Simon Phillips of BLUE Communications explains how companies can benefit by understanding how they are perceived in their marketplace
Your reputation is defined by what people think of you.
In today’s shipping market, this matters more than ever. Not only is the industry navigating the most challenging economic conditions for several generations, it is also a market facing increased consolidation. Never before has it been more important to understand the value of brand and to build a reputation that sets your company apart from the competition. While shipping is traditionally a commodity-based industry, we are seeing more companies differentiate themselves based on value and the premium products or services that they provide.
At the same time, the shipping industry is facing significant scrutiny from political, regulatory, industry, environmental and consumer bodies, as well as charterers. This is compounded by the proliferation of 24-hour global media that is exploiting online, social and digital platforms, as well as traditional channels.
Put simply, in today’s multi-faceted stakeholder environment, it is vital to ensure that your brand is represented effectively so that you can build the reputation you desire.
Why does it matter?
The commercial rationale to this is straightforward. In business it matters what people think of you. If they like you and you have a positive reputation, they are more likely to buy from you, invest in you, work with you and for you, as well as write and talk favourably about you. If they don’t like you, or indeed know you, then they won’t.
However, the starting point for delivering against your brand and building your reputation is understanding what others are thinking and saying about you.
This isn’t just nice-to-know. It is business-critical. It provides you with the intelligence and insight to shape your business and brand development strategy and direct your marketing and communications resources towards those areas that will be most effective in strengthening your brand, driving sales and building enterprise value.
Auditing your brand and reputation
BLUE has conducted independent brand and reputation audits for some of the biggest names in shipping, helping them answer the most fundamental questions:
- What do your customers, prospects and stakeholders really think of you?
- What is your reputation within your marketplace?
- What do they think of your products and services?
- Why do they choose to work with your competitors instead of you?
- Do your employees buy in to your business strategy? Do they believe in you?
For a company that is in the dark about its profile, how it is regarded within its market and how effective it is at getting its messages into the public domain, this intelligence is hugely insightful. It can identify how the perception of your business and your products and services varies between different sectors or geographic territories; essential information if you are looking to expand into new markets.
Informing your business strategy
This type of exercise plays a critical role in setting a baseline against which all business strategy, sales, marketing and communications activity can then be measured. For example, BLUE recently conducted a brand perceptions report for a major global multi-billion dollar shipping company. The report sought to audit what its current, previous and prospective customers thought of the services that it provided, both strengths and weaknesses, measured across its global operations. It identified whether the values that define its brand were effectively represented within its sales, marketing and communications channels, as well as a wider audit that assessed its reputation amongst other influencers and opinion formers in the shipping industry, including the media and regulatory community.
The report utilised a combination of qualitative and quantitative research, including an online survey and in-depth telephone and face-to-face interviews. It was conducted on a global basis, with responses received from across the Americas, Asia, Middle East and Europe. The results were presented to the company and have been used to formulate its current marketing, communications and business development programme. The audit will also be repeated next year in order to benchmark progress.
Knowledge is Power
Living in ignorance is not an option for companies wanting to survive and thrive in today’s shipping market. Armed with a detailed diagnosis of brand and reputation, organisations have the opportunity to rectify any misalignments within their operations and reinvigorate their sales, marketing and communications channels, in order to deliver against business strategy, increase sales and grow enterprise value.