Build YOUR Brand, Not the Platform’s
by Candyce Edelen | CEO, PropelGrowth
Build YOUR Brand, Not the Platform’s
by Candyce Edelen
If you’re going to grow your business, you have to focus branding your business, not branding the product.
Our last three chapters about leapfrogging the competition talked about developing your go-to-market strategy and your niche. We also discussed the need to stop selling accounting software and start spotlighting your team’s expertise. Once you have those, it’s much easier to build your brand. But remember, you’re building YOUR brand, not Acumatica’s.
Most VARs spend more money marketing the platforms they represent than they spend on their own brands. Invest in marketing your services, not the technology.
This might seem counter-intuitive, since most VARs focus a lot on marketing the product. But to win big, you have to do things quite differently than your competition.
So, find ways to differentiate.
A Niche Strategy Makes it Easier to Build a Brand
In the previous chapter, we talked about developing a niche strategy. If you take that approach, it will make it much simpler to build your brand. You can brand around your specialized focus, your unique experience, your secret sauce.
Have you developed implementation packages?
Brand Your Implementation Packages
Consider branding your specific approaches to implementation. Branding your approach, even if it’s not all that unique, will help set you apart from the competition. It also helps your customers really understand and be able to articulate the advantages of choosing your firm.
For example, my company, PropelGrowth is a marketing consultancy with 100s of 1000’s of competitors. So we have to find a way to differentiate. One of our services is producing thought leadership content for clients. This work requires us to do extensive research and can get expensive. So in order to maximize the client’s ROI, we create as much derivative content as possible. We call this “using every part of the buffalo.” We’ve packaged these thought leadership programs for fixed prices and branded the offerings “Buffalo Programs.”
Are these Buffalo Programs unique? Not really. Lots of firms do this. We’ve effectively productized our services and are able to use a value-based, fixed pricing and a standardized delivery methodology. The packaging, pricing and brand differentiates our offering from the competition.
Consider a similar approach for your business. Can you package a subset of your services and offer them at a fixed price like we do with our buffaloes?
Build Your Brand Around Being a Trusted Advisor
Consider also your brand as a trusted advisor to your clients. Travis Healy, the director of business development at Collins Computing, focuses not only on Collins’ brand, but also on his own personal brand. Healy said, “Every single big deal I’ve done has been based on gaining the position of trusted advisor. You achieve that by shifting away from a sales mindset to that of a business advisor. That means I often give out information unrelated to our products. It’s useful and relevant to our client’s mission and helps them achieve their goals. In return, it helps me secure long-term partnerships with our clients. That’s a big part of my personal brand.”
So work on building your brand around your firm’s unique business strategy, target niche, methodologies, team and unique experience.
Transparency Creates Value
Building a brand means you have to get your message out. To do that, you’ll need to publish thought leadership and content that clearly communicate your offerings and approach. However, I’ve noticed that a lot of Acumatica VARs are reluctant to be so transparent.
In the past, firms could hold information close to the vest. This allowed the salesperson to control information flow and be the primary source of education for the prospective client. This put your sales person squarely in control of the client’s buying process.
But then the Internet and Google changed the way people buy…and the way you build a brand. Now, there is a massive amount of information freely available online. So today, ERP buyers will go through 60-70% of their buying process before you even know they’re shopping for a solution. Tim Rodman, ERP implementation consultant at Aktion Associates, said, “You used to be able to control the conversation, but now with the Internet, you can’t. Don’t fight it. Embrace it.” Rodman speaks from experience. As a side project, he manages AUGForums.com (Acumatica User Group Forums), a Google search-friendly knowledge sharing website.
To understand the new customer buying process, consider how an imaginary customer might begin his search. We’ll call him “John.”
John has a growing business in commercial HVAC equipment sales and installation. Fast growth has been creating some challenges in his supply chain. A few weeks ago, he came across an article about ERP and Acumatica that captured his attention. He did some research on Acumatica and was impressed with the technology. So now he’s looking for help in thinking through his options.
If John uses Google to search for help, he’ll come across several VARs. However, most of what he’ll find on their websites will be focused on product features. He might come away thinking all Acumatica VARs are alike. So how is he going to find and consider your firm? He’s not going to just call you based on a cursory glance at your website. He’ll wait to reach out until AFTER he’s convinced that your firm might be a good resource. By then, he’ll be prioritizing price over value.
Will your website and your unique brand help John realize that you have exactly the experience he needs? Or will he see only product- focused content that he already found on the Acumatica site? Will he lump you in with all the other Acumatica VARs?
Anya Ciecierski runs the ERP Cloud Blog and also leads marketing for CAL Business Solutions. At CAL, Ciecierski has developed a powerful content marketing engine. She invests in it constantly, adding new relevant content.
Since 2009, 100% of CAL’s marketing-generated leads come from organic inbound marketing efforts and referrals. Ciecierski explained, “We used to do direct mail and telemarketing. But now we focus almost exclusively on content. We position ourselves as thought leaders who are easy to work with. To prove this, we give as much information as possible. For example, we give pricing down to the details. We cover the “gotchas” that prospects should look out for. We give them the tough questions that they should be asking. Most VARs think this should be kept closer to the vest. But we put that all out there publicly. That is what gets people coming to us. Referrals and direct leads from the website are our key lead sources.”
This level of transparency has helped build CAL’s brand as a trusted resource and thought leader.
Your Customers Hold the Keys to Your Brand
Your customers are your absolute best source of insight for developing your messaging and brand story. Talk to them about their experience. Ask their opinion of your firm. Capture their voice to drive your positioning and messaging.
But don’t leave this just to sales people and implementation consultants. Your marketing team needs direct access to customers. As Ciecierski said, “Get out of the marketing bubble and talk to the prospects. That’s how you figure out the real pain points.”
At PropelGrowth, we extract tons of value from customer interviews. For example, let’s consider a branding initiative. To do this well, it’s essential to get the customer’s point of view. So we do multiple client interviews to dig into their impressions of the product and firm.
These interviews can serve triple duty:
- They capture the voice of the customer. This helps frame your value proposition. Using the customer’s terms and phrasing helps ensure that your messaging resonates with future prospects.
- They provide in-depth stories for producing multiple case studies.
- They help you sell. Telling detailed customer stories helps establish the credibility you need to close your next opportunity.
In our next chapter, we’ll explore building a marketing machine…and the importance of consistency and patience.