The CFO as brand ambassador? You can do it. Here’s how.

It was obvious that we had a problem with our identity, which clearly affected our sales performance. So, getting the support of the executive suite to launch a branding campaign should have been easy. Theoretically, we all agreed that our brand was a problem. Branding initiatives can be expensive. These are marathons, not sprints.

The Finance team was in sticker shock when they received the first budget proposal. Have you placed the comma in the correct place? This was their first salvo.

Everyone on the executive team was aware that Kronos had a branding problem when I joined the company several years ago. Those who knew Kronos were astonished by its success in the time and attendance industry, which it helped to create nearly 25 years ago. They knew it as “the “company that makes time clocks, but” man” people did not know who Kronos was. If you ask 100 different Kronites, “Who “‘s Kronos?” it “would only add to the confusion. You would get 100 different responses.

However, KronoKronos’sring has evolved significantly from its core transaction-processing application to a rich, fully integrated suite of human capital management solutions.

The flattening of overall market growth impacted Kronos’s track record of quarterly growth and profitability as it matured. This record reached 109 quarters in a row of revenue growth year-on-year and 80 quarters in a row of profitability prior to its acquisition in June 2007 by private equity firm Hellman and Freeman.

As a result of the brand problem, Kronos customers who were very satisfied with their time and attendance system didn’t use Kronos for HRMS, payroll, labor scheduling, absence management, or labor analytics.

These purchases are often made by people who are not the original decision makers. In many cases, the relevant buyer did not know that we provided those solutions and didn’t know that we existed.

More than half of mid-market companies did not know that KronoKronos’s time and absence product was a great value and performer for small and large businesses. We missed out on a number of opportunities because we didn’t call. You cannot know you don’t. It’s only that simple.

We presented data from Interbrand, as well as other sources, to support the proposed branding initiatives. These data showed the asset value of strong brands. We explained that the Microsoft brand would be worth $65 billion if it were allowed to appear on the balance sheets, and McDonald’s would be a $ 27 billion asset. Finance was unwavering in its belief that branding is a soft initiative without a direct link to revenue.

We went back to the drawing board to try to explain the benefits of our branding initiative in terms that finance executives could understand and demonstrate a convincing return on investment.

We developed independent estimates for product line revenue (total revenue divided by sales expense) and product line margins (%) for each of the top three suppliers. The absolute estimates are then converted into rank order.

We were ready to present our case when we returned to the board. The first question was about the Finance department: “Thin” of buying a new printer. What is the first thing that comes to your mind?” Hew”ett-Packard was the unanimous and immediate question is, “Whom” else would you consider?” Lon” prQuestionhird Question: “Thin” of buying a network router …” Eve”y one names Cisco.” “Wh” “else do you consider?” Sil”n nice “Thin” about purchasing a laptop computer …” wa”  the unanimous and immediate response. IBM was the most common name when asked “Who “and” Eve,” though IBM had not been in the laptop business for years.

In every case, the brand leader was identified correctly and unanimously; the runners-up were rarely, if at all, mentioned. The data presented showed that the supplier who ranked first for product line revenue also ranked top in terms of sales productivity and margin.

For laptops, Dell ranked first in revenue, sales productivity, and product line margin. However, more than half of Dell customers visited the Dell website before purchasing a computer. Why did more than 50% of Dell customers only go to Dell? Why did they not compare specifications or prices? Brand matters.

Finance was paying attention. Why should we invest in the Kronos Brand? What would be the impact of a stronger Kronos brand on how much we sold and how much money we spent for each dollar we sold? Independent research revealed that, when analyzing our performance in a particular business sector, we were considered to be responsible for approximately 40% of deals. Our win rate was also approximately 35%. What would strengthen the brand return?

Everyone agreed that investing in branding would increase the consideration rate by at least 5%. We showed that a 5% increase in the consideration rate in this sector would result in a 13% rise in net sales and well over $10,000,000 annually. If the win rate were also improved by 5%, the increase in annual net sales would reach more than $25,000,000, or a 29% rise without any increase in headcounts or other expenses within the Sales function. This would be a 29% increase in the sales productivity of the sector, as well as a 4.9% increase in company sales. It would also represent an improvement of 9%, or 12 cents, in earnings per share. We added that similar benefits could be gained in other sectors. The marketing investment needed was less than 10% of the projected incremental revenue for this business sector. We closed the deal.

The first phase of the program involved developing a brand strategy. The strategy needed to be broad and include not only customers and prospects but also business analysts, media, investors, current and prospective employees, and other key constituencies. We surveyed each gandtermine their current perception and awareness of the company. We also asked them about other companies in the same space and what they thought of “the “deal” pro”ider. We were able to determine both our end goal and our starting point.

If you don’t have a plan, you will end up in another place. If you don’tdon’t where you came from and you only know where you are going, you may end up in a dead-end, a blind alley, or a path leading nowhere.

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