Improve Your Sales and Marketing Strategy Through Effective Brand Guidelines
by: Andrew Friedenthal | originally published by Software Advice™, a Gartner company, on November 8, 2017
Have you ever seen a commercial for a sale, only to find out when you get to the store that the terms of the sale are different than advertised? The frustration that you feel is a direct result of a company with a misaligned sales and marketing strategy.
For companies that rely on branding to help sell their goods or services, this problem can cut even deeper. It’s unthinkable to imagine an Apple Store salesperson who isn’t up-to-date on the company’s newest products. That’s because Apple is extremely diligent about maintaining brand consistency.
Inconsistency arises from a lack of communication between marketing and sales departments. This problem exists at companies of all sizes, but can be especially damaging for small-to-midsize businesses (SMBs) that rely on interdepartmental cooperation to survive.
Fortunately for them, brand guidelines are one of the cheapest, easiest, most direct and effective ways to make sure that your marketing and sales teams are on the same page. These guidelines exist as shareable documents, accessible to the entire company, that explain the vision, story and values of a company’s brand.
We talked to a variety of marketing, sales and branding experts to learn how they create and use brand guidelines. We looked at how these teams can collaborate in order to create a more effective sales and marketing strategy.
Here’s what both teams can do:
Marketers Should Be Clear and Consistent
Brand guidelines begin with the marketing team and the messages that they create. As Gavin Finn, CEO and president of interactive marketing company Kaon Interactiveexplains, “When marketers create value messaging, the customer’s expectation is framed by those messages. A great brand is built when the customers consistently experience what the company promised in their messaging. That’s known as brand alignment.”
Marketers need to create clear, consistent messages that can be easily understood by both their customers and the salespeople who will be directly interacting with those customers.
Victor Ong, director of marketing at Premio, recommends your brand guidelines provide a set of rules that “basically outlines the brand’s goals and what the company’s philosophy stands for.” He says that these guidelines should identify the following details:
- They should communicate the proper spelling and use of the brand’s names.
- What type of images should be associated with the brand and the company’s products/services.
- Identify preferred marketing tactics that are encouraged versus those tactics that are forbidden.
It’s not enough for these guidelines and rules to exist, though. They also need to be easily accessible by stakeholders across the company, especially the sales team.
Cristian Renella, vice president of marketing and co-founder of MelhorEmprestimo, recommends sharing your guidelines via Google Docs, and keeping them constantly up-to-date. Everybody with access can suggest changes, which are ultimately authorized (or not) by sales and marketing managers. Constant iteration and improvement leads to greater brand success.
Just providing access to these guidelines may not be enough, though. Nick Leffler, owner of digital marketing company Exprance, says that, “There’s a bit of internal marketing required to make sure that branding guidelines are known to everyone and that they’re easy to access and understand.”
Your marketing team’s job doesn’t end once they create brand guidelines. They need to talk to the sales team and convince them that the brand guidelines are simple, useful and beneficial to the entire company.
Salespeople Should Pay Attention to Marketers
Once they are provided with access to the marketing teams’ brand guidelines, the sales team needs to commit to actually using those guidelines. As Cindy Donaldson, CEO of Red Barn Consulting, suggests, “The team needs to drink the proverbial Kool-Aid of the messaging.”
A salesperson who’s a good fit for your company will believe in your company’s core values. As Donaldson explains, you may need to focus on hiring “sales managers and sales teams that believe in the higher message and value of the company.”
When a sales team buys into the company’s values, visions and strategic goals they will develop a sales culture that links up with the brand guidelines and focuses on the positive aspect of the brand.
President of Global & Sustainable Products/Consulting Ernesto Mosquera explains, “The sales team has to concentrate on the unique selling points of their products and convince their customers about the products’ advantages. The goal is to keep the focus on their superior products and not focusing on the actions of others (the competitors who would offer lower prices but with less functionality) so as to foster a positive image and brand reputation.”
In order to make sure that the sales team focuses on these brand benefits, be prepared to monitor their work.
Bret Bonnet, co-owner and founder of Quality Logo Products explains that his company will, “record a random assortment of phone calls and review them later with each sales rep. We go over what was outstanding, average or what needs to be improved during each call. Having all of our reps go through this process gives them a chance to continually improve upon their understanding of our brand voice.”
Sales managers should be regularly reviewing customer calls (as well as emails), but it’s also worthwhile to have them reviewed by marketing managers. This way, the marketing team can have ongoing input into how their branding messages are being relayed by the sales team.
Both Teams Should Cooperate More
Although both teams can take actions individually to help improve your company’s sales and marketing strategy, they also need work together on creating, maintaining and implementing brand guidelines. Both departments can and should be working towards the same goal with constant inter-team exchanges and clear communication.
One way to foster interdepartmental teamwork is through creating a shared document which both teams can contribute to. Working together on creating and/or fleshing out brand guidelines will give both teams a stake in the ways in which they are distributed and utilized.
Tracy Julien, vice president of marketing at GuidedChoice, explains that, “This will help to unify and strengthen the bond between the teams. It also is a great way to get different perspectives, as you sometimes will find unique insight from co-workers who are not in creative roles.”
SalesCollider founder J. Ryan Williams describes another way for these two teams to work together on this project, particularly as a company grows in size:
“Initially small teams might allow sales reps to test many different kinds of messages, but once the company grows up and brand becomes more important, the sales development leader needs to work closely with marketing to ensure that messaging is consistent across all campaigns, not just outbound sales.”
The ultimate goal is communication and consistency. Marketers can’t expect salespeople to be energized by brand guidelines they’ve had no say in creating. Similarly, salespeople can’t expect marketers to create guidelines that reflect the sales teams’ concerns if nobody from that team is willing to help the marketers shape those guidelines.
Brand guidelines can help businesses execute a stronger sales and marketing strategy so long as they are a co-creation of both teams, a situation where everybody has a stake and is working towards the same company-wide goal.
Where to Start
Now that you’re thinking about how brand guidelines can help you improve your company, you may want to check out how various types of software can aid in your strategizing.