What Does Change Mean for B2B Brands?

by Gregg on December 10, 2014

ChangeSeth Godin has been blogging about the concept of change a lot lately, including this gem from a couple of days ago, which got me to thinking.

What exactly is change for B2B brands?

To me, it’s the inevitability of movement from one state to the next. That, of course, could be a desired state, such as jumping from $50 million to $100 million in sales, or it could be a less-desired state.

The point is that it’s always happening, even when it doesn’t “look” like anything is changing. Change is movement in one direction or the other, from Point A to Point B, or Point Z.

The key for B2B brands is the thousands of decisions that comprise that movement, most of which are seemingly small decisions that are overlooked they don’t seem important but, by aggregate, can have a profound effect on brand perception. That’s the inevitability part, because those decisions are constantly being made – and not always in the best interest of brand perception.

How many times have you called a business and gotten a prompt to leave a message in the general company mailbox? Or one of my favorite annoyances, posting a message to a company on Twitter only to be ignored.

A relative of mine once told me that everything adds up – you put a nickel on a table, and another on top of it and so on, eventually you’ll get a dollar. Keep going, and you’ll have $10, then maybe $100.

Think of those nickels as astute decisions made by people empowered to make them.

It’s a customer service rep who doesn’t have to check with her supervisor on an oddball request.

It’s a product expert who delivers all three key messages to a trade publication editor at a trade show.

It’s a responsive social media community manager.

And yes, it’s a receptionist – an actual person – who answers the phone and directs you were you want to go.

Change is movement, one way or the other, and it’s not always sweeping and grandiose. And since change occurs at the micro level, it’s got to be managed there as well. That’s where leadership is most effective or ineffective.

All that said, which direction is your brand going? More importantly, who’s taking it to its destination?


081407-off_the_recordRagan.com had a piece this week that dove into the complicated waters of going “off the record” during a media interview. This is timely, of course, because of the unfortunate comments made by an Uber executive that he thought was off the record.

This person basically said he would be for hiring researchers to target reporters that have challenged the company, in order to “give them a taste of their own medicine.”


Why should this matter to my B2B audience, including marketers, executives and their agency partners? After all, Uber is a high-profile B2C brand, so everything it does is scrutinized by media and consumers alike.

Consider: Having worked in B2B for most of my career, industries can be a lot like a community; everyone seems to know everyone else, and one misstep during an interview means word can travel fast, particularly in today’s social media environment.

The best way to manage this risk is to assume anything you say to a media member like a trade publication editor – on the phone, at a trade show, at a social event or even in the restroom – could end up in print and/or online. Therefore, never going off the record is the best policy, because you then eliminate the possibility that you could say something that you wouldn’t want anyone else in your industry community to see, much less your boss.

This most important considering that trade editors in particular have somehow gotten away from taking notes during an interview. There have been a troubling number of editorial meetings I have scheduled at trade shows in the past few years where the editor showed up and just listened to my client talk.

To me, that’s borderline disrespectful, but also dangerous. If you go off the record with a media member who’s not taking notes, you’re relying on their memory of the discussion for accuracy when they write their show reports. Will they remember what was on and off the record?

Do you seriously want to take that chance?

In hindsight, I remember vividly executives from B2B companies I interviewed when I was a trade publication editor at Model Retailer that liberally jumped back and forth between on and off the record. My policy was to never write down something told to me off the record. That way, I always knew that whatever was in my notes was on the record, and therefore fair game for my reporting.

But that was my policy. Again, want to take a chance? I think not.

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to work with your media relations counsel to craft key messages ahead of time, and think through responses to both easy and hard questions that might come up during an interview. It sounds cliche, but if you stay on message, there shouldn’t be a problem.

That’s certainly better than saying something to a media member off the record and having it get around your industry, or a trade show floor, or social media channels, and then having to do damage control.

Image credit to Business2Community.com


Twitter’s Struggle to Define its Vision a Cautionary Tale for B2B Brands

November 10, 2014

Friday’s story in the Wall Street Journal about Twitter CEO Dick Costolo’s struggle to define the vision of the social media network is a cautionary tale for organizations of all sizes, including (and perhaps especially) of B2B companies. The story notes that, “Amid staff changes, Mr. Costolo has vacillated in defining Twitter, confusing investors betting […]

Read the full article →

Where Does Wearable Technology Fit for B2B Brands?

October 24, 2014

I have friends who work in IT that swear the next big thing is wearable technology, and the statistics seem to bear that out – the market is supposed to be anywhere from $5.8 billion to as much as $12 billion by 2018. Of course, we’ve seen Google Glass for a couple of years now, […]

Read the full article →

Simplicity Key for Brands to Make Communications Channels More Effective

October 20, 2014

Jacobs & Clevenger here in Chicago had a blog post recently that posed a surprising question: Have all communications channels stopped working? In it, Ron Jacobs muses about whether marketers should stop investing in websites, if SEM and SEO are still effective, and the virtues of direct mail. It was a perfect segue for today’s […]

Read the full article →

Why Are Some B2B Brands STILL Doing Social Media Ineffectively?

September 30, 2014

I was working on a research project recently where I was tasked with surveying a group of B2B companies’ social media presences, and once again, I was astonished by how ineffective they collectively were being approached. What was wrong, you ask? You name it – one-way newsfeed-like communication, complete and utter lack of engagement, no […]

Read the full article →

Maximizing Your LinkedIn Profile, Part 2: Content

September 15, 2014

My note: In Part 2 of this mini-series on maximizing a LinkedIn profile, I dive into profile content, specifically focusing on things to improve that might not be obvious. My friend and LinkedIn connection Patrick Mayoh talked about connection in Part 1 last week, which you can read here. I might add that in the […]

Read the full article →

Maximizing Your LinkedIn Profile, Part 1: Connecting

September 11, 2014

My note: From two continents, my friend and LinkedIn connection Patrick Mayoh and I attack the challenge of maximizing your LinkedIn profile in Part 1 of this two-part series. You may remember Patrick, who works for Euromonitor International in his native Cameroon, in west-central Africa, wrote this insightful post about the brands that stand out […]

Read the full article →

In Defense of B2B PR: Three Keys to Shining as a Brand Representative

August 28, 2014

Beth Monaghan from Inkhouse Media and Marketing had a really good take recently about why she entered the public relations field, and why what she does on a daily basis is so fulfilling. You can read her piece at Ragan.com here. It was thought-provoking for me, especially as a PR, social media and marketing communications […]

Read the full article →

Being in the Present: Personal Brand Lessons from The Power of Now

August 3, 2014

I’m back, after nearly two weeks of convalescing after my most recent surgery, and frankly, VERY glad to be back. It wasn’t pleasant … a tonsillectomy and work on my soft palate left me feeling like I was swallowing glass shards for the better part of the last couple of weeks. Ick. But, two pieces […]

Read the full article →