Integrated business branding is more about the whole, than a particular part. By definition, branding is a holistic process that is used to build and expand a powerful business-to-business brand. Trying to do this without a blueprint is like taking a train in Washington, DC without first surveying the lines and knowing where to connect. I tried this once and the results were not pretty!

It’s a weighty assignment to try and cover all of the internal and external communications that are required to develop a winning point of brand sale. Here are four simple steps that you can use to move your brand planning from the starting line to the finish.

Step #1: Research your customers and prospects

I can hear the moans already! Few people really like research, but let me try and spin this a different way. Research isn’t about complex data, rather it’s about finding out what your customers and prospects truly need and want. Think of it as a Saturday outing with family. There is a lot to see and even more to learn about your customers and prospects, and the best way to find out what they want is to simply ask them. By the way, while you are talking with them make sure you find out the following points:

  • What is their process of purchasing a product/service like yours?
  • What is their criteria for making this purchase?
  • What are the deep-seated concerns and barriers that might hold up their purchase?
  • What other products have they been looking at and what do they like and not like about them?

Step #2: Research your management and employee team

Depending on how large your organization is you might want to use both executive interviews and employee surveys. But be sure to use both methods with an employee sample to make sure you are truly connecting with them. They usually have keen insights into the products they support.

Step #3: Develop a gap analysis between your company and customers

Almost always there are misperceptions between what a company thinks its customers and prospects want and what customers say they want. Identifying these gaps will truly help you re-think your brand strategy and put your branding on the road to health.

Step #4: Develop a new branding approach and program

The last step is to develop a branding program that addresses the true needs of your customers and prospects. This should be a customer-centric branding program that focuses on their needs, interests and wants. Make promises and keep them in everything you say and do to work toward becoming their sole brand source.

This is a curious situation. On the one hand, customers are driven by their needs and if you meet them they will stay with their brand for a very long time. On the other hand, companies are driven by their sales and profits so they sometimes miss the importance of placing their customer’s interests and needs ahead of their own. The reality is, customers decide company’s fates. Why not get on their side?