Is Your Brand Your Greatest Asset?
If you asked your management team, employees, and customers “who” your company is, what would they say? Would internal and external perceptions align? Would customers agree that the value you provide is the value they feel they are getting?
Brand development for manufacturers is often taken for granted. Every company has a brand, whether they set out to create one or not. When a manufacturing company opens its doors, the “brand” may consist of a logo, letterhead, and signage. As the company grows, the brand image is shaped by how customers are treated during and after the sale, rollout of new products lines, industry reputation, and other tangible and intangible factors.
Running a manufacturing company is complex work, requiring oversight on many levels. Managing day-to-day operations, keeping production rolling smoothly, and looking to get the edge on competitors is not a 9 to 5 job. The idea of investing time and energy on the company brand is not always at the top of the list. And yet, a manufacturer’s brand is one of its greatest assets.
Industrial Branding Drives Growth
Take the example of Lincoln Electric, a $2.8 billion global welding products manufacturer headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio cited in Industry Week’s The Power of Brand. The company understands that an excellent brand experience must be delivered at each step along the customer journey. According to Global Marketing Director Steve Sumner, “The brand experience needs to be fulfilled through all aspects of a customer's contacts with the company. That means everything from the act of purchasing a product to the processing of an invoice.”
Branding is so important that the company sales reps go through a 10-month training program. Says Sumner: "We want to make sure that when that Lincoln guy walks in the door, the customer knows that something great is going to happen in my company today. We are going to become a better company because the Lincoln guy is here. A significant chunk of the value, and therefore our brand, is embodied in our people.”
Recognition of branding’s impact on the bottom line is growing among B2B manufacturers. The direct correlation between brand awareness and sales is becoming more and more evident. In 2018, “the influence of a strong brand increased by 37%” over 2017 and was the “No. 1 factor cited by decision makers when choosing to engage with sales.”
According to the B2B Institute, “Brand building excels at driving long-term growth; it usually works on an emotional level to create long-term memories and associations that continue to influence purchase decisions long after the advertising runs. This is a bigger task than sales activation, requiring much broader reach and repeated exposure. But brand building is ultimately more effective because the effects last longer and so accumulate over time. Brand building also reduces price sensitivity and increases margins. As a result, brand building is the main driver of long-term growth and profit.”
Brand Manufacturing Process: Beyond the Bottom Line
Methodically and thoughtfully developing a corporate brand may be the single most important factor in driving sales. Brand was cited in a recent study as the top influencer identified by decision makers “when choosing to engage with sales.”
Why is brand so important for B2B manufacturers? Beyond improving the bottom line, brand development creates an emotional connection with the customer and establishes the foundation upon which all sales and marketing activities are based upon.
At a minimum, a strong brand:
- Reflects insights and intel gained through customer and employee research
- Communicates a compelling, consistent corporate image and value proposition
- Inspires buy-in, and brand advocacy, from the inside sales rep to the plant floor manager to the CEO
- Rallies sales and marketing teams around a coherent strategy
- Nurtures and drives innovation and growth
Depending upon what stage your company is at, you may need to undergo a complete brand development process—research, brand positioning, creative development, and rollout. Or perhaps you’ve done the homework and have a pretty solid brand image in place but it’s time to revitalize the brand. A brand refresh can help to reposition your company or a product line, refocus attention after a customer service issue, or re-energize your customer base and reinforce loyalty.
In developing or refreshing your manufacturing brand, it is important that your brand is authentic, reflects company core value and beliefs, and incorporates the valuable input of both employees and customers. John Deere does an excellent job of clearly articulating its core values—integrity, quality, commitment, and innovation.
Its brand strategy extends to all aspects of the business and actively engages employees and customers. For example, John Deere features an interactive mobile “Chatterbox” at trade shows and invites attendees to come inside, sit in an equipment-operator-style chair, and share their feedback about the company.
Customers recently ranked John Deere seventh in an evaluation of how “innovative” customers perceive a company to be, ahead of industry giants like General Motors, Samsung, and Microsoft, illustrating how successful a strong brand foundation and coherent brand strategy can be.
Get in Touch
Capitalizing upon a great brand—a valuable asset that can build customer loyalty, attract top notch talent, and drive growth—does not have to be difficult. Grant Marketing can help you create or revitalize your manufacturing brand and build a resilient sales and marketing strategy to keep your sales pipeline humming.
Our comprehensive, 360-degree approach to brand development and strategy—encompassing a compelling brand proposition, visual representation, and messaging; a high-impact website; and ROI-driven inbound marketing and content—delivers exceptional results for our clients. Contact us today to talk about how we can help you build your brand for maximum value and impact.
2 LinkedIn State of Sales 2018
4 LinkedIn State of Sales 2018
5 American Innovation Index™ 2018 Market Summary Report