Today’s economy has made many of us very price conscious; however, our buying habits are still swayed by brand perception and image. In the grocery store you may look at the store brand and then find your eyes wandering over to the premium brand as your brain ponders – what really is the difference? After our minds wrestle with this dilemma, you make a choice and justify it.

“Money is tight; Publix Rice Cereal is no different than Rice Crispies.” (Really, it tastes the same and still goes Snap!, Crackle!, Pop!)
“Philadelphia cream cheese tastes so much better than the generic brand; it is worth the extra 82 cents.”

B2B buying decisions are quite a bit more complicated but still rely, especially in the early stages, on perception and brand awareness. The first step is usually to make the short list. This comes from recommendations based on the reputation of your product or service and brand awareness. In essence, you have to be found and seen as a respectable and forward thinking company. This starts with your people, or more accurately, your spokespeople.

Great spokespeople have a knack for entertaining and engaging any audience regardless of the topic. Not everyone is born with this talent. What companies need to do is find people who are passionate about the business, industry and product. Someone who will enthusiastically stand behind what they are saying. I have worked with several of these people and, through specific thought leadership campaigns, helped develop them into sought after speakers who command the respect of the media and industry. Here are some tips on how you can do this at your company:

1) Find the right spokesperson – Your spokesperson should be engaging, extremely knowledgeable and able to discuss complex topics in language that can be understand by a broad audience. Keep in mind, your best spokesperson is not always going to be the one who wants to be in the spotlight.

2) Training – No matter how well a person speaks in a casual environment, put them on a public stage on or the phone with a reporter and the nerves can come out. Go through a full day training session to work out the kinks. This is time well spent and pays great dividends.

3) Get out there – Briefings with the press and analyst communities (don’t forget the analysts!), speaking engagements and byline articles.

4) Commentary – Find news and trends relevant to your industry and provide commentary. Show the industry you know what is going on and have an expert opinion.

5) No Sales Pitches – If you want to establish credibility and become a sought after spokesperson, stay far away from sales pitches and avoid the Death by PowerPoint syndrome. PowerPoint is a crutch that should be avoided, especially during media interviews.

6) Patience – Being considered an expert does not happen overnight; it is a gradual process to build the industry’s trust and confidence. Give it time and make sure your spokesperson is actively engaged.

Now, don’t get me wrong. For all of this to work, you also need to offer a great product. However, without the right spokesperson to align business wisdom with industry intelligence, that product can sit idle in a warehouse never to be seen again.