Move up the food chain. Be important to your customers.

by Tony Fannin, President, BE Branded

This particular entry is mostly aimed at my industry, branding and marketing. So, in a round about way, I’ll be advising myself. But, the ideas I’m going to discuss can be applied to almost all business and all brands.

It used to be that marketing companies get business because of superior chemistry based on an agency’s deep understanding of the prospect’s industry. Now days, it’s based on price. It used to be most clients want the best. Now they want the best they can afford or, put another way, good is good enough. Many businesses are settling for good and not demanding “the best” since they aren’t willing to pay for it. In reality, the same goes for many consumers. They are willing to settle for good enough. Most of these decisions are driven by current economic conditions.

In marketing, tactics are commodity. Many businesses can produce their own brochures and business cards. Too many marketing agencies have depended on design and tactics as their main drivers of revenue. Now many of them face much lower fees or have gone out of business all together. What they have forgotten to do was to stay important to their clients. Strategy and great ideas are what is at a premium and always have been. It is these that helps clients make money. These are investments, not costs. I had a discussion with a friend in a different business, but related to mine. He told me he realized that what he provides is commodity and just by being a penny more than a competitor, he could lose a large job. It was just that easy to lose. The truth that struck him was he needed to be higher in the food chain. That meant he needed to offer something of more value. Something that was more intangible and not so “stuff” driven (read tactics). The higher up on the food chain he got, the more important his company was to his customers.

In our industry, we become more important by being proactive on the strategic issues and providing creative ways of communicating key messages. It’s not just about brochures, logos, social media, or web sites. All of that is tactical and doesn’t really make us important to our clients. Brilliant ideas to help drive brands and sales are valuable. Insightful, big picture strategies that help carve out greater market positions make us more important to our clients. Brands must have the same viewpoint when it comes to interacting with their customers.

They must move up the food chain of just providing something functional at a cheap price (they can always find it cheaper somewhere else and when good is good enough, it’s even easier). Businesses need to find a way to make their brand important in the lives of their customers. If you choose to fight the price war, you’ll find yourself in the commodity bin of consumer’s minds and that’s a very difficult position to get out of. And when the economy turns around, people will again be looking for brands that have intrinsic meaning and value (and that’s not the companies who commoditized themselves during a price war). The smarter move is to provide something of greater value, beyond the “stuff”, today… and tomorrow. Become important to them and move up their food chain.


About Be Branded

Tony Fannin is of President of BE Branded, an integrated marketing firm who helps clients BE Somebody to their customers. If you aren't somebody, then you are commodity.

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