The Overlooked Approach to Winning More Business

The Overlooked Approach to Winning More Business

Recently, I gave a talk to a group of professional services business owners and leaders about how branding helps to close sales deals.

And while it was fresh in my head, I thought I would share some thoughts here.

In more than 20 years in business, Atomicdust has helped hundreds of businesses build, grow and steer their brands. Our clients have ranged from small startups in our early days to billion dollar companies in recent years.

But the truth is, no one hired us for pretty pictures or interesting typefaces. 


Business Challenges, Investments and the Purpose of Branding

Most branding (and rebranding) projects begin with business challenges. Maybe it’s competition, lead generation or launching a new product. But there is always an underlying business reason for the investment.

And I say investment because that is what building a brand is. It takes time, money and energy. And like all investments, businesses expect a positive return.

Now, the soft part is that the return on investment isn’t always measured in money. It can be measured in customer loyalty, market recognition or just being known in your space as the market leader.

You can scoff at the ‘soft’ results of branding and argue that the only real measure of value is bottom-line revenue, and in that context, you would be correct. But don’t underestimate the soft benefits.

They are the very things that lead to bottom-line revenue.


Impacting the Qualities of Leads

Let me take a minute to explain how the Atomicdust brand helps us with sales leads, saving us time and money. 

Through our inbound marketing, our website drives a lot of interest and sales leads. And from that, there are usually two types of clients that approach us for projects: 

1) People who have heard of us and are excited about talking to us about a project.

2) People who don’t know us and really just want to know the price.

That first scenario is way, way easier to close. The sales process is more of a formality. We have an inside track. They aren’t talking to anyone else. The proposal is more of a conversation. 

The second is hell. They are talking to six other agencies. They want free work. They want us to present who we are in a predetermined format that isn’t us at all. They want to compare our pricing to see who is the lowest. Everything being equal, we have a 16% chance of winning.

And that’s why a professional services company’s brand is essential.


Brand as Reputation

Branding dramatically impacts the qualities of leads. It helps companies get a lot more of that first type of lead. Why? Because brand is reputation. 

Remember, famed author Marty Neumeier says, “A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product or service.” Think of brand and reputation as the same thing. 

Brand-ing is the attempt to shape that feeling.

Put another way, branding is intentionally deciding who your customer is and how you help them, and then continually reminding them of that fit.


Branding Is Foundation and Growth

Branding is made up of two parts: Foundation and Growth. 

Foundation is made up of things like audience profiles, brand positioning, brand language, logos, websites, presentations—things that don’t change that much over time.

Growth is about the message you promote, the frequency of timing and the channels you use. Social media, advertising, speaking, writing, PR, events, content, SEO, email marketing, trade shows, etc. Think about growth as the everyday marketing stuff.

Companies need both if they want to have an easier time closing the deal.


Branding in the Sales Process

Most B2B professional services companies face the same problems.

First, they don’t know where their next project is coming from. 

They often compete against multiple other firms in the RFP process, their brand isn’t positioned that uniquely and the client commands the sales process. It can all lead to unpaid proposals, unpaid work and lower fees. 

If the client’s ‘gut feeling’ is that all the firms are very similar, it will line them all up against each other and look for the lowest price. 

This is the worst place you can be. Famed business strategist Michael Porter calls this “the dreaded middle.” It’s when you’re not the cheapest or the most different. 

Ideally, a firm’s brand is positioned and known (or even loved) by the client. In those cases, the firm can skip the RFP process, have an advantage or win with higher fees.

There is a natural conflict in the sales process. The goal of the customer is to remove all the emotion from the buying process. The goal of branding is to make that impossible.

The entire purpose of branding is to eliminate your competition in the first place—before the sales process begins.


The Importance of Branding

A lot of professional services firms don’t realize how much of an impact branding has on sales.

But focusing on a strong brand, for both foundation and growth, has major ROI.

The return comes in different forms, and might be hard to measure. But ultimately, branding helps businesses get more leads, and better leads. Closing deals with those leads gets infinitely easier.

So if you’re looking to grow sales and close more deals, take a step back and focus on your brand.



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Mike Spakowski

Mike Spakowski

Mike Spakowski is Principal / Creative Director of Atomicdust and is involved with the day-to-day design strategy, art direction and studio management.

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