Why brand reputation matters in large sales

The value of a strong brand reputation plays a critical role in the extended sales process.

The value of a strong brand reputation plays a critical role in the extended sales process.

Brand reputation sells long after the sales call

In the book Spin Selling by Neil Rackman, sales methodology is explored and documented. One of the findings, supported by research, is that in large sales, the selling process is often pushed through the sales funnel by personnel internal to the buyer of the product or service, due to the number of influencers and decision makers that must approve large capital expenditures. During this extended sales cycle, it would be almost impossible for the sales rep to be present for every meeting and address every objection or question that might arise. For that reason, the value of a strong brand reputation plays a critical role in the sales process.

Brand reputation in the digital age

Brand reputation is a soft metric that does not lend itself to the analytics of lead generation or conversion. Yet it may be one of the most powerful sales influencers that a seller has at its disposal. In the digital age where every aspect of a brand can be researched by a purchaser, a sterling reputation for performance, service, and durability provides a blanket of reassurance for the purchaser. In fact, positive brand attributes can elevate the brand from competing on price alone to commanding a premium price because of the intangible and emotional connections that the purchaser establishes with the brand.

Foundation of the brand reputation is delivering on the brand promise

The brand promise is a contract with the customer that they will receive the promised brand experience. The brand experience is the customer’s interaction with the brand at various touchpoints. Examples include website functionality, customer service response, technical assistance, and delivery; even the product packaging can help deliver on the brand promise. When viewed as a whole, each of these elements contributes to the brand reputation.

Outbound and inbound marketing efforts also contribute to the brand reputation. Customer insight gained through traditional or digital channels provides the framework for key messaging which can be used in advertising, promotion, and social marketing.

In large sales, one of the challenges is keeping the prospect in the sales funnel and not having them spin off into in a different direction based on inaccurate information. Therefore, investing in the brand’s reputation keeps a consistent stream of messaging that can counteract competitors’ efforts to sway the purchaser toward their product or service offering.

Additional articles you may find of interest on this topic:

What’s your brand’s reputation worth?

Why Business-to-Business Marketing is Transforming to People-to-People Marketing

Inbound Marketing and the Prospect Pipeline

Please leave your comments or thoughts below.

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Making a case for business-to-business marketing investment

Marketing execs need to provide accountable metrics that contribute to company revenue.

Marketing execs need to provide accountable metrics that contribute to company revenue.

Soft marketing metrics don’t impress the CEO or CFO.

In most business-to-business vertical marketing segments, marketing is viewed as an expense on the balance sheet. One reason for this is that the justification for marketing has relied on soft metrics — awareness levels, brand recognition, website visitor traffic, target audience reach, etc. While these metrics are important and part of the marketing equation, they lack accountability for revenue generation. This reinforces the perception with the CEO, CFO, and COO that marketing is a cost center, not a revenue center.

Moving to a revenue center requires marketing execs to rethink their role and provide accountable metrics that contribute to company revenue.

Moving beyond soft metrics to revenue cycle metrics

Business-to-business marketers have their feet planted in two different worlds. One foot is in the traditional (and comfortable) world of paid media placement, ad campaigns, direct mail, trade shows, and public relations. These tactics yielded soft metrics and worked to exclude marketing from the revenue generation conversation. Because of this, marketing became the stepchild of sales. It was easy to see the expenditures and hard to justify the results.

The other foot is in the digital world. In this world, everything can be measured, tested, and scrutinized. This can be an uncomfortable place because there is nowhere to hide. However, it does present the opportunity for marketing to shift from a cost center to revenue generation center if it is properly planned, executed, and measured.

Where to start

Start small and plan the program with ROI measurement from the beginning. The goal is not backwards measurement to prove ROI but rather forward focused measurement that influences decision-making.

Don’t try to measure all things. Because digital has a lot of moving pieces, select areas to measure that contribute to profitability.

Plan and establish ROI estimates upfront. Consult with management team members that have a negative view of marketing, and build their pessimism into the marketing forecast. Remember, there is nowhere to hide and it’s all about making better marketing decisions that lead to revenue generation.

Success measurement

  • Select 3 to 5 key metrics
  • Measure success versus goals – good, bad or ugly
  • Drill down – measure every campaign, channel, sales rep, and region
  • Track tends over time
  • Create a dashboard that shows what marketing is achieving and contributing to revenue results

Very few small to mid-sized B-to-B brands have a 100% digital customer base. Many marketing automation programs (MAPs) lean heavily on online lead generation as the basis for marketing ROI planning. Small to mid-sized brands may struggle with this due to the size and sophistication of the markets they serve. Therefore, it is incumbent on marketers to identify digital initiatives that lend themselves to ROI measurement and revenue planning.

Additional articles you may find of interest on this topic:

Marketing Automation Platforms (MAPs)

Big data and creativity

People-to-People Marketing and “Small Data”

Please leave your comments or thoughts below.

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Business-to-business marketing and relationship building

Good business relationships are built on trust.

Good business relationships are built on trust.

The longer the sales cycles, the more important the relationship becomes

Business-to-business marketing has always been about establishing a relationship with the prospect. One reason for this is most considered purchases involve multiple parties, resulting in extended sales cycle time. With the new technology of programmatic buying and selling of digital advertising inventory, ad technology companies would like for you to believe that a constant barrage of banner ads will substitute for a relationship built on trust.

Opening doors for new business

We all rely on new business to keep our companies growing and profitable. Yet in today’s automated marketing environment, it seems that the value of relationship building (people talking to each other) has been deemed as inefficient and replaced with marketing automation platforms and churn-out emails.

To a degree, all B-to-B marketers rely on automation. The problems begin when marketers rely too much on automation and start viewing opens and click-through rates as a substitute for a person-to-person conversation.

Some sales people only want to invest their time with those who are ready to purchase. I can identify with this viewpoint; no one wants to waste his or her time on a deal that is going nowhere. But the issue remains that in the B-to-B sales environment, it can take months for a purchasing decision to be made, and during this time it can be affected by a multitude of external factors. The relationship is developed during this period as the sales person educates and counsels the prospect as to the advantages and positive results that their product offering will have on their business.

That is where the relationship comes in

Good business relationships are built on the following:

  • Trust
  • Accountability
  • Transparency
  • Communication
  • Business understanding
  • Anticipating needs
  • Delivering on the promise

There are also intangibles that go into a good business relationship, like understanding the person’s value system, as well as their background, goals, personality traits, and expectations.

This is the essence of people-to-people marketing and relationship building.

We all know the sales funnel cycle – awareness, interest, evaluation, trail, and adoption. The digital marketing environment is focused on the first three – awareness, interest, and evaluation – because it is transactional and therefore can be tracked using analytics. However, it takes a conversation leading to a relationship to move through trial and adoption.

Additional articles you may find of interest on this topic:

Why Business-to-Business Marketing is Transforming to People-to-People Marketing

Do your customers suffer from “E-fluenza”?

Why bother with branding?

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Creating better content

bBrands must know themselves before they can create content that is meaningful.

Brands must know themselves before they can create content that is meaningful.

Brands must know themselves before they start to publish content.

Rebecca Lieb, Jessica Groopman, and Susan Etlinger of the Altimeter Group published “A Culture of Content,” A Best Practices Report. The report covers in detail how leading brands are creating a corporate ecosystem that encourages content development at every level of the organization. While many of their best practice recommendations were not new, one insight that stood out was that brands must know themselves before they can create content that is meaningful and helps to achieve business goals.

When brands decide to jump on the content bandwagon, they suddenly realize that an online presence can quickly overwhelm the resources dedicated to producing content. That’s why we see so much “me too” content from competing brands.

Brands that effectively deliver meaningful content share these three attributes:

  • They are the best at what they do, whether offering a product or service.
  • Everyone in the organization can articulate what makes their brand different from their competitors.
  • They listen to their customers and make the necessary changes, cultural or procedural, to enhance the brand experience.

In today’s always-on media environment, brands can feel pressured to produce content that doesn’t meet strategic criteria for being published. Leading brands have solved this problem by asking these simple questions:

  • Does this content warrant the resources necessary to produce it?
  • Will this content produce a rate of return equal to or greater than a paid media insertion?
  • Does the content solve a customer’s problem or concern?
  • Will the content support the mosaic of the overall brand story?
  • What is the shelf life of the content?

In the not-too-distant past, great brands — B-to-B and B-to-C — knew their DNA. They knew their history, where their value systems came from, and valued the inherent creativity of their employees. This was evident in their marketing and confirmed by their market share.

Today, these same traits are needed to produce content because now in the omni-channel media environment, content is becoming the face brand across every customer experience.

To download a copy of the Altimeter report, “A Culture of Content” click here.

Additional articles you may find of interest on this topic:

What’s your brand’s point-of-view?

Connecting decision makers with your brand

Finding your voice

Please leave your comments or thoughts below.

Influencing prospects before they enter the sales funnel

 

If the brand is not participating in social media, it’s at a disadvantage

If the brand is not participating in social media, it’s at a disadvantage

Social media content can influence business-to-business purchasing decisions

Up to 70% of prospects entering the sales funnel have already conducted online research and have formed a perception of the brand based on social media content. Because of this, if the brand is not participating in social media, it’s at a disadvantage.

Prospects entering the sales funnel are in search of information that will lead them to a purchasing decision. Whether the sale is transactional for a component or material needed immediately to make their product, or a considered purchase that has many influencers and a long sales time, prospects are relying more and more on peer reviews and social media engagement to finalize their purchasing decision.

People-to-people marketing – honing the brand’s key messages

Before launching into a social media marketing effort, it’s vitally important to establish the brand’s value proposition and be able to articulate it in terms that are meaningful to the prospect. Content that is purely a laundry list of service offerings fails to differentiate from the competition and leads to abandonment by the prospect or strictly a purchase based on lowest price.

Gaining the prospect’s attention requires identifying the prospect’s problems and creating empathy with the prospect. Once this emotional connection is established, then a solution can be offered that is relevant and distinct to the brand.

The social media platform ecosphere

Connecting with and influencing prospects on social media platforms requires a sustained effort spearheaded by content that supports the brand’s key messaging.

Each of the big four channels – LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube – has a particular strength. Business-to-business marketers are more inclined to use LinkedIn because of numerous industry groups in which to participate. LinkedIn also offers the ability to network with industry peers and establish connections with decision makers that have purchasing authority.

Twitter can be very useful but requires a content library to constantly feed updates. One of the advantages to using Twitter is that posts can be automated through third party platforms allowing for control of posting frequency. Twitter also provides immediacy when posting for events and is an easy way to connect the industry influencers.

Influencing prospects before they enter the sales funnel requires a concerted effort to develop and post authoritative content consistently. Abandoning social media channels sends a signal to the prospect that the brand either has underestimated the resources needed or was not serious about social engagement from the get-go.

Additional articles you may find of interest on this topic:

Content development for aviation marketers is a communal affair

How to build a connected brand

Designing a social marketing strategy for Aviation Marketing

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Why employees are the best source for inbound marketing content

 

Creating content for inbound marketing is everyone's responsibility

Creating content for inbound marketing is everyone’s responsibility

Having a process and the right skill set to capture content is half the battle.

Speak with almost any CEO of a small to mid-sized brand, and they will tell you that inbound marketing is an important communication component in creating and maintaining brand preference. However, ask them what resources or processes are in place dedicated to inbound marketing content, and the answer will tell you that this is usually more wishful thinking than reality.

Why is this? Small and mid-sized brands are resource-challenged. Their employees have a wealth of knowledge to share but usually there is no process in place to capture content.

Content mining: content that adds value to the brand

Authentic content has a point of view and provides thought leadership or hands-on practical information.

Every department in the company has something to share. It is vital that content development is viewed as everyone’s responsibility, not just the function of the marketing or PR department.

When the CEO leads the way, resources are sure to follow.

Many times the most authoritative content originates from the CEO. The CEO provides leadership and the high altitude point-of-view about the brand, such as:

  • Its current direction
  • Challenges to be faced
  • Opportunities on the horizon
  • Industry disruption from new technologies
  • How the brand can contribute to the betterment of the industry

Creating content is everyone’s responsibility

The engineering staff also contributes to developing content. This group has a unique perspective on innovation, new technologies, and production processes that contribute to solving customer problems.

The production department contributes by providing content on best practices, achieving optimal product performance, or tips on prolonging product life cycle.

Customer Service also contributes; they are the first to field customer concerns, complaints, and frequently asked questions. This group can be the conduit between engineering and production in identifying product flaws, delivery shortcomings, and inefficient interaction between departments.

Marketing’s job is to determine the most efficient process to capture the content and optimize it for different uses. Usually an employee is identified as an expert in their field and is asked to create a rough draft on a particular topic. From there, working in collaboration with either an internal or external journalistic resource, the content is edited and polished so it is suitable for publication and optimized for web use.

In addition, once the content is formalized, it becomes part of an e-library. This e-library can serve as a quick reference to customer requests.

Inbound marketing requires a commitment of time and resources to be successful. The pay-off is a stream of authoritative content that can be used across social media platforms, publications and customer service that supports brand leadership.

Additional articles you may find of interest on this topic:

Social media content strategy?

How inbound marketing can help drive lead generation

Inbound marketing essentials?

Please leave your comments or thoughts below.

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