In our last post, we discussed the importance of dividing and focusing your initial branding efforts on collecting and understanding the perceptions of three key publics: your internal audiences, your external audiences and your competitors. We focused on the internal audiences (i.e., employees) and their role in the branding process. This blog will take a closer look at the external audience.
When developing the brand message, intuitively, most companies will only focus on their customers. This is certainly understandable, as customers are the most obvious and direct link to profitability, but to only focus on your customers would be selling yourself short. Your brand does more than just attract customers. It also attracts valuable business partners. Whether you are a professional service provider or a manufacturer/distributor of products, you rely heavily on your circles of influence to refer you business. Whether its bankers, lawyers, suppliers, strategic partners, etc., your referral sources can have a meaningful impact on your business by pointing prospects your way.
Typically referral sources are happy to make a recommendation, but know that their reason for recommending your company isn’t a selfless act. They know that sending one of their customers to you is an opportunity for them to ingratiate themselves to that customer. So, they are only going to be sending business opportunities your way if they believe you will make them look good for doing so. This is where your brand comes into play. As the old saying goes, no one gets fired for hiring IBM…and no one looks bad for recommending IBM either. Since your business contacts can have such an influential role in your business, it only makes sense to include their insights when forging your brand.
In addition to your referral sources, you should also be leveraging your clients, prospects, ex-clients, industry experts and local media. Ideally, anyone who has meaningful contact or interaction with your company should be considered for inclusion in the branding process. The reason? The acumens collected during the external interviews will give you objective insights into your company’s brand, while at the same time validate or disprove the findings from your internal research. This is a critical step in the process because the market space will be telling you if they think you can deliver on your perceived brand promise. So for example, if your internal findings tell you that you are all about service, but the reality is it takes you three weeks to return a phone call, then service is not a brand promise you can deliver and the market space knows it. Remember when it comes to your brand, it is not who you say you are… It is who they say you are.
By surveying the objective perceptions of your employees, clients, ex-clients, business contacts, etc., you will have collected the necessary internal and external insights needed to develop a brand and put your company in a position to create a core brand platform that your employees can own, sell and defend and that your market space will readily accept.
But wait! While we now have all the key components to create a customized, accurate, deliverable brand to the market…what we don’t know is, does our newly formed brand differentiate us from our competitors?
For insight on competitor research and its importance to the branding process, check out our blog, Brand Positioning and Differentiation Strategies: Is Your Company Identically Differentiated?
Looking to develop a corporate brand or rebrand your company? Click here to read more about our B2B branding agency, or call us at 440-449-6800 for more information.