Going Public? Don’t Forget About Your Corporate Brand!

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IPOs represent a time of unique opportunity and challenge – the chance to make a meaningful first impression with prospective investors, partners and even recruits; to take the company to the next level and achieve major growth goals; and to go head to head with more established players. Not surprisingly, IPOs can be deeply unsettling for a company’s customers and employees, many of whom will struggle to understand how the new public status impacts them.

These days, the hottest trend in enterprise technology – Big Data – is fueling the IPO market. A recent Fortune article points to a long line of recent and upcoming enterprise technology and Big Data IPOs, including visual analytics provider, Tableau Software, which raised $254 million in its initial public offering and was lucky enough to get the ticker symbol “DATA.” While much of the media attention tends to follow sexier, consumer-focused tech firms – i.e. Facebook, LinkedIn, Pandora – B2B is having its day.

While the Big Data wave may rise all boats, those companies with a strong corporate brand will be best positioned for a successful public offering. Brand building forces a company to articulate its promise clearly and succinctly, thereby breaking through the technology clutter in the financial markets.

We saw this first hand when one of our clients, a technology start-up with a revolutionary solution for life science research, went public. To attract investors, the company had to create a brand that translated its highly complex technology platform into a bottom-line focused value proposition. We developed a message map that provided the firm with key messaging for all its stakeholders, including investors, clients, employees and the media. This empowered the firm to communicate its unique story with clarity and consistency to all key audiences. The new brand creates a bridge between technology and the C-suite, emphasizing how the company’s solution can deliver results for their clients and on the company’s financial statements. Deployed through a synchronized marketing program, the new brand enabled the company to acquire more than $600 million in partnership commitments from Fortune 50 companies within two years.

None of this happens overnight. Building a brand requires market research and deliberate, long-term strategic thinking. Treating your corporate brand as an afterthought or a last minute attempt to pump up an IPO roadshow will surely feel like the window dressing that it is. Your corporate brand should provide investors with rich insight into the company’s culture, vision and strategy. Your brand should foster the credibility you need to set your firm apart in a crowded IPO market and make an impactful first impression, but, ultimately, you are investing for the long-term in a platform to drive momentum beyond the IPO, both internally, as a culture-building tool, and externally, to differentiate the firm in an increasingly crowded and competitive marketplace.

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