• Transform magazine
  • December 07, 2023


Five minutes with Robin Cordy

Robin Cordy NBS

Robin Cordy, marketing director at NBS, formerly the National Building Specification, speaks to Transform magazine about how he has changed the brand and its positioning, transforming a staid information provider to a global leader in construction technology.

In what ways is B2B branding different from B2C?

People often say that business (B2B) buyers make purchase decisions rationally, whereas consumers (B2C) make them emotionally. Whilst some of that is true I don’t think it’s quite as simple. At the end of the day, you’re still marketing to other humans with emotional drivers, and it’s therefore essential that B2B brands have a strong personality and voice all of their own.

The approach we’ve taken at NBS is to focus on really understanding the problems that our customers have in their worlds, then showing them how our products and services help solve those problems. A B2B buyer is much more likely to respond if you can show them a solution to a problem they are already trying to solve – this is both emotional and rational! Our brand has become aligned with this way of thinking.

NBS has been able to perform on its own merit without the Royal Institute of British Architects’ halo effect. How did you overcome this branding challenge?

Although NBS might not be a household name to consumers, it’s now very well known in construction and architecture. NBS originally emerged as the commercial arm of the RIBA and used a mix of the two brands to go-to-market, alongside some very technical messaging, which created a lot of confusion.

A couple of years ago we re-organised and set about making NBS into a true technology/SaaS brand for the construction industry. Our brand messaging changed, becoming much more confident and direct, alongside massively improving and simplifying our product range. Again, we looked at our customers’ worlds and how we could align the brand with their needs. We already had a relatively new logo so focussed on making everything else about the brand more engaging and energising - both creatively and in our content.

We came up with really simple statements around ‘Connected Construction Information’ and ‘Digital Construction, with everything else hanging off that. Alongside this we established a digital marketing machine which has really enabled us to take the brand message to the market and our customers.

How has the new brand and its positioning help increase the annual revenue and the
business’ success as a whole?

NBS has transformed in the last two years. We’ve gone from being a poorly understood technical information provider, to a true technology platform for construction. I’d be lying if I said this was purely down to brand, as we’ve completely re-invented our product range, and moved everything to the cloud, as well as improving how we operate across all areas of the business. Yet our branding and marketing has provided the platform to take it all to market and drive the adoption and growth.

We used to be seen as worthy and dull, now our brand is forward-thinking and empowering. From a numbers point of view we’ve seen a 600% increase in our product usage in 2020 with double-digit sales growth – all in spite of Covid. We also just won ‘Marketing Team of the Year’ at the Construction Marketing Awards which we’re super proud of!

What role has technology played in creating a new, successful brand identity?

Technology has been a major part of all this. We’ve digitised everything about our products and services, but we’ve also used technology to great effect within our branding and marketing. 99% of our marketing is now digital – we’ve gone crazy for content marketing, videos, webinars, online events and digital campaigns. We’ve also implemented a marketing automation approach which has enabled us really develop and nurture our prospect database, understanding exactly what works across the funnel and driving lead generation and conversion. Alongside the intangible elements of the brand, it’s essential to have really clear marketing objectives which can be clearly tracked and measured – technology makes this possible.

What has the response been to the new brand?

In a word – phenomenal. We’re seeing more engagement with our brand and our products than ever before, regardless of the link with the RIBA. Our first online conference achieved 2,500 registrations, and so far this year we’ve had over 25,000 signups for our webinars. This translates into the sheer volume of leads we’re generating, where we’ve beaten all our targets. Coming back to the human aspect, the thing that’s most rewarding is when I hear our customers using our brand messaging in their conversation – that’s when you know it’s really working!