Brand recognition and awareness play a huge part in building credibility with customers and helping the sales team close a deal. Demand gen and corporate branding go hand-in-hand, especially for growth-phase companies.
If a prospect doesn’t know your company, the sales rep will spend the first few precious minutes explaining who you are. Wouldn’t it be better and more effective if your prospect had already heard of you? That way, instead of describing your company, you could spend time describing your offering.
Here are three key reasons founders and stakeholders should invest in brand marketing:
1- Brand marketing builds credibility – People buy products they like from companies they know and trust. Think Apple, Amazon and Starbucks or B2B companies such as Intel and GE. In today’s market, brand credibility is your competitive advantage.
Whether you are a start-up or a growth-phase business, it’s imperative for marketing heads to position the brand as a market leader, and leverage their founders’ profile to create positive brand perception and customer behavior.
As the face of the company, CEOs play a major role in building credibility of the company. Ideally, they should be seen as thought leaders. Employees should be the guardians of the brand and be held accountable for maintaining its industry reputation as they interact with customers and prospects.
Your brand’s credibility and reputation are fragile. We’ve seen many examples of that—from Uber’s sexual harassment and gender bias issues to United Airlines yanking a passenger from his seat and the recent dead puppy incident. Yes, it’s expensive to recover from brand damage or scandal. But if you have market credibility you can recover from a crisis, provided you are transparent, show empathy for the victims and fix the problem fast.
Remember Johnson and Johnson’s Tylenol crisis about two decades ago? When cyanide-laced capsules killed several people in Chicago, James Burke, the company’s chairman, made the decision to pull Tylenol capsules off the market, and was completely transparent with the media and public. This incident remains a textbook case of how to manage a crisis and regain customers’ faith.
2- Brand marketing attracts investors: Founders and business leaders are constantly looking for financiers to support their growth and exit strategies. Investors view a company as a whole before investing, not just its product or products. They also consider corporate reputation, the CEO and founders’ credibility and financial performance before making an investment decision.
“As investors, we often ask ourselves if we are looking at a product or a company,” says Barbara Clarke, co-founder and principal, Impact Seat and an angel investor. “A brand needs to be bigger than a product. Companies need depth that goes beyond a focus on one product or one solution.”
When asked about mistakes most companies make, Clarke adds, “The biggest mistake I see startups make is to be in love with their product and not with the problem they are trying to solve. When you build a brand on top of a product and not a problem, you cannot handle a pivot well. There’s one thing we know about startups, they all pivot at some point.”
That’s a great point. Having helped many startups change strategy and rebrand for various reasons, it’s key to invest in creating a corporate brand — a brand that customers can believe in and leadership they can trust.
A brand is like your home. The more you invest in maintenance and renovation, the more the asking price will be when it’s time to sell. Similarly, the more you invest in the corporate brand, the higher the equity.
3- Brand marketing engages customers: In today’s digital era, B2B buying decisions are changing dramatically. B2B buyers are now as empowered as consumers. CIOs are not the only ones making the ultimate buying decisions, and how businesses interact with vendors is also changing.
According to analyst firm Forrester, 90 percent of businesses start their purchases with search, and 74 percent conduct half of their research online before making an offline purchase.
Research also indicates that most B2B customers don’t begin to engage directly with suppliers until they are about 50 to 60 percent through the customer journey. “That’s simply too late to influence decision making,” says David Krakauer, director, digital marketing & customer experience, Analog Devices. “Digital engagement, however, happens right away.”
“If we can read a customer’s digital ‘body language,’ we can serve them better through personalization and delivering relevant content. Ultimately, this greatly improves customer experience and enables the sales team to have greater influence over their decision making,” Krakauer adds.
Marketers therefore have to design strategies that educate and engage customers, not “sell” to them. Content should be interesting and search optimized for digital discovery.
“Delivering a personalized experience and making content and tools readily available when and where customers need them have great potential to improve the customer experience,” says Krakauer.
Building your brand is key to driving sales, boosting partnerships and accelerating growth. You want customers to trust your name, eager to learn more and be proud they can rely on your brand to run their business. Consider brand building as a long-term commitment and investment — not an expense.