Let’s talk about brand building and short-termism (ie. cold calling)

someone hanging on the phone. Waiting. Not speaking to anyone.
someone hanging on the phone. Waiting. Not speaking to anyone.

Brand-building ads boost short-term sales, and now you can prove it” is the headline of the latest Mark Ritson article in Marketing Week. And please read the article to see the evidence provided that backs up this post.

It’s a quite brilliant article about how sales activation isn’t as effective as brand building in the long term (and short term, it would seem).

In terms of business development, where does this lie?

Well, brand building is about making sure your prospects are getting to know your brand and over time you will get invited to more pitches. You’ll be first on the prospect’s mind – “I want to invite these guys to pitch”.

On the other hand, we have sales activation: cold-calling in business development. For many years, Icebreaker was a pureplay cold-calling new business agency. But we learned over time that the problem with cold calling is that you never introduce a client and get them to be the first agency on their pitch list. Never.

Instead, you are the challenger brand. The last on the pitch list. And therein lies the problem.

If you haven’t been brand building and they don’t know who you are, then your chances of winning that brief are pretty slim. If you have been brand building, then you are straight on the list because your company is someone they already like the look of and fancy working with. Make sense now?

What did Icebreaker do?

At Icebreaker, we had to dramatically change our approach to business development to make sure your prospects become aware of you through time and then your chances of succeeding in a pitch are far higher.

In a nutshell, it is crucial to establish a strong brand to increase the success and longevity of your company. Short-termism/cold-calling can provide quick results, but it is not a sustainable approach to attracting customers and building a loyal customer/fan base. Building your brand, on the other hand, can have long-lasting benefits and provide a foundation for future growth.

Also, cold-calling can be time-consuming, and the results are often disappointing, with low conversion rates and high telemarketer turnover (do you ever get the telemarketer that pitches to you, actually working on your account? Didn’t think so). Over the years we noted that the daily conversation rate had dropped from around 12 to 15 a day down to 3 to 5 now. That’s not speaking to enough people. And you’re still the challenger brand on the pitch list anyway if you’re lucky enough to get to that stage!

The Benefits of Building Your Brand

Building your brand is a far more sustainable and effective way to attract customers and make sure you’re considered for the pitch lists you want to be on. When you build your brand, you create a perception of your company that can have a lasting impact on prospects. Some benefits of building your brand include:

  1. Increased Recognition: A strong brand increases recognition and can make your company more memorable to potential clients.
  2. Improved Reputation: Building your brand helps to establish a positive reputation for your company, making it more appealing to clients.
  3. Increased Loyalty: Building your brand can increase client loyalty, as customers are more likely to continue doing business with companies they know and trust.
  4. Increased Credibility: A strong brand can increase credibility and help to build trust with potential clients.
  5. Improved Market Position: Building your brand can help to improve your market position and make your company more competitive.

And to sum this up we’ll let Mark Ritson do the talking:

Marketers should continue to invest in short-term sales activation because it shifts more units, usually with splendid efficiency and ROI. For those reasons, the short of it will always have a place in every marketer’s armoury. But the danger of overinvesting or only investing in short-term tactical activation now becomes all the more apparent, given the general inability of this kind of advertising investment to build brand for future sales. It leaves the brand at risk of ever-decreasing circles of demand while mopping up the current in-market potential.

In contrast, the case for brand building is now strengthened further. Partly because the harmonious growth of any brand depends on the right balance of long and short investments. Partly because in most contexts the optimal budget allocation usually favours more spend on brand building than short-term activation. But also because long-term ads can also have a significant short-term impact too.

It’s a stunning discovery because it should reverse the perception of long-term brand building, which has too often been seen as a frivolous, underperforming indulgence offering up zero short-term impact and questionable longer-term returns. Nothing – it turns out – could have been further from the truth. Long-term brand building is the ultimate strategic BOGOF, ensuring shorter-term impact as well as longer-term benefits.

Mark Ritson, www.marketingweek.com/ritson-brand-building-boost-short-term-sales/

So, by all means, spend some budget on cold calling for your business. But brand building is a far better investment and we know how to help you with that.

Pioneering business development, not cold calling to get you bottom of a pitch list.