If you’re looking for ways to boost online sales, start with branding. As unconventional as it may seem, it works. While most businesses double down on marketing efforts to boost leads or build up their sales team in an attempt to close more deals, neither of these methods delivers as consistently as branding does.
But, how does branding increase online sales? Give me five minutes and I’ll walk you through the mechanics that will transform the way you view your sales pipeline and boost your revenue year-round.
What’s the Difference Between Branding, Sales, and Marketing?
Under traditional models, businesses focus on sales and marketing. Teams work independently and branding is something that happens in the peripheries.
Modernized teams generally recognize that sales and marketing need to work together to achieve results, but they don’t always nail the mechanics of alignment and branding remains on the sidelines.
It takes a joint effort in all three areas to create healthy, thriving businesses, but branding is the keystone.
Marketing is about generating interest or creating leads. It involves creating demand for a product or service—reaching the right person with the right message at the right time.
Sometimes, marketers cast a wide net. You’ll see examples of this during the holiday season, such as Christmas when all outlets from TV through radio and online advertising are packed with messages about family or the stress of the holidays. The marketing team has the right message at the right time and, because it’s reaching a wide audience, it’s likely to strike a chord with the right person too.
This has been the only form of marketing available historically. If you think about the marketing channels our grandparents and great-grandparents had, it’s night and day. Maybe they had a publication or two and picked up the occasional show. Marketers could put out information on a major network and it would reach 70 percent of the viewing audience per NBC.
Things are a bit different today. If you cast a wide net, your marketing message gets caught in the noise. Research from Forbes indicates people now see as many as 10,000 ads on any given day. Businesses now use tactics like targeting a specific target audience and personalization to fight for attention, but even this doesn’t work by itself. New sales strategies are always being invented and used to ease the sales process and attract new customers, but not just any customers, the ideal customer base for your specific products, especially with the prevalence of digital marketing efforts.
Sales is the process of turning the demand and interest into a purchase—converting a lead into a customer. It complements your marketing goals.
Again, you can think of it in the traditional sense, with the salesperson homing in on a lead and breaking down barriers until the sale is made, or you can think of it with the modern flair. For example, maybe you receive an email that one of your favorite companies is releasing a new product. You click the link in the email, read about it, and add it to your online cart, but then you stop. Perhaps you had to dash off to work, your family needed something, or you hesitated due to the expense. The marketing plan got you to that point. It’s the job of sales to close you. A savvy sales team will know that you clicked and might call you right away to see why you stopped or they might presume it was a money issue and send you a discount offer if you complete the transaction right away.
Think of branding as a set of signals that tell people what your business is about—who you are, what you do, and how you do it. Many people differentiate further between “branding” and “brand.” Branding, then, covers the distinct symbols that represent your company, such as your logo, graphics, color palette, fonts, and so forth. The brand is then the overall package—the sum of your branding and what your company stands for. When it’s done well, however, the two are interchangeable.
For example, unless you’re a marketing or psychology buff, you’ve probably never once marveled at Apple’s minimalistic approach. You may not have noticed how sparingly the company uses text and how much empty space appears in ads, on boxes, or even in their stores. That’s all branding. But, you probably do associate mobile devices like the iPhone with things like luxury, efficiency, and exclusivity. That’s the brand.
How Branding Increases Sales
The benefits of building a good brand cannot be overstated. It’s the glue that keeps the various components of your organization joined and customers close. It keeps loyal customers and lures potential customers.
1. Branding Sets Your Business Apart
The way you brand your business can set it apart from others in the same niche. If you’re familiar with ride-sharing apps, you’ve probably noticed the difference between how Uber and Lyft brand themselves.
Uber launched as a more affordable alternative to hiring a private driver. Though the initial name was UberCab, the company was more like a hybrid between a taxi service and having a chauffeur. Its logo represented this—hard edges of white on a black background.
When Lyft came onto the scene, its offerings weren’t remarkably different, but the brand was. The company appealed to customers’ emotions by distinguishing itself as being fun and friendly. Cars had pink mustaches and passengers were encouraged to sit in the front seat so they could easily chat with drivers. It worked. Uber has repeatedly rebranded itself in an attempt to be perceived as more friendly, down to overhauling the logo to give it soft edges and updating its offerings. When we place this in the context of today’s crowded marketplace, in which consumers see 10,000 ads per day, it’s easy to see how good branding pays off.
2. It Creates Trust Through Consistency
Pause for just a moment and picture a Ferrari in your mind. Think it through. What color is it? Chances are, you pictured a red car. Silver, black, or white might also have been in the minds of a small portion of readers. There’s one color nobody familiar with the brand likely pictured—pink. Ferrari doesn’t allow it.
“It just doesn’t fit into our whole ethos, to be honest,” the company CEO explained to news outlets a while back. “It’s a brand rule. No Pink. No Pokémon Ferraris!”
While businesses don’t need to take branding to this level, it’s a clear example of the impact of consistent branding. Ferrari has stringent standards designed to protect the integrity of its brand. Consumers know what to expect. They know the prestige of owning a Ferrari isn’t going to diminish. It’s also one of the many reasons the brand can command higher prices. Your organization may not be dedicated to selling $300,000+ cars, but the concept translates to all types of businesses.
3. Consumers Buy Based on Trust
Research from Edelman shows 53 percent of consumers will buy first from a company they trust, while 51 percent will advocate on behalf of the company, and 43 percent will defend it.
Presenting your company as a trustworthy brand isn’t enough, though. As I explain in “Why Branding is More Important than SEO,” your branding must be authentic too. Whatever your brand signals are, be it promises of value, customer satisfaction, social responsibility, or something else entirely, you must embody those values to build the trust that comes with them.
4. Branding Impacts First Impressions
There are several ways to look at first impressions and branding. To start, the first impression must match up with what the customer experiences. If there’s a disconnect between the two, you’ll lose customers as soon as you pick them up.
The second component of this is that customers won’t just leave. Just as customers who trust you will defend you and advocate for your brand, those who become disenchanted will often become detractors, leaving negative reviews that create a poor perception of your brand for future customers.
Lastly, there’s the Colgate dinners phenomenon. Images of TV dinners, sometimes lasagna or “Kitchen Entrees,” began popping up a few years back. If you saw them, you no doubt pondered why a toothpaste company would ever think making food was a good idea. There’s some debate as to whether the infamous TV dinner ever existed, as Harry Harris explains in Prospect, but the ad images are typically used as an example of poor marketing or bad business ideas. They’re not, though. It’s a branding issue. The brand represents minty oral health, and the company has done an excellent job of differentiating itself as such.
All these things demonstrate the same things. Your brand identity is a major deciding factor in whether a person is even open to hearing your marketing message. Furthermore, your first impression sets the tone and serves as a promise to the customer. Honoring the promises you make is essential to building a healthy business.
5. Good Branding Builds and Maintains Customer Loyalty
When branding is done right and it genuinely represents how your company and employees behave, the trust that’s built develops into greater loyalty too. Naturally, that means companies see a big boost in loyalty-related behaviors as a result. As the Edelman survey notes, customers who fall into this bracket are more likely to:
- Choose your products or services over others.
- Overlook it when another company is outperforming yours in reviews.
- Continue buying from you when another company becomes trendier.
- Stick with you even when something goes wrong with your products or services.
- Continue buying from you even if others boycott your company.
- Pay more for your products or services.
In other words, good branding almost makes your company bulletproof.
6. Brand Loyalty Improves Engagement and Customer Acquisition
Research from Accenture backs up the earlier points, noting 43 percent of consumers increase the amount of business they do with companies they love. But, it’s important to note they don’t simply thank you with their patronage. More than half show loyalty by recommending companies to their family and friends. In other words, branding creates loyal advocates who not only stay with you and purchase from you but grow your business exponentially by bringing others with them.
7. Branding Inspires Action
The buyer’s journey is not what it once was. Customers don’t simply rely on a single TV spot or publication placement to determine where their dollars are spent. Again, they’re met with up to 10,000 ads per day on Facebook, Twitter, and email marketing from products and services that are seemingly interchangeable at a glance. If something piques their interest, they’re going to research it. Nearly 90 percent do, according to the latest B2C Ecommerce Report.
Savvy brands know this, and so they pepper the customer’s path with branded materials to help them decide in the company’s favor. You’ll see blog content that offer solutions to the customer’s problems, case studies to prove the company can help, and special offers and gifts to eliminate any final barriers. They also continue their messaging after the sale with referral and testimonial requests and valuable content that demonstrates their credibility and the value they’re bringing to the table.
Effective Marketing Strategies That Increase Sales
1. Consider Your Brand Before You Build It
Your brand will be the essence of your company going forward. Break out the types of messaging you want consumers to hear and how it differentiates you from competitors. Consider whether everything you’re laying out now is still going to suit you in the coming years and whether the values you’re assigning to your company are things you can stand behind in the long run.
2. Create Consistent and Clear Messages on All Marketing Platforms
Once you have a clear outline of your brand, use the same messaging everywhere to increase brand awareness. That includes your company website, social media marketing platforms, like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram, and Pinterest, blog, email, ads, Google My Business profile, digital marketing strategies, digital marketing campaigns, podcasts, and anywhere else your brand may be present.
3. Pepper the Journey with Branded Content
Content marketing is your action accelerant. It carries your current and potential clients through your sales pipeline and creates lasting relationships. Best of all, you can measure the success of your content, track ROI, see when conversions happen, adjust when an area seems weak, and turn up the volume when a certain part of your sales funnel is performing well. Always adjust based on customer feedback and be willing to create a new business strategy.
Get Help Refining Your Branding Strategies and Increase Sales
As a marketing consultant and educator with a background in both business and marketing, I’m a huge proponent of an effective strategy that drives data. Branding works. I’ve helped some of the world’s biggest brands reach new heights and I welcome the opportunity to help your company grow too. Contact me to discuss your needs.