How to Develop a B2B Brand Strategy for Your SaaS Company

How to Develop a B2B Brand Strategy for Your SaaS Company


What comes to mind when you hear the word “brand”?

Is it your company’s logo or visual identity? How about the emotional, hard-to-measure, “arts and crafts” side of marketing?

If any of those reactions surfaced for you, I’d like to convince you otherwise. I believe that developing an authentic brand strategy is one of the most important foundational steps to going to market as a SaaS business today — especially with owned media.

Mythbusting Brand for B2B Companies

Historically when we use the word brand in SaaS marketing, we are often using it as a synonym for Corporate Marketing. The inference here is that Demand Generation teams are focused on growth, while Corporate Marketing is focused on other non-revenue activities. Therefore Brand, and Corporate Marketing as a proxy, can’t be measured and is disconnected from growth.

Forgive my bluntness, but that line of thinking is a dangerous lie.

The truth is that people buy products emotionally — yes, even in B2B. Simon Sinek famously explains in his golden circle theory that, “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” This has been long appreciated in consumer marketing for some time. It’s the reason you grab either a Pepsi or Coke when presented with both options on the shelf.

In the 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer (the 23rd annual trust and credibility survey), the research discovered that 63% of respondents buy or advocate for brands based on my beliefs and values. 69% of respondents agree that having societal impact is a strong expectation or deal breaker when considering a job.

This is data that SaaS marketers cannot ignore. The overwhelming majority of our audience is making purchasing decisions based on the emotional connection to our brand. Belonging and inspiration are encoded into our very social-psychology as humans.

So how can marketers engage their audience with an emotional narrative? That’s where brand strategy comes in.

Defining Brand Strategy

Brand strategy is a well understood practice in consumer marketing. Unlike its close cousins in brand identity (visual design of logos, tone and voice, etc.) and brand marketing (campaigns to activate brand and drive awareness), brand strategy is rooted in research and positioning work to give language to a company’s emotional narrative.

Where product marketing is focused on messaging and positioning work around your company’s product portfolio, brand strategy is undergoing a similar exercise to create a narrative around your company, culture, category, and community. A brand strategist would tell you that this exercise is not meant to manufacture, but rather, to reveal the narrative already at work within your company.

Given the impact that a purpose-driven narrative can create for your company, it’s never too early to prioritize developing a brand strategy.

For early stage businesses, running a brand strategy process can serve as a true north for the entire company — giving language to the founders’ vision and aligning marketing, product, and other cross-functional teams against a common goal. For many later stage companies, articulating brand strategy through the eyes of your customer and community can accelerate growth and strengthen the competitive moat around your company.

Defining a brand strategy is an important process that every company should undergo. But for companies who are serious about owned media, I believe that it’s a foundational first step that can’t be skipped.

Why Owned Media Starts with Brand Strategy

We’ve now established that your audience is making decisions on which brands to follow, engage, and ultimately buy products from based on factors beyond your feature set. Owned media programs like content, events and experiences, and community are the delivery vehicles for activating that narrative.

But without defining your brand strategy first, your efforts could be rudderless, or at worst, inauthentic to your audience.

Running a brand strategy process can help you understand your audience on a deeper level beyond the firmographic data that most “persona” exercises practice in the traditional product marketing construct. You’ll explore how your audience views their role within culture and how your company’s mission can help them self-actualize within their careers. These insights become a guide for your content and media strategy, helping you develop programs that pierce through the noise and create actual value for your audience — value that when consistent is often rewarded with a subscription.

When brand is activated in rented channels, the impact is often measured in awareness. Not necessarily a bad thing, but often difficult to attribute to business outcomes. However when brand is activated as part of an owned media approach, all engagement data is tracked and measurable.

Marketing teams can finally understand how editorial content produced across formats that focus on culture or the broader market category are contributing to audience engagement. As patterns emerge, the connection between engagement and business outcomes become clear and repeatable.

Getting started with brand strategy work doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming either.

Four Steps to Running a Brand Strategy Process

There are some fantastic brand agencies and consultants that can partner with your team to facilitate a brand strategy process. I’ve found that an external party is often a helpful perspective for this exercise. But if you’d like to get started faster and cheaper, here are four elements to consider when developing your brand strategy.

Stakeholder Interviews. Immersing your team in perspectives beyond your own is a critical first step in developing a brand strategy. The voices within your company carry a wealth of knowledge, starting the process with your founders and executive team, and ensuring cross-functional representation across the business. Schedule a qualitative :30 minute call with each to understand their perspective on the company’s purpose, impact to culture, market category and role within the community. As you collect early insights, develop an external (quantitative) survey with your customers, audience, and general population to validate thinking.

Brand Territories. Once you’ve collected internal and external insights on your potential brand narrative, synthesize everything into a handful of positioning “territories” or clusters of big ideas that are meant to provoke conversation, and if you’re up for it, test with consumer research. Territories are not meant to be understood as polished language or messaging. An example of a positioning territory would be taking a product-led position around a company as a “command center” or a culture-led position around “meaningful work.” Get feedback on your territories internally before running a qualitative process of consumer (or ethnographic) research to explore these territories out in the field and further refine based on findings.

Positioning & Messaging Development. With the research phase completed, now comes the fun part — synthesizing all insights collected, selecting a positioning territory, and using the findings to develop a one page messaging document called a “brand-on-a-page.” A brand-on-a-page is the output of the brand strategy process and becomes the source of truth for your activation programs. It typically contains five prompts: your brand purpose (or “why”), value proposition (or “what”), experience principles (or “how”), a description of your product portfolio (a critical step for SaaS companies that connects aspirational messaging to functional product benefit), and impact vision.

Activation. Plan a big internal announcement to create excitement within the company, as well as an external “moment” to serve as a kick-off for activation programs. Many teams choose to marry brand strategy with a brand identity project to give deeper meaning to their logo and website. But in the context of owned media specifically, your brand strategy can shape the intention of your owned media property — positioning that surface as the digital home for your category and the place where your audience can subscribe to content and thought leadership informed by the brand strategy work. A recent example of this is Outlier, an owned media property by Dovetail that serves and engages the research community, a reflection of their company’s conviction that deep customer understanding is the secret ingredient to building great products.


If you want to learn more, we are developing a brand new content franchise at AudiencePlus called The Playbook that takes a deep dive into how companies can build and scale an owned media strategy. We have so much conviction that brand strategy is a foundational first step in that effort, that we are dedicating our inaugural episode into an even deeper dive into this practice (if you can believe that after 1500 words).

If you are interested in learning more about developing a brand strategy for your business, and getting access to a discussion guide for your team, sample brand-on-a-page templates, and a supplementary podcast with brand strategy experts, subscribe to AudiencePlus by clicking the ’Subscribe’ button in the right panel.


Anthony Kennada | About the Author

Founder and CEO, AudiencePlus

Prior to founding AudiencePlus, Anthony served as the CMO of incredible companies like Hopin and Front. He was the founding CMO of Gainsight where he and his team are credited with creating the Customer Success category -- a novel business imperative, profession and software category that helps subscription companies grow sustainably by becoming customer obsessed. By focusing on human first community building, content marketing, live events and creative activations, they developed a new playbook for B2B marketing that built the Gainsight brand and fueled the company’s growth from $0 to $100M+ ARR, and eventual acquisition by Vista Equity at a $1.1B valuation. You can follow him here.


How to Develop a B2B Brand Strategy for Your SaaS Company

The overwhelming majority of our audience is making purchasing decisions based on the emotional connection to our brand. Belonging and inspiration are encoded into our very social-psychology as humans. So how can marketers engage their audience with an emotional narrative? That's where brand strategy comes in.

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