Toolbox’s Brand Engineering process addresses a very specific challenge. When we meet with engineers, technologists and scientists at second-stage innovative technology companies, we sometimes encounter pervasive perceptions: Engineers hate branding, technologists don’t need marketing, scientists don’t care to think about sales. There’s a well-worn rut between the science of science and the art of selling it.
That’s based on two things: First, the well-earned reputation of marketers and branding experts as spin doctors, turd polishers and tellers of not-so-true stories, and second, the technologists’ understandably empirical approach to their work prevents them from thinking and talking in the more emotional language of branding.
At Toolbox Creative, our specialty is turning the rut between science and sales into a smooth groove that leads directly to customer acquisition.
The technologist’s challenge
Technologists are great at telling the story of their technology, technically speaking. When it comes to telling their brand story however, technologists are often speaking the wrong language. Translating and distilling tech talk into a cohesive brand story isn’t easy or cheap. But when done properly, it has a huge return on investment — the difference between profitably connecting with customers and developing tech that never engages.
Brand Engineering: Closing the customer engagement gap
Many midsized innovative tech corporations face the same challenge. You’ve been quietly kicking ass for years. Your company’s big idea is better than the dominant players in the space. Whether it’s an innovative technology, software solution or superior business-to-business product, the challenge is the same: Your brand doesn’t look as good as it really is, and the right people don’t know the right things about your company (if they know it at all). You’re laser-focused on the tech side of your innovative tech company, as it should be. But when it comes to telling your brand story in a way that resonates with potential customers, you’re not making a connection. That’s where Brand Engineering comes in.
Brand Engineering blends art, science and intuition — converting tech talk into brand love and connecting tech companies with their customers.
Brand Assessment starts with understanding your technology customer at the heart, mind and gut level. Where are they? Who are they? What keeps them up at night? How and why do they make buying decisions?
The first step in getting more customers to love you is studying those who already do (and sometimes a few who have lost that loving feeling). Brand Assessment reveals why your customers chose you, why they’re loyal, why they care. From there, the customer journey is mapped out. This critical research serves as the foundation for all branding work to come.
Here’s what is accomplished in the Brand Assessment phase.
Marketing MindJam: The start of a beautiful relationship
Through this relationship-building discovery workshop, Toolbox gathers information from your team to establish branding and messaging criteria. Together, we take a look at where you’ve been, the immediate road ahead and your dream destination.
Together, we take a look at where you’ve been, the immediate road ahead and your dream destination.
We then discuss the competitive situation, strengths and weaknesses, current perceptions in the organization and existing brand communications.
Brand equity analysis: Know where you stand
You can’t get where you’re going until you know where you stand. As a third party with a healthy outside perspective, Toolbox digs in and interviews your key customers, enabling them to open up and share why they love you, what you could be doing better and how else you could be serving their needs. We also interview key staff to gain a deeper understanding of your core solution, value proposition, audiences and how you connect with these audiences. This research codifies your current brand position and establishes a bedrock for the brand development work to come.
Competitive analysis: Know who you’re up against
Your big idea is better than the status quo, but without a slingshot, David does not beat Goliath. For innovative stage-two technology companies, being better isn’t enough. Toolbox conducts market research to determine your position in relation to your competitors. This analysis lays the foundation for articulating your unique brand position and taking on the big players in the space (and their big budgets).
Customer journey map: Know how your customers navigate the buying process
Using all the intel gathered during the steps above, Toolbox maps out your entire customer engagement process. What triggers potential customers to assess their needs? What makes them think they might need what you sell? What initial investigative steps do they take: solicit peer referrals, attend trade shows, conduct web searches, post RFPs? What does their initial contact with you (and your competitors) look like: email inquiries, phone calls, white paper downloads, app trials? How does your initial conversation with customers go? How do you articulate your brand position? How do you stack up against competitors? What’s your close rate? What are the next steps to convert prospects into customers?
Once we have an understanding of how prospects find you, we determine the appropriate tone to strike. There are times when your message needs to be shouted from the rafters. There are times when your message should to be more buttoned down and direct. Toolbox determines the language your brand needs to speak in order to connect.
What makes your innovative tech company different? Why should your prospective customers care?
You know your technology is superior to the industry Goliath. The challenge is that your potential customers don’t. They’re comfortable with what they have. They don’t crave a better experience. They might not know a better product exists. Even if they’ve heard of your technology, simply knowing your company exists is not enough to change their behavior. Customers need to be able to compare and contrast your tech with the status quo. They need incentives to change their behavior and assurances that their risk will be rewarded.
The Brand Strategy phase is designed to articulate how your tech is superior, demonstrate why your potential customers should care and inspire them to take action. At this stage, brand positioning and messaging is developed based on your buyer personas and customer journey map.
Here’s what is accomplished in the Brand Strategy phase.
Brand positioning: Know your place in the space
Here we’ll define who you are as a brand, who you’re not, where you’re going and how you’ll get there. Your brand positioning gets to the essence of who you are. It articulates the inherent value of your offerings and explains how you differ from your competition.
Brand messaging: Say it, show it, prove it
The voice of your brand is established. You can give your elevator pitch with time left for small talk. A well-crafted positioning statement builds critical consensus within your company, ensures the same story is being told on the marketing, sales and tech fronts, and maps out the appropriate language for all possible situations.
The Big Idea: Taking it to the streets
Your branding campaign is conceptually and visually realized. If you had a billboard in the center of town, this is what would be on it. This is where the psychology and science from the Brand Assessment phase blend into the art of brand design. Next comes applying the Big Idea through all parts of the Brand Implementation phase.
You can speak for hours on the technology, science and engineering behind your innovative tech company — that’s the technologist’s sweet spot. The emotional and psychological benefits of your technology may be more difficult to articulate. How will you improve your customers’ lives? How will you help them change the world? The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and Brand Implementation is where they start to lap it up.
Now your corporate identity takes shape — from logo, brand guide, website and ad campaign to infographics, explainer video, social media and tradeshow presence. Your brand identity should illustrate how you’ll take that thing that keeps your customers up at night and put it to bed. This is where the experiment works and everyone applauds. Customers change their behavior, embrace your brand and the love story begins.