B2B businesses focused on branding should move beyond corporate logos.
ECONOMICALLY- trying times usually results in slower sales, seriously impacting the bottom lines of companies. Given this challenge, SMEs need to reach out to new customers and one way to do it is to leverage on branding.
However, promoting your brand goes beyond a fancy corporate image. Managing personal relationships, both offline and online, contributes to how the public view and perceive a brand.
Beyond fancy words and engaging visuals at points of sale, Bizsphere Sdn Bhd founder Yap Keng Teck explains the best branding practice takes place during the customer engagement process.
“Back then, people worked with suppliers that offered the lowest price. Today, it is about the relationship and how well they are able to deliver on their promise,” says Yap.
This is especially true for the business-to-business (B2B) sales cycle as any purchases done usually follow a lengthy process and are not impulse buys. From requesting a quotation to finally receiving a purchase order, ensuring the sales process is efficient and painless is as important as getting the best value from the transaction.
Typically, key account managers are assigned to take care of customer’s needs. However, the problem that arises is when they leave the company, that brand experience often goes along with them.
A holistic take on internal branding among staff is essential to ensure everyone sings the same tune. Managers who take over key accounts from those who have left must be able to replicate the same level of brand engagement the customer enjoyed with the previous hire.
“Institutionalize your brand but personalize your services,” says Yap, who has over 10 years of branding experience.
He adds when employees are confident of the brand that hires them, they too would be chirping good things of the company to their network.
A good first impression
SMEs naturally scramble to source for new leads when the economy slows, Existing customers may be reducing purchases and need the need for new sales channels grow stronger.
Conventionally, SMEs would report to direct mailers be it via post or email to their database of potential clients. That may be the right thing to do, Yap says, but it may not be the right way to do it.
“Businesses tend to receive a lot of such mailers in a day and sometimes, what you send could be ovevrlooked,” he explains.
One “trick” which Yap shares is to engage the decision-maker of the organization. It is important to identify who decides on what to purchase and make inroads there.
“I suggest sending a package that contains items such as informative guidebooks and a miniature copy of the products that you are selling. This creates an impression that you are trying to closing a deal by sending your product catalogue.”
When asked whether SMEs should consider participating in trade exhibition to make themselves more visible in the market, Yap says such activity can be more costly with little return on investment.
“There are trade missions which allow entrepreneurs to familiarize themselves with potential markets by speaking to those who have already been there, Matrade (Malaysian External Trade Development Corp) would be a good facilitator for such activities,” he suggests.
Make sense of online chatter
SMEs should also pay serious attention to their social media presence as it remains a relevant tool for SMEs to engage their network of followers.
While they may not purchases from the business today, constant positive engagement can increase brand presence among the identified target market.
However, setting up a Facebook account and leaving it dormant for months on end is not the right strategy, says Minda trafik CEO Shakirah Karim.
“Many especially B2B brands assume their trade is boring. Hence, the way they manage their social media is also boring,” she explains
It is important for SMEs to develop a niche angle for their brands which relates to the masses. ”If you are in the automotive workshop trade, for example, share content related to vehicle safety or maintenance as an opposed to information on your products and promotions. Engage your audience through accessible topics.”
What most brands forget when managing their social media is the humanizing factor behind the technology. “Social media writing should feel human; imagine writing an online post from a person’s perspective.”
Shakirah adds online interaction allows users to feel closer to a brand as opposed to responding to a computer-generated message.
Such interactive approach was popularized through mobile application business such as iflix and ServisHero which believes in creating a human persona behind the brand and the public.
While it difficult to convert potential leads to immediate sales when creating memorable and relatable brand image can help SMEs to connect with a wider audience.