If you’re responsible for marketing an early-stage business-to-business (B2B) company, you’ll eventually have to make a decision: When should you give your B2B brand an amazing visual identity?
An Early B2B Brand Can Be Rough, But for Good Reason
When your company started out, you probably had a visual identity that was serviceable but maybe a little rough. Perhaps with limited resources, you created something “good enough” to get your business off the ground. Imperfect though it may have been, you moved forward, because when you’re trying to get those first few dozen customers, moving quickly is priority No. 1.
But in the back of your mind, you knew you’d eventually have to upgrade that website, revise that logo and generally improve your brand’s design quality. Knowing when, though, can be a challenge. Do you wait until you’re profitable? When you hit $10 million in revenue? When your marketing budget is “big enough”?
There’s no perfect answer. But you can begin by asking yourself whether you’re selling to early adopters or the early majority. That will tell you whether it’s time to upgrade your visual identity or not.
Early Adopters Care Less About Your Brand
If you’ve ever read Crossing the Chasm, you’ll know that early adopters care mostly about one thing: trying new technology. They may even see your solution as a way to gain an unfair advantage on those who aren’t as quick to get ahead.
Early adopters take risks. They aren’t as concerned about whether your product is the market leader and they understand that new companies are still working out the kinks. As a result, early adopters don’t rely much on the visual identity of your B2B brand when deciding whether they should work with you.
The Early Majority Cares More About Credibility
The early majority, on the other hand, isn’t as interested in trying new technology for its own sake. They aren’t as willing to take a big risk on an unproven company or product. They seek the best solution for whatever problem they’re dealing with. In other words, they are looking for the market leader — or at least, a company that’s poised to become one.
That’s why when early majority buyers start to evaluate your company, they use your brand’s visual identity as a proxy for the quality of your products and the credibility of your business. Rightly or wrongly, this first impression may heavily influence their decision.
Know Your Market, Know When to Invest in Visual Identity
If you’re selling to the early majority, you can probably get away with a less-than-stellar visual identity. Even if you have marketing dollars to spare, you’re probably better off investing them elsewhere for the time being.
If you’re selling to the early majority though, now’s the time to evaluate whether your visual identity is going to hold you back. Your budget may not allow a visual identity upgrade as soon as you’d like, but at least you can start having those conversations and making plans.
This is the exact scenario I’ve run into when I’ve led marketing. At the company I co-founded, we initially sold to a very niche audience. As we grew, we rebuilt our brand identity to reach new markets. At Skyfii, where I’m currently working, our initial visual identity was developed when we were moving very quickly. Though it did a great job of helping us build early traction, it had some shortcomings we’re currently working to address. In both scenarios, we starting upgrading our visual identity when we began to target the early majority.
Once You’ve Upgraded, It’s Time To Move On
While a quality visual identity is an important part of building your B2B company, it’s certainly not the only (or even the most important) part of your brand or your marketing strategy.
A bad visual identity will definitely hold you back. Yet once your visual identity is professional looking, consistent and accurately reflects your brand’s personality, you may get diminishing returns if you continue to spend time on it. Once you’ve given your B2B brand the visual upgrade it needs to make the early majority comfortable doing business with you, move on and start to invest in other areas of marketing.
This post was originally published in Inc.