Your brand is a critical contributor to the value of your company. If you aren’t leading, you may be falling behind. From overall awareness to specific perceptions, your brand carries the weight of your company’s mission wherever it goes. Both consciously and sub-consciously, your brand is constantly evaluated by your prospects and compared to your competitors. Your brand perception in the market is the floor for the evaluation of all your products and services. Poor, or non-existent, brand perceptions start you in a hole. A brand that leads knows what it wants to be, where it wants to be and who it wants to be, not just now, but into the future. It’s important to know where you are starting from and your strengths and weaknesses.
Measuring the impact your brand has in the marketplace requires a multifaceted approach. Your brand touches a variety of audiences, ranging from your customers and prospects to your current and future employees. A brand that leads communicates effectively to all these audiences by asking:
- What do you know about us (and our brand)?
- What does our brand mean to you?
- What are the key values being communicated by our brand before we tell you anything else?
- Is what we are saying credible, given what you know/believe about our brand?
Understanding your brand comparatively to your competitors and the marketplace as a whole is also very important. Other brands may “own” those attributes that you are pushing out to your customers. While comparison is important, it is ESSENTIAL to clearly define the marketplace and understand your brand against those you are directly competing against. Broad understanding of your brand is nice to know; knowing what your future customers understand about you is non-negotiable. You must know this before you walk into the customer site, submit the RFP response, or create your media plan.
Public sector marketers have a unique challenge. Oftentimes they are expected to make a corporate brand that works in the commercial space, transfer to the federal market. However, the needs, expectations and requirements in the federal market are often quite different and a brand must reflect that.
It’s not as simple as one may think. To make sure you position your brand correctly, it is important to ask:
- With so many contractors in this space, many of whom have similar services and products, how are we differentiated?
- What efforts have we taken to become top-of-mind? Has the effort yielded results?
- Are there any negative perceptions of your brand that are counteracting the positive (i.e. “I like their product, but…..”)? What’s your strategy for mitigating the negative?
- Am I, internally, positioning marketing as a revenue center and not a cost of sale?
- What have I learned from my brand report card over the past year? (What, you don’t have one?)
Developing Your Own Brand Report Card:
Brand and perception research can provide government contractors insights into how they are perceived in the government marketplace, reveal gaps in market understanding and acceptance of the brand, and understand how they are perceived among competitors. Ratings and evaluation can help you develop an ongoing Brand Report Card and provide your team the guidance for constant improvement.
Why do this? It can make a significant difference in everything from general market positioning to win themes in specific bids and proposals. It can provide customer information that federal marketers can use to refine messaging and campaigns. Finally, measuring your brand helps you know where to go and which lever to pull.
Your brand can always get stronger. It starts with improved brand recognition, coordinated messaging, clear differentiation with competitors that share your brand attributes, and a firm benchmark to help you measure your ROI (and success!). Market Connections has conducted many brand studies that have helped contractors strengthen their position in the federal marketplace, discover brewing perception issues, improve their reputations and provide recommendations for connecting more effectively with the government market.