In the trust cycle, we’ve established that your brand perception is the basis for how buyers view you, in advance of actually getting to know you.
For new providers, this fact drives me to believe that investments in establishing a strong, positive brand impression should outweigh lead generation programs.
Of course, that means you have hire sales teams that are comfortable generating their own leads (often from existing relationships). But you are giving those reps something that may be more powerful than a lead. You are giving them a story and a foundation to build a business value narrative upon.
Without a brand story, buyers wonder who you are. And they don’t have the time, or the interest, to invest a lot of energy in figuring it out on their own.
How do you build that brand foundation? I feel this is largely about communication and collaboration.
From a communication standpoint you have to have a story. The brand story should include:
· Principles – What are the principles, including ethical considerations, around your approach to business?
· Promise – What is the promise of value that you are committing to deliver to your customers? What problem are you addressing?
· Proof – How can you demonstrate that you live by your principles and deliver on your promises?
· Profile - Who do you serve?
In most cases, you can tell the story using the S-I-R format we advocate at Gartner (Situation, Impact, Response).
Once you have the story, you have to share it. Collaborate with industry influencers, partners, customers, and colleagues to get the word out. Give prospective buyers the ability to discover who you are on their own.
Be diligent about driving consistency around your story. Deliver on your promises. Nothing hurts a brand story more than confusion and failure to live the brand story.
Without a brand foundation, your lead generation and sales efforts are starting in a deep hole. A hole that is difficult to climb out of.
A strong brand is the opposite. I still remember surveys in the early days of independent workflow platforms when Microsoft and IBM were the top ranked workflow platforms by tech buyers. Neither had a product in that area at that time. I suspect today Google might top those lists whether they have an offering or not.
A lot goes into building a brand, but it is worth it. Build your trust foundation, build your brand.
By Hank Barnes, Gartner