Welcome to No-Brand Land!
Gary Begin/Sound Advantage Media
Broadcasting executives spend millions building their radio station’s brand in the marketplace. But, is it being spent it in the right place?
A marketer’s greatest asset in creating brand justice and impact is the frontline sales person. But if you ask Brand Managers for a look at their brand-building budgets, you’d probably see expenses allocated entirely opposite to what really drives brand purchase decisions.
Brand marketers continue to pump big bucks into big ad campaigns while doing next to nothing to deliver relevant, brand-supporting messages at the all-important larger level—the distance between a company’s sales voice and a prospect’s purchase decision.
What’s the answer?
It probably lies somewhere between (1) the unwillingness of radio stations and brand managers to go further “downstream” with their strategic recommendations and (2) the lack of useful tools to get them there.
Welcome to No Brand’s Land
Increasingly, a company’s branding success depends less on what they sell, and more on how they sell it. Selected experts in branding seem to be coming around that the power to make or break your brand-building effort lies not in the quality of your advertising but in the customer’s experience at the point of sale. In radio, that’s your over-the-air product and how your ad-rep handles the advertiser.
On one side of No Brand’s Land, brand marketers can control all of the implementation, ensuring the advertising campaign is right on, the media coverage generated by your on-air promotion is consistent, your Web site looks the same, and your corporate design are in place.
But on the other side of the No Brand’s Land, sales people are still doing their own thing. They are cutting and pasting from old proposals with outdated information and incorrect messages. They’re fabricating homegrown collateral tools and PowerPoint presentations that are, at best, inconsistent with corporate positioning, or worse, downright inaccurate.
Most frightening for brand marketers is that these cobbled-together documents have to walk the halls of prospective customers, representing the company’s brand at the most critical points in the sales process. Ouch.
Adding insult to injury, the field-fabrication virus spreads exponentially as this bad information is perpetuated across the channel on the brand’s intranet.
Crossing Over No Brand’s Land
To effectively navigate and successfully cross No Brand’s Land, marketers need to start by adapting brand message creation and delivery to today’s strategic sales processes. Two trends in particular will drive marketers’ efforts to create brand-supporting content that helps sales people sell.
Trend #1: Value Selling
For more than a decade, sales training and methodology experts have focused on improving the consultative selling skills of sales people—especially in complex selling environments. The concept is simple: first, sales people identify the needs of customers; then, they clearly demonstrate the ability of a solution to successfully respond to that customer’s specific needs.
Often called Value Selling or Solution Selling, this dynamic and interactive sales process replaces previously static, one-way techniques that debated the merits of competing features and functions.
While sales people move toward creating a much more customized sales experience for each prospect, most marketing departments continued to deliver generic messaging using static collateral tools—a one-size-fits-all approach for a one-to-one world. No wonder sales people are forced to scramble to create their own custom content, piecemealed from various sources, in order to demonstrate they have listened to the customer.
The first thing brand managers can do to help out is translate their high-level positioning into street-ready value propositions and solution-messaging that speak to customers the way sales people have been trained to sell:
• Create customer empathy by identifying and demonstrating a true understanding of the key do-or-die issues facing your customers. Do that for each level of the decision-making team, and link it back to how they do their jobs today.
• Next, determine and articulate the risks if they do not address these issues. Also, firmly establish and highlight the rewards if they do take action. Take special care to find out how your customer will define success—determine what they want to brag about if they are successful in achieving positive results.
• Then demonstrate how your company’s solution helps them respond specifically—and successfully—to their key do-or-die issues.
Trend #2: Dynamic, Personalized Collateral Building
Value selling has raised the bar, changing customer expectations about sales experiences forever. Customers have come to expect that company interactions will be personal and relevant, and tailored to their specific needs.
Meanwhile, marketing departments have tried to keep pace by adopting segmentation strategies, doing their best to tailor messages and create more customer-relevant positioning. However, the tools to deliver these increasingly sophisticated messages through the sales channels have lagged. So, we’ve seen a proliferation of static collateral tools designed to fit every occasion.
Unfortunately, sales people are neither warehouse managers nor librarians, and they have a hard time tracking and finding the right materials when they need them. In response, marketers have set up sales intranets to supply 24×7 accesses to support materials.
While these intranets improve accessibility to materials, they don’t resolve the biggest issue facing today’s value-selling sales people: the need to provide prospects with dynamic, personalized sales communications. With only static documentation at their disposal, sales people begin creating unique, customized documents for each sales situation.
Typically, this happens at the expense of the brand and the company. The lack of consistency between radio stations and from sales person to sales person—undermines the millions spent on brand awareness advertising. The extra time spent by sales people to craft these personalized proposals, presentations and collateral pieces keeps them from time better spent with customers.
Marketing’s big win is that every radio sales person, even within a multi-entertainment environment, will now be communicating a consistent company message. Imagine the brand-building power unleashed when sales reps begin delivering a persuasive, powerful and pre-approved message at every point of customer contact.