For all companies – regardless of size or industry – one question remains paramount: What do customers want? We recently hosted a thoughtful and informed discussion about the stages of the customer relationship, from initiating interest and developing a brand to maintaining contact and building a long-term relationship.
What should I think about before launching a product?
When developing a marketing and branding plan, a company should begin with the end in mind. After a product is launched, how do you want to be viewed? What do you want your customers to say about you? Once you have framed your ideal scenarios, think about what you can do now to achieve those results, then build your marketing plan around those results.
Also consider asking for advice from analysts, advisors, and other influential personalities in your industry. These advisors can provide valuable insight as to where the market is heading and how you should brand and market your products to fit with those future trends.
Should this be an internal or external process?
Developing and marketing a brand, as well as customer engagement, should be both an internal and external process that is based on research. You should understand the strengths of your products and develop a way to convey your passion to the customer. If you are a creating a new category of product or services, then you may not have external data to rely on, and you will have to work with your instinct and passion. However, if your category is a competitive one, then you should focus on external processes and understand what customers are used to seeing in the market.
Alternatively, a company could develop their brand by repackaging ideas from other industries to explain your new product and its purpose. Use well-known methods to describe how you will shake up an established field. For example, your company could be described as the “Uber for ____” or the “Netflix for ____”; these analogies brand your company based on something that is already accepted by consumers and is easily understood.
Don’t be afraid to invest in the process, and hire a marketing professional or team. Often founders are too close to their own product to effectively market it. Founders should still be involved in the process and provide a vision, but the execution should be done by a marketing professional. Your senior marketer also should not be your last hire – you should own the process and get your marketing team involved early.
Regardless of the type of process, it is important to remember that your branding should be creating customers rather than creating a product.
How do you protect your brand?
You will want to consider legal protections for your brand. There are registered legal protections such as trademarks and patents. Additionally, you should also consider protecting your intellectual property with assignment agreements, non-disclosure agreements, and other documents that establish ownership for the company. These legal protections may require additional up front work, but can pay dividends down the road. However, you should also work to protect your brand by building relationships. Creating a memorable customer experience engages your customer and generates brand loyalty. Creating value is not enough, you also will also need to communicate how you created value. Advertising, promotions, and content are other important ways to maintain your customer relationships. Above all, you should remain consistent with your brand.
Why should you proactively protect your brand – who will care?
Investors and potential acquirers of your business! Brand and goodwill are important to both the short and long term success of a company, and investors will take notice of how the market views your company and your products.
It is important to receive constant feedback and periodically assess the effectiveness of your marketing. Social media and advisors are great resources to test the strength of your brand. Be wary of always relying on sales teams, who may have a biased reading of your customers. Also consider utilizing customer surveys, white space reports, or secret shoppers. You should focus on the metrics that matter, including near term revenue, concentration of customers, competitive advantage, repeatable business model, and your future growth potential.
How do you market a services business?
Marketing and branding a service business should be based on the customer experience. Focus on your customer relationships and have your customers tell your story. Create customer engagement and build your brand by utilizing referral programs or creating your own.
What should I not do when marketing and developing a brand?
- Don’t speak in purely technical terms – translate your product or service into something the customer will understand. Keep it simple!
- If you produce consumer products, then the packaging should follow consumer expectations and understanding. Your cereal may not sell if it is in an ice cream container. Make your product innovative, not the packaging.
- Don’t sell to your customer before creating a relationship and understanding the customer’s needs. Create a customer, not a product.
Gennari Aronson would like to thank our panelists for this thoughtful discussion:
- Michael Welts, Vice President of Marketing, BlueArchive
- Joe Del Regno, President, Nothing But The Fruit (Welch’s)
- Eileen Debenham, Co-Founder, GoBig Branding
- Tom Cates, Chief Storyteller, salesEQUITY
- Neil Aronson, Partner, Gennari Aronson
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