Focus on brand and data from day one. And so forth and so on.

Focus on brand and data from day one. And so forth and so on.

I invite you to listen in on a conversation about how to fast track your brand, marketing and ultimately sales with three super smart and fun people from Clean Layer: Stephanie Hanson (CEO), Justin McClintick (CPO) and John Hanson (CFO).

Stephanie Hanson and I started working together in February of 2013 to launch the first SaaS-based, fully configurable, scalable Loan Origination System (LOS) technology to auto finance companies. We endearingly called them “lenders.”

Initially, I helped Stephanie prospect and prepare for sales demos by knowing everything possible about our targets. The approach was as sincere as it could possibly be – we wanted to help lenders be better. My role evolved to leading the company’s marketing strategy to create awareness as an “unknown” through tradeshows, advertising, company culture, client events, and so forth and so on.

We talked about how we made sure we had a brand and looked attractive. Stephanie said she knew a person that worked for a company that was the biggest company you’ve NEVER heard of. We struck out to be the smallest (or newest) company everyone HAS heard of.

Here are the main points and must-haves of how we did just that in an easy checklist:

  • Leadership team that is ready to support building a brand. Get everyone involved – leadership team, sales, the whole company – and on the same page about your brand.
  • Great graphic design and make it consistent, so your brand is consistent. Always “overdress”, look crisp and tight and professional, and keep on strategy.
  • Focus on compelling messages. You need professional writing. Someone that can make your messaging appealing, not dull and repetitive of the market noise, and creates a connection, starts a conversation, and grows engagement and eventually a relationship. Professional writers are better than you and worth the investment.
  • Mini focus groups. Get input from product, sales, clients, and prospects as much and as often as you can without being inappropriate or annoying.
  • What to look for in a marketing person so you have strategy and tactics. A marketing person with a sales background can make a huge difference. These people know the buyer’s journey and the sales process (promotion, lead gen to close) to win deals. Someone who has worn lots of hats.
  • Collect all the data you can. Build your database, get a CRM in place ASAP, have a point person to own the data and keep it clean from the beginning. You need to be able to email or mail your clients at anytime. And, you want to have a history of your engagement with prospects – demos, length of sales cycle by segment, when their contract with your competitor ends, and even their birthdays!
  • Build relationships. You need to establish strong connections to your customers. Collecting key data from them is an important part of that. And having a sincere goal. We legitimately loved our customers and wanted to help them. We 100 percent believed we were helping. Authenticity is key.
  • Build a community. We cared about our lenders’ futures as much if not more than our own. We wanted their input and transparency breeds closeness. The secret sauce is authenticity. Freedom, empowering clients, genuinely welcoming, and have fun.
  • The best businesses, are genuine. They don’t have to fake it. Their core values are customer centric and not about getting rich and extracting money from customers.
  • Focus on building and creating change more so than on growth. Track growth and goals of course but give them a reason for what you’re doing. We knew that if we created change and improvement for lenders, the growth would follow. And it did.
  • Rally around new clients, celebrate wins, learn why they signed. Create a new client process. Ours included a welcome video, a cast iron cowboy boot for kickoff, go-live shots, small cast iron cowboy boots for referrals, and invites to special events. We created opportunities to learn about the client and celebrate them. And when it comes to professional vs. real video production quality, a personal touch can win out over quality, super-polished video.
  • Brainstorming process for events from idea to execution. Start with what you need to say and what clients need to know at the time. Make sure to test all ideas against whether or not it meets the strategy.

So, these are some of the ways to build a brand and look the part. Of course, you don’t want to oversell – you have to be real about you are, your size. Take your time and make sure all touchpoints represent who you are. Build your database by segments, preferences, and personal notes. And build your marketing program as if you were a sales person. Think through the process from awareness and to lead generation – data capture, nurture, demo, communicate key differentiators – to close and so forth and so on.

Thx, kh