an active interest in your brand and have already established a relationship. 

High quality leads are of utmost importance in the competitive space of B2B tech, where target markets are smaller and traffic quantity can only reach so much. 

Value creation

In building brand, you’re enhancing the value of your products and services by showcasing their worth and attributing it to that of your organisation. In B2B tech, when products are often new and category defining, added value can prompt a purchase decision. 

Customer retention

With a strong brand, customer loyalty increases as they believe in the superiority of your organisation against competitors. 

In a highly competitive space like B2B tech, customer retention is key. Maintaining the strength of a brand in a sea of copycats is vital to making sure they don’t sweep up your customers. 

Long term impact

Maintaining a strong brand ensures your company generates revenue in the long run. High quality leads have a higher perceived value of your products. This means they are more likely to convert to being loyal customers. With loyalty comes business longevity as customers continue to advocate for and support your brand. 

It’s more difficult to measure the impact of brand marketing because there aren’t quantifiable results from each specific campaign. However, you can measure your brand impression overall through surveys and social listening tools like Awario

Brand marketing metrics include brand recall, affinity, consideration, purchase intent, net promoter score (NPS), and sentiment. Use NPS to measure the likelihood of people promoting your brand, staying loyal and enjoying your service. 

Benefits of performance marketing

Lead generation

Many B2B tech marketing teams are measured on their ability to generate leads and pass them onto sales. This is where performance marketing comes in handy, as quick conversions occur in response to short-term campaigns. 

For example, whenever someone clicks on your social media ad and signs up for a free trial, they become a marketing qualified lead. A sales representative can follow up with them to provide extra information to convert them into a paying customer. Revenue can be attributed directly to that ad, proving the success of the ad campaign and the value of your marketing team. 

Prompted conversions

As well as marketing qualified leads, prospective customers can convert themselves through performance marketing. Through interactions with various touch points, they become familiar with your product and their purchase decision can be prompted. In self-serve models, performance marketing can push leads down the funnel as a sales rep would. 

Traffic volume

Although not every website lurker will turn into a customer, performance marketing sends a high quantity of prospects to your website. This is great for building brand awareness, gaining a wider reach and playing the numbers game. The more people come to your website, the more become customers. 

In B2B tech, high traffic volume often isn’t as important as high quality of leads. There are only so many people that your products/services can be marketed to. Sending all of your target audience to your website at once is not a good idea! Be careful about how many people you want to reach with performance marketing. You don’t want to saturate your market too soon with campaigns that aren’t quite right. 

If you’d like to learn more benefits of performance and brand marketing, this podcast explores the topic a CRO's perspective. He discusses the conflict between data-centric marketing and building brand, as well as the origin of this tension. 

Finding the right balance between brand and performance marketing for your B2B tech organisation 

Brand and performance marketing work to benefit each other. It would be a wasted opportunity to have one without the other. 

Hypothetically, if you only focus on performance marketing your audience might not click on your ads. How likely are you to click on an ad for a brand you do not know? Particularly in B2B tech where companies are new and products are unfamiliar. Performance marketing for a B2B tech product or service is improved when an audience is already warmed to your brand. 

Research proves that 52% of B2B buyers say they’re “definitely” more likely to buy from a brand once they’ve read their content. So if you want your audience to convert via your paid ads, get them in front of your brand-building, top-of-funnel content first. 

If you exclusively focus on brand marketing, prospects wouldn’t be incentivised and actively tempted to convert to customers. Yes, they would know of your brand and might even like and trust it as well, but if they’re not prompted to purchase anything, would they? 

So it’s settled. Both brand marketing and performance marketing are key to the success of your B2B tech company. But what’s the magic ratio? 

If you’re looking to generate leads and fast revenue to get investors onboard, performance marketing might be your priority to prove the success or potential of your organisation. If you’ve just had a big influx of customer conversions and now you want to make sure you retain them, brand marketing is something you could employ to build loyalty. 

To learn more about brand building vs. performance marketing to increase traffic to your B2B tech website, read about SEO vs. PPC here

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