Flip the Narrative: 3 Ways to Use Your Company’s Legacy to Advantage

3 Ways to Use Your Company’s Legacy to Your Advantage

When I tell friends and family about Avaya, I describe it as a marketer’s dream, and I mean that. Coming into a company with a well-established brand and decades of experience is literally the Holy Grail in the marketing world. I’m not saying it makes the job a cakewalk, but it certainly helps.

When I came to Avaya seven months ago, I knew that our well-respected brand needed a facelift. We were transforming, as is our industry. When we looked at our brand against our competitors, we quickly realized we were in a sea of sameness. It didn’t reflect the company we were becoming or the innovation we were producing. And it certainly didn’t stand out.

While many businesses are trying to shed the “legacy” label, at Avaya, we chose to embrace it. It’s one more way we’re daring to be different, and I’m willing to bet it’s going to pay off. We’re not the first company to own our history: the likes of Coca-Cola, Apple, and Levi’s have all built mega-brands on their rich legacy. Here are three ways to do it well:

  1. You have customers with a story to tell. Let them tell it. It’s been scientifically proven that storytelling engages the brain on a deeper level than simply relaying data points, so it only makes sense to tap into this. When you have a rich legacy, you also have customers with years of proven outcomes. Aside from your employees, your customers are your biggest advocates. Let them shout their successes from the mountaintops and share their stories far and wide. Their success is made possible by your products and solutions—these will resonate with potential new clients and will be trusted far more than a data point displayed on your website.
  2. You know the goals of your customers. If you don’t, you should. Building relationships with customers is just like building personal relationships. You have conversations and you learn about their history, culture, and long-term plans. Most legacy companies have customers who have been with them through thick and thin. When you build trust over time and consistently deliver, your customers no longer view you as just another vendor, but more of a trusted member of their extended team. When you step into this role, you’re now able to help shape their path forward. You can proactively recommend products and solutions that will further their digital transformation, enable collaboration, or cut costs in the long run. You can afford to be bold with an established relationship and your company’s rich history supporting you.
  3. It’s easier to take risks (and even fail). Hear me out on this one. I know what you’re thinking: failure = success? Is that a typo? As Ellen DeGeneres once said, “When you take risks you learn that there will be times when you succeed and times when you fail, and both are equally important.” While being part of a fresh, new start-up is incredibly exciting, it doesn’t always allow you to take big risks because, quite simply, you don’t have the revenue flow or customer base to act as a buffer if the risk doesn’t pay off. Legacy companies have both. We can often afford to take risks because the likelihood of surviving a failure is much higher than that of a new company just starting out. Taking risks and even failing allows us to continue to learn and grow—two attributes needed in our ever-changing industry.

You want to own your future? Grow your brand? Delight your customers? I encourage you to look to your past. Dig through the years of successes and failures to determine the type of company you are and the company you want to be, and then tell your story to the world. I say when you have history and heritage, don’t bury it. Leverage it.

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