Authenticity is crucial to building strong relationships with friends, family and business associates. So, if you ascribe to the commonly held belief that brands are much like people then this makes complete sense. Marketing leaders within consumer brands, in their pursuit of developing more powerful customer experiences have led the way in terms of understanding the marketing impact of building authentic brands. So why is it, so many mid-market ($50M-$1B rev), business-to-business companies struggle to be authentic? There are a number of contributing factors (e.g. marketing maturity, complex -go-to-market models, budget constraints, product and price centric mindsets, etc.), however the primary reasons marketing leaders within these organizations do not achieve authenticity is that they are either unaware that marketing misalignments exist that are creating an inauthentic brand experience or they are aware of these misalignments, but have set other priorities. The thing is, it is not difficult to remedy for this inauthenticity issue and get a significant lift to every marketing dollar spent. Here are some tips to get you started:
Integrate and Leverage your Frontline - Your sales and service organization are the front line of your organization, interacting with customers every day. They are a great resource through which to gather insights as to what customers value about their relationship with your brand. Keep in mind that, your sales and service organizations are going to want to paint a good picture of themselves so keep the line of questioning to tapping their customer expertise as well as their perceptions of strategy with questions such as: What do you believe is the key value we deliver to customers? What (if anything) differentiates us in the marketplace? How would you characterize our positioning? What could we do to better serve customers? Why do you think customers do business with us? This is approach provides valuable customer insight as well line-of-sight to sales and service strategic alignment issues.
Garner Customer Feedback - It is safe to say, that most mid-market, business-to-business companies don’t spend enough on research. I get that the pressure is on to drive quarterly results, however, being able to make fact-based decisions based on data is critical and not as expensive as you think. Unlike prospect market research in which purchasing panels drives up the cost of research your existing customers offer a wealth of insight into what your brand stands for today, the value your company offers, the strengths and weaknesses of your organization as well as opportunities to better position your organization.
Assess Core Capabilities - So many companies spend a good amount of their strategic energies assessing their product portfolio, pricing, competitors, M&A targets, market adjacencies, etc., however, spend less time debating the state of current capabilities and the value they offer to customers. Assessing these capabilities in a competitive framework and determining that which is truly a point-of-differentiation is essential to being true to your customers. This assessment also, provides insight into aspects of your business that are critical to success and might require strategic adjustment or additional resources.
Develop and Validate - Distilling the data will lead to not one, but a variety of brand positioning articulations. A small sample of your frontline sales organization and customers are, once again, a valuable resource for determining what is most powerful and authentic. These articulations should be evaluated on three critical measures: 1. Is it relevant? 2. Is it believable? 3. Is it motivational (i.e. will customers be motivated to engage)? During this process make sure that you develop the brand beyond simply a positioning statement. Authentic brands have at their core a powerful essence (Note: Usually 1-3 words) that is distinctly attributable to the particular brand. In addition to this, these brands offer a clear vision/mission wrapped within a well-defined brand character. All of these elements (Brand Vision/Mission, Positioning Statement, Values, Brand Character (Attribute, Tone, Voice) should then be codified and approved in order to make sure there is executive alignment.
Evangelize Internally - It is imperative that your internal organization is in full-alignment before external campaigns are launched as this is all about creating a unified brand experience. Therefore, effectively communicate the brand strategy to every employee in order to build understanding and affinity internally for the brand. This is more than a single corporate webinar or roadshow, rather it is a well-orchestrated on-going program that ensures a consistent reinforcement of brand values over a longer time horizon.
Becoming more organizationally aligned and thereby acquiring the ability to be more authentic in brand interactions is not that hard. This is one strategic initiative that most B2B marketing leaders should put in their annual plan, if they have not already done so, as the impact on revenue generation, new customer acquisition, customer retention, gross margin, life-time-value, etc. can be substantial!
Let me know your thoughts and if you are interested in discussing how Yaldi Marketing can help your organization develop a more authentic brand experience give us a call at (401) 500-2438 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.