Strategic Planning and Brand Strategy: Can you do one without the other?

Does your corporate brand influence and inform your strategic planning efforts? If your answer is NO then in my opinion, have a major opportunity in front of you. If you want to align your organization, create clear focus, and open up your team to a new platform that will generate innovative ideas, then take the time and effort to establish a corporate brand platform.

A corporate brand should align your entire organization around a common core purpose and set of values. To take Jim Collin’s lessons a step further it should also help you develop your organization BHAG and thus lead to a strategic plan around growth or change (Yes I really drank the ‘Good to Great’ and ‘Built to Last’ Kool Aid).

In every strategic planning engagement I undertake in my practice we always start with getting the leadership team to clearly define the company as they see it today being as specific as possible. We’ll outline # of employees, revenue, client mix, products & services, position in the market, competitors and so on. Then they are charged to define the ideal vision of the company in 5 or 10 years in very broad terms followed by those same measures we outlined in the today version of the company. Once we have defined a clear picture of the organization today and a clear ideal future I then ask “Now what is the core purpose of your organization; your North Star or guiding principal that informs everything to decide to do as an organization. I’m surprised at how often I either hear silence or several different answers from the team.

How can you define your strategy for growth or change without basing it on the organizations fundamental reason for existence. At that point, if its clear we don’t have an agreed upon corporate brand strategy, we back up a step and change our focus on defining a clear purpose, outlining the company's core values, their differentiators and brand promise. I do this “backwards” approach deliberately. The reason is that many business, not-for-profit and regional leaders do not see the many business and cultural benefits of a corporate brand and this helps to bring them into the right frame of mind. Most senior marketing execs get it but often the other leaders in the organization do not so we have to put it into a context they understand – strategic business terms. Just because you have a logo and tagline, doesn’t mean you have a brand.

Once you have that clear core purpose and values, its amazing how it can create a platform for better and more focused strategic planning. The mission (or core purpose) of Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International (JDRF) for example is to find a cure for diabetes and its complications through the support of research. Knowing this gives them a clear barometer for whether or not they should do or not do some major initiative. The question that Arnold Donald (former President & CEO of JDRF) used to always ask was “Does this get us closer to a cure?” It made it much easier to make strategic decisions with that simple question in mind. It also helped to inform the entire staff and board and keep everyone focused on the same over arching objective in everything that they did.

Also, if a clear core purpose is defined in a way that it outside of typical corporate speak, it opens minds up to more innovative ways to achieve that clear purpose. Do you think your employees are motivated and inspired by “creating shareholder value?” UPS shifted from delivery company to a global logistics company. Do you think they would have made that strategic shift if their mission was to be the best delivery company? The client centric “What can Brown do for you?” would have never been born.

So can you develop strategies without a solid brand platform? Sure but I think that is one of the differentiators between average and exceptional and inspired organizations.

I could go on also about the BHAG and infuse some thinking from Dan and Chip Heath who wrote “Made to Stick” but I’ll save that for another post.


Perfect Your Sales Pitch Workshop June 30th.

The highly focused workshop that re-energizes and re-aligns your sales pitch. Right before your eyes.

Despite recession, despite resistance, you CAN ignite sales again. IF you make re-imagining your sales pitch your personal Job One. Now more than ever, it needs to be perfect: fine-tuned, superbly strategic, and – dare we say it? – a little bit sexy. Our offer: we'll do that FOR you. Right before your eyes.

Commit to just one highly-focused “Perfect Your Sales Pitch" workshop. You’ll spend a morning with just five of your small-business-leader peers, and session leaders Mike Behr and Walt Jaschek, marketing gurus. Mike and Walt will double-team the white board to guide the group through energized reconstructions of elevator speeches that sell. We’ll focus on three key area of your pitch: the value you offer to your customers, differentiation from competitors, and creating urgency to advance the sales process. You will leave the room with a customized, re-engineered sales pitch, yours to propagate and prosper from.

The first workshop will be June 30th from 8:30 until noon, followed by lunch, where you’ll have the opportunity to network with your peers and practice your revised pitch. To make your reservation, contact Mike Behr at (314) 361-9804 x111. Workshop cost: $500 per person (limited to six people total).

P.S. Interested in a dedicated workshop just for you and your sales and marketing team? Contact Mike and we’ll schedule and plan a workshop around your specific needs. To find out more about Mike and Walt, visit the Behr Strategies website team page at : http://www.behrstrategies.com/team.php or find them on LinkedIn.


Finding a Hook: Uncovering Powerful Insights that Differentiate and Deepen Brand Connections

By guest blogger Sarah Dow

Anyone with responsibility in sales or marketing has extensive knowledge of customer wants and needs. Ultimately, are you leveraging that knowledge to connect with them better than your competitor? The deeper the connection, the more valuable they are to your brand, as a repeat buyer or advocate to others. Typically we develop a target profile, listing relevant facts and concluding why this type of customer buys our product or service. This is all great. However, whether your brand is new, young or mature, you can take further steps to uncover a compelling, leveragable insight that can dramatically deepen the connection with your target.

I love learning about niche industries, and this is one I had not given much thought to. Elevator interior companies fabricate and install anything from wood, steel, or glass into an OEM cab shell, made by Otis, Schindler or Kone to name a few. These custom materials are installed in new building cabs or remodeled ones, for a cost of roughly $15,000 to $100,000+ per elevator.

When I first began working with Travertine Elevator Interiors, it was clear the owners were already focused on good service. It would have been legitimate and easy to recommend a “good service” positioning and immediately begin to develop communications material. I asked to conduct one hour long phone interviews with several OEM customers (such as Otis or Schindler) who were already fans of Travertine. I heard a lot of great, passionate responses about the sales people, the responsive service, the high quality products, etc. But I needed a way to differentiate Travertine from the other companies who I was told also provided good service. I needed a hook to make a deeper connection.

During one interview I uncovered a key fact. Installing the elevator interiors was the very LAST item to be completed in a new or remodeled building. The building owners were essentially using them as freight elevators, literally hours or minutes before the scheduled "grand" (re)opening. So for many projects, sometimes requiring months or years in the sale process, Travertine's installation timeline was often the victim of typical construction delay after delay. This put Travertine and its' OEM customer in the risky position of holding up the building opening. Countless instances of great performance could be erased just one foot from the finish line.

Yet time and time again, Travertine delivered and never missed one of these make or break deadlines. This insight held all the tension, magic and emotion Travertine needed to distinguish itself among others. It beautifully answered the one question customers inherently ask when evaluating brands - - - "what's in it for me?" A Travertine Never Misses A Deadline positioning was also the kind of bold, raise the bar idea the owners longed for, and, it was relevant for every stage of the buying process, from initial estimate to schematic drawings to installation. In addition, it gave every member of the organization a role in fulfilling this promise, and a clear goal to live up to.

The tagline Travertine's agency developed was "Consider It Done", giving OEM customers the peace of mind that only comes with hiring Travertine.

Every brand communication implicitly has an insight, but the question is whether it’s has the power to deepen bonds with customers. It’s always a good time to uncover a powerful insight.

Sarah Dow is an indepenent marketing and brand strategist


Who packaged my cheese?

My wife recently purchased a great new brand of packaged, pre-sliced cheese. The brand name is Dofino and the parent company is Arla. It looks very upscale - a white waxed paper like packaging with nice design on it. It was hard to open though- no obvious "tear here" marking. And it is resealable, which you wouldn't know the first time you opened one. The resealable strip doesn't work very well so I found myself putting the entire package in a larger zip lock bag for storage after use. Another interesting point about the packaging, you can't see the cheese inside, just the name "Gouda" on the front with a picture of a a very tantalizing deli sandwich that obviously has a slice of that particular kind of cheese on it. So you can see I've pointed out a few criticism's with the packaging.

It makes me wonder if they just designed the packaging to look more upscale/prestige and didn't really think about how well the packaging functioned for the end consumer. My wife told me that she picked up a couple packages of this brand because they were half price. Ahhh - apparently the packaging isn't helping sales. Unless you are a cheese fanatic, you might have to see the cheese and not not recognize by name the difference between Havarti and Gouda.

I did go the the website by the way and after taking a few minutes to find the cheese we bought, see that the packaging looks like its been updated on the Havarti but not the Gouda. Arla, your cheese is very good by the way. I wonder what it cost you to repackage it all though, both in terms of hard cost and also in terms of new customers who tried it and won't buy again for the reasons I mentioned here.


Corprorate Social Responsiblity and Brand

Great post I discovered by Jennifer Rice, originally through the FutureLab blog. She does a great job of laying out some brand strategies as it relates to corporate social responsibility.

It suprises me how many small to mid size businesses really don't appreciate how powerful a brand can be for their company. It's a huge opportunity for those that decide to make the concerted effort to manage their brand. I see branding opportunities everywhere - not-for-profits, cities and regions, b2b companies, cause-related efforts and so on. Unfortunately in my experience, putting resources towards branding, except for those marketing savvy b2c companies, is often seen as a luxury as opposed to a fundamental function that drives long term business growth. An unfortunate mistake.


Arlan River: company to watch

Just wanted to brag a bit about one of the Behr Strategies clients, Arlan River. An exciting new exploration company based here in St. Louis and diggin' for gold (actually copper) in Utah. Keep and eye on these guys, mainly the principals Cris Cristea and Corey Tolle, as a major success story in the not so distant future.

Check out the new Arlan River site. PR efforts kicked in today so hopefully you'll be hearing much more about these guys.