Having a hard time convincing “the powers that be” to invest in the brand? Ever wonder why it’s so hard, why all they want from marketing is leads? Let me explain.
In organically grown companies, an organization develops a product or service and goes to market through a sale channel, either owned or via a partner. At this point, the organization is focused on acquiring customers and generating revenue. With low market awareness the organization typically has more sales capacity than demand for its products or services.
If marketing exists, it’s in its infancy, and plays a tactical role developing sales material, supporting business development activities, and it may have a small social media presence.
To fuel the company’s growth, the management team begins to realize in order to make sales and revenue objectives it has to be able to create demand beyond what the sales channels can generate on its own. As a result, marketing expands beyond its most basic sales enablement role into being responsible for generating leads.
When growth slows and/or begins to plateau, the executive management team will (or should) begin to explore the value of “strategic” marketing. Unfortunately, these strategic marketing activities and investments aimed at broadening awareness of the brand are often misunderstood and/or dismissed all together. Here’s why they shouldn’t be, and why they are critical to unlocking a company’s next phase of growth.
Why it’s so hard getting to “Yes”
The challenge in convincing the organization that marketing can be a strategic growth level is one of perception. Because marketing evolves “bottom up” as I just described, the common perception among executives is that marketing is a “tactical support” function.
The second issue is the messenger. The staffing needs of marketing in its infancy are simple, and usually satisfied by an entry-level hire or someone without a marketing background. Rarely, will this person rise to a senior management level. Achieving senior executive “gravitas” is critical for changing perception among the senior management team, especially if the company has a strong sales and/or product culture.
How to win the battle
To convince executives, you have to tie brand investments back to something “tangible.” Your argument has to show a direct connection to an organizations performance, be it sales, profit or the customer. And, if you can improve your message, you will also improve how your executives view the messenger. Here are three areas to explore.
A strong/valued brand lifts price point. Are reps constantly complaining about being beaten up on regarding cost/price? A company that has a strong brand can command a price premium. Years ago, I did some work with competitor of Cisco and found that the Cisco brand had a price premium of 7% over the competitors. Why? B2B purchases are high risk, and as a result, are emotionally charged. Buyers that connect personally to brands are willing to pay more for their product if they believe it will reduce the risk of a bad decision. Need proof, click here.
Improving top of the funnel performance improves the performance of the entire pipeline. Need to increase leads? You have two choices, expand the top of the funnel, or increase conversation rates. The best solution is to do both. By expanding the number of prospects aware of your product you increase the number who will also consider it, which increases the number of opportunities, leads and wins. If you only focus on increasing leads, you’re stuck with improving conversion rates, which may be much more difficult and/or costly.
Brand building doesn’t mean you need a big budget. The fact is you’re doing it everyday, for better or worse. Every conversation a sales rep has with a prospect creates a brand impression, every unresolved service call to the contact center has the potential to damage the brand. You can make great strides by clearly and consistently communicating what the brand stands for both internally and externally. Once defined, put it into the language of your audience in the simplest terms possible. Complex, “consultant like” words and terms are meaningless. The really smart folks simplify the complex.
Now that you’ve made the argument, it’s time to close the deal. When an executive evaluates a proposal from your company against other competitors, do you know what tips the scale in your favor? No, it’s not price, or the “relationship,” it’s your reputation, your brand. It’s how they feel about your company…and that’s not in your proposal.
Scott Gillum – President, gyro Washington, D.C.
Scott Gillum has been the CMO of an INC 500 firm and the interim CMO at a Fortune 500 company. Currently, he leads the Channel Marketing practice and the Washington, D.C. office of gyro, a Top 50 global advertising agency. Prior to joining gyro, he spent a dozen years with MarketBridge, providing sales and marketing consulting services to Fortune 500 companies.
His blog, B2B Knowledge Sharing, has been recognized as a top Business-to-Business site, distributing content to a number of online publications. He has also been published in Forbes, Advertising Age, Fortune, Media Post and the Sales Blog. In addition, Gillum is a contributing author to the following books on marketing: Advice from the Top: The Expert Guide to B2B Marketing, PR News Guidebook, and Transformational Marketing: The Best of the Forbes CMO Network.
Follow him @sgillum