How Branding, MarComm and CRM Relate

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The most important single distinction we must make in our target group for any brand is the one between prospects and customers. This is because these two groups play very different roles in our business building program.

There are two broad strategic activities involved in increasing our brands’ market share. We have to keep getting more revenues. And we have to avoid losing revenues we are already getting.

We will never grow our market share if we don’t keep in-creasing our revenues. We will also never grow our market share if we keep losing more revenues than we are getting.

Each of these two strategic activities involves two functions:

There are two broad ways to keep getting more revenues:

1. We have to convert more prospects into customers.

2. We have to get our existing customers to use more of our products or services.

And there are two broad ways to avoid losing revenues we are already getting:

3. We have to avoid disappointing customers’ experience of our products or services.

4. We have to avoid disappointing customers in all the other the experiences they might associate with our brand.

Of the four strategic functions, the first, that of converting more prospects into customers, is, by far, more difficult than the other three.

This is because this function involves overcoming two major barriers:

a) prospects have little or no interest in or any relation-ship with our brand;

b) prospects are already engaged in another activity that we will have to discontinue, typically that of using our competitor’s product or services.

This is the function that focuses on our prospects, the people who possess the money that is not yet being transmuted into our revenues, and are therefore the most important target toward increasing the market share of our brand.

Prospects have to made to notice our brand, they have to be made to get interested in our brand, they have to be made to desire our brand, and they have to be made to prefer our brand over its competitors, and ultimately, of course, they have to be made to purchase our brand, which is when their money becomes our revenues, and when prospects become our customers.

The remaining three strategic functions, that of increasing customers’ usage, and avoiding disappointing them either with our products/services or in any other way, are, relatively, significantly easier. This is because all three of them involve dealing with people who, as existing customers, are already in a relationship with us. As such, these three strategic functions involve a degree of receptivity toward us from the people we are addressing. Indeed, with today’s interactive media, it has become easier for us to know them individually by name, know where they live, how to reach them, and be familiar with their demographics of gender, age, education, lifestyle, and other habits; and their psycho-graphics of values, interests and other preferences.

Coming back to the first strategic function, that of converting prospects into customers, we have literally to transform their existing disinterest toward our brand into a relationship. This toughest business challenge involves, above all, the WHAT of branding, and the HOW of MarComm, advertising, sales promotions, merchandising, pricing, distribution, packaging and other marketing and communications media and activities.

Branding is the most important of these because it is the conceptual essence of the entire business building effort. Branding comprises the cluster of concepts and signals that have the challenge of overcoming the greatest barriers between us and the prospect – those of their disinterest and pre-existing preferences and habits. The disciplines and media of sales, advertising, sales promotions, distribution, pricing, merchandising and packaging, etc. then have to deliver this brand communications essence to the prospect so that it can break through the barriers of disinterest and prior practice.

CRM, or customer relationship management should cover all the HOWs involved in maintaining and strengthening the relationship with the customer, once branding has broken through and established the relationship.

In this, CRM must remain consistent with the brand communications essence, which lives on in the customer as a cluster of expectations and signals, which is the de facto the brand. Just as the above mentioned sales, marketing and communications functions must deliver the brand through media and locations, CRM must deliver, and stay true to the brand essence through all its human and other experiential interactions with the customer.

So every element of the functioning relationship with the customer, the ease of opening the package, the ease of use of the product, the performance of the product, the disposal of the packaging, the messages received by the customer, the experiences of the customer with customer service staff, with billing staff, with credit control staff, with collections staff, with vehicles bearing our brand’s logo, all must not only avoid negative residue, but also regard themselves as brand communications as well, and deliver all these activity-media in ways that are consistent with the brand.

It must be noted that CRM can also contribute indirectly to increasing revenues and market share as well. This can be accomplished by fulfilling the brand essence vis a vis the customer so thoroughly via the latter’s experiences, that customers are delighted enough to make the effort to recommend it to other people who also happen to be prospects.

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