Persuading the CEO, CFO, and sometimes even the CMO, to invest in their brands can be a tough ask – and winning over sales teams full of sceptics isn’t far behind. Sound familiar?
The world of sales is shaped by demands for short-term, tangible and financial results. Hit short-term sales targets and financial rewards are sure to follow. Good times. The tools of the trade include promotional offers, discounts, and buy-one-get-one-free offers, to name a few.
In contrast, the world of ‘brand’ is shaped by long-term strategy, emotions, intangibility and a concern for building stakeholder value. Longer-term metrics such as awareness, relative satisfaction, relevance, and trust are brand metric catchwords. Promotional offers and buy-one-get-one-free fixes are akin to brand equity suicide. Bad times.
In my experience, within a number of markets in a number of countries, effective management of your brand metrics can help turn those sales sceptics into your brand buddies. Here are ten guidelines to help you along the way:
Be sure to engage and not alienate the sales team from day one. Involving sales teams in the measurement process from the outset is frequently more important than the metrics obtained.
In a world of short-term financial targets, understanding longer-term intangible brand concepts is a tall, but not impossible, order for sales teams. Outline how brand is a valuable business asset that can drive sales. This will help sales teams understand that you’re working towards common, not conflicting, goals.
Start by measuring a handful of key metrics and build from there. Don’t go for the Rolls Royce of metrics from day one. It can be costly to obtain and sustain. Try for a mid-size Mercedes. Acceptable quality delivered, consistently. Adopting this approach will help sales understand something as elusive as brand can be scientifically and objectively measured. It’ll help you command respect from any sales cynics. Never a bad thing.
Don’t measure brand metrics like brand loyalty with one question. You need to ask two or three questions per metric to increase the ‘reliability’ of the measures. You wouldn’t use one question to measure mental arithmetic in an IQ test, so why do that with your brand? Unfortunately, most people do. Unreliable insights follow. Oh dear.
Don’t unwittingly blind salespeople with brand jargon about essence, values, promises, propositions, and positioning. That is not their concern. Cut to the chase. Use simple and, where possible, financially focused language. It will increase relevance.
Obtain measures from both inside and outside the organisation. This facilitates internal brand education and engagement. If the sales team don’t understand and buy into your brand, what chance do they have to sell it?
Salespeople interact with customers on a regular basis, so they can obtain and share invaluable insights. This is an obvious but often overlooked fact. Listen to these insights. Great brand anecdotes could emerge that can feed into subsequent brand communications. Cost-effective marketing gold dust.
Re-administer the same measures on a regular basis. This will help demonstrate the value brand delivers over time. Quarterly data rounds of data collection is a good place to start. Larger organisations may need to collect panel data on a monthly basis. When combined with sales data these insights can be used to reveal exactly what drives sales. You can ask your sales team to focus on these, so everyone wins.
Try to move beyond bar charts as soon as you can. They’re dangerous and naive brand insight tools. A range of inferential techniques can reduce brand risk and help you to focus marketing spend activities that drive sales. These include an ability to charge premium prices, purchase intentions and recommendations. It’s not too much of a stretch for even the most sceptical salesperson to see how moving the dial on these will drive sales. The sooner you can use advanced analytics the sooner you’ll be able to focus resources on activities that drive increased sales. Using advanced analytics will also impress the Chief Financial Officer. That’s never a bad thing when seeking brand budgets.
Once you’ve obtained key brand metrics, share them with the sales teams. If necessary, do this in person (meetings / video conference) to get the ball rolling and facilitate engagement. Split the insight into sections. A high-level overview, then in detail for those that want a deeper dive. This way you cover both bases. With time this brand performance debrief can become ‘business as usual’ but in the short term engaging and educating the sales team on brand is time well spent.
It’s common for sales teams to be sceptical of brands. That’s perfectly understandable. Brands are intangible business assets, whose value can be difficult to grasp. But as I have outlined above there are clear steps you can administer, so those sales sceptics become your brand buddies. And there’s no harm in that.