I plead guilty to enjoying a cold beer or two, and I’ve watched with amazement as the decade-long bull market in the craft beer industry shows no signs of abating.
By BRETT GERSTENBLATT
While few things are more important to sales than a strong, distinctive, respected brand, many mid-market CEOs place brand building on the back burner. This is probably because of the cost and the fact that value of brand building is hard to quantify. But it doesn’t have to be if the work is done right.
To elevate brand building to its rightful position as a driver of growth, and make its impact so clear and effective that the CEO knows it’s adding value, here are six fundamental actions you need to take, starting now.
Find out where you stand. The first step, always, is to view your brand the way customers do, from the outside in. Are you perceived as delivering relevant value? Does your company stand out? Are customers happy or unhappy? What do industry pundits say? If you haven’t done the basic research, the time to do it is now. Effective branding needs grounding in reality.
Craft a great story. Based on your findings and objectives, write a brand narrative everyone gets, one that defines your strengths, your differentiating value, and your brand personality (how your brand behaves). Next, angle the story for different audiences, from customer segments to employees. Your brand story will become a basis for both communication and action. This means not only advertising and marketing; it includes company policy and business practices.
Build a better experience. At our firm, we often say “experience is the brand” – because it is. That’s why the best companies focus on the customer experience across the board. Take a look at your research and examine how people experience your brand across every touch point, from product functionality, to trade show presentations, to the way your people answer the phone. Where are you delivering on your value proposition? Where are you falling short? If some time has passed since your last assessment, gauge new opportunities and changing customer expectations. Then work to improve the customer experience at every conceivable point of interaction.
Sell your ideas. Increasingly, customers want more than products – they want ideas that help them succeed. The expertise of your people can be a big factor in driving your brand. To leverage that asset, first talk to customers and see what they think and care about. Then identify people in your company that have answers and a knack for communication. With their help, create a bank of content you can then deliver across any number of venues, from the insights section of your website, to articles, white papers and videos, to webinars and presentations at important industry trade shows. Keep in mind, while ideas don’t drive sales, they surely drive buzz, which in turn drives sales. In the long run, thought leadership can help you dominate by becoming an indisputable go-to source.
Fire up the team. To drive sales on the outside, your brand has to be strong in the inside, inspiring a work force that’s up to speed and fully equipped to deliver value. Survey employees to see what they’re thinking and what they need to do their jobs better. Uncover issues that detract from productivity, collaboration and customer satisfaction. Begin to build a brand-aligned culture that’s knowledgeable, dedicated and excited – and invest in the tools and training the need to innovate, collaborate and succeed.
Leverage quick wins. While you’re working for the long term, think about the short term – specifically, tactical campaigns that can accelerate sales by surprising customers, increasing awareness, or throwing competitors off balance. Just as important, you can use quick campaigns to test ideas at relatively low cost. And because results are easy to track, you can refine and platform ideas that work.
One final thought: No matter what your business, customers are emerging from the bunker right now. But they remain wary about spending. Their business must be earned. In this environment, a strong, trusted brand that delivers the value it’s supposed to and that captures the imagination of its customers is in position to win.
Brett Gerstenblatt is principal in charge of business and creative strategy at Sequel, a brand and marketing consultancy based in New York. He has led major branding and communications programs for both b2b and b2c verticals, including banking, consumer products, energy, healthcare, manufacturing, media and technology. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 212-994-4304.