Developing the brand of your company should be the real business reason your team comes to work every morning, in addition to protecting your customers. Your brand is what makes you unique to those who want to buy your services. A strong company brand adds value to the bottom line. When marketed correctly, a strong brand drives demand. Demand for your brand improves gross margins, along with revenues. To improve differentiation of your brand, narrowing your focus, marketing message and product line is simply a good idea. Being everything to everyone dilutes a company brand. It also inadvertently enables customers to commoditize their purchasing decisions. So how do you re-energize, redefine and communicate your brand?
Take a step back and look at your brand through your customers’ and suppliers’ eyes, and not your own. While this is not easy to do for many reasons, it’s the right thing to do periodically for any company. Send yourself an Outlook meeting request for a one-hour meeting next week with yourself or your team to talk about your brand. DO IT RIGHT NOW! The Marine in me comes out once in a while. You live and breathe your company’s core values … of this I have no doubt. You empower your team every day with these core values through your leadership and actions. However, your vision can inadvertently become myopic over time.
Your marketing efforts may often reflect what you think your customers value, not what they actually value. You may be marketing your brand from your perspective and not theirs. That would be your first mistake. Customers may see and buy from you for reasons beyond simply relationships, price and product selection. In this dynamic convergence market, can your brand be differentiated in the marketplace?
Maybe not. Traditional buying relationships have changed. The increasing sophistication of buying relationships has shifted the past five years. Have you adjusted your brand to address these market shifts? Relationship selling and marketing have changed with new convergence buying approval processes. Have you noticed that traditional buyers, such as security directors, must now take extra steps to include more stakeholders for approval processes? Ever have your proposals disappear into the “cloud” only to have a lightning bolt return? Shifting how your brand is perceived by new stakeholders in the decision process is vital to your future success. Let’s take a look at some necessary steps to reassess your brand image.
4 Groups to Target for Branding
I recommend my clients redefine their brand value proposition from a customer perspective, then recraft how that is communicated through marketing and sales efforts. Include your entire company in the redefining process of your brand image. Trust me; you will gain a better perspective and new insights. There are four groups to include in this brand rethinking process:
1. Your technical and installation team truly defines in your customers’ and prospects’ minds what value your brand delivers to them in a very visceral way. A company’s brand is delivered every day by this team. Their training, attitude and communication skills are your brand. Do they understand their crucial role? Are they trained to communicate effectively? Are they building your brand through their actions, thoughts and words? Do they share their insights and thoughts beyond the narrow scope of working with technology?
2. Your marketing team must understand the real business value that can be gained by choosing your brand. Not from their perspective, but through your customers’ eyes. Does your solution set communicate how IT, security or management teams gain business value by doing business with your brand? Are you sure about that? Marketing messages must provide clear brand differentiation beyond price. How does your marketing message presell solutions that have tangible business value? Marketing must create demand for your brand and your sales team.
3. The sales team must show up to support the business value of the marketing messaging. Often when I consult, I see a big disconnect between the brand marketing message and how the sales team will deliver on that message. When sales teams deliver a different message, customers get confused on the value proposition. When prospects and customers open the door to a sales team, your brand message has established preliminary expectations. If your sales team goes “off script,” customers become confused and frustrated. You will open the door for the lowest common denominator … price. The bottom line for the customer is, “Can you provide me with unique solutions that move me closer to my business goals?”
4. The management team must provide consistent and constant guidance as well as expectations for how their teams build true brand identity. This requires taking key customers’ input without bias or a defensive posture; listen-only mode. Every criticism must be taken as a gift to improve your brand. Convergence brings new stakeholders. There are usually two layers to their responses. Layer 1 is either the polite response or rather generic. You must dig deeper. Layer 2 is why the first response really matters to them personally or from a departmental perspective. When you get a Layer 1 response, ask them, “How does that impact your budget, work, team”… you get the idea. A great quote (Henry David Thoreau) to consider when doing this is, “The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked what I thought, and attended to my answer.”
It’s All About Providing Results
Now let’s talk about demand creation, which is the holy grail of building your convergence brand. How does this work in the real world?
Different stakeholders belong to unique buying groups. They talk among themselves. While you understand how security professionals connect and communicate brand preferences, can you say the same for IT stakeholders? What about business owners and senior management? When they communicate with their peer groups, what do they say about your brand? Brand demand is perceived and communicated differently in these circles. Think about the one word these nontraditional stakeholders expect from your brand — RESULTS.
Financially measureable results to be specific. This does not mean you solve all their problems, only some of them. Can you save their companies time, money or additional workloads? Think about how you can take work away from them so they can focus on improving their business results. IT departments need a “low maintenance” brand that allows them to focus on their primary mission of delivering data that enhances their core worth. Security departments need data delivered faster and in formats they can quickly apply to their core responsibilities. Senior management needs their teams to do their jobs efficiently and without additional nonproductive work.
Does your brand deliver on these needs? What is the next step for you and your team? Know your customer’s business better than you know your business. Sounds a little crazy, doesn’t it? It’s not, not from my consulting experience.
Think about this statement: Financial decision-makers are more likely to do business with your brand because of what you know about their business rather than what you know about your business. When you really understand a vertical market’s business challenges and can provide “enabling solutions” and not simply products, your brand will gain more traction in those markets. Narrow your market approach to differentiate your brand awareness to the strengths and solutions you deliver well.
Paul Boucherle, Certified Protection Professional (CPP) and Certified Sherpa Coach (CSC), is principal of Canfield, Ohio-based Matterhorn Consulting (matterhornconsulting.com). He has more than 30 years of diverse security and safety industry experience and can be followed on Twitter at [email protected]