A Brand Opportunity Hidden in Plain Sight
If a marketer were handed a new brand to use in their marketing mix that wouldn’t impact their budget, how much would it increase the ROI of their marketing? What if a sales leader was given an innovative tool that would enable salespeople to build brand loyalty that couldn’t be dislodged by a competitor’s products? How much faster could a company grow if this new brand and sales tool was used to more tightly integrate marketing and sales activities?
It is likely that many marketers are missing a powerful brand-building opportunity that’s right in front of their noses. For many organizations it’s the brand that can have the most impact on customer performance. It’s the brand that lies at the nexus of the integration of marketing and sales. The brand I am talking about is the personal brand of salespeople and others who have direct contact with customers. Taken together and managed as a portfolio, the personal brands of salespeople, along with product and corporate brands, can provide marketers and sales managers the power of “Brand3” – exponentially more brand power.
It is no news flash to any sales professional that the “personal brand” of a salesperson can have a significant impact on customer loyalty. By the same token, it is fair to say that the personal brand of salespeople has not received the same level of brand management discipline and attention as marketers apply to product or corporate brands. As a result the personal brand of salespeople (or other customer-facing employees) is an under-appreciated corporate asset and likely not receiving enough corporate resources. Consciously integrating the personal brand of salespeople into an overall marketing strategy is the focus of the notion of Brand3.
What do I mean by Brand3? Simply stated it is the proactive management of an organization’s product, corporate and personal brands of salespeople (and possibly other employees who interact directly with customers) by ensuring that each brand is strong and all are aligned to leverage the growth of all three. The fact that every organization has three types of brands (product, corporate, personal brands) is not new news; the innovation is employing a strategic approach to using them together, as a portfolio, to gain more marketing and sales power.
Each brand in the Brand3 portfolio impacts customer loyalty to a different degree. The contribution of each brand to customer loyalty varies by industry and company. By the nature of some industries the personal brand of a salesperson may have a very large, dis-proportionate impact on customer loyalty. In other cases a company’s business strategy may focus on building strong product or corporate brands to gain competitive advantage, minimizing the impact of the personal brand of a salesperson. What’s important is that a company has a thoughtful strategy that proactively leverages the integration of all three brands.
There are two fundamental strategies to getting the most “bang for the buck” from integrating the portfolio of product, corporate and personal brands. The first strategy is ensuring that each brand is strong in its own right. Secondly, is aligning the positions and activities of each brand.
Building stronger personal brands of salespeople is often overlooked and under-appreciated. Brand building is a core competency of marketers. Building the personal brands of salespeople adds a whole new dimension to the marketer’s traditional brand-building skills. By the same token, integrating core brand building principles into an organization’s sales training curriculum will enhance the development of sales professionals relationship building competency.
Many of the core principles of building product and corporate brands apply to building personal brands, such as the importance of perceptions, consistency, distinction, emotional connection and making a difference. People are not products or companies and so traditional brand-building techniques must be carefully adapted. Using a proven, human-centered approach to brand building that embraces the nature of human-to-human interactions will build on the natural strengths of salespeople and result in stronger personal brands. A stronger, managed personal brand creates the potential for unleashing the power of Brand3.
The strategic challenge for marketers is to gain leverage that can come from managing these three brands as a portfolio. Developing a strategy leveraging all three brands has more considerations than this space allows. Alignment across all brands is the starting point for a Brand3 strategy for any organization. Creating alignment across all three brands starts with clear articulation of the dimensions of each brand. Practically speaking this means making sure that every brand (product, corporate and personal) has defined its differentiating qualities in terms that create value for customers.
Another important part of alignment takes place by ensuring that all three brands have common, reinforcing dimensions. As an example, if a product brand strategy focuses on integrating different products or including a service offering, i.e., solution sale, the personal brand of a salesperson should have the strengths to apply the integrated offer in a way that creates added value for a customer. If a corporate brand repositioning strategy is based upon a new technology or value proposition, the personal brand of its salespeople must be viewed as contemporary or consistent with the new brand value proposition.
Brand3 is a powerful strategy that will yield real leverage from the integration of marketing and sales resources. Every organization has the brands to take advantage of the power of this innovative strategy. Embracing the Brand3 framework will yield exponential brand power, enabling you to take advantage of this new brand that seemed to appear out of the clear blue sky.