Eight Critical Brand Health Questions You Should Be Asking

Brand HealthComplacency is a deadly risk to the health of your brand.

Perhaps the most enjoyable part of my job is helping B2B clients “brand” their companies, products (or services) and create a personal brand for executives.  I’ve written a lot about the subject of branding, including my recent article for CustomerThink titled, Six Steps to Ensure Your Brand Strategy Supports Your Lead-to-Revenue Framework. Because this subject is so critical to most company’s revenue and growth, I thought I would share answers to eight critical branding questions that directly affect the health and well-being of your company:

  1. How important is brand health to my company’s success? My obvious answer, with a few exceptions, is that it is extremely important. As a former colleague once told me, “Do you think it would sell as well if they called it ‘cold dead fish’ instead of sushi?” Great companies work hard to create and maintain a positive brand image and it pays off big time. Visit the Brand Health Scorecard for a quick way to measure your brand health.
  1. What can we do if we sound just like everyone else? The first answer is: Don’t be like everyone else. The second answer is: Do whatever it takes to differentiate your company, products and services from a marketing perspective and then go make this happen company-wide. But don’t change the branding if you aren’t prepared to make the other changes that reinforce the brand.
  1. Should we brand using a narrow or wide focus? Most of the time we advocate a more narrow focus. As they say, there are “riches in niches”. However, there is a big caveat. Don’t brand yourself so narrowly that it boxes in your ability to expand in the future. This can be a delicate balance that requires a lot of time and attention.
  1. What are the biggest branding mistakes companies make? I see so many mistakes that it’s hard to pick just a few. Perhaps the biggest is failing to take the issue seriously and complete due diligence on your brand decisions. Many go forward with a weak or even a harmful brand. Another fatal flaw is to let ego override a good branding advice – e.g. “I don’t care what the experts say, I want to name this company after my dog.” Don’t laugh – this type of thing happens every day.  A third mistake is to do a good job in top-line branding but fail to follow through on the rest of the company’s messaging. You know this is a problem when people look at your website and say, “What they heck does this company do?”
  1. How do we know if our brand is working? Here are five ways to tell:
  • Results: If you are losing market share and leaking revenue, there is a good chance that your branding deserves some of the blame.
  • Quantity: How often are people talking about your company and its products or services?
  • Quality: Who is talking about you and what are they saying?
  • Website traffic: Are you getting more unique visitors and do they spend more time on site? A decline in either of these numbers is a bad sign.
  • Congruence is a customer experience (CX) measurement that indicates whether the current brand aligns with your customers’ experience from initial contact through usage of the product or service. Net Promoter Score (NPS) is another way to measure this. 
  1. What is the risk of ignoring the issues surrounding our brand health? Of course, there is the option to “do nothing”. Complacency and inertia are strong forces that are very difficult to overcome, especially if you have achieved a modicum of success in the past. The biggest factor driving change should be (as mentioned in #5) a stagnant or declining sales pipeline and waning revenue.
  1. Does my company need one or more thought leaders? Great question indeed. The answer is yes, but only if you have a credible executive, who has worthwhile things to say, and will share his/her thoughts on a regular basis. Of course it helps if that individual can be depended upon not to jump ship to the competition. Such an individual is like gold and is far preferable than content coming from a generic source such as “marketing” or “admin”.
  1. How do we fix an under-performing brand? Before attempting any type of brand improvement, it is a good idea to know where you currently stand. Brand ScorecardA good way to find out is with the free Brand Health Scorecard. The scorecard measures six different categories of brand performance. It will take you only a few minutes to complete the questionnaire and the results will start you on the path to brand success.

How to Rejuvenate a Troubled B2B Brand

RebrandingTwo months ago, I wrote an article titled The Economic Value of Your Company Brand. The theme of the post: No matter the size and scope of your company, the brand position you hold with your prospects and customers has monetary value in terms of sales, stock prices and even employee retention. One of the points I made in the article is that you are sometimes better off if you are starting off with a clean branding slate. The downside is that few people know about you – the upside is that you can start with a fresh and differentiated brand position. 

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Five Great Ways to Drive Brand Engagement

b2b brand engagementEvery year, millions tune in to the PGA Championship, where golf’s finest duke it out on the green and golf enthusiasts cheer the winners and sometimes, even the heartbreaking losers. Last Sunday, Scotland’s Rory McIlroy won his second PGA championship and cemented his streak as the world’s number one golfer.

As an occasional golfer who likes to watch others make the shots I can’t make – I usually catch the final round or the four majors.  McIlroy’s dominance at the PGA – even with Phil Mickelson’s final surge making him nervous – got me thinking about how sales teams can stay dominant with competitors breathing down their necks. Following are five things every organization should do to communicate their brand clearly and stay ahead of the pack.

1)      Will Work For Followers.  Brian Solis recently posted a Slideshare titled Relationship Economics, about the power of social media to brand a company for a big payoff with employees and customers. He tracked companies’ social media use, linked it to employee engagement and proved that “genuine communication and engagement in social media helps businesses improve relationships with employees and customers while also improving the bottom line.”

2)      Take Care of Bad News Quickly. On the same note, figuring out how to diffuse negative noise about your brand is key to winning over your customers. Look at what happened when a recording of an irate Comcast customer battling an insulting customer service rep went viral. Comcast’s response was so lackadaisical that most communicators just shook their heads. Plan to apologize and make it right at all costs. Publicly. With humility and haste.

3)      The Fish Stinks from the Head. This Sicilian saying describes what happens when a company’s leaders are inept at communicating a brand message. Get thee to a media coach, pronto! Come up with a plan to “personalize” your leader in the public eye. And if possible, you should position your leadership as one of your most important products.

4)      Powerful Force. When it comes to brand engagement, your employees are your biggest assets and can also be your biggest advocates. Your employee communications have to be as accurate as a McIlroy putt; as fully developed as Phil Mickelson’s short game; and as powerful as Tiger’s drive in his prime.  Solis cites employee engagement as a key driver to profitable growth and if you ignore this, it cost you big bucks in turnover and in brand reputation.

5)      Asleep at the Wheel When you’re at Rory McIlroy’s level, you don’t rest on your laurels. You continue to improve and work hard at getting better. Plan to revisit any communications plan you put in place to fine tune it or even start from scratch if necessary. Also ensure that you embed the proper metrics in place to measure your communications success and know when to change course.

I think we should all take a final lesson about communications from golf’s “Golden Bear” and the man who many consider the greatest golfer of all time – Jack Nicklaus. He said about golf, “Don’t be too proud to take lessons. I’m not.” For good communicators, that means taking Brian Solis’ and others’ best practices and really study how they get to the who they are in the public eye. If you don’t do it, someone else will. And the more visible your competitors get by communicating well, the more invisible you will be.