March 30

Word of Mouth Marketing relies on reputation not branding

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The premise of my post is that B2B marketing and B2C marketing are different.  B2B must stop copying B2C – we’re not Coca-Cola, Disney or McDonald’s – so let’s stop acting like it! 

When it comes to word of mouth marketing (WOM), I’ve observed that many B2B marketers, marketing blogs and the media seem overly concerned about brand building.  They have it wrong.  Instead they should focus more on reputation building especially, if they have a complex sale.

Why? Word of mouth is all about our reputation.  Our reputation leads others to make conclusions about our brand but our brand doesn’t create our reputation. 

Recent research shows that reputation makes a huge difference for B2B companies in the following areas; demand creation, lead generation and overall revenue growth.

Sirius Decisions, a leading B-to-B research firm concludes,

"While brand isn’t dead, we believe it has become a byproduct of reputation, the first of three overall outputs today’s b-to-b organizations must systematically produce in order to be successful. Reputation has a direct link to the second output – demand creation – and indirectly helps to drive the third output (revenue) by building a foundation of trust and credibility that should be revisited as needed throughout a sales cycle."

Read my post on defending thought leadeship

So if you want to build a WOM marketing program, you must look at your reputation first – not your brand.  "Build it and they will come." – Field of Dreams

Should reputation take a back seat to branding?  Why or Why not? 

Sirius Decisions: The Real Link to Demand Creation

Link: A Penny For: Using Blogs for Word of Mouth Marketing.

About the author 

Brian Carroll

Brian Carroll is the CEO and founder of markempa, helping companies to convert more customers with empathy-based marketing.

He is the author of the bestseller, Lead Generation for the Complex Sale and founded B2B Lead Roundtable LinkedIn Group with 20,301+ members.

  1. Hi Brian and co.

    I agree that there are differences between B2B and B2C in practical terms but I have long suggested that reputation is what branding should really be about in either sphere. Image and livery are more to do with practical cognitions (and give the logo police something to worry about). What matters is reputation. And how you and your customers generate and nurture that. Period.

    I’m not sure the brand is that useful an idea any way – or maybe its too useful – “brand” can be used to justify anything you want or don’t want to do but misses the point most of the time. Check out an essay I wrote for the UK APG in Brand New Brand Thinking (2002) Ed. Baskin/Earls, debunking the brand idea as it is currently used.

    On the broader theme, having worked with some major B2B players over the last few years, I really think the the B2C guys are the ones who’ve got stuff to learn – and not the other way round.

    Keep up the good work


  2. When discussing WOM, consider the power of having your employees build up your reputation as a great place to work because of your commitment to people and quality.

    Employees are people with mouths too.

  3. you are absolutely right. brand has been overbuilt and oversold and now everyone out there just thinks about making snazzy logos, fancy graphics and think they have a business model. the real truth is brand is just a reference point – all the other aspects have been just loads of hogwash – things like personality, character etc. If you dont have a good product (a.k.a or leading to – reputation)you are dead – brand personality and swinging PR or not. Period.

  4. Great perspective. There was a good article in Harvard Business Review a number of months ago about measuring customer satisfaction. One question does it – “Would you recommend our products or services to a business peer?”. This encapsulates reputation as well as another key (in my mind) requirement for successful B2B, ‘Enthusiastic References’. If you have enthusiatic references you can really accelerate complex sales cycles and drive revenue. So, while you might have strong brand awareness (see Enron…) a good reputation (good service, great product, good value, etc.) as articulated by your enthusiastic references will certainly drive business.

  5. I’ve not thought about reputation being the brand before. But I think the idea has merit. I think this is more true for very small businesses. Perhaps that’s the difference between reputation and brand. Brand the reputation of large companies, while reputation is the brand for small companies.

    I agree whole heartedly about B2B being very different from B2C.

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