If Your Company Could Speak, What Would It Say?

March 15, 2016

Today, we have a guest post from Jeff Guritza on the importance of brand identity.

The market wants to know: who are you and what does your business stand for? Said differently, what is your brand promise, and how is your business perceived in the marketplace?

Go ahead and think for a minute about your organization. Take a moment and really ask yourself:

  • “Who the heck are we?!”
  • “How different is our company than the competition?”
  • “What makes working with us unique and compelling?”

All strong brands take a well-defined position, one cemented in a foundation of consistency and sincerity. It is from this position that market alliances are formed, customer relationships are fortified and market share is defended or expanded.

Does your company speak to the market in a clear, consistent manner?

This isn’t just about messaging. This isn’t about a value proposition or pithy mission statement. This is about being real. Proper branding is about having a long-standing, consistent, predictable and definable presence in the market.

“This Is How We Do Things Here”

I believe branding matters today more than ever. Your brand identity will exist whether you’re actively participating in its development or not. You’ve got to clearly define what you stand for, or you will end up standing for nothing at all.

No brand, yours included, will ever hold universal appeal, but that’s the beauty of it. As a successful business selling similar solutions as your competitors, it’s valuable to be able to say to a customer, “If you want to do business this way, then do business with us.” It’s up to you and your brand to define what this way means.

A strong brand opens doors to new customers while protecting the customers you already have. There’s an opportunity for brand building each and every time you engage a customer or potential customer.

It’s human nature to find comfort in the known. If both your brand and your behavior are consistent and predictable, you’re on to something. If you hire or fire with no process, randomly price products in a vacuum or acquire new lines or businesses without a clearly defined assimilation strategy, it’s a recipe for brand insignificance. The devil’s in the details of a finely crafted plan.

The Power Online

Today, customers can be more fickle as they have more options, more opinions and more channels from which to arrive at their buying decision. Years ago, you took someone’s word as to who was the best source for the products needed. Today, everything can be validated or refuted via an immediate, online search.

Buying a new car? Jump online and you’ll instantly compare makes, models, trim levels, dealerships, reliability reports, reviews, recall notices and prices. After an hour’s effort, you’ll become a quasi-expert on virtually every aspect of the planned purchase: what you need, where to buy and what to pay.

When was the last time you talked to an Amazon representative or outside sales person? How about never? Amazon’s face-to-the-customer is devoid of humanity: no names, emails, etc. When you think about it, their “brand” is basically a logo, web address and your online account.

The information superhighway has forced leaders to reassess how they go to market (externally) and how they run their business (internally.) The transparency today leaves little place to hide; employees and customers alike have phones with broadband connections to instantly share their opinions with the planet. Your best defense? A strong brand that’s clearly defined and omnipresent.

Brand Building Isn’t For Sissies

Brand building isn’t like building a house. When building a house, you can delegate some of the work. And as needed, you can make quick executive decisions that cut costs or save time.

Brand building is more like training for a marathon. With true brand building, there are no shortcuts or steps to skip. Either you commit to it fully, or you don’t. Everything matters.

Like marathon running, brand building requires relentless and sustainable dedication, focus, vision and patience. Skipping a few runs and eating poorly has a negative impact on your training. Similarly, neglecting your brand via undisciplined communications, mediocre account management, and misaligned strategies produces poor results.

Here’s a five-step exercise to help get you more refined in your branding discipline:

1. Assess your brand situation/status. Take time to understand the current state of your brand. Are you as committed to your organization’s brand as you can be? Remember: you must always behave/operate in accordance with your brand’s promise. If you’re known for speedy service, you can’t slow-pay vendors.

2. Latch on to a story, and tell it. Every company has a history and a story. This story is the foundation of your brand. Be sure you have that story established, mastered, and shared by every customer-facing associate. Be direct and avoid ambiguity.

3. Think broadly. A brand’s impact and influence is far-reaching. Do not limit your thinking to any existing, narrow-cast set of parameters. Expand your vision beyond the present and explore unchartered markets, pricing models, corporate structures, and product groups.

4. Think digitally. In this era of online everything, at a bare minimum you can’t forget the digital user interface (UI) and the overall digital user experience (UX.) Know that e-mail footers, web sites, invoice templates, etc. are all branding opportunities. Social media has us all interconnected; your brand must tap into this.

5. Be consistently present in the marketplace. Attend industry events. Walk around at trade shows. Hire new associates with fresh ideas.  Blog about your vision for your business or industry. Sponsor community events.  Bottom line: make sure you become a master of brand continuity in the minds of your customers.

Branding Is The W-H-Y

Which leads me to my point: why do customers do business with you? Why do folks choose you over your competition? Why do people pay the prices you charge?

It’s because of your brand. It’s having your people, your processes and your products all strategically wrapped into a compelling, original and authentic package. Proper branding gives an organization its soul. Without a soul, companies tend to behave in awkward and uninspired ways. And this ultimately leads to irrelevance.

Branding requires relentless customer centricity, unwavering internal controls, leadership accountability, laser-focus on corporate metrics and a steady, positive attitude. Your brand is why you matter to your customers. Therefore your brand matters.

Don’t become irrelevant.

Now with The M. K. Morse Company, Jeff Guritza has successfully led sales, marketing and product management initiatives within global organizations and markets for more than 20 years. His work involves creative branding strategies tied to product launches, channel development, structured training programs, corporate acquisitions, and executive long-range planning.

Are Your Employees Brand Ambassadors? Why Not?

April 22, 2015

By Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent at Sonnhalter


Photo Courtesy of Osborn

Do your employees know where your products are used? Do they know the applications the parts they make make possible? Are they aware of the history and critical nature of your company? There are many simple, cost-effective ways to increase productivity and morale by implementing a program that lets them know.

To land new business, you’re always told to “Tell Your Story” well. It’s just as important to tell it internally. Why?

It makes employees feel like part of the plan – Let them see the big picture and where you as a company fit into it

It helps them see the long view, not just their day-to-day part in it – There’s a plan, not just a daily task

It builds internal networks – If Engineering tells their story to Customer Service, everyone sees people and faces, not silos

It allows them to be brand ambassadors – If they know the story you want told, then that’s the story that gets re-told

So how do you reach them? That’s the easiest part—the same way you reach new customers:

Host an Employee Open House – Let them show off to their kids, and see what goes on in other departments

Giving a tour of your facility? Engage employees – Don’t treat them like an extension of the machine they’re working, but have them describe what they do, and the cost savings, quality assurance or other aspect of their work

Start an internal newsletter – It’s a great place to either post external press releases, or develop case studies for outside use

Cover the Walls – Advertising blown up as posters reinforce your brand internally and when guests tour your facility

Let them hear & be heard – Have a quarterly or monthly meeting of non-managerial representatives from every department, and allow for an open exchange or ideas, complaints and stories

Highlight your company’s history whenever possible – Old ads, press clippings or photos give a sense of pride and place

Have a mission statement – And stress it internally. Print it on business cards, coffee cups in the vending machines; anywhere it will be seen regularly

You don’t need to be told that Manufacturing has gotten a bad rap. For years it’s been the butt of jokes, seen as a “dead end” and been declared all but extinct in this country by countless talking heads.

Well those people are wrong. And the house they left to get into the car they drove to the studio where they made their comments is testament to it. And it’s time your employees knew that too.

I once heard a really cool story about the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. It has a unique elevator that kind of side-steps its way up to the top of the arch. Well if you look into the arch, instead of out at the view, along the way you’ll see large welder-generators. They’ve been there since the Arch was built in the mid 60’s. Because of the way the arch was made, it was impossible to move them, so they just left them, placed another (which also got left behind) and kept building.

As a former employee of that welding manufacturer, I think that’s fascinating, and if I could ever get over my nagging fear of heights, it would be the best part of the trip up. To know that something that was made in the same building I worked in was instrumental in a project like that, it just boggles the mind. All the “ordinary” people, doing their “ordinary” job at factories all across the country added up to a modern marvel like that. Inspire that sense of awe in your employees, and they’ll help do the heavy lifting of establishing a brand.

2014 Report on B2B Manufacturing Content Marketing in North America

May 22, 2014

By Matt Sonnhalter, Vision Architect

The Content Marketing Institute (CMI) and MarketingProfs recently released their fourth annual report on the content marketing practices of business-to-business (B2B) marketers working in the manufacturing industry.

In this report you’ll find answers to questions such as: What percentage of manufacturing marketers have adopted content marketing? What tactics are they using? How does their approach to content marketing differ from that taken by other B2B marketers?

This report also looks at how manufacturing marketers approach content marketing when compared with a wider group of B2B North American marketers representing a range of industry segments.

Here are some key highlights from this most recent study on manufacturing marketers and their content marketing efforts:

  • 86% have adopted content marketing
  • Only 30% say they are effective at content marketing
  • Use the same number of tactics (13) as other B2B marketers
  • 81% use YouTube to distribute content and rate it as the most effective social media platform
  • Cite different goals for content marketing when compared with other B2B marketers
  • Top challenges faced for their content marketing programs: 1. Lack of time, 2. Producing the kind of content that engages and 3. Producing enough content
  • 46% plan to increase their content marketing budget over the next 12 months

Click here to read more details and download the full report.

Webcast: Mobile Marketing

June 14, 2012

Our vision architect, Matt Sonnhalter, will be presenting on CFE Media’s webcast, “Mobile Marketing: What Impression Are You Making and How Will You Measure It?”

Matt, along with Kim Dushinski author of The Mobile Marketing Handbook, will discuss how B2B marketers can make a good mobile impression. Whether you’re ready for mobile, or not, it’s here. If you have a website, you’re already being viewed on mobile devices.

Join Matt on Tuesday, June 19 at 2 PM EST for this free, informative presentation. You can register here.

B-to B-Marketers: What Are Your Most Effective Sales Channels?

April 24, 2012

B-to-B customers are doing more homework online when it pertains to buying well before they start the actual buying process. So what are you doing to take advantage of these “opportunity zones” to be successful? B-to-B marketers – are you prepared for a more educated buyer?

We all are facing the challenges of doing more things with sometimes fewer resources, so it stands to reason that what we do, do we want it to give us the best results. Where are you getting your leads and how are you qualifying them? I recently read an article by Dave Thomas on B2B Online Marketing that talks about the results of a recent nationwide survey from BtoB Magazine and Bizo that highlights marketers biggest challenges in 2012.

Among them were:

  • Paid search came in as the second-ranked tool for marketing, followed by display advertising (35 percent);
  • 60% of marketers claim their biggest challenge this year will be generating additional leads;
  • 63% of marketers state that their marketing mix either falls short of sales demand or they are not entirely sure their mix is working;
  • 56% note brand promotion as a major area of focus.

What I thought interesting was that their biggest challenge was that leads were falling short of sales demands. I guess does that mean that companies are forecasting growth and in order to attain it, they need more leads?

I guess the question I’d like to ask is are you experiencing these kinds of challenges, and if so, will you  share with the rest of us?

B-to-B Marketers: Have you forgotten the basics?

June 16, 2011

The last two years for most of us in the B-to-B space hasn’t been much fun. Budgets cut, every move or project had to be justified seven different ways. When leads came in, ALL were followed. We ran a tight ship. Today, business is beginning to improve, budgets are increasing, new products are being launched, and for some of us, social media has been introduced which needs our attention.

All of these are good things, right? On the surface you’d probably say yes. But reality is your staff was probably cut when the downturn happened, but your workload wasn’t. Now with the increase in activity, new product launches and the additional responsibility, you’re probably pulling out your hair!

The sad truth is you may either be executing projects in a production style to get them out the door, or not spending the time on looking at or developing a plan to close the loop when leads do come in. I understand you may be under staffed and overworked, but management will be judging you on results and the famous ROI.

So how are you dealing with this? Some of our clients are looking outside at least temporarily to support programs (which is a good thing), and others are so busy putting out fires they don’t realize as fast as one goes out, another one is lit.

Reality is most marketing departments aren’t going to get back to staffing levels pre-2009. I’d like to hear what you’re doing to stay sane and deliver a good quality product.

B2B Marketers: Are You Taking Advantage of Online Videos?

March 24, 2011

Online media is the fastest growing media platform in history. Second only to Google, YouTube has emerged as an easy-to-use search tool.

As a manufacturer, are you capitalizing on this powerful tool to disperse your message? You don’t need a “Hollywood” production. As a matter of a fact, the ones done on a mobile phone would do just fine. We’ve done “man on the street” interviews with contractors at will-call counters and on jobsites asking their opinions on tools and other products.

Did you know – Videos convey more info per minute than any other media and 65% of the public like to learn via videos.

These were only a few of the facts that I learned from a recent post by Jon Miller from Marketo. His post, How to Optimize Your B2B Marketing and Sales with Online Video outlines how to use videos to engage prospects in different stages of the buying cycle.

According to a Universal McCann study cited by Brightcove, people find product information and research most compelling when delivered in video format. MarketingSherpa claims that online video is a close second to word-of-mouth communication when it comes to influencing key decisions. No other media channel communicates a deeper, richer message or leaves a more lasting impression than video.

He also offers 10 online video strategies you may find helpful. Here are some highlights:

  • Search optimize your video with a text summary – Use key words to highlight main points and make sure you include the URL.
  • Integrate video into your e-mail marketing programs – Deliver relevant info pertinent to who they are and where they are in the buying process.
  • Leverage social media – Promote across all marketing channels including your blog and both personal and business profiles.
  • Feature on you website – Embed videos where appropriate to promote products, company news or new product promotions.

What are you doing to capitalize on your videos?

If you liked this post, you might also like:

Busy Executives Prefer Video on Web.

Make Video Part of your Direct Marketing Plans to the Professional Tradesmen.

Online Video Marketing: A Great Way to Educate the Professional Tradesman.


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