How Business Is Won & Brands Are Built

Winning Business 8
Whether you are a sales pro, marketing whiz or entrepreneur, business is a fierce compeition.  You’ll never win unless you understand the milestones that stand between the prospect stage and the finish line.  

Even the most impulsive purchases follow the mental path I’ll reveal in this post.  In fact, done right, businesses can elicit more impulse buys and less slow-mo conversions.  In business school, they now teach the 25/200 rule, which says that anything you can do to reduce the time-to-decide by 25% increases your sales volume by 200%.  That’s the power of branding and product.  

Think of all business transactions as a branding event.  I define brand as a promise of an outcome that you install into the mind of your target customers.  It’s a shortcut: Great experience, problem solved, etc.  Example: Coke is refreshing.  This is where sales and marketing truly intersect. Marketing = demand generation and sales = value capture.  

In his great book The Brand Mindset, author Duanne Knapp lays out the path to winning business: 

1. Differentiation – What makes you stand out from the competition.  This is the secret to premium pricing, exceptions to purchase rules and affinity.  People are attracted to the different. They need to know what twist you add to the commodity.  This helps you rise above the noise and stop competing just on price. 

2. Esteem – This is now the second driver of winning business.  Are you a person of integrity that should/must be trusted? Is your company a good citizen that will do-the-right thing for people, communities and future generations?  Is there a feel good story connected with your purchase … in other words do I get to solve my problem AND make a difference with my dollars?  After all, in the new economy, that’s a buy-one-get-one-free.  

3. Relevance – This is a function of the four P’s: Product, Price, Position and Promotion.  Succinctly put, does the product best solve the problem?  Is it the best value?  I’ve noticed that during economic downturns, relevance can leapfrog both Esteem and Differentiation (eg., Wal-Mart or Air Tran).  

4. Awareness – Does the prospect know that you exist?  Are they familiar with your product and its benefits?  When they realize they need to solve a problem with a product, are you top-of-mind or buried in the microfiche vault?  Believe it or not, this is the fourth most important attribute of a great brand or sales strategy.  Example: Greyhound.  Everybody knows about this bus line, but few would ever use it based on its inconvenience, user experience, etc. 

When you lose a sales or whiff on a brand launch, you’ve likely come up short at one of the above attributes.  A good analogy here is to think of your prospect mentally running your product through four hurdles, trip on one and you’ll finish last.  If you want to drill this into your psyche, like an Olympic athelete training for 2016, print this out and pin it up in your office.