4 Ways that Branding Can Improve Your IT Sales
Joel Harrison, editor of B2B Marketing, recently hosted a webcast presentation entitled, “B2B brand personality: How do you know if yours is right?” by Richard Bush, CEO of Base One Group, a B2B branding and digital communications agency.
This was the most comprehensive webcast that I have heard on the topic, and it goes a long way toward explaining why so many IT-related businesses have issues connecting with their audience and closing IT sales.
Whether you like it or not, your business has a brand image. This image is clear in the minds of everyone in your audience, but is it what you need it to be and the same for everyone?
Brand image and brand cohesiveness are an important part of relationship selling. You could be doing your business a disservice and influencing your IT sales negatively because of the image you are projecting, purposefully or not.
It is never too late to look at your brand again. There are a couple of terms you will come across when reviewing your brand that are sometimes confused or used interchangeably, but they have different meanings. In case these terms are not familiar to you, please review their definitions from BusinessDictionary.com:
So what can you do to make sure that your business is projecting the right personality to form relationships with your audience?
The target by the end of the process is to have as much overlap between your brand identity and brand image as possible. So let’s look at the four steps involved.
1. The Brand Audit - Identifying Your Current Brand Identity
Carry out an audit of what your brand looks like today. Start by asking yourself the following questions:
Physique - Take a look at your physical branding (What are the colors you use? What are your products or services? What do your logo and corporate designs evoke?)
Personality - What is the personality of your business? What are the words that describe it?
Culture - What is your business culture? What elements define it?
Relationship - What are the core principles that define your relationship with your clients?
Reflection - What image does your product reflect on your client by their use of it?
Self-Image - How does the client perceive himself when he buys your product or service?
Jean-Noel Kapferer introduced this method of brand identification using a Brand Identity Prism in his book, The New Strategic Brand Management: Advanced Insights and Strategic Thinking.
Next, you need to find out how others actually perceive your brand.
2. Identifying Your Current Brand Image
This might seem a little daunting at first, but you need to carry out some research with your clients, employees, management team, and social media followers.
You should start internally. Then when you have those findings, branch out to find out what the people outside of your business think.
You can do this fairly simply by face-to-face interviews, questionnaires, and online surveys (Survey Monkey is a great option for this). A focus group can also be a good way to collect this type of data. That is a more expensive route, as you’ll likely need to hire someone to carry out the market research for you.
If you attend local networking groups, trade shows, or Chamber of Commerce meetings, you can include this in your environmental scanning on an ongoing basis.
So now, you need to make sure that you know what appeals to your audience.
3. Get to Know Your Audience
The market is flooded with features and benefits. So if your IT sales are not where you want them to be, it might be that you are not appealing to your audience’s emotional side.
If you look at this Limbic Map, you will see that the products and services you provide in IT sales fall into the sections between dominance and balance.
However, those might not be the attributes that appeal to your target market. If you are selling IT solutions to the creative market, then sure they want to know that their data is safe and secure, and that they have all the functionality that they need.
To appeal to them emotionally, however, you will need to be creative, fun, and individual.
This doesn't mean letting go of your business values. It just means expressing them in a way that appeals to the emotions of your core audience and then providing the core audience with an experience that backs it up.
4. Make the Changes that Reflect Your Findings
The last step is to analyze your findings, put together an implementation plan, and roll it out.
Brands evolve over time. If you haven't reviewed your branding since you started your IT business, now is the time to do it. Once you’ve carried out your research, get some ideas generated and have some mock-ups done.
Test your ideas in the same way that you carried out your earlier research.
Another option is to put a survey up on Mechanical Turk to see which branding options are resonating better than others.
Once you have concluded your research, plan out and then roll out the new branding across all of your marketing collateral, business templates, online presences, and so on.
Remember, brand management is an ongoing process; your business evolves, as does your audience. You’ll need to monitor, test, and adjust periodically.
Every part of your business must be immersed in the brand identity.
Next time, we will look at personal branding and the things that each individual within the organization needs to address.
I would suggest you watch the webcast before starting out on this process. It has some good case studies and examples that illustrate the concepts well.
For other recommended reading, see The Hero and the Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes by Margaret Mark and Carol Pearson.
Do you have problems with IT sales because your product or service is just not connecting emotionally with your audience? Please share your experiences of tackling this business issue with us in the comments section below.
And to follow-through on the steps introduced in this article, be sure to download your free copy of the special report on 7 IT Sales Secrets for Attracting High-Lifetime-Value Clients.
Creative Commons Image Source: flickr law_keven