Branding is often undervalued. The mantra at many companies is “leads and sales, leads and sales,” with most marketing investments going toward lead generation activities. In addition, marketers often believe that branding results are difficult to measure.
The Internet has relegated these notions to the garbage bin. With a comprehensive online presence and investments in the right marketing programs, you can gain 24×7 visibility, build brand value, increase opportunities for sales, and measure the results of your efforts.
Another assumption is that “branding is nice, but it doesn’t help the bottom line.” Not true. In fact, if you don’t have any brand value, it’s easy to be considered a commodity. Take Nike, for example. Without brand recognition, would customers be willing to pay a premium for its sneakers? Probably not.
You want your company’s products and services to be unique and to be known for benefits that you alone can deliver. How can branding help your company?There are three main ways, each of them directly contributing to business growth. In fact, consider it an easy-to-remember formula.
Brand Recognition + Brand Experience + Brand Exposure = Overall Brand Value
Brand Recognition: Ensure that your brand is represented consistently. A familiar brand makes potential customers more comfortable. In business, no one wants to deal with the unknown because the unknown is risky. That’s why it is so easy to ignore companies you’ve never heard of or do not recognize.
Brand Experience: Positive experiences that prospects and clients associate with your brand can reduce the length of the sales cycle. They already know your company’s brand attributes: “They make those high-flow hydraulic pumps I’ve seen.” Or: “They have the best warranties on their products.”
Brand Exposure: Ensure that you stay in front of your prospects and clients. Online marketing programs give you measurability — key to ensuring that your marketing efforts are paying off.
How to Build Your Brand Online
Because the overwhelming majority of your customers are going online to find suppliers, products and services, that’s where you should focus your brand-building efforts.
Naturally, you have a website to promote your brand, but a website alone is not enough, since studies have shown that 64 percent of industrial professionals visit six or more work-related websites each week, reinforcing the need for suppliers to have a comprehensive online presence.
When considering what type of online programs to implement to help raise the visibility and increase the strength of your brand, choose those that offer both branding and lead generation benefits (remember the “leads and sales, leads and sales” mantra):
- Establish your company, products and services in online directories and websites frequented by your target audience. Choose ones that help your brand become visible and recognized by allowing you to display your logo, product images and technical specs, as well as links to articles, videos and more. Contact links for lead generation are also important.
- Implement searchable online catalogs that offer potential customers the ability to find exactly what they are looking for based on product specifications or other criteria, and to immediately contact you with questions or RFPs. Making things easier for your customers is one of the best ways to build your brand.
- Plan an online banner campaign that places your brand front and center on targeted websites frequented by your customers and prospects. Banners are highly visual and can combine images and text to promote your brand as well as generate sales leads by promoting specific offers.
- E-newsletter sponsorships deliver your brand directly to the in-box of potential customers. Be sure to choose e-newsletters that have an opt-in subscription base and specifically target the audience you want to reach.
Measuring Branding Efforts
Other than the fact that your customers and prospects are looking for you online, one of the significant advantages of online branding is that you can measure the results of your efforts. This is often not the case with traditional media, where you don’t know if someone saw your print ad.
With online branding programs, you can measure how many people visited the Web page with your directory listing or banner and were exposed to your brand, or searched your online catalog, or opened the e-newsletter containing your ad. Armed with such metrics, it’s easy to understand the reach and impact of your branding efforts.
Chris Chariton is vice president of marketing services and product management for GlobalSpec, a vertical search, information services, e-publishing and online events company serving the engineering, technical and industrial communities. Chariton can be reached at [email protected].