Fixing brand for the outside starts on the inside but with only with an outside-in view!
Had a quick coffee today with a small business owner who was struggling to change the focus of his company culture from one that was Sales driven to one that needed to offer more of an experience. He was struggling because they’d been successful and to stay successful he felt he needed to change. He wondered if a new brand would help but his view of what a brand is, suggested that it wouldn’t help. Yet. For brand change to work on the outside, they’d need to change the inside first…and fundamentally so.
A B2B service organisation is often driven by customer numbers – whether by driving new customers or focusing on client retention. Companies that have grown primarily by the former have a dominant sales culture that pervades the organisation and dictate the Silo hierarchies. Those that have grown by focusing on client retention have a dominant customer service culture that coordinates the organisation to be customer centric.
Both types of culture use marketing and brand practices to achieve their goals. In the former, Sales & Marketing are often under the same leadership and communications are judged on their tactical success in delivering numbers. Short term offers, usually price discounts, occasionally delivered “loudly”. For the latter, Marketing is focussed on understand customer insights, trialling solutions and offers with those customers and rolling out the offer to reward the customer’s experience of the service.
In the former, brand is used to carry the messages out to potential customers. You’ll hear terminology like direct, consistency, efficiency, offers, brand manuals. In the latter, brand influences the organisation’s culture, their service delivery, response times, their processes and capabilities as well as their external communications. Here, you’ll hear terms like dialogue, satisfaction, innovation, brand stories, effectiveness.
While each can be successful, what is really tough is to change from one to the other – especially if tried quickly. What can happen is that brand and marketing can be tasked to change the perception of the service before the internal offering is able to deliver it. Promising something, that is not then actually experienced, leads to rejection. These are empty promises. However well executed the promises are they will be empty. Price driven tactics cannot deliver a premium brand experience. Telling customers is not the same as listening to customers. Showing customers you are prepared to listen by a sms or email campaign isn’t enough. Changing your name or logo, to suggest you care or you are a premium offer, isn’t enough.
If success is not instant because the service offer is left unchanged, or the organisational silos remain disconnected and the company then blames Marketing for subsequent customer churn, then the understanding of brand and its influence remains old fashioned and so ineffective.
Brand will be effective once the organisation recognises the changes needed inside to affect those on the outside. By listening and talking to the customers – about what they value, what they want and what they will or might want – you’ll have a blueprint for change. These changes start on the inside – from the top of the company, to all their people on the customer journey that tough the experience of the service offer – by signalling change, recognising change, rewarding success, adding new companywide service KPIs vs. Sales KPIs will start to affect the internal culture. This can lead next to a change in where and how the service is experienced by the customers so that it is actually experienced by those customers and their reactions will create positive advocates and cause loyalty and importantly, recommendations much more powerful that a 50% short term discount. Indeed this is the premium service of the future.
Such change is hard. It is fundamental change. And brand can indeed help. 21st Century branding encourages the outside in blueprint for such change.