Selling Value First, Brand Second

Marketing should be focused on the value you provide customers.

Today, many marketing people love to talk about brand selling as the key business driver that induces prospects to take an action step to buy. But in this business world, to sell more, it should be value first, brand second.

Why? Because every brand has attached to it both good and bad perceptions based on the receiver’s understanding at the point in time it is heard. It doesn’t matter if what you say about your brand is true. The person you are telling it to must believe you. At any time, the prospect may have heard something about your brand that was negative, or they may have had a business acquaintance say something that describes your product or services incorrectly.

Today, the question salespeople must answer is: How do prospects see us? Do prospects see us as a vendor who is a predator or do they see us as a peer who is a provider? It’s not necessarily you or your employees that they are judging; it’s all of the salespeople and brands that preceded you.

Is your branding just testosterone marketing?

Often, brand marketing is some grandiose business exercise to paint the big picture of what makes your company different and to explain why people should buy. The problem with big brand marketing is that if it’s not focused on value creation for the buyer, it boxes sales into a restrictive enclosure that at times limits new sales opportunities.

When your brand says, “We have great service,” or “Our company is committed to our customers,” or “My product is the best,” prospects often don’t believe you because all your competitors say the same thing. When you talk like your competitors, sound like your competitors and act like your competitors, you now are perceived to be like your competition, and it’s hard for prospects to truly see the value difference of your brand and how you can help them.

This happens all the time. Here are some examples of other companies:

• A pharmaceutical company’s brand is so incorrectly positioned that just saying its corporate name paints just one drug in the minds of doctors. A dealership goes by the name of Joe’s Saw Shop, and prospective customers have no clue Joe also sells zero-turns, utility vehicles and parts for a ton of popular consumer brands.

• A software company has developed a very successful customer relationship management software application, but that’s all prospects think the company sells because that’s all they hear about. A dealership has a massive sign out front for one of its top three lines, but prospective customers aren’t aware of the two other premium lines displayed inside in the showroom—lines that include products these customers are in the market for.

• A company sells loose diamonds, but prospects have no idea the company also sells completed jewelry. Similar to above, prospects may be left with the impression that Joe’s Saw Shop only sells chain saws.

• An insurance company sells a broad range of financial services, but the company’s name has the words “life insurance” in it. Poor Joe. Hopefully he has some mowers parked outside in front of the store to help get his message across that he sells and services a broad range of outdoor power equipment.

Finger lickin’ good

Why did Kentucky Fried Chicken change its name to KFC? Because its brand forced buyers to see only “fried” chicken and not the entire food product line it sells.

Why did AT&T change its name from American Telephone and Telegraph? Obviously, because the company does not sell telegraphs any more.

Why did National Cash Register change its name to NCR? Because banks don’t buy cash registers, but they do buy the ATM machines that NCR sells.

Every word you do and don’t say to prospects paints pictures in their minds called “Visual Brochures.” Visual brochures are like TV screens that sometimes are out of focus. When you centralize your marketing and sales on one corporate brand, you limit the TV screen’s clarity based on the reviewer’s knowledge and lack of knowledge about what you sell.

By using brand as a door opener or as a discussion item, you are assuming that the prospect knows and understands your offering and the offering’s value to them if they purchase from you. But this assumption gives too much weight to the theory that all buyers know how to buy correctly and that all buyers understand your brand.

To grow your business faster, always communicate value first and brand second. Business prospects buy based on three reasons:

• Your product or service increases income for them

• Your product or service decreases expenses for them

• Your product or service helps your buyer manage his potential risks or consequences.

These three business drivers are the true value buyer motivators that induce prospects to buy. Thus, companies and salespeople must use them upfront as tools during their pre-sales cycle to drive prospects to take action steps to buy. This value-forward selling model doesn’t focus on the “brand message” you want your prospect to assimilate. Rather, it focuses on the results your product or service delivers.

Paul DiModica is an author and president of a management consulting company called DigitalHatch. DigitalHatch focuses on value-forward sales and marketing management strategies that increase revenues. Paul also is the author of the bestselling book, “Value Forward Selling, How To Sell Management,” the new book “Sales Management Power Strategies” and publisher of the world’s largest sales strategy newsletter called “BDM News.” Previously, Paul was VP of Strategy for Renaissance Worldwide, SVP of Sales and Marketing of Impressa and VP of Sales for Ibertech. Paul is originally from Massachusetts. Visit for more information.