In this 3-Part series, we walk through building a brand from scratch. With all the pieces together and a real live business operation ready to sell, serve, and support customers. . . it’s time now to advertise and be ready to serve customers as the brand and by it’s standards. Part 3 walks us through the big follow-through. Click here for Part 1 and here for Part 2.
The brand marketing plan has been writing itself as you’ve walked through these steps. Now it’s time to nail it down. Decide on a budget and get the plan off to a solid start so it will manage you, rather than the reverse.
A good content and campaign calendar will span a year or more and take you from launch to sales goals to profitability. The plan may include promotions with respect to seasonality and annual trends specific to your industry. Decide up front who will be in charge of the PR, marketing plan, keeping track of the content calendar, social accounts, sponsored posts, ads, promo item inventory, trade shows, media buys, etc.
To produce effective advertising efforts, we need to recruit all the brand mojo, essence, and created assets and order them into a strict, tactical operations attack plan. Break this assault up into many campaigns during the year which leverage all the brand ammunition (story elements, content, graphics, and sounds.)
Entice your audience with sharp creative that reflects your desired position in the market and presents recipients with the clearest and easiest follow-up responses. Remember that video is the best at conveying message and eliciting emotional response action. Nothing is as high-impact. Invest with confidence in video, but make sure the production values match the tone and quality the brand needs to convey.
Even as digital dominates, a concurrent, mixed-media strategy is almost always more effective. It won’t be hard to find a mix that is right for your size, market, and goals.
Don’t over-rely on one thing, and don’t assume you have to do something just because everybody else is doing it. You may not even need print pieces. Steve Jobs famously shunned paper flyers and brochures. Also, don’t bombard your customers or prospects. Keep track of them and their behaviors but be careful not to alienate them with annoyance.
As you write up your marketing plan and budget, be aware of the three different types of media:
- Paid media — what you buy
- Owned media — what you create
- Earned media — what your customers create
Have a healthy balance of all three. There are potential savings in #3 where you can leverage that goodwill coming back to you from satisfied customers.
Of course, things could and will change during the year, so it’s okay to call an audible and switch things up if a business case is clear. Don’t get discouraged if things start off slow. Sales cycles and pipelines differ between industries. But be dang certain that what you do today, affects sales you need to close tomorrow and 3 months from now.
You wouldn’t dare send out a big direct mail campaign without a clear action (response mechanism) for the recipient to take. So avoid spending marketing dollars without a way to measure ROI.
Thank goodness you don’t have to start out with a big, expensive campaign. For whatever media type you want run, there are tailored ways to target your audience’s demographic, drilling down to size or area that suits your budget or business capability.
The majority of advertising and customer engagement occurs on digital platforms anyway, so marketers can cheaply and professionally run pilot campaigns and test messaging and design by getting instant and accurate performance results without leaving their desks.
If you discover an ad concept is working, you may decide to expand the audience and re-run. Finding and/or purchasing the best data (and then identifying your prospect universe within it) is a complex and time-consuming task best handled by database professionals.
Before testing or running a campaign, know your business indicators for success. A couple of questions: What is your attribution model? Are you more interested in counting “new customers” or “products sold”? Are you more interested in the “last touch,” or is the entire customer journey of more significant value for your long term success? Are you looking for clicks, completed forms, completed videos, purchases?
Decide on your own internal indicators based on target cost-per-customer. Consult professionals, and compare with industry standards to help you measure how customer dwell time and response behaviors are adding up to sales.
Remember that metrics are adaptable by device. So a “click” or “video completion” on a desktop means something different than the same behavior on a smartphone.
Even though you’ve identified your dream market universe, remember not to bombard just because you can. Practice restraint. It can be hard not to retarget (especially when things are slow), but refrain from beaming too many things at your base, so you don’t alienate anyone. Some companies have a rule: 3 touches then a rest or stop.
With all the desktop analytics tools now available, running the numbers has never been easier or more fun. Start off with a customer acquisition cost you are comfortable with. Run an A/B test campaign. Try to beat it. Grow. Repeat.
Your Customer: Serve First, Engage Second
Once you get customers, you can’t help but think of ways to use them to get more customers, or ways to sell them more stuff. These are healthy thoughts, but you have to pace yourself, so you don’t mess up a good thing by not using proper tact or timing.
Before you go asking for testimonials or reviews, be sure you’ve completely taken care of the person or business as a customer first. Make expectations clear, and hold up your end of the bargain and then some. Keep all customer transaction and correspondence history in a central system (CRM) so key people in your company can jump in and assist. Over-serving your customers is a free investment in word-of-mouth. Under-promise, over-deliver.
When you’re confident you are doing right by your customer, give them incentives to tout your brand. Install easy ways for customers to rate or review your products. Provide fun hashtags for folks to employ when using your product at work or play. Acknowledge and thank your customers. Think of customers as part of your brand. Engage them in discussions that help bring new people to the brand.
Whether consciously or not, prospects shopping your brand are searching for signs of themselves in your your customer base. People tend to gravitate toward their own self-image. If applicable, be sure to distribute low cost items like shirts/hats/stickers for customers and prospects to wear. Great brands offer people the ability to showcase their tribal loyalty to the brand.
But be sure to practice some restraint here, too. Don’t get too cheesy with it. The idea is to harness and empower your influential power-users without forcing it. Everyone is a creator now with a voice and a platform. Earned user-generated content and word-of-mouth is arguably the most powerful deciding factor for consumers. It only happens when customers have great experiences. Live up to your brand’s promise when in sales or support mode. Give people a reason to talk up your brand.
Also, dedicate some effort to serve the customer community. Be about something positive. Advocate and show support for a cause that helps your whole market.
Be sure to run self check-ups. Get unfiltered feedback from your customers. Ask “How are we doing?” Ask unloaded questions. Be prepared for negative feedback. Some of it you won’t like, but you can take it. Remember not to take it personally. Let your brand answer the question. Remember, your brand is not a person with emotion. A brand just wants to help the unhappy customer. Fix the problems you can, and act as the brand. Address negative comments artfully, and always take the high road.
Empower Your Employees
Foster an employee-friendly workspace. Employees are happiest and most productive when they feel secure and see themselves as contributing to the overall picture. In accordance, your company should take every step to offer the best in benefits, time-off, and perks while involving employees in important business decisions.
Make great hires for your brand. When you look at résumés and letters and talk to candidates, can you imagine them writing about, representing, or talking to someone else about your brand? Focus on where company culture, product lifestyle, individuality, and skill sets for the job intersect with the brand.
Make sure to properly introduce all employees to the brand. Don’t assume they know it. Educate everyone on the importance of the brand to the business model, and design company policies as an extension of the brand. Infuse the brand into the even the most mundane administrative forms. Find non-corny ways to get everyone “with the program.” Video helps.
Define clear rules of engagement, complete with proper training, scripts, and tools to help your staff respond to customers appropriately and with the right language. Empower your employees to be resourceful, special “Brand Agents” who know how to route inquiries and quickly find answers to questions.
Praise and reward your employees when they do well. Be supportive, calm, and constructive when trying to make a correction. When time affords, include them in decisions and conversations about issues that may even be above their pay grade. Go out of your way to make employees feel useful, wanted, and included beyond their paycheck.
Have great HR practices. Invest in your employees when budget allows. If you operate with under 50 employees, try to make some incentives available or install programs to help your staff with classes, certification, or training from which the company also benefits. Help employees understand that you are truly glad to have them aboard to share your vision of succeeding in the industry.
Your employees are walking representatives of your brand when on-the-clock or off. You want them to understand the brand mission and speak favorably about their employment. Earn their trust, and your brand will earn the trust of those they interact with.
Trust doesn’t happen overnight. Building reputation means doing good work consistently over time. It also means being nice, honoring contracts, and dealing fairly. You’ll have to earn and slowly build trust at the different levels of your market ecosystem in multiple ways.
First — maintain customer confidence by demonstrating your expertise in the field, being available, helpful, transparent, and competitively priced.
Second — stay in your employees’ good graces by providing and a safe, comfortable, fun environment, with advancement opportunity.
Third — remember that your company is also a customer. Think about all your vendors and accounts, and try to be a good customer for them. You get in what you put out, so contribute to their best-practice and promotional efforts, as you have asked the same of your customers. We live in a world where everyone rates everyone else in a transaction, so put good karma out there.
Be on time, professional, thorough, get things in writing, and uphold privacy and confidentiality. Seek out professional advice when it comes to handling and protecting customer data. Policy and disclaimers have to be airtight with respect to data use. Make unsubscribe, opt-out, and privacy/sharing choices easily navigable.
Win friends in the industry by supporting a market-friendly cause. Think local and gain your community’s confidence by being attentive, respectful, generous, and maintaining curb appeal.
Make every effort to elevate your industry to higher standards with every action you take, but don’t get too proud. Be the first to admit when you make a mistake, and do the right thing to resolve it.
Stick to the Core
Never lose sight of the brand’s principal values, products, or services. You did all this work to get here and things are going well, so don’t go changing. Not unless you have every good reason to add, take away, or shift. Don’t be the brand that has success with the chief business model, but then tries to fix what’s not broken.
In effort to add more revenue by serving some new need or adding new products, you could end up diluting or tarnishing the brand. You don’t want to cause clutter and impede the throughput customers are used to. If suddenly customers are digging through too many layers or pushing too many buttons to get to the right department, you may be off track. Perhaps it’s time to add a new division or separate brand to house the new ideas.
Remember your business model and brand story. Don’t veer too far from the primary business or main narrative. You’ve invested a lot to get the memorable imagery and story components built into your brand. Changing the subject now would undermine your efforts.
If we wrote anything else here, it would detract from the point or be too distracting and/or undermine the point which is: You got this. Hold the steady the yoke.
Good Looking Out
Excellent. We’re maintaining altitude and feeling good about sales, operations and future plans. If we weren’t this organized and on schedule, we wouldn’t be able to shift gears this week to make that last-minute pitch, or complete the RFP due next Friday.
It’s wonderful to work from a plan and be able to put things on auto-pilot once in awhile. But we mustn’t get too comfortable. Especially when things are going well!
Here’s an old airmen’s analogy my WWII Navy pilot granddad used in business all his life: “Fly out ahead of the airplane.” It means when you’re seated in the cockpit, project your aircraft (in your mind) flying thousands of yards out. In this way you avoid tall trees, anticipate issues, and make decisions for right now based things that will happen momentarily.
Monitor trends and technologies that could directly or indirectly affect the business or market. Follow the news, politics, and economics related to your industry or supporting industries. Read the tea leaves.
Stay plugged in and study younger generations’ habits, behaviors, preferences, music, and style. Ask them what’s the next big thing? How can you incorporate new technology and trends into your brand?
Keep watching the competition, staying mindful of the distinguishing factors of your brand. Don’t let the lines get blurry, and re-think your marketing plan from scratch every year. Evaluate what worked and didn’t work last year, and make changes.
One More Pep Talk
There are a lot of moving parts to a brand, but if you stay true to what you do best, the parts crystallize quickly, and brand-maintenance will happen naturally and seem effortless in time.
To harvest that top-of-mind brand awareness and coveted brand loyalty, it should be evident that the brand has integrity and is committed to its mission. Messaging should possess the right ethos or gravitas to accompany the brand’s credibility objective.
Be a good steward, manager, and curator of the brand, because [cue eye roll again] if you take care of it, it will take care of you. A brand cannot be a one-time “set-and-forget” project. It requires continual care and must remain fluid and lustrous, subtly but constantly evolving and reflecting the core goals of the revenue model.
In the end, your brand is a simply a perception in people’s minds based on individual and combined experiences. It’s said that perception is reality, but please be cautioned against allowing too much disparity there.
Every single day, you need to live, work, and earn up to your brand identity. Highly valuable brand equity builds up when you create a space that is authentic, positive, and welcoming to others.
We here at Solamar live and breathe brands so please get in touch — we’d love to help you start thinking through it today, so give us a shout.
Congrats again, and much success!