What is your brand, and how important is it for marketing?

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branding story
A graphic exploring some of the concepts behind effective branding. Ultimately, client experience should be the priority.
branding story
A graphic exploring some of the concepts behind effective branding. Ultimately, client experience should be the priority.

Scott Butcher, one of the Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) leaders, has published a worthy article about AEC branding for the Engineering News-Record’s Marketropolis blog

The branding concept, amazingly, eluded me for many years, even after I started, established, and expanded a publishing business for the AEC community. (I saw the world — and still mostly do — through a journalist’s eyes, not a marketer’s, even though our business depends on advertising sales for most of its revenue and so has a very real place in the industry’s marketing ecosystem.)

It took me some time to grapple with the concept of the brand — and how perception and reality shape decisions. Effective branding reduces sales risk and allows you to enhance your margins — you can charge more for the “same” thing because of the perceived value. Marketing gurus spend a lot of time exploring branding, because, they assert, it is the foundation of effective achievements in the field.

But how do you get branding right?  Here, Butcher’s article — and my book about AEC marketing — provide some inights.

Your company’s brand is your culture and history.  It is the place you occupy in the market, and the perception that clients, prospects, and employees have of your firm.  It is marketing and operations and customer service.  It is the reason why clients hire you and potential employees seek you out.  It is the foundation upon what almost everything in your firm is built.

But it is not just a logo nor something only the purview of the marketing department.  It must align with your firm is and where you are going.  It has to be dynamic and cultural, and must speak to your stakeholders.

Whether you realize it or not, your company already has a brand.  My favorite definition of brand is “what someone says about your behind your back.”  And while this comment was referring to personal brand, it just as easily equates to company brands.  What do current clients and employees say about your company?  What about prospects and vendors and competitors? That is your brand.

And if your brand is not positive, you’ve got some work to do!  In fact, a neutral or lesser-known brand is far more preferable to a negative brand.

My own take on branding is that it generally is created through your client service/experience, and your employee/client relationships. In other words, if your team works so well that clients are both amazed by your company’s expertise and service, and enjoy the experience of working with you, your brand will undoubtedly be healthy.

No amount of advertising, pushy selling, dressy marketing, or fancy logo design can overcome a bad client experience; and all the marketing tools of the trade are only helpful in boosting and promoting what is good. Accordingly, the advice: get your house in order and enhance your client/employee experience before worrying about external marketing, rings true.

Once you have things right, of course, solid marketing can enhance, elaborate, and improve the experience and effectiveness. If you have a great story to share, others will want to listen.

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