Brand building takes time and dedication. Unwavering fidelity to a consistent message that conveys a valuable differentiator will pay you large dividends and turn your brand into the most valuable asset you own.From the buyer’s perspective, the brand is an insurance policy. A brand on the side of a potato chip bag tells the buyer exactly what those potato chips are going to taste like – every time. But in B2B sales, buyers often don’t know what they need, what’s available, or how it works. So a solid B2B brand communicates this message, You can count on us to help you figure out exactly what you need, provide a product that will fulfill or exceed that need, and show you how to use it. A reputable B2B brand, from the buyer’s perspective, insures the buyer against risk before and after buying.From the B2B seller’s perspective, the basic purpose of a brand is to educate the potential buyer and reduce the impact of price on the purchasing decision. Research shows that people will pay more for products and services if they come from a well-known company. Consider the following.The 4 benefits of well-branded B2B companiesClients give well-branded companies greater leeway and more opportunities than their lesser-known peers. Clients let these firms have:1. Access: Anyone who’s ever tried to see a C-suite executive knows half the challenge is simply getting in the door. Executives have rules that their staffs use to filter vendors, such as Have I ever heard of this company?2. Permission to take on Bigger Projects: Clients place more trust in well-branded firms and let them extend themselves beyond their own stated capabilities and track record. That extra amount of trust gives branded companies permission to take on bigger projects than more experienced competitors.
3. Confidence in Potential: Often companies will invest in emerging technologies and services simply because they come from a company with the potential to set a standard.4. The Chance to Recover: Clients want to pay for tried and true experience. The difference between a lesser-known company that fails and a well-branded company that fails is that the well-branded company will have the opportunity to restore confidence.Basic brand buildingBrand building is a science and it’s not complex. It does require strict adherence to simple guidelines and – most of all – diligent monitoring and follow through. Brand building is basically laying a smart foundation and paying attention to detail. Here are the eight steps.1. Start with a quality productA quality product/service that delivers superior performance is the foundation of a strong brand. High quality is a prerequisite to entry, but not enough to set your brand apart from the competition. Be sure every product and service you offer is the best possible.2. Identify your brand’s differentiatorOnce you’re sure you have a high quality product, decide on the singular distinction for your product that is most important to your target market. Put a lot of thought into choosing this differentiator because you want everything you do to reinforce that singular distinction in the market. If your brand is not first in your category then consider creating a new category where your brand can be first.3. Create a brand nameAvoid anything that sounds generic or inauthentic. Generic words include national, American, U.S., advanced, precision, technical, reliable, general, standard, etc. Within every industry, there are one or two other generic words that seem to creep into company names and brands. These are words that companies think resonate with prospects, but usually don’t. For example, frozen foods brands often include some derivative of the words fresh and flavor, in an effort to combat the notion that frozen foods are neither fresh nor flavorful. The problem is that these words are used so often they’ve lost their meaning.In addition, avoid words that are inauthentic. For example, the word fresh when applied to frozen foods is obviously not authentic.The brand name doesn’t have to include the company name. In fact, you want the brand to be the focus, not the company. Consider an abbreviation, an acronym, your differentiator, the founder’s name, an alternative spelling, etc.Finally, before you start using your new name and start investing in signs and printed materials, be sure that the name is legally available wherever you will be doing business in the next 10 years.4. Create a logo and taglineNow that you have a high quality product with a compelling differentiator and a great brand name, come up with a memorable logo and catchy tagline. Your brand logo and tagline need to make an immediate and lasting impression. Because of this, brevity and simplicity are important.When defining your message, try to own a single word or short phrase. You want that word or phrase to be firmly etched in the mind of the target market – you want the market to associate that word or phrase with your brand.The logo should be simple and include the brand name in a legible typeface. For maximum visual impact, the basic logo shape should be rectangular – about 2-1/4 units wide to one unit high. Be sure that your signature color is very different from your closest competitors’ colors.Other logo considerations include:
• Does it tie into your brand?
• Is it distinctive?
• Will it morph easily for brand extensions?
• Does it reproduce well in black and white?
• Does it reproduce well in scanned documents?
• Is it scalable?
• Will it imprint or embroider well on merchandise?Think about creating a brand style sheet that spells out exactly where, when, and how the logo and tagline should be used.5. Protect your logo and taglineAs long as no one else is using a logo and/or tagline identical or very similar to yours, you can consider your logo and tagline copyrighted as soon as you finalize them. Copyright law, which covers text and graphics among other things, conveys ownership from the moment the materials are fixed in tangible form.While this is true, smart companies have their logos and taglines trademarked – using the ï symbol during the trademarking process and the ï symbol once it’s approved. This prevents other companies from using your logo and/or tagline and trademarking them as their own.This is how the law works, if you have not officially trademarked your logo and/or tagline, you own it. If others try to use it, you can legally stop them from doing so UNLESS, they apply for trademark protection. This means if you don’t trademark your logo and/or tagline, someone else can and YOU will have to stop using it.You can do a logo and tagline search at The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office: http://www.USPTO.gov. However, this is an area where you definitely need legal services.6. Develop a consistent messageDevelop a consistent message by solidifying:
• Your target audience
• What your brand stands for
• Your differentiator
• Your logo and tagline
• Your business objectivesBrand attributes in your message need to be authentic and verifiable. Your brand should readily tap into your target market’s needs and evoke a gut-level response.Once you know what you want to convey, create a messaging guide and distribute it to all employees.7. Market the brandAchieving and building on name recognition is the key to brand success. Get your brand message out there consistently and continuously through PR, advertising, and networking. Take advantage of every positive opportunity and be careful not to associate the brand with anything potentially negative.Your branding effort must permeate your entire organization and communicate through all marketing channels with one voice, in the same tone, and in the same style. In other words, your brand image must be consistent and constant across all channels of communication, including:• Print, online, and broadcast advertising
• Print, online, and broadcast media
• Internal publications
• Indoor and outdoor signage
• Web site and Web marketing
• Print collateral
• Point of purchase
• Phone system
• Delivery vehicles
• Trade shows
• Promotional items
• Employee, industry, shareholder, community, and government relations
• Sponsorships8. Live the messageWhatever your brand image and differentiator, you have made promises to your market that you must deliver on. Remember, your brand is nothing more or less than these promises. If you’ve taken time to complete the first step – ensuring that all of your products and services are of the highest quality – delivering on your brand promises shouldn’t be an issue. Take an extra step and consider offering an unconditional guarantee on either your entire differentiator or one aspect.B2B brand building is especially important to sales. Clients get their first sense of the company in the sales call and proposal. This is why you need a proactive plan in place. By selling the brand, you create a self-perpetuating cycle. The brand will help make the sale and each sale will reinforce the brand – making it, truly, your most valuable asset.
There are a lot of details to consider when you are choosing a health care plan, whether it’s one offered through your employer or one you buy on your own. No matter what age you are, your health should be a primary concern, although young people often act as if they will live forever and sometimes postpone making health care decisions.Here is a list of common mistakes that people make all the time when choosing a health care plan. They are in no particular order, and all are important to consider, carefully and completely. If you are not conversant with all the terminology or are finding it difficult to make the decisions, you should ask for help from a neutral third-party such as family member or friend. Don’t ask a health insurance company unless you want to hear a sales pitch!Common mistakes
- You don’t check out your doctor, or any others – Although some healthcare plans require you to use a physician in their own network, other plans are more inviting. If you already have a physician, and are buying your own insurance, check with the doctor to see what plans he is a member of. If you do have to choose a new doctor, you should look into the health plan doctors’ credentials by contacting the AMA.- You forget “location, location, location” – The location of your doctor or clinic, and the travel time required, are other factors you should consider when considering health care plans. Find out where the doctor is located and also look into the regular and emergency hours of the facility.- You don’t consider specialists – If you already need specialist care, or think you may need to in the future, you need to know the health care plan’s procedures on using them. Some plans require you to contact a primary care physician, while others allow you to make specialist appointments directly.- You don’t consider your own specialist – You should definitely find out if your current specialist is in the health care plan you are considering. If not, perhaps your specialist can refer you to one who is.- You forget to check the policy on “pre-existing conditions” – Even though this should be a “no-brainer,” people forget to ask about the policies on pre-existing conditions. Coverage for pre-existing conditions varies widely among health plans. Some exclude them entirely, and will not even consider coverage, while others cover them fully. Many health care plans fall somewhere in the middle, offering coverage after a certain amount of time, or for a certain amount of time or expense. Rules promulgated by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act guarantees you coverage for your pre-existing conditions if you join a new group plan offered by your employer after being insured the previous year. Do your research to make sure you know what your policy covers.Less common oversights
- You don’t ask about physicals and health screenings – Again, it seems an obvious thing to ask, but if you appreciate getting regular physicals and health screenings you should ensure that they are covered. Most “managed care” plans do cover these types of procedures, usually on an annual basis, but there are some plans that do not cover them. If you have children, make sure to ask if “well baby” check-ups, physicals and immunizations are covered.- You forget about additional services – Everything, from prescription drug coverage to mental health care, is an important consideration. You need to consider which of the various additional services that you may need are, in fact, covered when you are comparing health care plans. Other examples of these additional services that may be important to you are drug and alcohol counseling and treatment, home health care, nursing home or extended care, hospices, experimental treatments, alternative and complementary medicine, chiropractic care and physical therapy.Bottom line considerations
- You don’t price things out correctly – Once you know what you want in your health care plan you need to compare costs, and you need to do it right, which means covering all the bases. You will need to know exactly what deductibles must be paid first before the health care plan coverage starts paying, and don’t forget to ask if the deductible needs to be met before certain services can be utilized. Find out about “out of network” charges if you anticipate having to go beyond your plan facilities or physicians. Finally, there are co-payment, cap amounts and total-care limits you need to know about. Some plans have lifetime limits, some have lifetime and annual limits, and others have mixed formulas for making this determination. Get all the facts.- You don’t check the exclusions – If you don’t read the exclusions list, you will not know what is not covered. You need to see if any condition you currently have, or that you expect to contract in the future, is included. This is an important bottom-line consideration since, if you don’t get this settled and dealt with up front, you will likely spend a great deal of money down the line to treat excluded conditions.It is a difficult thing to look at your health in a dispassionate, dollar-oriented way, but that’s life. As we age, more of our energy goes into thinking and planning against death and disability, but the subject need not be morbid or depressing. Do your best to get a health care plan that covers what your particular needs are, and remind yourself that you are worth the trouble – and the expense.