We all live in a world populated by brands. Your company is worried about your consumer or customer brand, your social responsibility brand, HR, specifically your “employer brand.” Would you bet your job and career on your provider’s brand? Whether you want to or not, you will.
I am not advocating only engaging the largest provider companies for your needs. Actually, some global brands may be in this space but not completely committed to it (more on that below). I am saying that there are easily identifiable and public proxies for knowing the commitment a company has to the line of business for which you may be considering them.
All vendors (other than start-ups that have no choice) come into initial meetings regaling you about their size, geographical footprint, and their overarching commitment to their business. They tell you they have the most impressive history, the latest innovations, and the deepest “passion” for the service or technology in question. If everyone tells you this, how can you determine who really is passionate and committed?
One way is to look at their outbound messaging. A sure sign a company is either preparing to sell or in financial trouble is that they slash marketing. A sure sign they are unsure of the product or service they provide out of that division is that they slash marketing.
If any company tells you that they are a “best kept secret” in their industry, feel free to tell them that they are just a badly marketed company. Why go with a company that is not good at branding themselves and ask them to brand HR to internal employees or brand the company to external candidates?
Let’s say your procurement team cannot find much evidence of their presence in the market or in the region you need services. They’re not prominent as a thought leader at conferences or telecast providers; they are rarely published and do little advertising. Chances are they pruning costs for a sale or not sure what they want to do with the business. How many people saw an advertisement from Chimes the year before they went bankrupt and stranded thousands of clients?
One of the best examples of this lack of logic in the market is the segment occupied by the major multi-process service providers. They message little or nothing about multi- process HRO. To me this may suggest the parent companies (all are mega-multinationals) are not fully committed or sure about this line of business, and are not investing in their brands in this service area. Yet they want clients to sign on to a five-plus year commitment to a division that their own leadership seems, frankly, tentative about. Multi- process deals are being done, but a lot more of them would be done if there was more dialogue about the multi-process service platforms, but there is not.
Providers need to engage their buying audience with messaging that makes the buyers comfortable, makes them recognizable as a brand, and makes them seem sturdy
and durable. Perhaps buyers should compare providers’ marketing budgets as a proxy for commitment to the line of service. I am not sure providers would agree to this, but it may be an interesting indicator.
Providers will always fall back on their “rich” history, but does not always tell everything you need to know about the future. Age is not always a measure of brand strength. For example, the most recognizable brand in the world is Coca-Cola. Coke was developed as a tonic by and Atlanta pharmacist in 1886, but the medicinal ingredients (cocaine was among them) were removed in 1905 and Coca-Cola was offered purely as a beverage. About a year later a regional firm called Faygo was founded in Detroit. Faygo describes itself on its website as the “The Original Party Pop.” I bet they would rather be able to lay claim to the “World’s Most Recognizable Brand.” The companies are of similar age, but who do you think invested more in their business during early years and even today?
I am sure if you were staring at vending machine behind some backwater Michigan thumb region gas station, and you had a choice between Coke and Faygo (and you weren’t from ‘round there) you would choose the one you know. You may want to think about that the next a company you never heard of tries to sell you HRO services or technology with a complementary case of Faygo Red Pop.
Elliot H. Clark,