Updated: Sep 4, 2020
It's time to take control of your brand messaging.
We've all had clients, prospects, family members, and vertical market peers refer to us with deeply insulting and belittling phrases. Generally, we've either tried to look past the insults or dove into rationalizing that they were talking about the products we sell and not us personally. Regardless of the tact we took, the uncomfortable truth is that when the economy was clipping along, none of us put much care as to what people called us – as long as they called us when they wanted to buy.
The obvious problem here is that the economy isn't clipping along right now. We're in The Dip. This now means that our survival depends on the same buyers we have passively allowed to marginalize who we are, and what we could uniquely do to support their business. Industry's negligent past indifference to how we are viewed AND BRANDED by our buyers has created a debilitating obstacle of our own making.
Need some examples?
• Case #1 You are a distributor who has been branded as the "Tchotchke Guy" by their buyer. How do you get taken seriously when you attempt to pivot to selling public safety equipment and PPE?
• Case #2 When the buyer has branded you as a peddler of "cheap Chinese plastics," they also actively denigrate and devalue the product they're planning to affix their own identity to. Isn't it a natural progression for that buyer to be swayed by online competition offering to sell them the same stuff for less?
• Case #3 In the current global pandemic environment, a handshake has risen to the level of conscious awareness. So how many people are interested in getting their hands on "trinkets and trash?"
The easiest thing is to stand back and think about all those distributors that fit one of those descriptions. That won't help you while wallowing in The Dip. The more significant challenge is for you to self-examine the branding activities that you have engaged in and discover what you have done that makes it acceptable for your buyer to perceive you as being the peddler of throwaway stuff?
Do you truly believe that you will be able to brand yourself as a resource when the buyer's perception is actively marginalizing you, the Industry's products, and the brand you wish to create?
This question comes because Marty Neumeier, author of "The Brand Gap," initially positioned that a "brand" has nothing to do with what YOU have to say about it, but everything to do with how THEY choose to perceive it. So, while you consider what part you have actively played in affecting your buyer's perceptions, let's look at some traditionally standard and promoted industry practices to see if they yield any clues for us.
Are you pushing out sales sheets without any consideration of your buyer's preferences and purchasing history?
Have you pushed a buyer to buy a new-to-market product that effectively replaces the brand-appropriate product you had successfully sold them in the recent past?
Are you sending catalogs every year to eagerly reiterate that you will happily hawk anything?
Did you get wrapped into a sales program pushing someone else's selection of products to your prospects and buyers?
Is your website focused on the Suppliers and products that reflect the business you want to be, or are you effectively a billboard being used by the Suppliers in the web program?
Are you providing solutions that fit your buyer's branding initiative, or are you only interested in moving product?
Truthfully, that last one is the worst. At the same time, it is also the challenge we all face. As I mentioned last time, we are all small businesses, which means this month's revenue pays next month's bills – and there isn't any revenue if there aren't any sales. Regardless, that at times, desperate willingness to sell whatever is leading us down a self-defeating rabbit hole.
Before nosediving and going mad with pent up frustration, let's also realize that a small business facing impossible dilemmas is kind of our thing. I've often witnessed distributors face six impossible things before breakfast. The truth is that this branding challenge is another one of those impossible things that you will overcome…because you have to.
What you bring to the table as a distributor has great value. Realizing that value matched with an awareness of the trappings we created ourselves is the first step in achieving the impossible.
The introduction to this topic is here.
Coming up…rebrand tips for The Dip.
Jeremy Chacon, Promo EQP