We had an obvious identity problem that clearly impacted our sales performance, so getting support from the executive suite for a branding initiative should have been a slam-dunk. In theory, everyone agreed we had a brand problem. But branding initiatives are costly. They are long-term commitments; they're marathons, not sprints.
When presented the initial budget proposal, the Finance team went into sticker-shock. "You sure you put the comma in the right place?" was their first salvo.
When I joined Kronos several years ago, everyone on the executive team knew that the company had a brand problem. Damned by its overwhelming success in the time and attendance market—which it had helped create almost 25 years earlier—those who knew Kronos knew it as "the time-clock company." And there were many others who didn't know Kronos at all. Adding to the confusion: if you asked 100 different Kronites, "Who is Kronos?" you would get 100 different answers.
But Kronos's offering had evolved significantly from its core transaction-processing application to a rich, fully integrated suite of human capital management solutions.
As overall growth in the time and attendance market flattened with approaching maturity, Kronos became increasingly dependent on building sales in other components of its suite to maintain its track record of consecutive quarters of growth and profitability—a record that reached 109 consecutive quarters of year-on-year revenue growth and 80 consecutive quarters of profitability before its acquisition by private equity firm Hellman and Freeman in June 2007.
Yet, as a consequence of its brand problem, Kronos's very satisfied time and attendance customers weren't considering Kronos when purchasing HRMS or payroll or labor scheduling or absence management or labor analytics.
In many cases, these purchases were being made by those elsewhere in the organization, not by the decision-maker involved in the original time and attendance selection. The relevant buyer didn't know we offered those solutions, and in many cases didn't know that we even existed.
In the mid-market sector, more than half of all companies were unaware that Kronos's core time and attendance product delivered performance and value for smaller businesses as well as for the enterprise. Consequently, there were a lot of deals that we weren't getting called in to. And if you don't play, you can't win. It's that simple!
Stuart Itkin is a former CMO of Kronos, Inc. He's also a featured speaker at our B2B Forum in Chicago, October 1-2.