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Branding Products vs. Branding Solutions: The Differences

Ray Baird

If you’ve ever worked with a company that shifted from a product sales mentality to solution-based or consultative sales, you’ll relate to this post. If you’re in the midst of shifting from product sales to solution-based sales and have questions related to your business and brand strategy, you’ll definitely want to read on.

Whether you’re selling a product or solution, branding is branding — right? Not in my experience and especially not when it comes to the B2B world. Having worked with many brands during the transition from product-based branding to solution-based selling, we see substantial differences in the positioning, creative messaging and overall brand experience.

Here’s the reality. Many successful companies start by having a core competency such as superior product innovation, customer service or competitive pricing. But through growth, acquisitions, mergers, changes in executive leadership or market dynamics, some companies lose sight of the clear point of differentiation and how to describe themselves or align business divisions to optimize brand performance. Many times, companies evolve to selling not just products, but solutions, ideas, visions and knowledge. All too often, when this happens, the brand and the brand message do not evolve with the offerings. This is when the rebranding conversation starts. Sound familiar?

If you’re considering evolving your brand (or already have) to a solution-based consultative sales model — here are a few things to consider:

1. Align Your Brand Strategy With Your Business Model

Bottom line, you can’t be everything to everybody and still achieve success. You must commit to one thing that you excel at and let that drive your brand strategy. Straddling between product vs. solution will only confuse prospects, customers and the marketplace (not to mention your internal staff). IBM is one of the greatest examples of a corporation that successfully transitioned from product sales to more solutions-based selling. In a book by Louis Gerstner Jr — Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance – the former CEO describes the process and communication necessary to reposition the brand to become one of the world’s most powerful B2B solution brands. What I admired most was the way this CEO communicated to key executives and focused on aligning the brand to the business model. Read a recent post related to business strategy versus branding strategy.

2. Shift From Product Messaging To Focusing on People, Solutions and Thought Leadership

If you’re committing to a consultative or solution-based sales model, you have to be ready to focus on highlighting  your new value proposition and your most important assets — your people and ideas. Don’t rely on the old model of highlighting product features. It’s now all about benefits, results and the people that make it all happen. I know this sounds simple but many companies do not make this transition and suffer from brand confusion. Remember, successful brands own “ONE” thing. Products will come and go, but owning thought leadership commands higher brand value.

3. Managing The Brand Experience Is Everything

Through past experience, converting product-based sales people to solution-based presents a big challenge. Many sales people can not make the transition. A product-focused salesperson shows up with features to present. Solution-based sales people start by asking “What’s your challenge?” I’ve seen it time after time where the brand leads with solution-based branding and thought leadership, but the sales force does not deliver on the promise. Before your brand shifts to the new brand messaging, your sales force has to be able to deliver on that promise. Additionally, you have to carefully map out each brand touch point to demonstrate the new experience you desire and it helps to benchmark the current brand experience before and check it one year later to ensure you’re making progress.

So, if your business value proposition has evolved to more of a solution-based sales model, you may want to realign your brand strategy. Take a fresh look at the experience and re-think the messaging to better reflect the business vision. Take it from us, your brand will have a better opportunity to differentiate in the marketplace.

Please feel free to leave comments about your own personal branding experiences and recommend other topics you would like us to explore. Best of luck with Branding your Business.

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