It’s not you. It’s your brand. Is brand ambiguity stunting your sales growth?

Over the last fifteen years, I’ve participated in more corporate messaging workshops than can be counted. Inevitably, at a certain point during the workshop, the facilitator will ask the collective group: “Who ARE we?” Typically, the marketing leaders are quick to reiterate the company’s vision or mission statement, while sales leaders rattle verbiage from their elevator pitches, and executives state messages similar to those they give investors on analyst calls. Turns out, answering “Who ARE we?” is not that simple of a question after all.

Is your brand suffering from a bit of ambiguity? Try this simple experiment the next time you’re riding up the elevator with colleagues. Ask the folks standing beside you, “Who is {insert your company name here}?”

I’m not a gambler, but I’d wage a bet you’d get limited overlap in responses. Why? Perhaps because your organization hasn’t fully invested the time and effort into crystalizing their brand positioning and brand purpose for all employees, customers and stakeholders.

No longer reserved for consumer-facing brands, it has become essential for business-to-business organizations to not only create and develop a brand but also define their position and purpose. Why?

Not only will it separate your brand from a sea of sameness among competition, but it can elevate your position in the market. If we as marketers can prevent our sales team from being asked “So who are you, again?” we’ve done part of our job.

I’ve worked on branding and rebranding initiatives for companies of all sizes – and what do they all have in common? An aligned purpose to create a great brand.

But what does it take to go from good to great? Well, good brands merely fulfill a need. They provide a service, or a product, based upon an expressed need.

But a great brand? A great brand anticipates. How? By truly understanding their customers. Talking to them. Asking questions. Reading about them in the news. Thinking about their current and future needs.

And while it may be unpleasant, or downright excruciating, asking your customers where your brand falls short can be one of the first steps towards creating a brand people trust. After all, people want partners, not vendors.

Sometimes the most important part of creating and maintaining a successful brand is simply realizing that just because something isn’t broken doesn’t mean it’s working. In the last year alone, we’ve seen notable brands take inventory of their brand presence and come to the ultimate realization that their current identity is no longer aligned with their future state. Let’s look at three notable examples:

  1. Dunkin Donuts ditched the donuts and debuted a short name – Dunkin – along with a modernized look and feel to test stores around the country earlier this year. The company is investing $100 millionto update their stores and “better meet the evolving tastes” of their customers, which will include new equipment and dedicated drive-through lanes so people who order drinks on their phones (hello, Starbucks!) can pick them up easily. They realized the market demanded more than coffee and donuts to stay competitive, and they’re putting their money where their mouth is.
  2. Unlike Dunkin’, Slack kept their name but instead chose to revamp their original (dare I say iconic?)logo. This move caused an onset of conversation around the decision to ditch the beloved hashtag in favor of a simpler visual identity. Why? They felt it was time to evolve. Beyond the unexpected logo swap, Slack’s rebrand came in advance of a direct public offering expected later this year.
  3. Earlier this year, WeWork announced their rebrand, informing the market that they will now be known as We Company. This strategy was likely designed for both investors and customers in order to broaden their aspirations from places to people. The announcement also came with a sweet perk – to the tune of $2 billion in investment from SoftBank Group.

Taking inventory of your current brand and determining whether it aligns with your future growth is no easy feat. In part two of this post, we’ll review the main drivers that help indicate when a logo refresh is needed, a repositioning workshop will do, or when a full rebrand makes the most sense.

We’ll walk through logical next steps, including how to get it done. Using your brand as a springboard to add colorful depth to your offerings can easily change the conversation and help your sales team create meaningful relationships to not just power the sales cycle but build the funnel at the same time.


The HIMSS Networking Advice I Wish I Would Have Had Two Decades Ago

The HIMSS Networking Advice I Wish I Would Have Had Two Decades Ago

With HIMSS19 right around the corner, my team and I are excited about networking with current and prospective clients, reconnecting with old friends and colleagues, and facilitating meetings with the best healthcare and health IT media and analysts in the business.

Even though HIMSS is a few days long, sometimes it seems like there aren’t enough hours in each day to accomplish everything you need and want to get done. With about 20 HIMSS annual meetings under my belt, I’ve learned a few networking strategies along the way to get the most marketing ROI possible from the time we all invest.

Whether you’re taking part in HIMSS19 as a vendor/exhibitor or individual attendee, here are some tips to make the most of your HIMSS networking opportunities:

Face time

Even if you’re tired after a long day of meetings, be sure to take advantage of the many face-to-face networking events at HIMSS. Meeting with other health IT execs in a more informal setting is a great way to make personal connections—which in turn can become strong business relationships.

Pro tip: Find common ground and talk about something interesting or fun related to the show.

Pitch perfect

Whether you’re meeting contacts on the exhibit hall floor, in your company’s booth, or at a networking event, remember that there’s a fine line between promoting yourself and being overly self-promotional.

One way to talk about your organization is to come prepared with a well-honed elevator pitch. This is a two- to three-sentence description of your company that’s simple, easy to understand, and memorable. Don’t get bogged down in jargon and technical specs. Explain your product or service in laymen’s terms.

At our agency, every elevator pitch must pass the “Connie’s mother’s test.” In other words, if you explained your story to your friend’s mother or neighbor would they understand it? If not, you probably need to modify it.

If you’re an executive who’s meeting with media and analysts, that’s good advice for those situations, too. Talk to them just as you would anyone else you meet at the show. Be friendly, be yourself, and don’t be overly self-promotional. You want to position yourself as an industry thought leader, which means that sometimes the conversation will turn toward wider industry trends rather than specific solutions.

Pro tip: If you serve multiple client bases that use your products and services in different ways, come armed with an elevator pitch for each. They need not be completely different, but should speak to the pain points of the person you’re talking to.

The social network

Although you shouldn’t ignore social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram, you’ll likely get the most exposure by engaging with other attendees on Twitter. If you want to establish yourself as a thought leader, I suggest living tweeting from the show. A simple comment on what you learned about a session, or something interesting you saw or heard on the show floor makes for good fodder.

If you want to tweet but you’re on a tight schedule, one tactic is to retweet influencers such as the HIMSS Social Media Ambassadors and trade media with a heavy presence at the show. Also consider engaging with anyone who is effectively using the conference hashtag #HIMSS19, as well as any of the other official HIMSS19 hashtags such as #Aim2Innovate, #ChampionsOfHealth, #Connect2Health, #EmpowerHIT, #Engage4Health, #HITworks, #PopHealthIT and #WomenInHIT. (When you look at the conference hashtag feeds, be sure the list is sorted by “top” rather than “most recent” to filter out some of the noise.)

You should always be authentic, and it’s great to choose tweets that resonate with your own brand. But it’s okay to retweet something interesting or funny even if it isn’t 100 percent “on message.” In fact, many attendees scroll right by posts from vendors that only tweet their sales pitch and booth number. Of course, you should post links to your own blog posts, company announcements, events and promotions. But it’s always better to join a conversation rather than trying to dominate it.

You may want to also consider taking a team approach to your conference tweets. Platforms such as TweetDeck make it easy to post from multiple accounts at once, including your personal account and those of your team members as well as your official company account.  This is a great time to follow new influencers and to engage with them to get likes, retweets and (hopefully) new followers.

Pro tip: If you have a few extra moments, you can personalize a retweet by choosing “quote tweet” and adding a brief comment to make it stand out even more.

Go beyond the big show

Trade shows are a fantastic opportunity to connect with potential clients and business partners as well as analysts and the media, but if you fail to follow up, you’ve missed a key opportunity.

Too often, attendees collect business cards, only to toss them in a drawer once they get home. You can use an app that turns cell phone snaps of business cards into text files or make photocopies of them. Send those to your marketing team so they can add them into your prospect list, and don’t forget to connect on LinkedIn.

Pro tip: Write some details about the person you met on the back of their business cards as soon as you can, so you have context when you follow up.

Remember to have fun

Any large conference can be busy and overwhelming. Planning ahead will help, whether it’s deciding which network events to attend, having the official conference social hashtags at your fingertips, or making plans to meet long-distance contacts for a quick cup of coffee.

I’m looking forward to the show and hope to see many familiar and new faces in Orlando! Here’s to a great HIMSS!