Today, there is a lot of focus on Brands and Branding as if that alone would make your business a success. You often hear, “That brand just took off!” or, “That brand has a giant following!” like it was some kind of popularity contest, based on images and slogans alone.
Some plain and ordinary images, innocuous names, and nonsense monikers have been wildly successful. How do they succeed when so many “cool” brands, logos, and catch phrases don’t? How did they get so popular in the first place when they defy all the current wisdom on branding? It’s simple: sales, sales, and more sales!
Even though sales are certainly easier with good branding, sales trump all else, sales cure all ills, and nothing happens until the sale is made.
Volumes have been written on sales, but here are just a few considerations we found particularly significant:
- We’ve often said. “All companies have only two divisions: Sales and Sales Support.” From accounting to the receptionist, from production to marketing, every job in the company that is not selling is “Sales Support.” Where does the money come from to pay your non-sales people anyway? From Sales of course! Base your compensation plans for both sales and non-sales staff, on sales to reinforce this interdependent relationship.
- Your company may have to go through various middlemen before you have the luxury of selling the ultimate consumer. You sales support staff should have a clear financial incentive to help your sales people make those transactions happen smoothly. Providing timely information, compelling sales tools, and effective marketing programs are a good start.
- Your product must be dependably available and the compelling reasons to make the purchase must be effectively communicated. Only then can the prospect make the decision to purchase your product. Only then can a sale happen.
- Your brand’s reputation grows by providing consistent quality and value over time. This means that sales must increase, uninterrupted. The success of your brand is measured by sales. Therefore, brands should be designed with sales and distribution realities in mind.
- At some point, sales start to beget sales. Many gatekeepers are so impressed with sales they may buy a mediocre product just because it has impressive sales numbers. Ultimately these brands become upstaged by higher value, more relevant brands, but they can block the channel for years just because of their sales momentum.
- Gaining traction is overcoming the inertia of being unknown with no sales track record. Even if your product is brilliantly branded with a great relevance and utility, it has to overcome the sales history of competing brands.
- It’s better not to be in some parts of the market than to be spread so thin you risk lack luster sales. Start with stellar sales in a small portion of the market you can control. Establish a “hot seller” reputation there first. Just like a beta in the software business, knock out the bugs in a smaller area before you take on the world. Don’t be tempted to measure sales in total units no matter where they are made. Measure sales by territory and make sure they are impressive. Carefully build the sales reputation the gatekeepers want to see.
These are just a few general observations about an often misunderstood term that needs more respect. Without actual sales, we are all just spinning our wheels focusing on branding. Even the best brand in the world still needs to be sold!
Who Are We.
Having built and sold a bestselling national brand, we appreciate the value of brands and everything it takes to make them successful. Companies are valued by their brand equity. Achieving and maximizing brand equity requires tremendous respect for all your customers, from your wholesaler to your end user.
Starting in our laundry room with no money and no knowledge of the industry, we built the famous Barefoot Wine brand. We learned a lot they don’t teach in school and much of it the hard way. Although our success was in consumer products, our real world experience will be helpful to anyone looking for information and advice about brands.
We have written the New York Times Bestselling Business Book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand, which chronicles the history of the famous brand from its inception through its acquisition. Our book is now required reading in schools of entrepreneurship across the country. We hope this book will provide inspiration and encouragement for all those contemplating starting a brand or wanting to improve their existing brand.
Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey
-Barefoot Wine Founders