Don't be led to think that branding and advertising are the same thing. Branding isn't about what you say it's about what people think and feel about you, your people, your product and your company.
Whether you sell to consumers or to businesses the most important "brand attribute" is your reputation. I'm amazed at how companies pick mascots, have stupid characters, use silly slogans that don't tie back to the companies value proposition/customer experience.
Let's take a look at examples from each extreme:
During the .com/.bomb craze we all had more money then sense and branding meant superbowl ads, "eyeballs", and business plans on PowerPoint. So, let's benefit from hindsight shall we?
What does this sock have anything to do with the benefit of shopping online at Pets.com? Nothing! The fact that they couldn't come up with something that represented the value/benefit of shopping online should have been the first sign that Pets.com was doomed!
Drink a few of these puppies (pun intended) and your heart beat is racing! Whether you agree with taking external stimulants to increase energy or not, Red Bull gets it from a branding perspective.
They sponsor sports performers including drag racers, F1 drivers and daredevils. These "hero endorsements" (a term coined by my 10 year old daughter) represent people at the razors edge of speed, performance and exhilaration. I sure hope nobody overdoses on this stuff though!
Years ago some idiot decided to poison some Tylenol tablets in a US city. What did Tylenol do? They pulled every bottle off the shelves across North America (maybe globally). Tylenol then began producing tamper proof packaging. To this day I trust Tylenol.
"Branding" is not a fad and not something you do with a creative director at an ad agency. It is a sum of all the experiences and interactions your customer has with you! Here are some things to think about as you build your "brand" (reputation):
1) What is it that your company or product does for your customer?
2) How do customers feel and think when they use your product or service?
3) What do they experience when working with your professional services organization?
4) What is unique about your service experience over your competition? Do your customers view it as unique?
5) What is it like for your customers to conduct business with your company?
6) What do your sales and services people think are the most important things we should do for our customers?
If you can't answer these questions, find out!
Build your reputation and your brand will look after itself. How do you do this? The key building blocks to building your reputation are the following:
1) A customer reference program - a formal corporate program that tracks customer satisfaction and builds a pool of reference accounts that will endorse your company.
2) Word of Mouth - buyers of B2B products and services seek advice from people they know and trust. Your reference program will help create word of mouth but you'll need to think about how you can also get unbiased mindshare from industry leaders.
3) Thought Leadership - producing value add content and experiences that position you as an expert in your field.
4) Feedback loops - talk to your customers, talk to your sales reps and talk to the founder of your company...regularly. Learn what is working well and what isn't. Find out why.
Building your reputation occurs one day at a time and it depends on customer interaction, input and doing the right things to help your customers be successful. That's what you advertise.