Here are five things you must do to build an enviable brand
When we provide a certain service, how often do we make this statement in frustration: “Why don’t we get the pricing we deserve?” I am sure this concern must have crossed your mind at some stage. I run a communications company, and I know that the inability to get the right price for the services rendered by us irks my team and me.
In fact, this is perhaps a concern for most other companies who are in the business-to-business space - especially those that are not major brands, or are not as well-known as their competitors. Should we, then, just accept it as poor branding or our karma or fight for our own future? The answer is a no-brainer - we must strive to improve our image and pricing.
So let me share what we have learnt the hard way.
Minimum acceptable price
Be clear what your minimum acceptable price is. Very often, we get greedy and give a fancy quotation for our project or engagement. Let’s say we quote two times the price for a project we know fully well can be done in 1.4 times the cost. It is then that we are head for trouble.
More often than not, the client beats us down to 1.1 times the quoted price, including taxes. So what have we effectively done? We have basically sent out a signal that we are desperate for business and can even go down on our final price by 50 per cent! We are saying there is no sanctity in the initial offer and that we will keep lowering our prices to get the contract.
Is this what a serious brand will do? All too often, senior management gets involved in the deal closer to the finalisation. Ensure that your initial pricing is not way off the mark.
Be prepared to walk away
Very often, we find ourselves saying yes to deals, even though they make no financial sense. At such times, remind yourself that it takes the same level of servicing for a project, irrespective whether you are handling a client on a retainer of ₹50,000 or ₹150,000. You need infrastructure, technology and a team to handle the business. We often don’t take into account these hidden costs and worry only about employee costs.
And what about the opportunity cost? When your resources are locked up in servicing a demanding, low-priced client, you are denying yourself the opportunity to work on a more lucrative assignment. Have the courage to say ‘no’ and yet, not close opportunities to do further business with the same client. Only, on your terms at a later date.
Build competencies within your system. Branding is all about standing for something, and that includes skill-sets. A public relations company that specialises in healthcare has a better chance of delivering a hospital pitch, and a company with experience in education has a better fit with a university.
Carefully work on your competencies and practices so that your team can speak confidently to prospects. Put your team in front of the client, so they can experience what the team brings. This strength will enable you to speak confidently when it comes to price negotiations.
Remember, all of these are about perceived value and the client will not haggle for a few thousand rupees when you are able to demonstrate what you bring to the table by way of experience.
Be a professional service provider
People often think of branding as something magical that transforms their image in the minds of prospective clients and customers. Sadly, it is not. It is just a summation of all the things we do as a professional service provider. It includes the way we answer the phone, the way our people dress, the way we address customer requirements, the manner in which we word the mails, and the professional manner in which our proposals are sent.
Once, a client gave me very good feedback. We had done some outstanding media relations work for this client and got him great media coverage. Yet, the docket in which we presented the coverage to the client was so dull and unattractive that it actually took away the entire impact of the hard work we had put in.
This is why you must present your achievements professionally.
Keep selling your brand
Somehow, all of us believe that once we are in a relationship, we are home and dry. This is hardly the case. No client is sold for life and it is important that we subtly keep reminding the client of the interesting work we do not only for him/her but for others as well.
Sometimes, we are shy of sharing the excellent work we do for other clients lest they turn around and ask us: “Why aren’t you doing the same for us?” In fact, we should take this as a challenge to do great work for all our clients. Very often, customers have a very limited view of our ability that is restricted by what they have experienced. If that is not adequate, we should endeavour to give the client the best of what we can provide as an agency, even if it means challenging our teams to superior performance.
Building a brand is not rocket science. It is clear strategy and relentless execution, day after day. It will not happen overnight, but work on it patiently and soon enough, others will look up to you as your brand becomes a role model.