Whether you are an established B2B or a startup, a style guide should be at the center of your marketing strategy.
A style guide, also known as brand standards or guidelines, provides guidelines for how your B2B should be presented both visually and verbally. It is instructions on how your brand should be communicated internally and externally.
A style guide specifies every aspect of the look and feel of your brand. It includes standards for logo usage, colors, typography, grammar, tone, etc. The goal of the style guide is to ensure that any materials (e.g. brochures, emails, social media, presentations) reflect your B2B’s style and establishes brand consistency.
Why Brand Consistency?
Customers buy from brands they know and trust. To help create that trust, your B2B needs brand consistency. Marketing to customers through a consistent brand voice and visual style is a big part of getting them to know your business. Once they feel like they know you, they will begin to trust you and will be more likely to purchase your product or service.
With consistent branding, your B2B can easily differentiate your product or services from the competition, deliver key messaging and create brand loyalty. By establishing consistent branding, your B2B can control customer perceptions from the initial engagement through the buyers journey.
What to Include
Your style guide should include a table of contents and three sections: an about section, a writing section and a visual section. Each of these sections is important to ensuring brand consistency across all channels. A style guide is a brand standards.
The About section introduces your brand. Start with your About us description. Make sure that it is not only accurate with what it says, but it is accurate in how it is said. If you want your brand voice to be conversational, but the statement is filled with corporate jargon, then there will be a disconnect.
Items to include in the About Us:
- Letter From CEO
- General Overview of the company
- Mission statements, Visions, Values
This section should also include your B2Bs target audiences. Identifying the target audience can help craft marketing strategies and define your core customers. Instead of using resources trying to cater to every consumer, defining a target audience allows for more intentional and personal outreach to those most likely to purchase from your B2B
It may seem trivial whether to use ‘‘&” or ‘‘and,” using the numerical or written versions of numbers or the use of the Oxford Comma, but these details add up. If you keep them consistent throughout your brand’s material, they will convey the same voice, thinking and credibility that will help with your brand’s consistency.
What to include in the writing section:
- Start by referencing an existing style guide you already have adopted like AP, Chicago or MLA as your base. Then add your brand’s differences, such as the Oxford comma, numerical or written versions of numbers — even best practices for using emojis.
- Include details on how to use quotes, hyphens, bullets and lists.
- Describe the tone and voice of your brand. Be sure to give examples of right and/or wrong. You also should include information on sentence structure. Do you want long, complex sentence structures or simple, easy-to-understand sentences?
- Include a section on how to engage correctly, words to avoid, and other information necessary to properly market your brand.
Visual style guides define how your brand will look and keep your B2Bs graphics consistent and uniform across all materials.
What to include in the visual section:
- Logo Guidelines: Include all approved versions of your logo, describe when to use each one, and show visual examples to make it clear. Include:
- Logo’s minimum size and proper proportions.
- Logo clear space requirements
- Show the logo variations (reversed, in color, black and white) and how to use them.
- How you don’t want your logo to be used.
- Color Guidelines: Detail your brand’s colors and function. Include each color’s hex, CMYK, and RGB codes. Be sure to include how to use each color properly.
- Font Guidelines: List all brand fonts for headings, paragraphs, lists etc., and how to use them. This should include font names, sizes and colors. You may also include acceptable serif and sans serif typefaces.
- Imagery Guidelines: Show examples of images that have performed well for your brand. Indicate what works and doesn’t work. Show examples of the type of images not to use. You may also want to include a mood board to provide more guidelines for choosing imagery.
- Additional Format Guidelines: Include information on properly using other formats, including video, motion graphics and infographics.
- Presentation Guidelines: Include a link to your B2Bs slideshow template for presentations.
Your B2B is more than just the product or services you provide. A cohesive brand tells potential customers why they should choose you over your competition. Your style guide informs your team on how to stay true to that brand.
While some guides can be hundreds of pages, others can be just a few pages. It all depends on your needs. The important part is that it tells all your essential brand elements and can act as the main point of reference for all design projects.