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(EMC)—Although Admiral David Farragut had a long and distinguished career in the U.S. Navy, he’s best known for a single order he gave at the Battle of Mobile Bay on the Gulf Coast of Alabama. Farragut ordered his ships to attack the port, but when one ship sunk after striking a tethered naval mine (known at the time as a torpedo) the other ships began to pull up. Farragut then issued his famous order: Damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead!

Internet marketers are facing a similar situation when it comes to branding. The tough global economy has served to torpedo branding efforts at many organizations. Branding is often seen as “soft” by sales, something to build when the pipeline is full. Yet for many marketers, especially those whose products or services require many months of deliberation before purchase, a strong brand can actually be an asset in finding quality leads and moving them through the sales cycle. It could also help your company and product stand out from competitors.

What follows in this two-part series are some ideas on how sales and marketing can work together to navigate rough economic waters and win the battle for short- and long-term revenue generation.

Help customers and prospects discover you
In the days before GPS, sailors used the stars to explore and discover the unknown. Today’s consumers use the internet in much the same way.

Outbound marketing isn’t as effective as it once was. Instead of pushing content and waiting for a reply, marketers need to establish a 24/7 online presence so consumers can find them when they’re searching through directories, online catalogs, specialized search engines and industry websites.

Prospects with clearly defined needs look for solutions when it suits them, and often go to a website to get a “feel” for the company before looking into individual products or services. Therefore, invest in making it easy for prospects to find you and then understand the value you offer. That’s how you brand your company and generate leads at the same time.

Concentrate your firepower
The standing order from sales may be to fill the pipeline, but what’s often missed is what they really mean is fill it with quality leads. What often occurs is b-to-b marketers take a scattershot approach, firing in all directions in the hopes of hitting something. Unfortunately, while it may pull in a large number of leads, most are unqualified, making them a waste of a salesperson’s time and further driving a wedge between sales and marketing. Before long, the perceived value of the lead-generation campaign plummets in the hopeful eyes of management and sales.

To dodge that trap, concentrate your limited firepower on high-value targets. Identify the needs and challenges of your ideal customers, then deliver messages that explain how you can meet their requirements and solve their problems. This approach will build your brand for the long term while attracting more qualified leads today. And even if you don’t hit a bull’s-eye with the specific customer you want, you’re likely to land one that’s pretty close to the target, delivering more of the results you want.

Stay tuned for part two of this series where I’ll take a look at the importance of distinguishing your company and products through branding, staying on your prospects’ radars, and building your content library.

Chris Chariton is senior vice president of product management and supplier marketing for GlobalSpec, a provider of online marketing solutions for companies within the industrial sector.

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