In this post, I want to talk about using GRM for branding/ongoing marketing/relationship building.
We design marketing plans to make our products desirable to buyers, obviously. But by thinking the end game is branding versus selling, we can create followers, even disciples, accomplishing a lasting bond with our product. “I only use Tone soap”. “Nothing gets between me and my Levis”. “I love the Gap”. People with a high degree of association not only follow your actions, they tell lots of other people. (“You are like me – you probably want to do things that I do!”)
Getting people “in the club” is an ideal use of GRM tactics. (Identifying GRM Opportunities). For branding any involved or expensive product, a strategic series of GRM tactics can be used to get your prospects “around the bases”, then keep them on your team. (So another analogy might be “getting them in your dugout.) The end result is they identify with you, support you, will work for you, and are ready to swarm out and beat up the opposing pitcher if need be.
Say I’m marketing a PV/solar system designer/ installer. Here is a potential sequence of tactics I might use to convert prospects and then, keep them as advocates.
|Unaware, unmotivated||Batter’s box||Exhibit in or sponsor a local festival||Scouted the festival in advance to know attendees are in your profile. Display a brand message “You see the Sun – We See Free Energy!” (eh, go with it). Give away LED flashlights. Get their contact info.|
|Vaguely aware of some benefits, getting familiar with your company name||First base||Send a few email newsletters with 3rd person articles and links to your web site.||The provided content is not self-promoting. Your desire is to become a trusted adviser first.|
|Getting slightly educated, starting to think you’re a good guy.||First base||Add them to your press release and white paper distribution.||Informing them of your status, credits, abilities, boosting your image.|
|Starting to have some tangible sense of how solar works, your place in the industry.||Second base||Call to ask if there is specific info they might like – panel options, mounting options, industry surveys||Still trying to bolster your image as a trusted source. If they aren’t interested, ask if they’d rather you suspend contact.|
|Thinking about solar for themselves. Competitors’ names are dimming.||Second base||Hold an open house and offer them a checklist to fill out to qualify themselves.||Showcase is of projects, office, other customers, AND ASSOCIATES. (Script them.) Notify prospects afterwards about the general potential of solar for them. If there isn’t potential, send note of thanks and ask for referrals.|
|Wondering about feasibility for themselves.||Second base||Offer financing info., maybe a specially accessed page on your web site. Set up a showing of an installation.||Leaving them in the driver’s seat. Continuing to demonstrate you have the answers.|
|Want to see a proposal, find out what their scenario would be||Third base||Ask if they’d like a general or detailed proposal (with a price, credited against the project)||Still giving them choices. You have as much credibility and loyalty you can get, and with no arm twisting, you retain loyalty, regardless of the outcome.|
|Considering the proposal …||Stealing home …||Offer to have another customer call them re. their purchase experience.||Using a discipline/your “brand advocate”, establishes total confidence in your service.|
|Signing contract and acting as a discipline.||Home plate||Provide a personalized production schedule – make it look like an announcement they might forward.|
|Happy customer||In the dugout||Offer to have a BBQ for their friends and neighbors, explain how their system works. Ask for referrals or testimonials, a comparison of power bills.||Add their picture to your web site|
|Discipline||Host a customer’s appreciation party, ask them to bring two potentials and have them sign up thru the web site.||Have customers do as much talking for you as possible. Offer an upgrade for anyone who brings in another customer. (Four more panels, $500 off inverter replacement …)|
There are four features of this plan to note. During this process, you are …
- Earning trust and loyalty throughout, never pressing the sale till it’s inevitable. (Like when you got engaged …?) If/when they drop off, they’ll still sing your praises, which is still money/effort well spent.
- Demonstrating you are being proactive for them. They don’t ask for anything – you offer it, and with choices if possible.
- Putting them on a pedestal and lauding them – and giving them the opportunity and a reward to endorse you.
- Matching your tactics to the level of relationship you have, and varying them.
Will advertising get you around the bases, and even if it does, will it give you any residual for your investment?
Let me first say, ‘branding’ is not the same thing as ‘plastering your logo everywhere’. This probably stems from the time before branding was defined, and event sponsors pursued simply the strongest, most frequent logo impressions possible. If that also preceded competition and market niches, maybe that was OK. But now, everybody is in a niche, and if you aren’t using your events to make attendees feel and understand the nuances that put you first in your niche, ie. using your event elements strategically, you’re missing out.
This is because branding is strategic, and next to your product and its packaging, events are probably the most powerful means to communicate it. (Unless you have bazillions of dollars for tv.) A brand is “a set of perceptions and images that represent a company, product or service, the essence or promise of what will be delivered or experienced”. To get on the right path designing an event, I like to envision bringing members into your clubhouse.
- Is the atmosphere you’re creating light and airy, or restrained and polished? (Facility, decor, music, invitation) Neither is inherently right, but there is an environment that is right for your company.
- Are you putting your people and your products in front of the attendees?
- Is your essence statement (slogan) expressed explicitly in signage, ad specialty items, or in an address/presentation?
- How are the attendees engaged by your associates and the other staff at the event? I believe scripting their greeting and other predictable interactions, is important. You would (SHOULD) do this for staff in your trade show booth, so you want to do it here as well.
- With all these plans in place, can you envision your attendees ultimately, having the experience you desire?
Now I wouldn’t trust that the company you work for, or are designing the event for, understands this. I did several events for an international oilfield engineering company that happens to be French. For the initial associate events I did, they gave me free rein. As their strategic aim was just to express appreciation and instill pride, I used their company colors and logos in the registration area and on the stage, scripted talking points in their addresses, and scrolled images of their giant projects and ships on displays.
But for their first, major event at the Offshore Technology Drilling Conference, they froze. If I was to describe their brand, it is world-class (not world-renowned) engineering capabilities, extended in a confident, complicit fashion. (A little wordy but they didn’t pay me enough to boil it down.) Aside from expressing this, they wanted a fairly quiet atmosphere so the company reps could converse with clients and prospects.
I suggested a bistro environment. A theme would demonstrate self-confidence and loosen up attendees; it would make them stand out as a French company; and it could be lively without being noisy. Eh – we ended up with strong branding at registration, and I was permitted to do French-styled small plates instead of piece hors d’oeuvres, but with their second-guessing, the reception turned out like a library. Une bibliotheque European, peut etre.
If we want to take branding farther into the inbound marketing realm – introducing people to the company, making the way comfortable for them to make business inquiries – you would include other activities at the event. Polling people about your market and maybe, their perceptions of your company or products, demonstrating your product, showcasing your web site – all are ways to further communicate your brand. For a series I did for Comerica Bank, we tightly scripted their associates as they engaged the adult attendees, and they captured marketing data and qualified customers for follow up. The brand was extended through this interaction, and they brought many prospects to first or second base, ultimately closing $3M in new deposits. I told you, this stuff works!
Thanks for reading, and please add your own experiences or insights.