Six Steps to Ensure Your Brand Strategy Supports Your Lead-to-Revenue Framework


Share on LinkedIn

My last article talked about the eight components of a successful Lead-to-Revenue (L2R) framework with brand strategy as the first step in the process.

The above graphic is a simplified illustration of the Brand Awareness Hierarchy and how it contributes to revenue. You first need to become known by the prospect, then liked, then trusted. When you can achieve all three attributes (and keep them), success is assured. While many companies want to jump into the lead generation and revenue parts of the process, you really need to make sure your brand is strong and compelling before you do anything else.

The importance of brand strategy is underscored by the results of our “2017 B2B Marketing and L2R Survey“. Sixty-eight percent of respondents feel that their product or company brand contributes “strongly” or “very strongly” to revenue. Obviously, marketers know how crucial brand building is to meeting revenue goals, but the big question is: Does your existing brand strategy enhance or hinder your revenue performance?

Dictated by the Buyer, not the Boardroom

Keep in mind that in addition to articulating the key benefits of your product or service, the brand strategy must be based on the specific attributes, desires and requirements of your target audience. We often use a “persona-based” approach when segmenting our target prospect universe and do online research to make sure that our messaging lines up with what prospects are looking for and talking about.

When people talk about a company brand, it is often expressed as sort of an abstract concept — for example how we feel about a brand. Actually, a strong brand has monetary value. For instance, it can be a boon to the stock price, making the entire company more valuable. It can be a sales and profit accelerator by helping you sell more products and services at a greater profit margin. As David Reibstein, Professor of Marketing at the Wharton School of Business, stated, “A valuable brand delivers return for the company on two dimensions. Either it allows the company to charge a premium price, or it adds more volume or market share.”

One of our clients was amazed at how their recognition and differentiation problems were solved with brand strategy and the subsequent alignment of their online- and sales-enablement content. We combined online research with prospect interviews to uncover a new brand promise for this leading, B2B software company. The company gained a new specificity within their target audiences and more than doubled website traffic which in turn led to a higher profile in their niche. The client reported that as a result of these efforts, their enhanced brand recognition opened doors to the more profitable prospects in their markets and contributed directly to the bottom line.

Building a Solid Foundation for Sales

The entire revenue-producing machine starts with achieving awareness. Building the rest of your marketing and sales initiatives on top of a weak brand is akin to building a house on a bed of sand. It may work for a while, but will have no chance of sustainable success. That is why it is so essential to define your brand promise as a guidepost against which you can gauge all of your tactical activities.

In my experience, B2B companies often overestimate the strength of their brand. What appears to the CEO or CMO to be an interesting and appealing brand can appear to the outside world as weak or unintelligible. To put this in a different way, what you call your company and how you refer to it (especially on your website) are critical choices to be made early in the L2R process. They must reflect what your customer needs to feel and find when they approach you for a relationship.

If there were a Vince Lombardi Trophy for advertising, it would be named, “The David Ogilvy Trophy,” after the person many consider the founder of modern advertising. What Ogilvy stated decades ago is still true: “Positioning” (Ogilvy’s term for creating the brand promise) “is the most important decision made in promoting a service or product.” The point of an effective lead-to-revenue process is to drive revenue. Your mission will be much easier if you get the branding part right.

So how do you know if you got this right? Here are four key indicators:

  1. Your sales reps spend less time explaining what your company does and more time helping prospects solve their challenges. This cannot only shrink the sales cycle but also increases your close rate – two huge L2R objectives.
  2. Prospects that visit your website will stay longer and more of them will convert (e.g. buy or download something).
  3. Brand equity can be converted to financial equity, expressed in terms of share value, increased market share and opportunities for a merger or acquisition.
  4. Your branding clarity promotes strategic clarity, which means you have less wasted internal motion and a clear, direct line of attraction to the audience you need.

Six Steps for Branding Success

Assuming your brand strategy has some room for improvement, follow these steps to improve your success:

  1. Know your starting point. You need to start with an assessment of your current strengths and weaknesses of your brand. We evaluate our client’s brands. You can download a brand health checklist here. A few of the variables to consider:
    1. Your audience. Think carefully about this. Who are you really trying to influence: prospects, customers, partners, shareholders, the board?
    2. Your strengths and weaknesses relative to the competition.
    3. What prospects are looking for online. A few hours with your favorite search engine will yield plenty of insights.
    4. The liabilities of your brand – are there factors here you will need to overcome?
    5. The freshness of your brand (is it based on what people are buying today or what they were buying years ago?)
  2. Remove your ego. We want the CEO, founder and exec teams to love the brand; but they need to remember that the people who really count are the company’s prospects and customers. We had a client whose CEO (despite our advice) changed a somewhat dated but functional company name with one based on a reference to historical events from the middle ages. Yes, it was clever and whimsical but perhaps 10 percent of the potential audience got it. Our rule: if you have to explain the brand, it’s a lousy brand.
  3. Establish the parameters. This is where you establish the scope of the branding project. Is this a tweak or a total re-do? Are you re-branding the company name, a product line or the brand promise/tagline?
  4. Identify customer and prospect touchpoints. Find (all) of the places where a prospect or customer will be exposed to your brand and make sure you account for each marketing, sales and customer service process. You can accomplish this with a touchpoint map.
  5. Start with the big picture and narrow your options from there. When strategizing your branding options, don’t get too parochial right away (e.g. selecting the too cute or obvious name). Also remember to fire up the crystal ball to make sure you are branding in a way that serves you five years out, not just today.
  6. Establish and monitor your brand health metrics. You can’t improve what you don’t measure. We capture 20 attributes when conducting a brand health scorecard for clients, some of which are subjective/qualitative and others which are objective/quantitative. Here are five of the most important.
    1. Quantity: How often are people talking about your company and its products or services?
    2. Quality: Who is talking about you and what are they saying?
    3. Website traffic: Are you getting more unique visitors and do they spend more time on site?
    4. Congruence. Congruence is a customer experience (CX) measurement that indicates whether the current brand aligns with your customers’ experience from initial contact through usage of the product or service.

I’ll leave you with a quote (from noted brand strategist Larry Light) that sums up how important the brand strategy is to successful lead-to-revenue: “A brand is more than a trademark. It is a trustmark. A brand is a covenant between the company and the consumer. A trusted brand is a genuine asset.”


  1. Hi Christopher – you have made some important points in this article, in particular, when developing a brand image, to start with the big picture. Some of my early-stage clients are enamored with a brandname, get vested in it, and proceed to craft their prospect messages and other biz-dev tactics around ideas that are poorly conceived. When the risks loom large, best to nip that problem in the bud and select another name – assuming ego doesn’t intervene, which you also pointed out.

    I’m troubled by “When you can achieve all three attributes [known, liked, trusted] (and keep them), success is assured.” This deterministic view is fairly prevalent in sales, but it gets companies into trouble, especially when forecasting for cash flow planning. When a set of conditions are present, a specific result or outcome might be desired, but it’s illogical to express it as a certainty. When working with clients, we urge managers to regard decision-related outcomes in probabilistic terms. Predicting how a committee of executives will decide is a lot harder than predicting the weather, to paraphrase a quote from great book by Peter Bernstein, Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk.

    In this case, if you define ‘success’ as a deal closing at 75% of the forecasted amount, AND within one quarter of the forecasted close date, these attributes (known, liked trusted) make that outcome possible. That’s about as far as I can go without further assessment of the situation, the uncertainties surrounding it, and the associated risks. For example, if the prospect is negotiating with a competitor that is also known, liked, and trusted, the deal is subject to the risk of selecting that competitor. Or, selecting a competitor that is known and trusted, but not liked (it happens!).

    Further, even with these attributes present, there are forces that can derail buying activities. Strategies change, and with them, so do prospect priorities. Key personnel leave the account, and delay the buying process. Or, projects that were once considered sacred and certain are totally abandoned. Mergers and acquisitions absorb management attention, or cause investment capital to be reallocated. Technological forces, geopolitical events, economic conditions intervene. Some of these issues are predicted and can be included in statistical risk modeling, others are “black swan” events that nobody could have predicted.

  2. Andrew, thanks for the in-depth comments. Despite the obvious benefits of being “known, like and trusted” – this is usually subjective and can’t be easily used as a pipeline forecasting metric. Lead-to-Revenue depends on precise revenue forecasting. And while we can use survey data collected on prospects, and the Net Promoter Score (NPS) to evaluate customer loyalty, there are definitely more precise ways to develop accurate sales forecasts.

    You made a great point about the uncertainty when using the Brand Awareness Hierarchy in cases where the prospect is negotiating with a competitor that is also known, liked, and trusted. You are absolutely correct that these types of deals are subject to the risk of the prospect selecting that competitor. But I do know that in the majority competitive sales situations, the company who is known, liked and trusted will usually beat the one who is not – unless of course, you are selling in a commodity environment where price is the chief buying motivation.


  3. Hi Chris: Thanks for your comment. Mainly, I think that sales strategists and biz-dev executives should be circumspect about attributing certainty to buyer decision making and sales outcomes, which is what bothered me with the “success is assured” part of your sentence. Even when a company does what they consider all the right things, desired outcomes can be compromised for many reasons. Most CFO’s I work with recognize the existence of many issues for cash planning purposes, and they adjust forecasts accordingly. It’s past time to bring that rigor and realism into the sales organization. There’s no reason it can’t or shouldn’t.

    Granted, I am swimming upstream in an enduring sales culture that revels in deterministic thinking. But many executives I work with today recognize that probabilistic thinking produces better revenue results because it makes people more risk-aware, more diligent about mitigation, and no less rabidly goal-focused.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here