ACO Managing Director Richard Hill expands on his talk from this year’s BMF Conference - and looks at the key components of a successful brand. Looking at the first of what he calls the 7 ‘Ates’, this month Richard looks at ‘differentiate’.
Wherever you may sit in the supply chain, brand matters. A brand is ‘a reason to choose’ - with a customer’s affinity to a certain brand based not on the standard features of a product or service but based on how it has differentiated itself.
For manufacturers and merchants alike, brand is important, as it eases the purchasing decision and adds reassurance. In the most part, much of the work around differentiation will be above and beyond the core offer itself; often based on more holistic initiatives aimed at generating goodwill, affection or respect. A winning formula is when both the manufacturer’s and the merchant’s differentiators combine, to offer a clear ‘reason to choose’.
Of course, building a brand is a continuous process that needs constant work.
For instance: ‘Knowledge’ is a platform around which many merchants have built a successful brand – based on the added value that experienced, well-trained (and often long-serving) staff can bring.
With its own brand built on ‘education and added-value’, ACO has long aligned itself with merchants with a similar ethos. The ACO Academy has developed its training offer over time, to ensure it provides merchant staff accessible, practical training – in our training centre, in store and on-line – assisting merchants in developing knowledgeable staff that help differentiate its offer from the merchant down the road.
However, a proliferation of both communication and purchasing channels has brought a new challenge. Key to any brand is consistency at every touch point – merchants now not only have to consider how their brand persona or values are delivered in store but also via their website and social media channels. Imparting that ‘knowledge’ is no longer just the job of the counter staff or sales reps, it must be conveyed on-line too.
Content marketing, for example, is now also becoming an integral part of brand building. This involves developing content that is valued by the target audience because it is advisory, inspiring or simply entertaining – with the ultimate aim of creating goodwill. Across social media, some merchants are already demonstrating how they can leverage their valuable position in the market (having established, direct relationships with purchasers) by shifting these communities on-line, whilst developing new relationships with a more ‘tech-savvy’ generation. Merchants that are using Facebook effectively, for example, are achieving engagement rates of more than ten times the average for a business page.
For some merchants, however, content marketing and social media is still far out of their comfort zone, yet there is no avoiding an increasing need to embrace. And for those merchants in particular, manufacturers who can help in the curation of valuable content will be indispensable.
In fact, whatever your brand values, working with aligned manufacturers that can help you to reinforce them, is surely one of the key components for success?
For more information on ACO Water Management, visit www.aco.co.uk