Leveraging Your Brand’s Power

By Lain Ehmann

Branding isn’t just a marketing concern; it’s something that can make selling either easier or more difficult. “The sales force is all about presenting their company or product as relevant and differentiated to their customers and a brand portfolio strategy can help you do that,” says David A. Aaker, author of Brand Portfolio Strategy: Creating Relevance, Differentiation, Energy, Leverage, and Clarity (Free Press, 2004).

When used effectively, says Aaker, brands can summarize information and provide an anchor in customers’ minds. “It makes the communication task much easier,” he says. “Brands are a way to drive a relationship and the sales team is the key element to that in a B2B organization.” Here’s how a sales manager can help implement an effective branding strategy.

1. Decide what are your company’s brands. “It’s a big mistake to think you have just one brand,” Aaker says. He gives the example of UPS, which not only branded its hub in Louisville, but also created a group of separate brands under the umbrella of UPS Supply Chain Solutions.

2. Determine which brands are important to your customers. It’s equally important to decide what brands you don’t want to use, says Aaker. Brand overload can confuse customers and muddle the communication process.

3.Create a strategy for communicating with your customers. Your sales force will want to know why the brand is relevant to them, why it’s relevant to their customers, and how it will improve their customers’ ROI, Aaker explains. “The brand’s a big help, but it can’t sell by itself.”

4. Go beyond the surface. “Don’t get caught up with attributes and price and ignore the substance behind the brand,” warns Aaker. After all, attributes and price can be duplicated. “If you just talk about attributes, you’re going to end up competing on price.” Substance, he says, refers to what the brand stands for. “What kind of company are you?” he asks.

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