By Tony Streeter
Putting serious attention toward a brand’s image and brand message becomes especially important when entering a growth phase for mid-market companies. Revenue-wise, the mid-market category generally starts at $5 million and goes all the way to $1 billion. Mid-market companies are the ones who are no longer struggling, have some solid repeat customers, perhaps a few partnerships/alliances, a decent line of credit at the bank, and a couple of executives who aren’t family members along for the ride. Generally the charisma of the sales people and the quality of the product or service has gotten the company to where it is now.
The challenge now is, what will it take to get to the next level? In a word, “branding.” Through effective brand marketing it’s possible to get the message out to the masses. Branding allows control over how the message is being presented, how the company reflects that message, and how people identify the company going forward.
Brand image is how the public perceives a company. It may be the company that puts that image in their mind, word-of-mouth may put that image in their mind, the receptionist just hired may put that image in their mind, logos or taglines may put that image in their mind, and the quality of the product/service may put that image in their mind. Most likely, it’s some combination of these forming the brand image perception.
Through proactive brand marketing companies attempt to manage customer perception. A cool logo, clever tagline, witty advertisement, sharp packaging, professional sales people, client lunches, articles about the company in magazines/newspapers, displaying an expertise via blogs and other social media platforms all contribute to how to actively manage the brand’s image.
Advertising contributes to building brand awareness and buzz. The cherry on top is when someone contacts the company because of something they saw, read, remembered or discussed.
For example, an ad across from Gervin’s bar in Terminal A at the San Antonio airport presented a guy holding a cocktail glass with a question. After the question it simply stated, “Enjoy your cocktail.” The ad was memorable, crisp and relevant. Ad placement cost the company approximately $17,000 per year and resulted in a new client worth $2.3 million.
Another example, at a tradeshow, a company sponsored the event literature bag. On the outside of the bag largely displayed was their logo, product bullet points, as well as contact information. Inside was an insert on their IT Onsite Help Desk services. The bag sponsorship cost $2,500. Thousands of participants walked the company’s logo all around the event. Three weeks later the CIO of a large communications company inquired about the IT Help Desk insert. The client will bill $1.2 million by mid-2016.
It doesn’t take a lot of money to create strong brand awareness – it just needs to be spent in the right places with a relevant message and call to action.
It’s important to know when to update the brand story.
When going after larger game, speaking about meager beginnings as if they were yesterday doesn’t instill confidence that the company can handle bigger projects/orders. Large companies want to work with proven vendors who can consistently deliver on a larger scale with the highest quality, for the best price, in the shortest amount of time.
So, if the sales people are telling a small story to large prospects and there’s no new deals – that may be why.
NO SILVER BULLET
There is no silver bullet for establishing a strong brand image. It takes work and focus across the organization. All employees should strive to be brand stewards and reflect a positive reputation. If not, the adage will hold true that, “You can fool some of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time.”
Tony Streeter is the Chief Marketing Officer, SVP at Y&L Consulting, Inc. in San Antonio. Tony has led new product development, e-commerce marketing, and integrated platform marketing initiatives for major corporations such as Harland Clarke, Deluxe Corporation and RR Donnelley. Y&L Consulting is a comprehensive IT services & solutions company specializing in IT Development, Information Management/BI, and IT Help Desk Services.