Are you building a “me too” brand? Your competitors are making the same claims and promises as you. They are even using the same words. Brands that are built on “who you are” and “what you do” do not result in above average revenue growth. Your brand impacts revenue growth when it gets activated by the sales force and becomes uniquely relevant to your customer and prospects. As a guide, download our 10th annual workbook, How to Make Your Number in 2017. Turn to the brand strategy and planning phase on pages 174 – 179 of the PDF.
The top performing companies – those that consistently grow faster than their industry and peer group – know that brand development is a crucial element to their continued success. B2B Brands such as IBM, UPS, SAP, Accenture and FedEx have strong brand messages that convey their story. It’s no surprise that each of these brands are included in the top 10 of Interbrand’s top 10 B2B Brands.
As the Marketing leader of your organization, you must pay close attention to your brand. In fact, your brand is your single most valuable asset. A strong brand enables the sales machine, while a weak, or tarnished brand can stall the engine, or perhaps worse, shut it down entirely. There are five ways to test the effectiveness of your brand message.
A strong brand gets the sales team into deals where they are invited to compete. A weak brand requires the sales team to claw their way from the outside just to get a shot, and then it’s an outside shot.
So how can you tell if your brand inspires your buyer to go from the problematic status quo to the opportunity-filled future by selecting your brand? Start by exploring these 5 questions:
- How are your employees activating your brand? In a B2B company the sales force is the biggest determinant of the brand. Inside sales reps and field sales reps need to convey the company strategy in how they appear, interact and speak. Buyers love consistency with expectations and experience. Walk into any Apple store and immediately a subconscious set of expectations raises to the conscious level. Crisp and simple product displays, blue t-shirts with Apple logos, and a certain buzz that is meant to create excitement, innovation, and prestige. Activating your brand requires more than marketing. It requires having the right people, in the right positions, with the right message. This in turn requires training, consistency, and discipline in ensuring your brand story and promise are being communicated uniformly in every customer interaction. When was the last time you asked your team what your brand promise is? If your brand suggests fun and excitement are your sales people smiling or running through the motions? If your brand is promising innovation, cutting edge, and market leading solutions, what actions is your team taking to portray these attributes to your customers?
- What is the big problem your company is trying to solve? Are you creating efficiency or effectiveness? Understanding the answer to this question is important as you begin to define your brand message. Customers and buyers need to easily understand what your solution will do for them. Creating a clear message that states what you’re solving for will enable the buyer to take further action. If your solution removes complexity, minimizes loss, saves money, or improves speed of delivery then say it that clearly.
- What market drivers are causing the problem and how is it getting worse? Your goal is to provide a picture of reality – today’s and tomorrow’s. The best performing companies provide the insights their buyers need to better plan for their future. If in the future the problem you’re solving for is getting bigger due to changes in the market, then call attention to what those changes are and how they will impact the customer. New government regulations, changes in trade agreements, disruptive technologies, are all examples of problem creators. They’re also examples of opportunity creators as well if messaged properly. Think about the market drivers relative to healthcare reform. Many of the new regulations created more problems for insurers and insureds. However, out of these new drivers arose new brand messages from the top performing companies taking advantage of the opportunity to provide a new value equation to the buyer.
- How does this problem frustrate your customers and prospects? The old saying, ‘misery loves company’, is a powerful messaging tool. Case studies provide buyers with the ability to associate or relate to other buyers who are struggling to solve the same problem. Using the right words, phrases, and nomenclature allows you to connect with credibility with your buyer letting them know you understand their pain. Through effective storytelling you’ll be able to position your solution directly against their pain and show them a better future.
- Are you describing your product/solution in customer terms? There is no extra credit for using big words and complex sentences. In fact, the prize typically goes to the seller who focuses on the simplicity of its message. Buyers run from complex and run to simple. Is your message using words and terms that resonate with your buyer? Or are you working diligently to make what you do seem more valuable by adding big words? If your target audience is trying to save money than a simple message would be about how your solution helps save them money – not a message that talks about ROI, or ROCE – return on capital employed. Keep it relevant, keep it simple, keep it aligned to your customer’s terms.
To keep your brand fresh requires constant care and feeding. The market will continue to change, as will your buyers. Staying connected with both and providing your team with these insights will help you adjust your brand message to stay relevant while inspiring your team to deliver on your promise. A clear brand message will keep your team engaged and excited while winning more customers and gaining a larger share of wallet within those customers.
If you need more help with your B2B brand, I encourage you to visit with me and the marketing experts from SBI at The Studio, our executive briefing center in Dallas, Texas.