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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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?

Please leave your comments or thoughts below.

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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

Please leave your comments or thoughts below.

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Aviation Marketing: Don’t rule out emotional connections in the purchasing process

Connecting with your customers’ emotions can create a brand preference

In aviation marketing, the purchase decision is often solely based on the performance specifications of a product. Each product on the market, no matter the manufacturer, will fulfill the client’s baseline need. With different products of standard utility competing for business, one way to differentiate is by manipulating the price point. Although not terribly flexible, a price can be offset by manipulating variables within the company such as service, warranty, and delivery policy.

Commanding a premium price point requires brand loyalty. Loyalty stems from the customer’s emotional connection with the brand.

Assuming a product meets the standard performance specifications, as well as the price point, the purchase decision is then left to the customer’s personal preference. People become emotionally connected to a brand for different reasons:

  • Does the brand stand for something important?
  • Can we relate to it?
  • Is the brand intense, vibrant, or innovative?
  • Does the brand benefit society?
  • Is the brand unique?
  • Does brand interaction make us feel good about the purchase?
  • Are the front line people representative of the brand values?
  • Does the brand give us peace-of-mind?

Emotional decision-making is a unique process rooted in individual experiences, beliefs, and temperaments.  Even though emotions are unique to each individual, there are several common dominator emotions:

  1. Joy
  2. Trust
  3. Fear
  4. Surprise
  5. Sorrow
  6. Disgust
  7. Anger
  8. Anticipation

We react to marketing messages and build emotional brand preferences based on how we feel about the brand, and how it fits into our web of emotional decision-making criterion.

If a brand’s marketing portrays unrealistic expectations of how the choice to use their product will improve the customers’ lives, the trust emotion leads us to question the integrity of the brand promise.

On the other hand, successful brand marketing leads one to personally identify with the brand, building trust, and ultimately securing a long-term customer relationship.

As aviation marketers, we are challenged to drive brand marketing and create brand loyalty. One source of rich brand insight comes from social media platforms. The process of writing on these platforms clarifies human emotion, providing aviation marketers with a tapestry of raw customer insights gained from unfiltered blogs, tweets and other posts.

The emotions expressed in these threads expose the customer’s level of emotional attachment to particular brands. This gives us insight into which manufacturers deliver on their brand promise, and which ones come up short.

Learning to utilize data on social media platforms provides companies with a stream of free market research, endowing savvy aviation marketers with valuable insight regarding the brand’s emotional appeal. Manufacturers can then leverage these connections to help increase market share, demand premium prices, and ultimately improve sales.

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Aviation Marketing: Effective social media begins with the purchasing process

Its important to understand where in the purchasing process social media can deliver the greatest impact.

“Demystifying Social Media,” published by McKinnsey Quarterly, reports on how executives can harness social media to shape the customer buying decision in predictable ways.

My interpretation of the report for aviation marketers focuses on where in the considered purchase process social media may have the greatest influence on the purchasing decision for aviation products and services.

A majority of aviation marketing executives understand what social media is and its ability to amplify word-of-mouth effects. However, most struggle with how to harness the power of social media for their brand.

4 primary functions of social media:

  1. Monitor – Listening to what customers and prospects in the aviation community are saying about your brand.
  2. Respond – Ability to respond to specific conversations on a personal level to provide customer service, to sales opportunities, or for crisis communication management.
  3. Amplify – Designing marketing activities to have a “social motivator” that encourages engagement and sharing.
  4. Lead – Leading customers and purchase influencers toward long-term behavioral changes in the early stages of the purchasing decision.

Social media is transforming the purchasing funnel from a linear process of awareness, consideration, trial, and purchase to a multi-touchpoint process of:

  • Consider – Initial phase of purchasing process where referrals and recommendations can sway brand consideration.
  • Evaluate –Review postings and blogs pertaining to the product’s features, benefits, and performance.
  • Purchase – Online and offline purchasing experience, either direct or through distributors.
  • Experience – Customer perception after the sale, fostering participation in communities to discuss product functionality, installation, or potential new applications.
  • Advocate – Customer’s active endorsement of the brand to the community and peers within the industry, through “likes” and other rating protocol.
  • Bond – Customers’ recognition by the brand to receive special offers or other preferential treatment.

Identifying which touchpoint of the considered purchase provides the most benefit to the brand in terms of influencing purchase behavior is essential to develop the data chains for measuring social media’s effect as it drives purchasing behavior.

For aviation marketers, this means knowing the brand’s “conversation potential” at critical touchpoints and determining which one will yield the greatest influence on purchasing behavior.

For example, giving your customers an opportunity to comment and rate your product on your webpage may strategically yield more influence on purchasing behavior than a “like” on a Facebook page.

Taking the time to build the social media hook at the front end of concept development will help integrate social media with overall marketing strategy and bring efficiency to the marketing process.

To view the complete McKinsey Quarterly report click on the following article title: “Demystifying Social Media

photo credit: Kevin Micalizzi via photopin cc

Why people-to-people marketing is replacing business-to-business in the aviation industry

In aviation marketing successful brands are creating loyalty and commanding premium pricing by connecting on a personal and emotional level with their customers. 

Historically, aviation industry component and system manufacturers have practiced traditional business-to business outbound marketing (push marketing model). The outbound model relies on bought media to push key messages to a mass audience, segmented by demographic, SIC code, business title or purchasing authority.

Tactical execution takes the form of:

  • advertising
  • direct promotion
  • trade shows
  • sales literature
  • web banners
  • micro sites
  • company websites

Often public relations tactics such as press releases and product stories in trade publications support out-bound efforts.

The push marketing strategy is predicated on disrupting the viewer to convey predetermined key messages that support product features, benefits and value propositions.

For many aviation industry manufacturers, this has been a successful approach to building brand awareness. However, outbound marketing requires a large invest-ment in bought media and advertising return on investment is hard to track.

Customers are disillusioned with the “about me” aspect of the creative product further challenging the advertising’s ability to disrupt the viewer in the work environment. In addition, outbound lacks the stickiness to build community and form a one-on-one relationship with the individual.

Enter People-to-People Marketing 

People-to-people marketing is predicated on building relationships with individuals and communities through conversations that nurture and build trust. Technology is at the heart of inbound marketing (pull marketing model).

One of the most intriguing aspects of people-to-people marketing is its not confined to the workplace. Personal computing power in the form of smart phones and tablets makes it possible to connect with customers in venues not traditionally associated with aviation marketing.

Social media outlets provide the means to listen and carry on conversations with individuals. People-to-people marketing requires aviation marketers to reevaluate and rebalance their marketing mix to achieve their marketing goals.

Successful people-to-people marketing shifts the focus from “me oriented” to “story telling” to create the personal and emotional bonds.

In addition, personal computing power opens up new venues for storytelling through video, slide share and other syndicated platforms. Inbound marketing also comes with a wide array of analytics packages to help establish data chains for measurement and marketing investment.

Finding the right balance

Today, successful aviation marketing requires an integrated mix of inbound and outbound marketing to tell the brand story. Aviation marketers are challenged to accomplish more with less, forcing them to reassess traditional marketing efforts and move towards more cost effective inbound marketing venues.

Many of these new venues are reaching maturity, offering integrated marketing and viable ways to reach prospects, establishing relationships and forming one-on-one connections with your audience.