Success in business is all about relationships. The ability to leverage key relationships is an outstanding performance driver for all successful businesses. There are many relationships that impact an organization’s performance: relationships with employees, customers, distributors, strategic partners, prospective customers, potential employees, competitors, the media, and the community-at-large. Every organization has a portfolio of relationships to manage, some on the outside and others on the inside of the organization. Every organization will benefit by having a corporate relationship strategy.
The aim of a corporate relationship strategy is to implement a coordinated relationship-building effort for the organization. Too often managing the many different corporate relationships is done in isolation. Like any other asset (business relationships are a good example of an intangible asset) these relationships should be managed as a portfolio. And like good portfolio management, these relationships should be managed in a coordinated fashion to achieve a common goal. The common goal of a corporate relationship strategy is to consistently improve the delivery of distinctive value to customers.
A pragmatic, proven framework is a necessary element to effectively implementing any strategy. I recommend that brand be used as the framework to manage a corporate relationship strategy. Let’s slow down here and get on the same page about brand. When you think about brand don’t focus on the tactical elements of brand building like, logos, tag lines, or advertisements. A brand is a relationship. And brand management is the business discipline of creating and building a relationship for the purpose of improving the performance of the business. Brand is a proven relationship-building competency that can be used as a framework to implement a corporate relationship strategy.
Corporate Brand – Thinking Beyond the Customer
Traditionally, the business world has focused its brand management attention on managing the relationship between a customer and a product. Effective product-related brand management will yield a relationship with a customer that is based upon a single dimension usually defined around the attributes of the product. At best, that relationship can be expanded based upon brand extensions. In its own right product-based brand management can produce solid relationships between a company’s product and its target market. But limiting the brand-building competency to the product-customer relationship cuts short the possibilities of a corporate relationship strategy.
Corporate brand is not new and every organization has one. Some organizations use their corporate brands more effectively than others. Most organizations have a limited perspective on corporate brand, viewing it either as a reputation management tool or as a master brand to identify its products. When understood in a broader context, a well-managed corporate brand can encompass a myriad of relationships, inside and outside the organization. This expanded view of corporate brand extends the core discipline of brand building to a broader set of relationships that impact the performance of the organization. A new, broader view of corporate brand will provide a new powerful framework to implement a coordinated, proactive corporate relationship building strategy.
This neo-corporate brand perspective requires a whole new paradigm for coordinating the relationships inside and outside the organization. Neo-corporate brand management requires the coordinated efforts of marketing and human resources. The core competency of the marketing function is building relationships outside the organization (sometimes called customer brand building). The human resources function has built a proven competency of relationship building inside the organization (sometimes referred to as employer branding). Each of these professions has by necessity differing perspectives on relationship building. By working more collegially these differing perspectives can prove complimentary. This cross-functional team working with a common purpose and shared competency will deliver true innovation to the corporate relationship building process.
Delivering on the possibilities of a corporate relationship strategy will require among other things:
- A new cross-functional team approach that extends the brand competency and responsibility beyond the marketing department.
- A new approach to corporate brand that is embraced by the leadership team.
- Be consistent in applying the proven brand-based relationship competency to each targeted relationship that comprises the corporate brand portfolio.
- Define and consistently use a corporate brand platform that clearly defines the important relationship attributes of the corporate brand, starting with the organization’s brand ethos.
- Measure the perceptions that surround each of the targeted brand relationships.
- Implement relationship-building as a core competency as a part of the organization’s leadership development program.
Corporate relationship strategy is an innovative approach to consistently delivering value to customers. It requires a new perspective, new set of competencies and will yield improved bottom line results to any organization. Is your organization ready?
Posted by Karl D. Speak