For as long as there have been dedicated sales and marketing teams, companies have struggled to ensure that both sides of the house represent their brand in the same fashion. It can become a daunting challenge over time as the team scales, the customers evolve, and the product develops.
Matt Heinz, President and Founder of Heinz Marketing, brings 20 years of marketing, business development, and sales experience from a variety of organizations and industries.
He is an absolute legend in the world of marketing and I was fortunate enough to pick his brain regarding how sales and marketing teams can achieve brand parity.
“When your customers and prospects enjoy a single, integrated experience, that’s brand parity. It’s sales, marketing, customer success, account management, and even accounting operating delivering a single, integrated approach that includes everything from language, tone, design, etc.”
I would define brand parity as the consistency of tone, language, messaging, and design throughout any external communication or experience from an organization — everything from customer facing teams, social media captions, and marketing content. That led me to my next question:
Here’s what Matt had to say.
“The more your customers see differences in how your departments interact with them, the more friction and confusion you’re creating in their mind. Unfortunately, that will too often lead to negative brand perceptions and an openness to explore alternative relationships.
Conversely, consistent brand parity across departments can accelerate and solidify long-term relationships. It may feel like a small thing, but your customer’s day-to-day experience has a huge impact on lifetime value.”
Brand parity is an essential component to building the image of how external people view your organization from the outside-in. Think of companies such as Apple and Pepsi...no matter what you see or hear from them, it all feels connected.
I believe that every organization needs to have some sort of branding or style guide — this is one of the most valuable pieces of content a company can have internally. It serves as the framework that guides and maintains a company’s brand image throughout every channel of communication.
For sales and marketing departments, everything they do on a day-to-day basis needs to be built upon this framework. However, I’ve seen from experience how easy it is for language and messaging to veer off into multiple directions. The results of this can be detrimental, so much so that 64% of customers have avoided brands after having a bad experience.
The lack of brand parity typically comes from an oversimplification of what it takes to really create brand alignment across an organization. Once your marketing (or leadership) team has determined what they believe the “brand” should be, it needs to be stress tested in the market with your prospects and customers.
Ask questions like: “Does this resonate with our defined ICP?” “Would our customers use the same adjectives and verbs?” “Does this speak to their needs / desires?”
If the answer to these are yes, then get started on a brand guide and use it to audit the in-product experience. It won’t do any good to use one particular word, phrase, or value proposition on your website, but have it be something else in your product.
Once this is completed, move on to your sales process. You need to ensure that the sales organization is using the brand relevant terms in every stage of the funnel, and not just when they are reading off of a piece of marketing collateral.
In many organizations there is a disparity between sales and marketing specifically, because in order to get to a place where you can stress test a proposed “brand”, you are already in the act of selling your product. The wheels are already in motion. So when you land on a brand guide, you need to invest the time to re-educate the sales team and potentially /re-write some of the sales motions.
This change requires more enablement and time than the casual team Slack message “Hey team, here is the new brand guide, go crazy”. Marketing needs to take a hands on approach with the education process, by listening to calls, joining meetings, and guiding sales leadership on where improvements or changes should be made.
Use the collateral your marketing team has made for you. This may come as a shock for those of you who are not in sales, but every sales person has a piece or two of customizable collateral that they have been iterating on for years without any oversight from marketing. Nothing is worse than giving a presentation to a prospect only for them to call you out when your logo isn’t up to date. I personally have fallen for this one.
Now, if you don’t like what marketing has provided, work with them to change or improve it. It’s unlikely you’re the only person on the customer facing team who feels this way, so bring your ideas to the table. Never take it upon yourself to create your own “version”. When you do this, you’ll find that your talk track and value propositions will start to deviate from the rest of your team.
New SDRs are prone to deviating from brand language and messaging — it’s part of the game. They’re new after-all! Acutely listen to their calls and ensure they are describing and pitching your product in a way that reflects the same messaging a prospect sees when they land on your website.
When it takes an average 8 cold call attempts to reach a prospect (TeleNet and Ovation Sales Group), it’s critical that SDRs can correctly describe your product when they do get prospects on the phone. By aligning messaging and staying on brand, your SDR efforts are additive to your marketing efforts, building on each other to achieve prospect awareness.
Here are some other ways sales organizations can help their team stay on brand.
Aside from the onboarding deck, every sales organization should have a deck for branding and positioning. When building out email sequences or follow-up campaigns, reps need a centralized asset they can reference for all things brand-oriented.
A style guide is another must. Similar to the brand book, the style guide covers all the grammatical terminology for talking about the product or features. Something as simple as inconsistent capitalization can lead to a number of problems, internally and externally.
Feedback from an SDR can be just as valuable as feedback from the Director. Having a bottom-up feedback loop in place will refine your sales process by capturing the details everyone is hearing from prospects. Also, make sure your team has a marketing liaison or a go-to person for asking questions to eliminate uncertainty.
Here’s what Matt had to say about this.
Ensure that brand alignment is a priority from the top of the organization down. The CEO and department leaders must be communicating and reinforcing the “why” on a regular basis.
It’s often not enough to ensure everyone knows about adjustments to your brand (even though this step alone doesn’t get done often enough). Do revenue-focused and customer-facing teams know how to interpret those changes into their customer communication plans? Are you giving them examples or talk tracks or other evidence?
Find ways to make your brand come to life through multimedia formats. Using channels such as video, interactive channels, virtual experiences, discussion groups, and LinkedIn Live sessions, the more senses you engage with your customers and the more you impact brand consistency.
For companies under 100 employees, focusing on brand parity may not be a high priority. However, as you scale and if you have high growth ambitions, this will certainly be an area you’ll want to have a systematic approach for.
Like Matt stated above, the more disparities your clientele sees from your team and brand, the less they will trust you.
Inconsistent brand messaging can erase the efforts your sales and marketing teams have made to create brand awareness and loyalty. In a world where lead acquisition is more challenging by the day, don’t sabotage yourself by slipping on brand parity.