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.
Whose brand are your clients in a long-term relationship with, your firm’s or your salesperson's? This is a question that many enterprise sales organizations face and, at times, struggle with. Why the struggle? Unfortunately there is no clear-cut answer. If your enterprise relies on relationship marketing – that is, you emphasize retention and upselling over the purely transactional in your communications – you need to mesh the enterprise brand and the sales professional’s personal brand.
But don’t fear, the two brands can come together successfully if your marketing department empowers your salespeople in a controlled way, offers them engaging communications and measures what works.
The Power of Controlled Empowerment
In relationship-based industries such as wealth management and banking, successful sales professionals can create personal brands that resonate as powerfully with their clients as the corporate brand. But how can enterprise marketers benefit from that without interfering in the very personal dynamic of the salesperson? The answer: through personalization. Marketers should give salespeople the freedom and resources to personalize the enterprise brand without abandoning it.
In “Relationships Matter: What Sales Really Needs to Build Brand and Grow Business,” HNW’s recent nationwide survey of high-touch sales professionals, half of the respondents indicated that they currently have the means to personalize their sales and marketing materials and consider it important to their sales effectiveness. A quarter lack that option but say they would value it.
So how can you create the best possible conditions for activating your brand locally? Here are a few suggestions:
The Importance of Creating Engaging Communications
Long sales cycles can be a challenge, yet they are often typical for firms that value relationship marketing. Marketers can create regular and meaningful reasons for clients to engage with the salesperson and can do this effectively if they understand that:
Engagement begins at home.When the sales force is engaged, marketing has a much better chance of stimulating the kinds of frontline conversations that build business. In short, if the sales force doesn’t buy it, you can’t sell it.
Marketing is more than promotions and content is more than publishing.Relationships and trust are built one conversation at a time. Unless content supports those conversations and leads to engagement, marketing just isn’t effective. To this end, enterprise marketers must keep these three key principles in mind:
Segmentation: How clients and prospects are grouped must balance data with sales force discretion. Giving salespeople the ability to characterize a client – and in turn, determine which content the client will experience – respects the salesperson's insight into the client’s needs, and is more likely to create a positive experience for the client.
Needs-based content: This is essential for salespeople and clients. Few people think in terms of products; they think in terms of what they’re trying to achieve. Approach clients and prospects in the way they think about your offerings.
Multi-channel communication: Because so much of the dialogue between salespeople and clients occurs in person, marketers need to monitor several contact points during the sales cycle to understand which messages and vectors of delivery resonate.
Measuring Message Effectiveness & Program Success
Measuring marketing effectiveness and frontline implementation is challenging. But by bringing technology into the conversation – literally – enterprises can measure success like never before.
In HNW’s survey, salespeople said the chief benefits of technology included significant efficiency gains and the ability to connect with clients more frequently.
Technologies that facilitate efficient distributed communications provide more branded opportunities to engage the client while using metrics built in to the platform. To be successful, however, such technology must: 1) Work in conjunction with a firm’s content management system and CRM program to enable measurement of sales and marketing effectiveness and 2) Yield quantifiable insights into both sales force and client engagement.
What should you measure? It depends on what communications you select. For example, email requires you to review open rates at the very least. Better still, include trackable links in the email so you can determine what actions readers took after opening the email. Did they visit the salesperson’s website or just open and disengage?
Build the Relationship for Long-Term Success
No one is better positioned to promote the enterprise brand than the frontline sales force. With the right relationship marketing strategies, enterprise marketers can empower sales professionals to develop their own personal brand while simultaneously reinforcing the enterprise brand. By providing your sales force with engaging, meaningful ways to connect with clients, marketers can drive measurable results, increase ROI and facilitate and support the development of long-term client relationships.
Carol Eversen is managing director of client services for HNW, an enterprise relationship marketing and technology firm that serves organizations with a distributed sales force.