Over the years, I have come across this exchange many times in corporate life in the business to business space.
When someone is asked-"Why are your sales down?"
Often the first response is: " Our branding isnt strong enough".
And I have heard this response (or other variations of it like "our company doesnt advertise often enough") even from experienced senior business executives.
The reality is: Brand Awareness is just the first step in your prospects' minds before they make a purchase decision. So lets take a look at the various stages of the purchase cycle before a sale is actually made.
Retention (or Loyalty)
Awareness leads to familiarity. Familiarity breeds trust. Trust builds purchase preference for your products/services. And then only a prospect makes a purchase decision. (and the cycle may continue to include Retention.)
For companies selling services, this is all the more difficult because you are not selling anything tangible which your prospective client can 'see, touch and feel'. What you are actually selling is a 'Promise'. The promise to deliver.
So how do you build Trust?
You build Trust by offering experiences showcasing your insights and capabilities. Experiences that will demonstrate value and build credibility in your abilities. You can do that via:
- Published Opinion Pieces
- Case Studies featuring existing clients
- Speaking opportunities
- Testimonials from existing clients and opinion leaders/influencers
Towards this end, you can also sometimes offer a trial (eg: in the case of professional services) or a pilot (eg: in the case of software).
The aim of the above should be to seek permission from clients to engage with them- permission to initiate new conversations-these could be new conversations with new clients (prospects) or new conversations with existing clients (for building loyalty for retention or selling new services).
The goal of Marketing should be to help you get that valuable 'permission'. The prospect then gives you the opportunity to engage with them and understand their pain points, so that you are then better placed to recommend a solution which will address these pain points and help them reach their business objectives.
So increasing sales is not just about building brand awareness. And as marketeers, we should be constantly asking ourselves-are our programs aligned with winning that 'valuable permission' from our clients.
We would be adding tremendous value to the business and support growth if we are able to do that.
What do you think?