Today's mergers, acquisitions and spin-offs don't always lead to positive results for a company's brand. Regrettably, during such transitions, a company's brand can get lost.

Particularly for a small business, a name change could mean disaster. Such companies don't have the resources to educate customers about a name change. Lack of a brand reflects poorly on the company, and customers shy away in fear of its perceived instability. How does a company regain its brand without gaining a bad reputation for the constant changes it has undergone?

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This Week's Dilemma

Brand-less thanks to changes

After 15 years, our mom and pop agency took on two partners that didn't work out. We went through many changes, including changing our name (which had moderate awareness) and positioned the change as the "Best of OldName—made even better." Instead of keeping that promise, our service tanked and chaos ensued. Now that we've broken away, we're stuck with a no-name moniker that we don't love and no brand. How do we proceed without looking unstable?

—Caroline, Advertising Manager

Previous Dilemma

Reaching customers' other departments

We are a B2B company selling CRM technology. After a brief customer analysis, we have noticed that the customers we have sold to have other divisions that may be potential clients. How do we reach these other departments? Aside from referrals, how else can we access these other divisions?

—Mike S., Marketing Manager

Summary of Advice Received

Mike, your concern about reaching other "arms" of the company is understandable, especially with potential political issues, existing policies and a wish to continue respecting the client. Readers offer four ways to handle the challenge:

  1. Take good care of existing customers.

  2. Build referrals.

  3. Help all employees be marketers.

  4. Use publicity tactics.

1. Take good care of existing customers

No one can go wrong by taking good care of customers. Having good relationships goes a long way in terms of referrals, testimonials and getting more business. Shiferaw Belachew, a manager of the Low Voltage Department with Equatorial Business Group, says, "You can reach these divisions or other departments by properly handling the existing customer. Not to worry, the other divisions will likely become your customers, too."

Phang Riyang, consultant with NTU, Inc., advises not pushing. He recommends taking initiatives to promote other products, or making appointments with other divisions when you're serving particular departments or divisions:

Using "push" tactics might cause a reactive push. Using "pull" tactics shows why you are the right solution (efficiency, one-stop solution, reliable, friendly, etc.). Your performance in one department is a powerful advertisement to other departments.

Beware of organizational dynamics, such as politics and internal competition. The last thing anyone wants is a problem maker. However, if you do want to work some relationships among members, it is wise to work vertically...rather than horizontally, across departments.

The company's resistance to changing to other competitors is your advantage. Once in, human interaction and actual product value, compared to perceived value, are more important. Word of mouth between management and the organization spreads like fire. There's no need for further marketing tactics; just reveal your product attributes to their fullest and avoid organizational conflicts and politics.

2. Build referrals

Many businesses land consulting work based on whom they know. Referrals are an excellent way to do become a familiar name. Diego LLaneza, retail director at Sossen Marketing & Sales, shares an experience from when he was working with an international consulting firm that wanted WalMart as a client:

We noticed there were a lot of divisions, but we could not reach the correct decision maker for the contract. Through the help of our corporate offices, we got an agreement to conduct what we called a "needs assessment" process. The process required interviewing each of the seven directors reporting to the CEO. This included every division, from human resources to finance to operations. During the course of the interview, we briefly showed the benefits of our service and asked the person an innocent, "Do you think someone from your team could benefit from these services?" They would quickly refer us to at least two people in each team to speed up finishing the meeting.

Each person we contacted onward received a "Hi, my name is xx and I work for xy consulting. Your boss told me you might be interested in such a service," message. They agreed to an appointment in seconds, and gave us the necessary time to understand why their bosses wanted us to meet them. We showed our benefits (targeted at that stage) and asked each of them to refer us to a report they wanted us to meet. By the end of the process, we had more than 40 interviews; we were ready to target each service for each department and each decision maker. It took us about two months, but the rewards included a tight and widespread relationship that was an enormous barrier against competition.

Dean Del Vecchio, vice-president of sales at WebFeat, shares three approaches that have worked well for him in addition to building referrals:

Referrals are always a great way to go when looking for business within an existing client. In addition to referrals, here are three concepts that have worked well for my company.

First—get your existing client to build a case study with you. People like to be recognized for the good work they have done. Once the case study is finished, that document has the tendency to quickly circulate through the other departments. The case study becomes a marketing piece and referral.

Second—create and execute a formal marketing plan using your customer's other departments as your potential new clients. We found this exercise to be extremely helpful in guiding our efforts in acquiring new business.

3. Help all employees be marketers

Employees not in sales and marketing are still the company's best marketing tools. They know people, talk to people and generally spread the word of the company's reputation. Dusan Vrban, marketing manager at Kainoto, shares how his company handles this:

We call this "employee market behavior" at our company. Besides technology that you also sell (CRM), it is important to educate employees to behave in a marketing way. This means that they acknowledge they are all part of marketing and learn three functions they have: communication, research and innovation.

Prior to that, work needs to be done consisting of setting the proper positioning, analyzing current employee behavior (attitudes and image recognition) and setting a strategy. Another step is to change the award system in the company that involves what you would like to achieve.

Another reader advises ensuring that the sales staff is selling up the chain:

Maybe target the operations manager/general manager of the business to look at a full company program for your product. Or, make sure that you tailor your product message to reach the additional departments. If you only talk about dealing with external customers, you need to clearly communicate to other areas like purchasing departments, finance, etc.

4. Use publicity tactics

Nermeen Mahmoud, business development consultant with Chartered Dubai Financial and Management consultants, provides a creative three-step approach for more publicity:

    1. Conduct a small event to celebrate the contract/agreement and invite all other divisions, then you will get to know other divisions' management and key staff.

    2. Build a good relationship with the Marcom marketing people and ask their help to put a success story regarding your contract in the company newsletter.

    3. Publish this newsletter on the company's intranet and add a link for more information to contact you.

Make the customer happy and remember that employees are marketing tools; you'll have no problem reaching the other arms of the company.

Share your business "family" woes or issues. Many MarketingProfs readers who are marketing pros are standing by the "phones" ready to help.

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Hank Stroll ( is publisher at InternetVIZ, a custom publisher of 24 B2B e-newsletters reaching 490,000 business executives.