60-second brand discovery: follow the money

Met with an interesting startup the other day who was looking for a product manager type. Whether you’re looking for a job or meeting a potential client for the first time, I’m reminded that the most effective way to get to the heart of any organization’s authentic brand is to start with the simple, “how do you make money?” question. Working in public relations and advertising there was always a feeling you’re being crass to ask such a direct question first. It’s the same reason media pitching p.r. pros don’t like being compared to sales pros. It’s all a transaction folks, so when you’re logging your (sometime non-billable) time in 0.25 hr increments doesn’t it make sense to find the fastest path to get the information you need? We tend to want to talk about the client’s aspirational brand attributes when all that is merely whipped cream on the meatball, as Seth Godin would say, if the money flows in a completely different direction.

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2 Responses to “60-second brand discovery: follow the money”

  1. Paul Vogelzang Says:

    The thing that always galls me is that while many senior executives, media pitching pros and pr pros alike, play an increasingly important role is sales, few sell. While relationships are valuable, and their importance cannot be overemphasized, sales are the key. And success in sales means asking the direct questions.
    It’s often said that if you want to get to the top in a company, then the best route is through sales or accountancy. And a move to sales, possibly via marketing, is not only necessary for further progression, it challenges you to develop the right skills, like asking hard questions, that can prove valuable in the board room to avoid corporate catastrophe, ala Enron, et.al.

  2. Dave Kawalec Says:

    I should think that figuring out the money trail is the only way to forge an “authentic” brand identity. The ultimate mission of any for-profit company is to generate profit for its investors. Rather than being crass, I think this point of view helps to focus on a company’s core business. Being able to clearly answer these kinds of questions shows the proper focus on a good business model, not just on a good product. It’s a good indicator, not just on the future health of the company (or in the case of a startup, the viability of the business at all), but cuts through the clutter to define value propositions, client expectations and the positioning of the brand.

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