What does it take for people to buy our products and services – and why does the brand triangle help us with lead generation and sales conversion?
They are effectively buying a promise that they will receive a benefit. Buyers need to have a lot of trust, especially for larger, complex and mission-critical purchases.
We see that trust is needed at three levels:
- in the sales advisor – the person helping the buyer to decide,
- in the product or service – that they are contracting to buy, and
- in the company or business – that is delivering, supporting and developing the product or service.
Consider this – when you last bought something significant did you need to feel comfortable in all three areas?
And if you chose not to buy something from a supplier was that because you disqualified them in one of these areas?
Putting the customer at the centre of the brand triangle
We’re being advised to “put the customer at the heart of our business”.
And this is especially true here, in this brand triangle model.
More than that, the concentric rings represent suspects, prospects, customers and advocates as we move to the bullseye.
And in our eyes these are defined as:
- suspects – qualifying contacts – people (and companies) who meet our criteria of ‘ideal clients’, even if they don’t have a need just yet.
- prospects – qualifying opportunities – people (and companies) who meet our criteria AND they have a need for what we provide
- customers/clients – people (and companies) who have paid us money in return for our goods and services
- advocates – customers and business partners who are actively recommending and referring us to other potential buyers
And, if viewed graphically from the side this looks rather like the sales funnel, with suspect at the top of the funnel and advocates at the bottom.
The rise of Personal Branding
Personal branding has been around for many years at the celebrity level, for people in the public eye in film, music, sport, politics etc.
Personal branding for senior professionals, consultants, business owners and others in business is relatively new.
There is admittedly considerable overlap with reputation.
Time was when it took a lot of money and time to create a brand and communicate it, so it was the preserve of larger companies and significant products – ones with sizeable sales and revenue potential.
The Internet and digital channels have broken down the cost barriers allowing individuals to develop and communicate their personal and professional brands in a way that was unthinkable and unreachable even a decade years ago.
In business personal branding rarely exists in isolation, and this article on the brand triangle attempts to clarify the interrelationships in a practical way.
Lead Generation – Engaging with Suspects and Prospects
Lead generation may be a continuous background activity and/or a campaign by campaign specific activity.
Outbound lead generation
In this model this means essentially identifying people who are our ideal clients and reaching out to them with a message that attempts to touch those who are interested.
This might mean advertising, it might be cold-calling. It might be direct mail. and there are many other activities.
We may strike lucky and contact those who are interested (prospects), but there are probably many who are not looking and are merely suspects.
The pitfalls of this are the number of people who are interrupted and who are not looking for what we offer, and the cost of that failure.
Inbound lead generation
The beauty of this is that we are only attracting prospects to contact us – people who are actively looking to solve a problem that we can solve.
We are doing this by understanding what they are looking for, and being in the places where they are going.
This might be (relevant) exhibitions and conferences, website optimisation for SEO value, article marketing, content marketing etc.
The pitfalls are that there are many places our buyers might look, and there’s a big investment especially if we only want a small number of clients.
Three strands to lead generation
To very briefly touch on a huge topic, lead generation can be undertaken by any combination of the three elements, personal, product and company.
For smaller businesses and solopreneurs the individual will be more significant than the product or company level.
- Personal lead generation – this might be cold calling, seeking introductions, encouraging referrals,
- Product/service based lead generation – this might be more offer based, with a price promotion for example, or specific SEO type activity
- Company level lead generation – this is where PR, the website, sponsorship, exhibitions and so on are typical of this level
This highlights the challenge for many solopreneurs and small businesses – developing a marketing strategy – and then executing it effectively.
The brand triangle model can provide ideas about how outbound and inbound are complementary, and evolve over time.
[box]A client of ours had an effective start-up model – the 4 + 40 + 400 strategy. He took a direct sales approach to gain his first 4 clients. He then employed a sales person and together they won the next 40. Then he recruited distribution partners to reach the next 400 clients.[/box]
Lead Nurture – the Know, Like and Trust Journey
Much of what we do in sales and marketing is to build up that trust, by going through the Know, Like and Trust progression with prospects.
- The company visibility and reputation is developed over time, to emphasise that it is a good organisation as a supplier.
- The products and services are created, updated, communicated, promoted, delivered, to reassure potential buyers of their value.
- And personal contact continues to guide, advise and steer the buyer (or buyers) through their buying journey.
Again, this is where the brand triangle model is very useful, to check that trust is being established in all 3 areas.
Larger businesses will have marketing departments and product teams responsible for these activities, which will support front-line sales people.
Business owners, solopreneurs, consultants and others running their own business will be responsible for these aspects themselves.
Why does a Personal Brand matter?
Impulse purchases – those that are low cost, low risk – probably are not that influenced by personal brand. Sure, we’d prefer to deal with a friendly shop owner or assistant, but increasingly we’re happy to buy online from an ecommerce website.
Considered purchases however are much more influenced by the person who provides information, advice and who guides us through the purchase decision.
And they may have been our first contact with the proposition, especially if they contacted us, or if we were referred to them by someone.
And, in a wider context, Personal Brand is “what people know about us, and how they feel about us”, based on what they can find out and what they hear from others.
And this is where a positive Personal Brand and also visibility is a huge asset.
1. Our Personal Brand helps us to engage better
The purchase/sales process starts when a buyer engages. And that initial engagement could be in any of these areas – person, product or company.
It could be as a result of outbound lead generation or an inbound enquiry triggered by one of a plethora of activities. If personal brand is minimal then that’s reducing the engagement opportunity by a third.
2. Our Personal Brand helps us build Trust more quickly
When you rapidly moved through the purchase process was it because you were quickly and convincingly taken through the know like and trust progression in all three areas?
And was that because the person leading the sale demonstrated that they, their products and the company were aligned with meeting specific needs you had?
Once they had established trust as a person with you were you more willing to trust what they said about the products and about the company?
They demonstrated that they understood you, and had invested thought, time and probably money to meet the needs that you and others like you have, on a repeatable basis.
3. Our Personal Brand makes us more memorable
It may be cheesy to have nick-names, strap-lines, memory phrases and other devices that we choose to associate with our names, but they are ways of making ourselves more memorable, and memorable for something specific – a positioning statement or similar.
By taking responsibility for this, creating a phrase, using it regularly, we are making it easier for people to remember us for what we want to be remembered for. Without it we may be forgotten more easily, or people are unclear about our positioning.
4. Our Personal Brand makes us more referrable
Once we have become memorable, and have a market position, and maintain consistency, we become much more referable. We become the go-to person for something specific – for our specialisation. When a topic comes up in conversation, or a question, or a need, we are the name that is mentioned.
How to develop a Personal Brand
Over the past few years I’ve worked with and helped many independent consultants and business owners to discover, define and develop their personal brand.
This goes way beyond a CV, and beyond the positioning statement at the head of the CV.
And of course they should be created with the ideal client in mind, which is where this article started.
So let’s put the customer at the heart of our personal brand, as they are at the heart of our businesses.
For more information about Personal Branding and the Brand Triangle
There are many resources about Personal Branding on this website, and on the Internet.
And for a chat about the Brand Triangle, Personal Branding and Lead Generation topics raised here why not book a discovery call with me, Mark Stonham, below.