Through the years of country selling, whether via retail or on-farm calls, I’ve heard this question top the popularity prospect question list: “why would I switch to your company?”
What an open opportunity this question leaves salespeople; yet, most deliver somewhat feeble or non-differentiating answers.
Many, when done answering this question, have just described the same reasons the prospect currently uses for his/her current brand choices.
To me, this all comes down to comprehensive branding. Holding a unique position perception in any market is one of the most powerful market share builders in the book, but few companies do it well.
1. It starts by identifying a unique position. Most industries don’t need another company in that industry. After careful study of all players, what is left to claim as uniqueness that differentiates your new position in the industry? Put together a list of these desired and unique assets and write what position you hope to uniquely claim in the market. That’s called positioning.
2. Include a differentiated slogan. Slogans should differentiate the uniqueness of a firm first and foremost. If it’s true a prospect progresses through awareness, familiarity and intrigue prior to even considering your offer, I think slogans have to accomplish all three stages. Awareness? My brand is in business. Familiarity? Fulfillment of that by a slogan will be somewhat shallow, but at least give me a business category or a point of uniqueness in that category. Intrigue? A must have in any slogan. Why? Because people don’t move to investigation with firms they aren’t intrigued with.
Recent research of these levels of knowledge about two brands I was working with showed stark differences in communication challenges. Brand A had 80% awareness, 62% familiarity and 55% intrigue. Brand B faces different problems in future marketing with its 70% awareness, 58% familiarity and 28% intrigue levels, a sign the familiarization process must be pretty nondescript and potentially boring.
3. Competitive positions have to be considered. I look at seed companies across the U.S. and of the approximate 95 independents, I find 25% with “independent seed company” as one of their foremost claims. That innocently may contribute more to sameness than uniqueness. It’s great to be independent, but it is NOT an exclusive position that differentiates companies. The identity of each of these firms has to go well beyond that.
4. Slogans aren’t words. Slogans have to be corporate lifestyles. The impact of how a slogan is fulfilled by every department and every employee must be determined, coached and engaged. There is a seed company that uses a slogan focused on profit. It’s catchy, memorable and intriguing. But, this company engaged its slogan throughout the firm’s employees. Yield results suddenly included drydown costs and showed gross revenue/hybrid along with raw yield. That alone was an eye-popper as customers were now paying attention to profits vs. performance. The company educated its sales force on using cost/acre vs. cost/unit, projected drydown costs at different harvest dates and used those formulas to sell product. It did much more than that across every department, but suffice it to say they branded that slogan so every employee knew how to engage it.
It’s critical to fully engage your sales force as they daily interact with more customers and prospects, therefore doing more in-field direct branding, than any other group. Mass and social marketing can build awareness and familiarity, but the folks on the sales line live the brand story…they need to know what that unique position is in their roles and at the company level.
5. Slogans must reflect major buyer considerations. Taking a unique position is terrific IF determining what’s important to buyers is discovered on the farm, not in a boardroom. I’ve seen major misfires here. Many insurance companies claim they have cheap insurance and can save you money. Yet, according to industry research, consumers rank cost as the seventh most important factor in their decision pyramid.
Well-positioned companies let customers define exactly what critical attributes should be adopted.
6. For full impact, slogans must have two more attributes. First, in all hopes, slogans should not age, reflecting some position that will never disappear; albeit “never” is very long time. Will profit importance to corn growers ever shrink in favor of something else? Will claiming no business runs like ours ever diminish in scope? Probably not, assuring these slogans have a long shelf life. Secondly, slogans MUST merge and marry the brand name. Everywhere the logo or brand name appears, the slogan should appear…and vice versa.
Yep, there is a lot of commentary in every industry about branding and positioning, and I often think cute and creative phrases and ideas play far too big of a role over hopefully what are meaningful and helpful considerations laid out above. Let’s get Limu the Emu’s take on this…and uh, what company uses that big, stupid bird to reflect its uniqueness? I dunno’. Maybe, I’ll ask Flo.
David Aeschliman is the CEO of Growth Work with expertise in developing growth strategies in selling and marketing. He has worked with more than 200 businesses across the country. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule further discussion.