We have been working with a number of clients on brand strategy and brand development projects and it has struck me, how some clients can grok the importance of a thoughtful, systematic, customer centric approach to developing a well-defined brand strategy and a powerful, cohesive expression of that strategy while so many others struggle with this notion.
Many mid-market companies in our target market (business-to-business technology and service firms) exhibit sub-optimal brand execution which suggests weak or non-existent brand insight and strategy. What’s more, in my conversations with these companies the discussion invariably migrates quickly to lead generation for their sales organization. This is not a surprise given the pressures on CMOs from leadership to measure return and deliver results today. Given this dynamic, it makes it truly difficult for a CMO in this environment to step back and invest time and budget in establishing or refining their brand strategy.
So here are some thoughts on why they should assess their brand strategy, as well as fodder for CMOs to utilize in socializing the importance of such an initiative internally….
1. Foundational – A brand strategy is foundational to every marketing strategy and tactic executed in the marketplace. Much like the footings and foundation of a building if it is not designed and built properly everything built above is at risk. In marketing terms this takes the form of unexplainable share decline, new market entrants, customer attrition, lower conversion rates, etc. However, like a building foundation it can be fixed.
2. Sales Potency – The sales organization, having been trained, should be able to succinctly articulate the value of the organization to a prospect. Unfortunately, I have seen many sales people struggle with this part of the sales process. A powerful brand strategy distilled down to its essence unleashes the salesforce to sell organizational value and corporate differentiation versus solely product level features and benefits. This ability enables higher conversion and over time increased value perceptions and associated gross margin increases.
3. Multiplier Effect – Now imagine if prospective and current customers could easily articulate your value in a sentence or two. Not the value they individually perceive but, the singular value you want them to perceive. And what if they were so enthusiastic because of the powerful single-minded brand value proposition and its execution that they were ambassadors for your brand versus detractors. How powerful would that be? CMO’s certainly need to be concerned about brand detractors but, but the larger population of brand neutral customers and prospects are a trove of significant untapped revenue opportunity.
4. Customer Journey – There is a wealth of content and advice about the importance of understanding the customer’s buying journey so that companies can effectively engage and convert customers. Interestingly enough, without a brand strategy it is impossible to craft a consistent customer journey experience as it provides everyone on the team the why, what, where and how of effective customer engagement. What’s more with multiple owners (Which should be viewed as everyone in your company) of the journey a well-defined brand enables everyone to consistently execute.
5. Brand Value – I have been through a number of acquisitions sitting on both sides of the table during which the value of a brand becomes very real as M&A teams conduct their due diligence. Many have used the Royalty valuation approach in which a value is determined for the brand based on what could be charged if the brand were licensed to another entity versus an unbranded competitive offering. Not an exact science but interesting for sure. While most CMO’s are not in this position adopting a mindset that someday someone could come knocking is valuable. In the meantime, the benefit is the ability to charge a higher premium which is good for the company and great for job security.
As CMOs think about the year ahead and the years beyond, they truly should think about taking a step back and investing in truly understanding where the market stands today and where it is likely to go. Then they should assess the appropriateness of their brand strategy before they fire up their demand generation investments. If they do, every budget dollar invested will work that much harder in building their business into a vibrant, demand brand.