For years, companies in the B2B industry have had a closed-door mentality. While their B2C counterparts had to respond – and be seen to respond – to the growing concerns of consumers and the outside world, that didn’t really apply to them. But times change quickly.
Take the example of fossil fuels. For many years, they were the most important part of the S&P 500 and believed they could rule out complaints from environmentalists. Today, stock prices have dropped dramatically and they are forced to make commitments and embrace renewables.
Why should B2B financial services care? Because it is no longer a question of knowing what niche sectors of society think. There are more and more scrutiny from many different angles – investors, regulators, stakeholders, suppliers, employees. Sustainability and environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues are brought to the forefront of corporate agendas because of what business leaders now see as necessary.
And these businessmen have a choice. What B2B financial services brands stand for is, therefore, having greater reach than ever before. We need to recognize that being responsible for the way we conduct our business is quickly becoming a business imperative.
So whether you’re a financial services start-up or a large-scale business looking for investment, or a historic brand in the field of sustainability, addressing these concerns has never been more essential – and communicate vision, purpose, values ââand key messages. Connecting your sustainability strategy and goals to your branding strategy is key to achieving authenticity and setting the tone for your company’s culture, both internally and externally.
The human touch
But it can be easier said than done. A survey by asset management firm Schroders found that the vast majority of companies struggle to navigate the maze of ESG regulations, terminology and industry frameworks and struggle to develop and communicate their point of view.
Partnering up with a brand strategist and getting an outside perspective can be the key to disentangling these complex issues and presenting them in an easy-to-understand and user-friendly way, ensuring that everyone is where you are and how you can respond to critical externalities.
In many ways, the abbreviation B2B is part of the problem. This seems to imply that a dry, functional branding and overly complex communications are just fine. But B2B financial services companies and their branding and communications partners should never forget that businessmen are always people. They need to be taken on a branding journey so that they can digest complex structures and processes as much as anyone else.
But sadly, we see a lot of companies stringing buzzwords and then sitting down. At the same time, people are nodding their heads politely – only to realize later that the results they expected weren’t there because people didn’t understand enough.
Branding strategies should evolve to include messages that will make it clear to key stakeholders why these principles are relevant to the business of the company. People don’t want empty promises. But if a strong framework is in place, it can serve as the basis for internal and external messaging.
Build a strong bond
So how do you cut and connect in a meaningful way? It’s about getting back to basics and being confident that great creativity can get the job done. Creative storytelling uses solid visuals and content to explain concepts in a truly accessible and engaging way.
But it would help if you laid a solid foundation. The ease of explanation comes from really understand the information that supports creative thinking. When your brand partner gets the landscape of your organization, or a specific challenge that you face from a strategic standpoint, the creative and easy to interpret result is simple to implement. And then leading with a human and passionate approach reduces complexity.
We see a a lot of small emerging growth companies in the financial services industry are responding, so kicking the future is not really an option anymore. Ecolytiq, for example, has the mission to create a climate action infrastructure for sustainable finance. He helps his clients make green decisions regarding carbon offsets and business investment.
Companies with strong ESG credentials outperformed throughout 2020. Figures from Fidelity’s Putting Sustainability to the Test report showed stocks at the top of the fund house’s ESG rating scale outperformed those with the lowest ratings each January through September. The report, which analyzed 2,660 companies and was released late last year, showed stocks with the lowest ratings lost 23% in the nine months to September, while those with the lowest ratings fell 23% in the nine months to September, while those with the lowest ratings fell 23% in the nine months to September, while those with the lowest ratings fell 23% in the nine months to September. top ratings posted a positive return of 0.4%.
There is no escaping this. The B2B financial services industry must adapt to the new demands of the business world, and it is simply more profitable to do so.
About the Author: Alex Cleveland, partner at fst.