Are you selling your services, or are your customers experiencing them?
Earlier this year Panera Bread renamed their marketing department the “amplification department”. The name change was intriguing, because it highlighted Panera’s values and how they’re developing their customer relationships.
The name change also demonstrated the potency of their brand. They don’t have to sell, discount and “market” to get customers to buy. They just have to “amplify” what they’re already doing.
Strong brands don’t have to sell. Their brands sell themselves. People seek out Panera, because they like the food and enjoy the in store experience. The brand resonates with them. The same can be said of Apple. People choose them first, because its Apple.
When a brand resonates with its target market the sales job is easy. The customer self selects, and finds a way to buy.
Selling is a symptom
It’s widely believed that B2B brands can’t sell themselves. B2B products and services need human intervention to build a customer relationship and demonstrate the value proposition. But this belief is largely a myth.
Not all B2B products and services need sales intervention. Customers radiate towards preferred vendors all the time. Sure a sales rep may be present in the transaction, but their job is to facilitate the purchase.
It’s like buying a car. The buyer does her research ahead of time, plays with the online configurators and selects the best car for her budget. The sales reps’ job is to facilitate the purchase. He takes her on a test drive, validates expectations, negotiates and closes.
The brand is an important part of the sales process. When a customer understands the value proposition from the outside coming in the sales cycle is easy.
Create an experience
Panera Bread has a fortunate position. Their brand experience is well defined, and it resonates with their market. They know when someone visits their stores they’ll be hooked.
But Panera is promoting an experience beyond a simple meal at a quick-serve restaurant. They are promoting their values and their approach to business:
- Fresh bread baked daily on the premises
- A warm, welcoming place to eat and visit
- Giving generously to local community groups focused on feeding people in need
- Hosting classes and sharing recipes
The bread is the product, but the experience is the story — and the story is what sells.
Amplify what makes you unique
Every company has an opportunity to amplify their story:
- What are the things that make your company unique?
- What is your brand known for?
- How do people engage with your products, services and employees?
- What gets your customers to participate with you?
Your products and services are only one piece of the story, and usually the least interesting part. Your values, interests and relationships are the parts that make you stand out. Capture your stories, accentuate them and amplify them into a sticky brand.