Branding for relationships, branding for referrals

Branding is being discussed more often in relation to Internet marketing, and more specifically, Web2.0 social media sites.

Rohit Bhargava, SVP at Ogilvy PRSo this past noon I attended a BtoB webinar conducted by Rohit Bhargava, SVP at Ogilvy Public Relations. His subject? How to Get Clients to Love Your Brand…And Spread the Word About It.” You can read his blog at Influential Marketing Blog.

It was VERY interesting

It appears that social networking as a community building activity is a major element in branding for many companies. And it will grow for others.

Rohit first talked about brand personality and identified three important characteristics your brand should envelop in the creation of such a personality.

First, he specified the personality needs to be unique, that it commands a position. Second, he identifies authenticity as a key component, and by that it boils down to credibility. The third component he calls talkability, and that has to do with the ease by which people can spread your message. In essence that means its memorable and not too complicated.

Those who’ve read my blog since the beginning may remember my writing of Scott Degraffenreid’s book, Embracing the N.U.D,E. Model, The Art and Science of Referral Marketing. (You can re-read those blogs by searching for N.U.D.E. in the search box up top.) He espouses much the same message as Rohit.

The reason for participating in Web2.0

Rohit goes on to explain the three major reasons to embrace Web 2.0 as part of your branding process. They are: 1) to build relationships, 2) to engender recommendations, 3) to retain customers at an individual level.

A major point here is what Rohit calls the “attention paradox”. That just means that most marketers pay much more attention acquiring new customers than they do retaining existing customers.

An aside, can you identify when (and how, too) a customer becomes an ex-customer. Most of us decide someone is an ex-customer after an arbitrary pint in time. But most ex-customers become ex-customers almost immediately after an unpleasant experience at the last communication with the company.

Rohit emphasizes what Fredrick Reichheld in his book, The Loyalty Effect, expressed over ten years ago. By achieving a five-percent higher retention rate, profits increase 50-percent. Yet after all this time, marketers are still emphasizing new customer acquisition.

Six keys to effectively using brand personality

First, recall the presentation is oriented toward B2B marketers. You’d have to interpret these keys for a consumer-based brand.

1) Go beyond the white paper. This is a common web site devise to get people to give a marketer their email address. Rohit says the motive should be relationship building. In this context, your give-aways will be more content-filled and written as a helpful document rather than a thinly disguised brochure. Customers will appreciate that fact.
2) Stop focusing on sales. In line with number 1), the idea is to build relationships. Otherwise, price becomes the major decision point.  An aside: Good salespeople already know this, but quite often the brand is not aligned with the sales force, and that’s always been a tension-building internal problem in a lot of companies.
3) Tell your backstory. Here he’s talking about a dialog – Rohit suggests it’s more of a TV script than an annual report – that promotes a reason to believe in the company and its products. It will touch upon the reason for founding the company, the problem the founders perceived and how the solution came to be. Again, a demonstration of personality.
4) Hire for passion, train for expertise. Identify individuals who will be evangelists for your brand without sacrificing their true personalities. They must be authentic, not shills.
5) Embrace accidental spoke persons. There may be members of the press, trade association people and employees who can and will spread your story effectively and impartially. Encourage them to blog, to mention you even if it’s not always in the best light. Encourage honest dialogs.
6) Understand the attention paradox explained above. By not only retaining customers but by developing relationships and dialogs with them, they will be more prone to advance your cause, both within and outside their companies.

The Internet as a branding element.

Yes, this Internet is becoming a source of branding activity. Much of it is just transferring branding practices to the net. But there are some unique attributes of the net, and particularly of W2.0, that need attention.

In the next several months, I hope to shed some light on the use of Internet as a branding tool. Hope you’ll stay tuned.

Martin Jelsema

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