How B2B marketers can be winners at the game of tag.

What was the best part of playing tag as a youngster? Not being “it,” of course.

Well, here we are conducting B2B marketing for our companies and we want to be “it.” That’s because being “it” means having a competitive edge, the most well-known brand, the biggest market share, and generating the most revenue.

Last week’s blog on “Two ways to use your B2B customer database as a valuable targeting tool” was built from expertise I gathered at a recent San Diego Software Industry Council event. It presented “Market Strategies for Software Companies” by Robert Hale, President of Robert Hale & Associates.

Fortunately, learning about targeting wasn’t the only productive insight I gathered from that presentation. The rest was about creating the tagline that properly supports the B2B marketing and branding we do for our companies.

His advice was easy to understand but, for many companies, a huge effort to do right. It consisted of these three simple rules for creating useful taglines:

  1. Differentiate your company from your competition
  2. Make it easy to understand
  3. Make it true.

Why are taglines important? Hale goes on to explain that taglines are the lead into a company’s messaging and its positioning. They provide prospects with a snapshot of how the company is different from its competition. They introduce the company’s USP or “unique selling proposition.” If a B2B company does not have this differentiating USP, then it has other problems besides creating a strong tag.

As I said earlier, coming up with a tagline that effectively meets the above three rules is a big effort. For example, below is what some of today’s well-known B2B companies currently show as a tagline on their Web sites. Do these company tags meet the criteria? Here’s my take:

Dell: “The Power to Do More”
HP: “Let’s Do Amazing”
Actually these are strong statements. But if the prospect doesn’t already know of the HP and Dell brands (if the prospect is under the age of 2), the statements are meaningless. For B2B marketers not having this kind of brand exposure, these tags would be very weak.

3M: “Innovative Technology for a Changing World”
SAP: “Delivering IT-Powered Business Innovation”
Both of these tags follow the rules very nicely, with “Innovation” being the differentiator.

Intuit: “Small Business. Rejoice”
As a small business person, this tagline gives me confidence and makes me interested. But it doesn’t tell me what kind of product they offer. This approach comes from the freedom companies enjoy in creating taglines once they have a well-known brand.

Office Depot: “Taking Care of Business”
I like this one best as it tells me what they do and the use of the word “care” gives the company personality and focus.

Silverpop: “Engagement Marketing Solutions”
Eloqua: “The Power to Succeed”
Above are two competitors. Silverpop expresses exactly what they do. Eloqua promises a benefit but does not tell me what they do. For a company without a strong brand, telling the prospect what they do makes more sense to me. The Eloqua tag promises a nice benefit, but that benefit could be applied to hundreds, if not thousands, of companies. There is no differentiator there.

Barnum and Bailey, of course, would never think of switching from “The Greatest Show on Earth.” In business, however, taglines can change over time based on changing market demand and changing technologies. As the lead or introduction into a company Web site, a solution brief, brochure, email, or any other B2B marketing communication, I believe that a tagline that follows Hale’s rules is essential.

Other branding experts, such as How-to-Branding.com, add more guidelines for tagline creation, such as

  • Is it memorable?
  • Is it easy to say?
  • Does it allow your prospects to recall your name?
  • Does it communicate your brand essence or position?
  • Will it help your business achieve its mission?

Hale’s advice, however, keeps a complicated task simple and covers the essence of what B2B marketers need to remember when creating a tag that represents the company effectively to its prospective market.

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