What You Need to Know About Branding Strategy as a Brand Manager

Hi Readers,

During my stint as the P&L head, business manager of the CPG start up in Africa, Marketing was directly managed by me. In a span of 5 years, I launched 3 successful brands in 3 different categories.

As I understand now, brand management is as much an art as a science.

Most CEOs understand that Sales= clients= revenues (YES!!!), HR= people related issues and systems (necessary evil!!), Finance = bean counters, penny pinchers ( Cant liev with them, cant live without them!)

Marketing confounds them the most!! They are extremely nervous about signing off checks that give the marketing teams their bugets.

When I look at what passes for marketing out there, hell, I’d be nervous about funding it too. I mean, what do you get for all that money? How do you know if it’s working or not?

And branding, that’s even worse. It doesn’t help that the name conjures up images of branding cattle, or somebody being branded a criminal. How about that, branding has a branding problem. Ironic, isn’t it?

Here’s how branding works.

Your company and its products and services have associated attributes that affect customer buying decisions, employee morale, and investor confidence. They also affect your company’s market share, profit margins, and bottom line. THATs THE EASY PART!

Branding strategy enables your company to measure and change the perception and affect of those attributes.

Here are five things that i think that every manager needs to know about branding strategy.

  1. Customers experience thoughts and feelings when they consider your company’s product or service. It’s the same thing with potential employees and investors. It’s called brand reputation or perception and it exists whether you do anything about it or not. (Be aware, these are my definitions. Some differentiate on symantics; I don’t.)
  2. Brand reputation is a function of experience with your company and its products. It’s the sum total of many things, including product features, quality and reliability, customer service, even executive presentations. It goes way beyond marketing, PR, ad campaigns, and websites.
  3. Branding strategy is not a one-off; it’s a component of your overall corporate strategy. Hopefully that begins with some sort of strategic planning process that defines your company’s vision, goals, and key strategies. Branding strategy is integrated and aligned with those.
  4. Contrary to what the name implies, branding strategy is not about names per se. It’s about using certain tools to achieve strategic and operating goals. For example, branding can be used to position similar or the same products in different market segments, typically at different pricing levels. That means changing perception without changing the product -a neat trick.
  5. There are a myriad of decisions and tradeoffs involved in developing the right branding strategy for a company and its products and services. There is method to the madness. For example, a product line’s goals, market requirements, and value proposition will lead to a unique branding strategy. At least it should.

How To Sell by Word of Mouth

Hi there,

This post follows the one that I just posted some minutes back…https://ashishtandon.wordpress.com/2013/07/04/how-to-screw-up-a-referral-sale/

WHY?

Because in this post I am talking about asking your clients for referrals at the right time !!

But in this post I am also touching on aspects of a successful sales strategy that the intelligent sharp sales rep can deploy to maximize his outcome from his referrer..

Here’s how I believe that a successful sales rep could win by selling using WOM

Nothing sells better or faster than word-of-mouth.  Sales generated through referrals are larger than those resulting from other lead-generation activities.  Why?  Simple.  By making the referral, the “referrer” is eliminating uncertainties like “can this rep be trusted?” and “is this rep worth my time?”  The sales process builds momentum more quickly, resulting in an easier, faster close.

There are three rules to developing sales opportunities through word of mouth:

  • Rule #1.  Ask for a Referral at the Right Time. Reps typically ask new customers for referrals when the first sale is closed, as in: “do you know of anyone else who needs our product?”  That’s dumb.  Why should an existing customer – who has already stuck his or her neck out by buy from you – stick it out further by risking their own business contacts?  The time to a referral from a customer is AFTER your product has produced a measurable benefit for that customer’s firm.
  • Rule #2. Ask Your Source to Take Action. If all you get is some contact information, you’re just setting up a cold call.  Instead, ask your current (happy) customer to call or e-mail the contact.  That way the current customer is essentially “endorsing” you, which will jump start your sales process.  IMPORTANT: Ask your current customer to give you a heads-up when they’ve sent the email or made the call.  Without this confirmation, you won’t know the best time to call the contact, which is within a day (preferably less than an hour) after the referral has taken place.
  • Rule #3. Keep Your Source in the Loop. Your existing customer is likely to have ongoing commuication with the prospect, and can help you move the sale forward simply by remaining involved as a interested spectator.  So follow up!  Contact the referrer within a day after the promise to send the email.  Express gratitude and (if necessary) gently remind the customer of his or her commitment.  After you meet with the new contact, send another e-mail with a thank-you and a status report. (E.g. “You were right; Fred’s firm does have a need.”)  Finally, if the referral actually results in a sale, be sure to send another thank-you.

If you found this blog useful, please visit me on https://ashishtandon.wordpress.com and follow me !!

Feel free to write in to me at ashish.tandon@gmail.com

How To Screw Up a Referral Sale !

Hi followers!

Thanks for all your comments, suggestions and critique ! These help me with my writing and the topics that seem to be in vogue and demand…

Referrals as we all in Sales know is a great way to get a foot in the door and eliminate the first 3 -4 steps of a prospective sale.

BUT as young sales reps we have certainly done our fair bit of screwing up a referral sale and this piece is an attempt to help the newbies in their sale careers!!

I have identified 4 instances of how we can potentially screw up a referral sale and used these descriptions to teach young budding sales stars to be mindful of this intricate process..

  1. You provided a detailed quote without a quid pro quo. If you’re going to do any significant work for a client, you must be “paid” by some concession to you that leads towards closing the deal. You should have demanded to present to personally to the CEO — or something else that might have given you an inside track.
  2. You didn’t differentiate your firm or your offering. While you may consider yourself to be a “boutique” firm, you obviously didn’t convince the prospect of that, because you ended up in a discussion of price. If you actually were a boutique firm, you’d be charging the highest price, and the customer would be happy to pay it.
  3. You bid on a deal without local resources. Since web development tends to be something of a commodity product, one of the few differentiators available to a provider is the quality of the sales rep. You needed a warm, personable body working the customer personally, in order to stand a chance of competing.
  4. You didn’t take the hint that you lost the deal. If the prospect is consistently blowing you off, they aren’t going to buy. Period. You’re just fooling yourself if you think that you’re still going to get the deal.  Any resources that you expend pursuing this deal further is wasted.  It’s over; deal with it.

To read more blogs from my pen, please visit my blog on https://ashishtandon.wordpress.com

and follow me!!

How to Respond to “It Costs Too Much”- the 12 questions mantra !!

Ha!!

This one had to come up one way or the other !!

Budgets are tight…contract negotiations are tighter still !!

My sales stars are sweating when their prospects retort at quotations saying ” you are pricing yourself out of the market!!”

So in order to address this very real problem, I decided to write about this..hope this helps scores of you out there facing the same dilemma and resistance from your buyer as my sales team is.

“it costs too much.” in todays times, you all would have heard it all too often !

This universal but ubiquitous objection is the bane of many a sale pro’s existence, so we are now going to destroy its power over you, forever. There are twelve classic “comebacks” that will not just neutralize the objection, but keep the sale cycle, going. Here they are:

Prospect: “It costs too much.”

Sales Pro: “No problem. Just out of curiosity…

  • …when you say it costs too much, what do you mean?”
  • …what has been your past experience with solutions like ours?”
  • …how do you know that it costs too much?”
  • …what do you know about us or our industry?”
  • …what has been your past experience with companies like ours?”
  • …what are some of your priorities around _________?”
  • …what if our solutions weren’t really expensive at all?”
  • …what if it turned out that we didn’t really cost as much as you thought?”
  • …what if really could solve the problem of __________?”
  • …what if we really could generate a measurable business value?”
  • …what if we could help you create a competitive advantage?”
  • …what if we could show you how our solution would actually save money?

Create you sales playbook with my blogs and empower yourself and your sales teams…would like to hear your stories if these ideas made a difference to your top line contributions and your bonus !!

You may also like to read this blog of mine https://ashishtandon.wordpress.com/2013/07/02/how-to-read-a-customers-mind/

and read all my blog only on https://ashishtandon.wordpress.com

The other 5 reasons that sales hates marketing!

Hi readers,

This is the second part of my blog posted some minutes back….https://ashishtandon.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=523&action=edit (Top 5 Reasons Sales hates Marketing)

As promised, this blog covers the other 5 reasons why sales teams hate their marketing counterparts!!

REASON #5: Marketeers pose as “strategists.”

  • Description: Marketeers think they’re “brand managers” who should be directing all activities throughout the company.
  • Why It Rankles: Brand is a reflection of product and service.  If good, the brand is good; if not, the brand is bad.
  • What’s The Cure: Only reward marketeers for behavior that directly results in a measurable increase in revenue and profit.

REASON #4: Marketeers waste resources.

  • Description: Marketeers expend money on fancy brochures, advertisements, and trade show junkets.
  • Why It Rankles: The more money that’s spent on Marketing’s boondoggles, the less money there is to pay commissions.
  • What’s The Cure: Give the sales team veto power over all marketing activities that exceed a fairly small amount of money.

REASON #3: Marketeers pretend they’re engineers.

  • Description: Marketeers try to set the technical direction of the firm’s products and services.
  • Why It Rankles: In most cases, the Marketeers have never even spoken to a customer, so they’re clueless about what they want.
  • What’s The Cure: Let the engineers design the next generation based upon customer input.  Keep marketing out of the picture.

REASON #2: Marketeers force technology on Sales.

  • Description: Marketeers pressure the sales team to enter reams of customer data into the CRM system.
  • Why It Rankles: The sales team knows full well that most of that data isn’t going to help generate more sales.
  • What’s The Cure: Set up your sales tech so that it always increases the amount of time that sales reps can spend selling.

REASON #1: Marketeers pass along lousy leads.

  • Description: Marketeers provide lists of leads that are either unqualified, or unqualifiable.
  • Why It Rankles: When Sales complains, the marketeers make it personal, accusing the sales team of being unable to sell.
  • What’s The Cure: Fire any marketeer who can’t consistently provide leads that the sales team – with its current skill set – can’t sell to.

Well what do you think folks!!

Love to have your views on this and my other posts!!

 

Top 5 Reasons Sales Hates Marketing

Hi Readers,

This blog covers what often simmers in sales teams of the best organizations….

Sales feels “neglected” when marketing takes all the kudos for the results, and feel singed when they take the heat for results NOT delivered!!

reasons are numerous and in this blog I will take just 5 that I feel are important right now to start this discussion..

REASON #1: Marketeers act superior.

  • Description: Marketeers often have business degrees, so they think they’re better than sales reps who don’t need a degree to sell.
  • Why It Rankles: Business degrees are generally useless when it comes to sales and marketing, since what’s taught is a mix of accounting and biz-blab.
  • What’s The Cure: Require MBAs to spend at least six months in Sales before being allowed to work in Marketing.

REASON #2: Marketeers want to eliminate Sales.

  • Description: Marketeers are taught in business school that good marketing makes a sales force unnecessary.
  • Why It Rankles: Unless a product is a plug-and-play commodity, a sales rep is always a necessity.  Especially in B2B.
  • What’s The Cure: Make it clear in the charter of the marketing team that they are there to support the sales team, not to replace it.

REASON #3: Marketeers believe selling is easy.

  • Description: Marketeers think that they can create so much demand that selling will consist purely of taking orders.
  • Why It Rankles: Most demand creation activities don’t create demand, especially in B2B, where customers generally ignore ads and collateral.
  • What’s The Cure: Have the marketeers make sales calls – or field inside sales calls – so they can see how hard it is.

REASON #4: Marketeers are goaled on deliverables.

  • Description: Marketeers get paid when they produce leads, brochures and ads, even if none of that activity results in a single sale.
  • Why It Rankles: If sales pros don’t make sales, they don’t get paid and, if it goes on long, they get fired.
  • What’s The Cure: Goal and compensate Marketing on the ability of the Sales team to generate revenue and profit from Marketing’s leads.

REASON #5: Marketeers think they’re “driving Sales.”

  • Description: Marketeers see selling as only one tactic in a grandiose strategic campaign.
  • Why It Rankles: Sales reps know that marketing is only a service function to the sales team, which makes the uppity behavior annoying.
  • What’s The Cure: Make it clear that Marketing is subservient to Sales by placing the CMO under the CSO.

Please do post your views on this blog…AND i would love to have comments from both SALES and MARKETING!!

5 MORE reasons to follow …so keep watching this space!!

Do you think that before taking a marketing assignment, the manager needs to spend time in sales?

Hi guys,

This poll is being posted for assessment of 2 topics that I have touched upon in my blogs recently- these topics are

  1. What Every Manager Should Learn From Sales
  2. Top 10 Reasons Sales Hates Marketing

Your inputs will help me develop a much more balanced view point on this subject and to then translate this balance into harmony between sales and marketing functions in silo organization structures.

AND please do post your comments on this as well as other blogs that I have written on this subject- some of these may have been controversial, but its always good to have diverse points of view.

Actually with the diversity of all your view points, I gain much much more and get to learn a new thing every day.

This is part of my promise to my self that I will learn something every new day!!

Your Best Response to Three Common Objections faced today!!

Hi Guys,

I can totally relate to the reality of the markets today…

Since 2008, its been an uphill task for us all in sales and more so for our wonderful marketers, and its sad to see so many good folks lose their dignity, their livelihoods and their reputations in the face of some real tough objections ( brickwalls) coming from their clients, some of whom probably swore to be by your side through thick n thin….but have gone away just and market sentiments tanked!!

So lets look at some very difficult objections that sales reps have been facing recently and what could probably be the best answer to address these client objections

  • Common Objection 1: “I can get it cheaper elsewhere.”Response: “In today’s world we can almost always get something cheaper.  I’ve found that when smart people invest their money they look for three things: the finest quality, the best service and lowest price. However, I’ve also noticed that no company can consistently offer all three-the finest quality and the best service at the lowest price.  Which two of the three is most important to you in the long term?”
  • Common Objection 2: “I have a friend in the business.”Response:“There’s an old saying – I don’t know how true it is – that sometimes friendship and business don’t mix.  If you bought from a friend you might not say anything if you weren’t happy with the purchase, but with me you can just get on my case until you get what you want.”
  • Common Objection 3: “I did business with your company in the past and they were unprofessional.”Response: “I can really appreciate that.  I really hate it when that kind of thing happens to me.  You know, though, suppose the shoe were on the other foot and it was your company that had acted unprofessionally.  You’d probably fire the person responsible. That’s probably what we had to do, and now it’s my job to make certain that you’re treated right.”

If you know of other common objections please do let me know and give me the opportunity to share some insights with you all.

What is driving brand convergence today?

Media fragmentation, communication clutter in the markets, too many brands competing in an increasingly tight space at the top of the consumer pyramid ( leaving the BoP vacant!!), inability of the brands to penetrate the BoP markets….all these are reasons enough for brands to contemplate convergence- it may even be crucial to their survival.

Think of it as “collaboration” between brands, who are able to identify complementary and supplementary values that are logical for them to work together- leading to the brand convergence that we are speaking of.

The dictionary meaning of the word “convergence” varies from “the act of synergistically coming together” to “contraction” to “similarity of form and structure.”

So what are the prime drivers for brands to converge today- according to me they are the following

  • Primarily non-competing brands will clamor to get together in today’s tough times. For the competing ones, even though some synergies might be working at the back end, it will take further evolution till they converge in the consumer space unless of course the companies merge or brands are bought over.
  • The brands should have a similar Target Audience in order to contemplate convergence. This might be obvious to some, however the similarity should not end at the demographic level but also extend to the psychographics and buying behavior.
  • They should have similar brand appeal and perception. Each of brands coming together should only enhance and/or reinforce the basic image of the other one. In a sense they should complement each other in terms of the perception consumers carry about them.
  • The converged entity/product has to meet a genuine consumer need. Convergence for the sake of it will not just add no marginal value to the brands but a venture gone wrong can in fact erode brand equity.
  • The converged offering needs to have a unique value proposition, different or greater that the individual offerings. In a way the joint offering should be more potent than sum of all individual offerings.

The last point nails it! The essence of a successful collaboration (convergence ) is that the SUM is greater than the individual numbers that each brand brings to the table!!

Key attributes to becoming an effective marketer

  • Sales is your friend. The whole “natural tension between sales and marketing” thing is a dysfunctional crock. Sales owns the customer relationship. As a marketer, one of your key functions is to facilitate sales’ ability to sell your products. You need each other and your goals can and should be aligned.
  • Be patient with your boss and peers. Not coincidentally, strong leaders and managers often tend to be controlling individuals. That means they can become easily frustrated with things they don’t understand, i.e. marketing. Be patient and pay attention to their feedback.
  • Remember, you have way more customers than you think. The executive staff, your peers, product development, manufacturing, sales, finance, HR, employee communications, they’re all stakeholders in the marketing function. Treat them as such.
  • Bond with the development and product people. This goes way beyond educating and teaching. These are very smart people with a strong, vested interest in what you plan to do with their product. Bond with them, listen to them, understand their issues and concerns, make them partners in your “process;” it’ll pay off big-time.
  • Teach, teach, teach. Successful marketers are strong communicators and educators. Spend as much time teaching and educating internally as you do networking and meeting with customers externally. Again, it’ll pay off.
  • Measure and communicate results. The biggest slam on marketing is that it’s an expense black hole with no metrics to measure results. Be disciplined. Spend 10 percent of your budget on metrics for key programs and take the time to communicate results – both good and bad – to stakeholders. Do it.
    • Listen, listen, listen. Most of your “brilliant ideas” will come from others – internal stakeholders, vendors, and customers. Make them part of your “process.” Your job is to actively listen and then crystallize these gems into product and corporate strategy and positioning. It’s a real skill to learn, but it starts with listening.
  • Get out and visit customers. Balance internal focus with external focus. That doesn’t mean waste customers’ and sales’ time to suit your agenda, but meet with customers when you’ve got something important – from their perspective, not just yours – to discuss. Ask open, leading questions and listen to their feedback. It’s invaluable.
  • Get close to your competition. I don’t mean study their products, I mean get close, really close. Introduce yourself at conferences or other events – they’ll be there. Get together from time to time, have lunch, whatever. They don’t bite. Just remember to learn more than you share.
  • Be accessible to the media. PR and the media can be an incredibly powerful tool, but like all tools, you have to learn to use them properly or they can work against you. I’m not saying be reactive; it should fit into your overall communications goals, strategy, and messaging. Creating a buzz is an art form; just look at Steve Jobs and Apple.
  • Make key vendors part of your virtual team. If you pick the right vendors, they can be tremendous strategic resources, since some of the most capable PR and advertising people have their own firms. To benefit from their knowledge and experience, bring them into the fold. Make them part of your virtual team, just like the rest of your staff.
  • Be visible, network, attend conferences and events. It’s easy to become too internally focused within the four walls of your company. You can lose perspective and start to breath too much of your own fumes. Get out, network, meet people, and bat some ideas and concepts around. If you don’t do it, who in your company will?
  • Listen, listen, listen. Most of your “brilliant ideas” will come from others – internal stakeholders, vendors, and customers. Make them part of your “process.” Your job is to actively listen and then crystallize these gems into product and corporate strategy and positioning. It’s a real skill to learn, but it starts with listening.
  • Get out and visit customers. Balance internal focus with external focus. That doesn’t mean waste customers’ and sales’ time to suit your agenda, but meet with customers when you’ve got something important – from their perspective, not just yours – to discuss. Ask open, leading questions and listen to their feedback. It’s invaluable.
  • Get close to your competition. I don’t mean study their products, I mean get close, really close. Introduce yourself at conferences or other events – they’ll be there. Get together from time to time, have lunch, whatever. They don’t bite. Just remember to learn more than you share.
  • Be accessible to the media. PR and the media can be an incredibly powerful tool, but like all tools, you have to learn to use them properly or they can work against you. I’m not saying be reactive; it should fit into your overall communications goals, strategy, and messaging. Creating a buzz is an art form; just look at Steve Jobs and Apple.
  • Make key vendors part of your virtual team. If you pick the right vendors, they can be tremendous strategic resources, since some of the most capable PR and advertising people have their own firms. To benefit from their knowledge and experience, bring them into the fold. Make them part of your virtual team, just like the rest of your staff.
  • Be visible, network, attend conferences and events. It’s easy to become too internally focused within the four walls of your company. You can lose perspective and start to breath too much of your own fumes. Get out, network, meet people, and bat some ideas and concepts around. If you don’t do it, who in your company will?