"Brand is so important when your prospects are not engaging until about 60% through the sales process and brand is a particularly serious challenge for SaaS companies."
There are many competing definitions for the term ‘brand’. Seth Godin defined a brand as a set of “expectations, memories, stories and relationships” that in combination drive the decision to choose a particular company, product or service.
“Brand” is a popular topic–certainly one of perspective, disagreement and often confusion. From product developers, marketers, executives, partners and others, we have many definitions of “brand.” Here's another definition. "Your brand is what first comes to mind….good, bad, or other, when someone thinks of your company."Brand perception is owned by customers, not companies. Regardless of your messaging, "whatever people are thinking and saying about your brand, THAT is your brand".
Brand is so important when your prospects are not engaging until about 60% through the sales process and it's a particularly serious challenge for SaaS companies. Do you appreciate what the 60% statistic means in reality? It means that your prospects are assessing you and deciding whether you make the cut or not, without your knowledge and primarily on their perception of your brand. There are other factors, of course. Like use-case credentials, price, functionality and maybe even the strengths of your management team.
These days selling is often conducted remotely and once you identify your internal champion, what resources are available when she socializes your product with her colleagues?. If you're selling face-to-face, then you at least have the opportunity to portray your brand in person, however, the same issue arises once you leave the premises, i.e. what resources does your prospect have when they come to talk about you with their colleagues?. How will your brand support the sales process such that you get the chance to provide a proposal?
The most obvious answer to these questions is the quality of your product interface. Whether it's hardware, software or even services. Any time your solution is demonstrated, what is the perception that the audience is left with? That alone can be the difference between ongoing interest and an immediate disconnect. Of course there are other brand artifacts that can have a positive impact - your corporate logo, presentation decks, website, product data sheets etc, all can act as powerful brand reinforcements or the complete opposite.
For SaaS companies, your SaaS interface is the essence of your brand
Your SaaS UI truly is your brand. It’s probably something you’ve heard before, and that’s because it’s so important. It’s often the only thing standing between you and your customer, so it's wise to spend a lot of time working on the solution interface to project a refined user experience. Brand perception for SaaS companies is primarily about the UI/UX aspects of your product and for SaaS startups it can often be an aspect of development where shortcuts are taken. The priority is perceived as, "get the core functionality complete and don't worry about the UI. We'll fix that once we get a few customers". The people on the team who take this position don't understand how important Brand is to the sales process and they don't understand that UI/UX can literally launch your rocket to the moon or see it blow-up soon after lift-off. And of course even when UI/UX is valued in a SaaS startup you have the very basic issue of a scarcity of cash meaning there's a tough call to make on what's more important - functionality or brand?.
How are you really perceived?
Many companies don’t know what first comes to mind when customers and non-customers think of their company.
If you can resource a research effort to uncover your Brand image, first, take a look at your industry as a whole. Are there any areas in which some, most, or all companies fall short when it comes to demonstrating value to customers? Have certain companies within the industry recently seen better results than in the past? If so, what have these companies changed that may have caused such improvements?
After answering these basic questions, look inward to your own company. What have you done to increase customer loyalty, or to provide added value to your most loyal fans? How have you improved your solution interface to adapt to the changing needs of your customers? Have these initiatives been well received? Whatever you think the answers are they should be validated by customers and prospects. Providing reference points for your customers when asking them to complete surveys regarding your brand, you can gather intangible data in a way that makes it quantifiable. For example, you might ask your customers to rate their understanding of the service you provide on a scale of one to five, or to rank five qualities of your service in order of importance.
There are 4 primary vectors for a brand to align to maximize impact:
As noted above, one of the biggest challenges for companies in the current era is competition, so branding must serve as a differentiating factor. What is that factor? That’s up to you and your target audience. For example, compared to your competitors, is your product interface clearly superior? Could you be more professional in tone to appeal to more business people? Could you be more casual in tone to appeal to a younger audience? Do you want to be edgier? More traditional? There’s no right or wrong answer here, but when it’s all said and done, your brand will ideally be differentiated from anything else on the market.2. Connection.
Your brand needs to have a personal appeal to your target demographics. For this goal, it’s helpful to think of your brand as a kind of avatar for your company, representing it in a personal way so that your customers feel an attachment. Accordingly, your brand needs to embody characteristics that are approachable, familiar, or otherwise engaging to your target market. Your product interface must make you and your customers proud to demonstrate, otherwise, you won't make the 60% cut and that means your on the road to extinction.3. Immersion.
The immersion factor is one unique to SaaS companies, since some brands have the luxury of limited customer interactions. SaaS customers, however, will be using your product for extended periods of time, and engaging with your brand in many different mediums, from your app itself, to your content, your website, your help pages, and even your social media accounts. If you want to be successful, you need to nurture an entire environment where people feel connected to your brand—not just one-time representations or one-sided interactions.4. Reinforcement.
You need to use your brand to reinforce positive experiences with your product, and continually remind users why they signed up for your service in the first place. A good brand will have the potential to summarize all the visions and values of your company, and repeat itself throughout many channels, mediums and applications. The more places you are, the more you’ll be seen, and the more easily recognized you’ll be.Main Applications
Now that you know what you need to accomplish, you need to know the main paths through which you can accomplish them. The building of a brand is clearly non-trivial and it helps if you can reduce your identity standards down to the four main “groups” of characteristics outlined above.
Branding is possibly the most valuable work you'll invest in, in part because it affects all your other strategies, but primarily because it's the thing that will help ensure you're on the shortlist at the 60% stage of the sales process. You can’t apply your brand to just your product, or just your social media campaign, and hope to reap the full benefits of the integration, nor can you change your brand standards every few months. You can tweak your brand, gradually over time, however ideally give users that consistent look, feel, and comfort, or you’ll never be able to build the recognition or retention you need.Invisible values.
It’s hard to directly measure the results of your branding efforts; you can’t calculate a brand RoI the way you can with social media marketing or an SEO strategy. Branding’s most impressive values are actually somewhat invisible, unless you try to measure them with qualitative user surveys; for example, how can you measure the average person’s “awareness” of your brand? How can you measure a person’s disposition toward staying with your brand (especially when compared to a hypothetical scenario in which you have a different brand entirely)? You’ll have to rely on indirect indicators here.Company culture.
If you want to reap the full value of a comprehensive and positive brand, you can’t think of it as only existing for your customers. Your brand’s character and style should permeate your organization, giving your staff a standard to aspire to and giving them a foundation for how to interact with customers and vendors. It’s going to leave you with a more powerful, more cohesive organization—even if you can't measure it right away.
5 Essential Components to Leverage Branding
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