Step one: Recognizing the “Value Gap”
For business-to-business companies in general and technology companies in particular, effective branding involves a lot more than creating a persona based on traditional behavioral archetypes (i.e. hero versus outlaw). Sure, brand personality still matters, but you’re not selling laundry detergent or chewing gum; your product or service has a specific technology or process capability, as well as business value that may extend well beyond the sum of its functions.
The question is: Do your intended customers recognize and appreciate this value? More often than not, they don’t – at least not to the extent that you desire.
The fact is your brand value is perceived in two different ways:
- Perception 1 is internal–how you and your management team define your company and attempt to present it to the market.
- Perception 2 is external–the mish-mash of impressions that actually exist in the mind of the market, based on fragmented exposure in a chaotic competitive landscape–and nearly all of those impressions probably fall short of the brand image you’re trying to portray.
Unless your company is the rare exception, your prospective customers, sales channels, employees, vendors, partners, assorted analysts, industry watchers and bloggers will all perceive your company in a way that may be totally different than your management team does.
Therein lies the challenge: If you don’t assert control and effectively position yourself in the mind of the market, you will continue to be positioned by default. From a confusing mix of perceptions, the market will reduce your brand (and your value) to the lowest common denominator—into some generic category. In most cases, this position:
- Is tactical in nature
- Projects a “me too” role in a crowded market space
- Is focused on functions and features
- Subjects you to constant price competition
- Tends to be transaction-based
- Implies fleeting value to customers
- Translates into low company valuation
This perception gap (or “value gap”) has real consequences. It makes it harder for you to compete and grow, to sustain profitability, to attract talent, and to deliver the greatest return to shareholders. Your maximized position is the position you aspire to; it makes your greatest value clear to your market and separates you from your competition. In contrast to your default position, your maximized position should:
- Be strategic in nature
- Project a differentiated/unique market role
- Be vision/objective focused
- Command premium prices
- Tend to be relationship-based
- Imply enduring value to customers
- Translate into high company valuation
So, how do you overcome this challenge, moving from default market positioning to your ideal, maximized position—your desired destination?
Next Step: Discovery – Achieving Insight and Understanding — stay tuned for Part 2!
VP, Business Development