The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us all to adjust the way we conduct business. In the new normal, there will be even more emails sent, online meetings had, virtual events attended, and digital opportunities leveraged to connect and network with leads. As you adjust your business processes, it is more important than ever to remember that how you communicate and everything you communicate contributes to the overall perception of your company’s brand.
Think Beyond the Obvious
Good marketers know that effective branding is more than just the logo, corporate colors, and visual design. Branding extends to the tone, style, and voice used in content, which determine how a brand speaks with its target audiences. Therefore, good marketers ensure that all of their creative output consistently reflects their brand’s characteristics, as well as all of the other guidelines in a brand framework.
Great marketers take branding one step further. They ensure that a brand’s characteristics are not fiction, but are based on real aspects of a company’s culture and the personalities that form it. They are aware that any external communications sent by a team member that contradicts the prescribed branding requirements can be damaging to the brand. And they work with all externally facing employees to ensure that all communications reinforce the brand.
All Communication Matters
In our new work environment, the way that all employees behave and communicate online or during virtual events will influence how people perceive your company’s brand. This is important not just when that big deal is closing, that massive campaign is starting, or that key meeting is finally kicked off — it’s a concern at all times. All interactions matter and every interaction is an important branding opportunity. This includes everything from the way customer service or sale representatives fashion their emails and approach their conversations, right through to the materials they point customers and potential customers to, such as your website, brochures, blogs, and videos.
Consider the self-directed buyer’s journey and how a buyer develops a perception of your brand. Typically, a potential lead who has been researching your company’s offering will have downloaded a couple of brochures from your site, and maybe even subscribed to your newsletter. The lead may have developed a perception of a hardworking, mid-sized company that has exactly what the lead needs to solve a specific business challenge. Perhaps the lead is at that point in the buyer’s journey where he or she would be receptive to a sales conversation. The perception of your brand is evolving as it should.
Then the lead is exposed to something that throws off the perception of your brand. Let’s say it’s part of your regular LinkedIn feed and the photos you are running that are intended to humanize the brand by showing real employees at work. A good intention and idea to be sure, but it falls flat in the lead’s mind when regular posts published every two days show employees holding their alcoholic beverage of choice and never show employees at their desk doing their job.
Obviously, the lead’s perception of the brand will be influenced by the posts and that new perception may cause the lead to reconsider whether or not your company is the right one to do business with.
Perception Is Important for the Virtual Sales Process
Beyond your company’s regular social media posts, the perception you want to create of your brand should be a prime consideration in all aspects of your virtual sales process.
In a virtual sales process, the initial sales outreach will be via email. Therefore, the email sales people send out is a branding tool. It will serve as the initiation of a conversation and may very well be the anchor for the full sales cycle. You can expect your potential customer will receive multiple sales and marketing emails from your competitors. So, it’s important that your brand stands out and creates the right impression.
Leveraging the sales email as a branding opportunity requires marketing and sales to work more closely together.
The idea that marketing needs to enable sales, rather than simply work alongside it, has been picking up steam for a while. Since the business world has gone virtual, a closer working relationship between marketing and sales is now more vital than ever. Working together, marketing and sales teams can ensure that they establish the right perception of the brand with all leads on an individual basis.
To make this work, marketers and salespeople need to put their heads together and ask themselves a few key questions:
- How does our overall outbound communication look?
- Is marketing creating a consistent impression with what sales is doing and vice versa?
- How can marketing enable sales and how can sales enable marketing?
- Is there an opportunity for marketing to enhance the types of tools sales teams can leverage?
Manage the Connection Between Perception and Reality
The bottom line is that as most interactions go virtual, the way you meet and deal with leads and customers will continue to change. So how you communicate and everything you communicate contributes to the overall perception of your company’s brand. And perception is reality.
Your target audience will develop a perception based on what they are seeing on your regular marketing channels and what they are being exposed to elsewhere. Although you can’t completely control the perception an audience will have, you can contribute to how that perception is built with all external communications.