After reading my previous posts, you’re almost on your way to productively and energetically leveraging your brand’s perception to drive company growth and profitability. Our previous topics of focus covered the specific impact that brand perception can have on the bottom line and the need for clear positioning as the foundation for communicating about your company.
It’s now time to examine effective ways to arm others with that refined market positioning. By understanding your story, employees, customers and other influencers will help you communicate this information to your marketplace. This strategy takes some of the pressure off your sales team. It also makes it easier to proliferate your vision, as well as the value of your product and service offerings.
One of the biggest challenges small to mid-size companies face is promoting their company with limited resources. Not everyone has massive advertising budgets to flood the market, so you need to work smarter to get the most out of your marketing spend. One way to do that is to more effectively leverage your employee base and others who have influence in your industry. It’s much more powerful when others can tell the story for you.
Get your employees to be brand ambassadors
Your employees are your best brand assets since they interact with customers and prospects day-to-day. All your employees need to understand and align to your company positioning, and especially the logic behind it. If you’ve gathered insights and done the work to accurately define what you provide and how it uniquely solves your customers’ problems, then getting your employees to believe should not be difficult.
Here are a few tips for getting employees on board to help reinforce and tell your story to the market:
- CEO briefing to the management team– for those managers not directly involved in the development of positioning, they need to be briefed first before the rest of the company. Its best that this comes from the top and there is ample opportunity to ask questions and get clarification. They will need enough information to cascade the information to their staff and defend it appropriately.
- Hold executive road shows or town hall meetings– employees need to hear the message from senior management directly. This is a great opportunity for them to understand what’s changing and why, while getting insight into the direction of the company.
- Openly share the data and market insights– as you communicate, share all the information and data that went into defining the brand positioning. This will help people understand the logic behind the messaging and help avoid lack of compliance later.
- Create an internal campaign for communication– instead of simply relying on company-wide email communication, you can create unique assets and mechanisms for communicating the company positioning over time. You can develop a ‘brand book’ to describe what the brand stands for and ideas for how to ‘live the brand’, or internal office signage and banners, internal company newsletters, etc.
- Provide assets to be shared via social media – encourage employees to use their social media channels to share blog posts, company videos, etc. that explain or reinforce the company’s unique positioning.
- Collect ideas and feedback– ask your employees for new ideas on how the company can do more to better execute on its positioning. This will help drive buy-in and ownership.
Enlist customers to be advocates
Your current customers are an obvious group to leverage for telling others about your company. There is no question that word-of-mouth has always been the best form of marketing. According to a Nielsen study, 92% of consumers believe suggestions from people they know and trust than other advertising. And with social media as a megaphone, its much easier and cost effective to share information.
Of course, for this avenue to be effective you need to deliver what you promise and promptly fix what goes wrong. You can’t enlist customers to be advocates without a solid foundation of ongoing, responsive customer service.
Here are a few tips for getting help from your customers to help reinforce and tell your story to the market:
- Executive relationship building – create exclusive forums and events where senior executives from your best clients can network and learn from each other and interact with the most senior people in your company. This is less about selling your product or services, and more about building a trusted community that is willing to tell others about your company.
- Case studies– these obviously help illustrate how benefits were realized, but you can also carefully underscore some of your key differentiators. These should be designed in long form and short form to be shared in different ways (social media, sales presentations, article placements, etc.). Bonus tip – tout your customers’ achievements as much, if not more than, your own. Your customer will appreciate it.
- Testimonials – these can be in the form of brief videos, written quotes to be used in presentations or posts on online referral forums. You’ll need to help guide the customer to make sure the right points come out to show how your company is unique. Bonus tip – take advantage of any customer gatherings to grab quick video ‘snippet’ testimonials. These don’t need to be formal – in fact, the more genuine they feel, the better.
- Speaking opportunities, media interviews - help recruit customers for speaking opportunities at trade or industry events, or as experts for trade media articles – often they will put in a plug for your company if you ask them. This is a great way to give customers an opportunity for personal growth as well.
Leverage market influencers
Every industry has influencers that serve as information sources or trusted advisors for potential customers. Building relationships with these influencers and arming them with the right information is critical to help build your brand in your industry.
- Alliance and Channel Partners– make sure that any business partners have the right messaging in their sales materials, website, etc. Conduct regular briefings with their sales teams to make sure they clearly understand what makes your customer different and to whom.
- Industry Experts and Analysts- continually brief industry experts and analysts so they play back your messaging to the market. They often see their job as being the accurate voice of the industry – so make sure they have an accurate view of your company. This will require building a relationship with these folks and having a regular cadence of communication.
- Trade Media and Social Media Bloggers– you can place or co-author articles in trade publications that highlight key points of view that support your positioning. In many industries, there are influential bloggers who cover the space. They are always looking for content, and very well might be willing to profile your company.
- Online Review Sites- You can also leverage online review sites such as Yelp, G2 Crowd, Software Advice and others depending on your product or service. Ask your customers directly if they would be willing to write a good review. Sometimes they may ask for guidance on what to say, in which case you can provide suggestions based on your positioning (i.e., points of differentiation).
Now that you understand the importance of rallying others to tell your unique brand story, you’ll find it easier to get your positioning to “stick” with your target customer. Next, I’ll explain what mindset and strategies are essential for achieving this goal.