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Making the ‘Brand,’ Part I

Making the ‘Brand,’ Part I

By Bridget McCrea

Concerned about a business slowdown? Why it’s the perfect time for electrical distributors to step up to the plate and brand themselves for success right now and into the New Year.

In 6 Ways to Claim More Market Share in 2015, tED spoke with marketing expert Rodger Roeser of The Eisen Agency about the importance of branding to every distributor’s long-term plan for success. With the understanding that establishing, honing, and “oozing” an independent brand isn’t always easy for companies that tend to get overshadowed by their suppliers’ own, substantial branding efforts, Roeser walked readers through a few quick tips for leveraging brand in a good economy.

Now, with some economic uncertainty either already here or on the horizon for many of NAED’s members, there’s no time like the present to continue nurturing the brand that your firm worked so hard to develop during the “good times.” In fact, most marketing experts will tell you that there is no more critical time to infuse your brand into every phone call, every meeting, every email, and every customer interaction than in an uncertain business environment.  

“A lot of companies are focusing on sending out broad messages that cost a certain amount of money, and then getting business in return for those efforts,” says Doug Dobie, CEO and founder of growth strategy consultancy Delvantage, Inc., in Long Beach, Calif., “when what they really should be doing is centering their efforts on long-term branding that impacts their own entire organization.”

What’s a Brand, Anyway?
Defined as a promise to consumers that answers the question, “What will customers get when they purchase a product or service under your brand umbrella?” a brand incorporates more than just tangible products and services. It also includes the feelings that customers get when they use your products and services, according to ATYM.com’s Susan Gunelius.

“Bottom-line, a brand is clear, reliable, and believable to both your consumers and your employees. However, brands aren’t built overnight. Before you can define and live your brand, you need to do some research so you don’t waste time taking your brand in a direction that won’t allow you to reach your goals,” Gunelius writes. “You must understand your competitors and audience, so you can develop a brand that promises the right things to the right people. Research should be first, definition, strategy, and execution should follow, and in time, your brand will grow.”

With these points in mind, the idea of discarding or back-burnering a brand strategy just because times are tough seems ludicrous, yet that’s exactly what some companies opt to do when sales volumes drop and cost-cutting tactics are implemented. Rather than hunkering down and hoping for the best, smart distributors are taking a different tack and putting more time, effort, and energy into building their brands despite any looming uncertainties. The best part is that most of these efforts are either free or very affordable to implement, and require some elbow grease and a commitment to building a brand that customers will know, love, and trust in both good times and bad.

“In a recession, by definition, times are tough and challenging. And in such times it’s easy for brand owners to get so wrapped up in the gritty day-to-day realities of keeping the business afloat that they can forget the big questions,” writes Simon Middleton in Top Ten Tips on How To Build A Brand In A Recession.

“Going back to the ‘purpose’ of the brand (asking “why are we doing this?”) can be a very good way of focusing on the essentials and the bigger picture,” he continues. “It can be very good for morale too, and in the end building a brand is as much a psychological endeavor as it is anything else.”

Leveraging Technology to Your Advantage
Dobie says another good move that distributors can make right now is to simply put the customer (both existing and prospective) front and center throughout individual buying cycles and the entire customer lifecycle. Do this by asking yourself and your team questions like: 

  • At what point do we truly engage our customers?
  • How do we engage them?
  • What story are we telling them about our company and its products, services, and strengths?
  • How can we convey this information in a way that keeps customers engaged at the lowest possible cost (but in a way that provides high value to those buyers)?
  • And finally, how can we use this intelligence to develop a cross-organizational brand that customers know, love, and trust?

“Instead of closing up the drawbridge, strike up some important conversations with your customers and prospects and find out what they need and expect from you,” says Dobie. “Then, come up with ways to meet those needs in a very efficient manner.” That could mean exploring new ways of reaching customers via social media, for example, or rolling out a mobile app that allows your electrical contractors to make spot buys from their iPads or phones while they’re standing out at the jobsite.

“The beauty of cloud, mobile, and big data is that they help level the playing field and put a wide array of tools in front of the small to midsized electrical distributor,” says Dobie. “Using engagement tools like HubSpot, Salesforce, or Delvantage, for example, companies can target very specific audiences and provide them with relevant content and information at a very low, variable cost.” This, in turn, allows distributors to curtail more expensive advertising efforts—something that most do anyway when times get tight—without sacrificing the branding progress they’ve made over the last few years.
“When you can use technology to start generating meaningful conversations with your customers,” Dobie adds, “you not only get more bang for your buck, but you can really tailor your messaging to specific customers. These efforts go a long way when it comes to brand-building in a challenging market.”

In part II of this article series we’ll explore even more ways that electrical distributors can build their brands and make sure their teams are onboard with the process in any economic climate.

McCrea is a Florida-based writer who covers business, industrial, and educational topics for a variety of magazines and journals. You can reach her at bridgetmc@earthlink.net or visit her website at www.expertghostwriter.net.


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