Last week, our CEO Julie Karbo led a Coaching Circle at the 2020 Women in Technology International Virtual Summit. A marketing expert who has helped thousands of craft successful brand narratives, Julie shared pages from her playbook on how to successfully move markets.
Branding & Positioning: Why It’s Important
Why is branding important? If you’ve got a better product it will sell itself, right? If only it was that easy. The streets of Silicon Valley are littered with failed companies that had great products, but didn’t tell their story in a way that moved hearts, minds and wallets. We’ve all seen examples of messaging that fails to accurately communicate a company’s value, differentiation and vision.
Branding exercises lay the foundation of a company’s communications with customers, partners, investors or any other entity that has a stake in what they do. The branding exercise itself is complex, time consuming and rigorous. It requires a commitment from the CEO to participate wholly and she or he must mandate the same from other members of the C-Suite. It’s critical that there be a commitment to unflinching honesty and self evaluation, with an exercise leader that asks the right questions, keeps the process productive, moving forward and free of arrogance and power plays. Those are just table stakes. Then comes the hard part.
Nailing Your Message
Branding is never a one-meeting-and-you’re done proposition. It takes a great deal of internal and external research, the ability to audit key audiences, collaboration across the highest levels of the organization, and a willingness to test its efficacy. Without this commitment companies can fail to craft the right narrative. It’s not as rare as you think. According to Forbes, only 1 in 4 corporate brands is perceived as different from their competitors.
Know What You Need to Know
Where does it all begin? With the customer. Do you have robust persona(s) of your target customer(s)? What are their demographics? What do they read? How do they make product purchase decisions? What do they do in their spare time? What keeps them up at night? What’s causing and alleviating their pain and what’s not?
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. A quality persona profile reflects the prism by which your customer judges you. Many executives believe it’s based solely on their product features. This is partially true, but remember your solution isn’t simply your technology platform and product, it includes the quality of your management team, what reporters, influencers, partners, your support teams and the competition say about you and more. At Karbo Com we call it the Whole Product Prism.
Getting Branding & Positioning Right
Once we have our foundational research done, we begin to craft the narrative. At Karbo Com, we manage the overarching process, and will craft the first draft of straw man messaging according to three categories: market, technology/product and company. These straw man messages are discussed with the whole team and once these narratives are finalized they are tested with customers, partners and other influencers.
How Do We Know It’s Working?
Measuring branding efficacy requires accountability, and accountability starts with the identification of qualitative and quantifiable KPIs. Karbo Com then uses analytic platforms to help determine success metrics. One size doesn’t fit all. Measurement is a function of the unique needs of each company. Key components can include sales leads, sentiment, competitive response, influencer concept tests, share of voice and a host of other metrics.
Executing the branding exercise flawlessly is one of the most important things you will do as a company. Devoting resources is important. But just as critical is making a commitment to truth, introspection and collaboration. Finally, you have to pledge loyalty to your narrative — to tell your unique story in a way that moves markets.
Looking to up-level your branding & positioning? Contact us.