By Alethea O’Dell, Chief Marketing Officer, Northland Controls | PSA Sales and Marketing Committee Member
All businesses have a brand. Not all businesses are strategically making that brand work for them. Brands that accurately reflect the company’s position, mission, and value drive new opportunities. Don’t believe me? A Corporate Executive Board study of more than 1,400 B2B customers found that those customers completed, on average, nearly 60% of a typical purchasing decision—researching solutions, ranking options, setting requirements, benchmarking pricing, and so on—before even having a conversation with a supplier.
Too often a brand is considered a logo and a color palette, but a brand is more than visual identity. It’s a combination of three important things. First, it’s the sum of all interactions between a company and its key stakeholders (clients, prospects, employees past and current, partners). Second, it’s the perception key stakeholders have based on past expectations and future experiences. Finally, research shows that brands are not so much WHAT you do, but how and why you do it. So, you may be a security integrator, or that’s what your company does, but that is not going to differentiate you from all the other integrators out there. How you do what you do—and why—will. According to a brand share study by Edelman, 87% of people want meaningful interactions with brands, but only 17% think brands are actually delivering today.
The businesses that take the time to align their brand with their strategic goals will be the businesses that survive. Here are five questions that will unlock your brand’s power.
- What kind of customers are your ideal customers?
What customers do you absolutely love working for? What do they have in common? Are they fast-growing? Are they in an industry that appreciates innovation or are they more conservative? Do they value speed over accuracy or vice versa? Understanding the clients who are faithful to your business, are easily moved to buy what you’re selling, and who may even spread the word begins to help you understand the visual and verbal language your brand should adopt to attract them to you. If your ideal customer is drawn to innovation, is risk tolerant, and values speed over accuracy your visual identity and brand persona might be more splashy and flashy. Having fully developed buyer personas (i.e. industry, company size, pain points, values) gives you a quick and easy way of narrowing in on the types of prospects and clients that will lead to successful business relationships.
- How do you want customers to feel when they work with you?
It may be helpful to get a stack of index cards and just start writing every positive emotion/feeling you can think of from safe to excited, confident to inspired, elated to calm. Or visit a site like this one or this one for a list of feelings. Put one word on each card. When you’re finished, put them all on a table and start to narrow it down. Get to three final brand feelings you want every customer to experience or feel when having interacted with your company. These three feelings will be a gut check for everything you do. Does your website leave people feeling the emotions you identified? When meeting a prospective client, how can you make them feel these emotions?
- If you had to make ONE promise to your clients, what would it be?
This question gets to the heart of your brand promise and making a meaningful impact. BMW promises the ultimate driving machine, Coors Light, the world’s most refreshing beer, and Google, the world’s number one source for information. If all you promise is what you do (i.e. an access control and video surveillance system that works), you’re leaving room for a competitor to come in who says “No matter what, no matter where I’m going to deliver a working and reliable system that is clean and simple that is fully tested and that allows you to sleep well at night—oh and we’re going to have fun working together.”
- If your company were a hotel/car/chair/shoe/celebrity what would it be?
While this question can seem silly, it gets to your brand values and persona. If you’re an easy boy recliner, your mission statement, corporate voice and values would likely be comforting, relaxed and casual. Using a visual metaphor can really help facilitate a discussion around price point, quality of service, mission, and look and feel.
- Do your clients agree with how you see yourself?
As clear as you may be about your brand, it’s most important that your clients (and employees) see you the way you want them to see you. Brand perception studies can be as extensive and formal as you like, but they can also be just as effective and informative in a series of quick conversations with the type of clients you want more of.