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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5 reasons why aviation manufacturers need to embrace people-to-people marketing

The connected customer gathers information from a multitude of online sources before coming to the final purchasing decision

The connected customer gathers information from a multitude of online sources before coming to the final purchasing decision.

The connected customer spends more time on social media than with watching television, listening to radio, or reading a newspaper. Cloud-connected smart phones, tablets, and laptops are the predominant tools of the connected customer. They absorb information from many different sources and share their experiences with followers on social networks. Aviation manufacturers that do not shift their marketing tactics are endangering their brand and flirting with obsolescence.

Aviation marketing is changing. Yesterday’s target audiences are now communities of constituencies that share information across digital platforms. Here are 5 reasons why aviation marketers need to embrace people-to-people marketing:

1. Traditional advertising is a one-way conversation

Traditional advertising is great for building brand awareness. However, it cannot create the conduit for immediate engagement or offer additional content at the click of a mouse or tap of the screen. The connected customer wants the option of a two-way conversation.

2. An integrated model of online and offline channels are necessary to hold the connected customer’s attention during the considered purchase process

A strategic approach to integrating online media with traditional print media placement offers the manufacturer the opportunity for extending the engagement during a prolonged sales cycle. Banner ads across different digital media channels, coupled with guides and E-books, provide brand stickiness with authoritative content and data collection from interested parties.

3. The traditional sales funnel has been replaced with the customer decision journey

Traditional B-to-B sales and marketing is based on a linear approach of selling to accounts. This approach loses sight of the importance of trigger events, internally or externally driven, that kick starts the decision journey in the first place. At first the prospective buyer may either be unaware or unconcerned, but then something happens (the trigger event) to raise their awareness of an issue they need to deal with – and the online search for a solution gets underway.

The connected customer’s decision journey is circular with four potential areas where marketers can win or lose: initial consideration, active evaluation, closure through purchase, and post-purchase. During each of these phases manufacturers can be added or subtracted for consideration.

4. Savvy aviation manufacturers have increased their social marketing budgets

There has been a massive shift in the adoption of mobile devices. Apple’s CEO Tim Cooke summed up the tablet adoption.

“Through the last quarter <Q1 2012>, I should say, which is just 2 years after we shipped the initial iPad, we’ve sold 67 million. And to put that in some context, it took us 24 years to sell that many Macs and 5 years for that many iPods and over 3 years for that many iPhones.”

By 2015 there will be 7.4 billion wireless compatible devices on the market (ABIResearch). This where the connected customer lives and aviation manufacturers should consider investing a minimum of at least 15% of marketing funds to online channels.

5. Aviation marketers that adopt social marketing get better customer insight that leads to better decision-making

Analytics obtained from social marketing provide a wealth of information about the connected customer’s decision-making process and behavior. This information can drive product development and smarter product marketing.

Translation:  if you’re not where your customers are, connected to them and tuned into their purchasing behavior, you’re going to lose business and inflict damage on your brand.

Additional articles you may find of interest on this topic:

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

Dynamic customers require quality content

Designing a social marketing strategy for aviation marketing