Sandra Sellani, formerly vice president of marketing for Sperry Van Ness International, a commercial real estate brokerage firm, is the author of What's Your BQ? and an expert on marketing and branding.
REPLACEMENT CONTRACTOR: How would a company integrate branding into its marketing strategy?
SANDRA SELLANI: Does your marketing message communicate what differentiates you from the rest? Are you making good on promises to customers? Branding is simply a promise. Good branding is a promise fulfilled. If you follow up on that promise, you're building a brand. So branding is communicated through your marketing, but it's demonstrated through your actions.
RC: Most home improvement contractors spend their marketing dollars on lead generation rather than branding. Is that smart?
SS: All marketing is ultimately designed to generate leads, so by that definition, yes, it's smart. But there are ways to generate leads and still promote the brand.
RC: Where does brand fit in when consumers tend to buy based on price first?
SS: When people buy on price, it's because they see no difference from one product to another or one company to another. Brand is the opposite of commodity. It's differentiation. And in an industry that's sometimes viewed negatively, brand is even more important. People buy brands because there's a trust factor that's not there with generic products. If you can't find a differentiator in your business, your customers and prospects won't, either. Everyone can have a differentiator, they just have to take the time to identify it and leverage it.
RC: How do you manage people for brand?
SS: The most important thing is to help them understand what the brand is, its importance to the bottom line, and how they play a role. It's not about logos and colors, it's about having a point of differentiation that's communicated in every interaction with the client and prospect before, during, and after the sale.
RC: How do you know you're actually establishing brand?
SS: Since brand exists only in the mind of the consumer, you need to ask customers their opinion to ensure that they perceive your brand as you intended. It pays to ask. People want to know that they've been heard. But there's another bonus. Monitoring customer satisfaction can bring in new business and help you retain the customers you have. A Harvard Business Review study, for instance, showed that, a year after being surveyed on the phone, the customers of one insurance company were 300% more likely to open new accounts and more than 50% less likely to switch to a competitor.