It may be time to fire your “silent sales team”
Business owners know their businesses. And they are generally aware (acutely so) of which investments and practices are improving their bottom line and which are hurting it. Most of these factors are easily quantified; they’re built upon dollars, inventory, or some other easily-measurable metric that relates to their industry. Branding, unfortunately, does not fall into the “easily-measurable” category. But for most businesses, it is just as important to growth and success as any of those other factors.
Let’s put a pin in that statement for just a moment and talk about salespeople. Here again, nearly every business has at least one, even if the sales rep, owner and employee are all the same person. What do you expect of a good salesperson? The basic answer to this is pretty universal: you expect them to know their company and craft to a T, to be personable, friendly and confident, and to present themselves in a professional manner. It simply isn’t acceptable for them to be fidgeting, quiet and unsure of themselves.
Okay, back to your brand. Pull out your business card and evaluate it as though it was a salesperson for your company. Is that card saying:
Hi. Um… I represent Whizgang (ahem), I mean, Whizbang Industries. We manufacture… really competent thingamajigs and, uh, buzzwhatsits, and we have many features and good customer service and we’re pretty good at meeting deadlines and you should probably give us a chance.
…or is it saying:
We are WHIZ-BANG INDUSTRIES, the world leader in thingamajig and buzzwhatsit manufacturing! Having trouble with urbaflange wear and tear? How about terranozzle breakage? Our 2011 models have those bases covered and more, including Hyper-Magneto Balancing(TM) and our industry-leading Trypto-Zazz(R) finishes. Trust your thinga-buzz fulfillment to WHIZ-BANG, friend, it’s the best decision you’ll make this year!
or “we own this vertical”?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that your brand be loud or obnoxious (necessarily), but I think virtually everyone will agree that the second pitch will produce more dollars than the first. Here lies the primary point of this article: the presentation of your brand should be as strong and competent as the rest of your company is. As a matter of fact, it should be above the actual current level of success of your company. Why would you want it to be below that threshold? A mediocre brand is going to drag your company down whether or not you rely on advertising, where a strong brand will forever pull your company upward and contribute to its growth. That business card you’re holding isa salesperson for your company, and it’s either singing your praises or it’s stuttering your shortcomings.
Yes, your own expertise and the quality of your product or service are always your trump card; in this age of peer review, quality has a better chance than ever before of selling your company for you. But even taking the quality factor into account, the weight of your visual and conceptual presentation cannot be discounted. Potential customers simply will not see you as the big industry player that most businesses want to be if your brand is the weak link in that presentation. How many industry leaders are you aware of that have mediocre branding? They’re out there, but they are far and few between.
Whit Gurley is the owner and chief design geek at AEI.