I run a brand agency in Orange County, CA. Insights into branding and marketing is a topic that many of my contemporaries are always picking my brain about, and for good reason: branding and marketing have undergone significant changes within the last few years.
I define branding as, “Your Distinctive, Indispensable Attributes and Value.”
Branding goes well beyond a great logo, tagline and packaging. Every touch point is a crucial aspect of your brand. Employee training, customer service, social media interaction and so many other business processes and organizational considerations all go into building a brand that resonates deeply with your audience and advocates.
In the August 2014 issue of the Harvard Business Review (HBR), marketing and branding made their front cover with some invaluable insights. My blog post here is a review of key aspects of that article and how to apply them to any small or medium business that is trying to expand their acquisition, client retention and revenue objectives. I have taken select quotes from this HBR issue and break these down into how these can be applied in the everyday world of business and entrepreneurship.
Key Insights From HBR
“Most marketing organizations are stuck in the last century.” – HBR
Since the last century was only fifteen years ago, this is not that hard to fathom or recognize, particularly when you speak to a number of business owners. I still find businesses that have been around for almost ten years that have not initiated a comprehensive email marketing campaign, despite the fact that email has been around for over forty years.
So when it comes to the technology of social media, as well as the access to blogging and video marketing, most businesses are standing still while these platforms move ahead by leaps and bounds each and every year. The business that does adapt and arrives to present time will garner more business over time. Organizationally, they will need to establish their own departments to engage with their contemporary marketing platforms or hire outside agencies who can perform these functions competently.
“In the past decade, what marketers do to engage customers has changed almost beyond recognition.” – HBR
While not moving ahead with modern marketing methods, you will observe business owners and entrepreneurs stick to what they have known for years. They still go to numerous networking luncheons, handing out cards, or are doing cold-calling as their prime marketing initiative.
Last year I was consulting a very successful venture capitalist in Newport Beach, CA. When I inquired as to how he was marketing his companies, he replied “Cold calling. It’s all I know.” Upon investigation, I discovered that there were many questions that his target audience was asking. They had never provided videos, FAQs, case studies or blog posts to help enlighten that audience on potential solutions and how their brand was the premiere source for those solutions. He was stuck in the “smile and dial” era of marketing, and then making the pitch once the appointment was kept. When we began to modernize his marketing plan and content, we increased their sales by 30% within that year.
“Companies that are sophisticated in their use of data grow faster…” – HBR
Research is the heart and soul of remarkable branding and marketing. Yet, most business owners and entrepreneurs still use personal inspiration and penchants, as well as their own “gut feelings”, to construct their brand and marketing messages. Data can be gathered from many sources and this is what start-ups and small business have not yet learned. Industry surveys, Google Trends, the SBA, discovering what competitors do, as well as a host of other resources, help a brand to narrow its focus, sales offers and marketing channels to best convince and convert new clientele to come on board.
“It’s clear that ‘marketing’ is no longer a discrete entity bu now extends throughout the firm, tapping virtually every function.” – HBR
Too many times I hear, “I know we really need to do something about our branding and marketing, but we have been so busy with __________________.” Marketing is seen as a logo, possessing a static website and having a brochure. Word-of-mouth is cited as their best source of new clients, yet even then their is no proactive marketing to induce even more referrals. Academia and accountants have regulated marketing as “an expense” and so it becomes cut as soon as financial stress hits the company.
How you greet people, how you service their needs in person, on the phone and even though social media, are just some some of the marketing functions that are not exclusive to the marketing department or to your sales team. Small touches, handling people with grace and a host of other actions can transform all your touch points, elevating your brand’s value to the lives of the people one services.
“…marketers understand consumers’ basic drives – such as the desire to achieve, to find a partner, and to nurture a child – motivations we call ‘universal human truths’.” – HBR
The ne plus ultra of branding is when it deeply connects to an individual’s genuine, emotional needs or beliefs. While branding’s success ultimately depends on delivering the goods as promised, there is something special about a brand that connects to our heart and soul. If fact, when a brand fulfills these “universal human truths”, you have a brand that will out shine most of their competitors. With this type of connection present, you build a powerful factor for loyalty as well as empowering your brand ambassadors to evangelize your brand to their own contacts.
“In addition to engaging customers and inspiring employees, a powerful and clever brand purpose improves alignment throughout the organization and ensures consistent messaging across touchpoints.” – HBR
Organizations that have lost touch with their audience’s needs suffer from internal malaise. You can tell when a company or business is going through the motions, looking at the numbers and treating people as a necessary means to their profitable ends. I’m sure you can recall numerous examples.
I’m always surprised when a hole-in-the-wall eatery is always packed, customers standing in line for minutes, or even for an hour, just to sit and dine with their favorite meal. yes, the food is good. But their is also an amazing experience with the hostess, the waiter and even the owner walking around and checking in on how you’re doing. That presence is hard to touch, but so easy to feel and sense. Everyone is aligned to this promise and message, from the employees to their loyal clientele.
“Marketing historically has marched to its own drummer, at best unevenly supporting strategy handed down from headquarters and, more importantly, pursuing brand or marketing goals (such as growing brand equity) that were not directly related to the overall business strategy.” – HBR
The disconnect between marketing strategy and business strategy in terms of frequency, as well as to the cost to a business’ growth, is a major situation with most businesses. The biggest disconnect is not having a marketing strategy at all, a complete omission. All to often, Academia types are recruited into the marketing department and sell this version of “branding” as if it is some magical voodoo that will convince people to buy in some subliminal manner. What ends up occurring is that they become irrelative to management and the sales team.
It is hard to fathom that more than two-thirds of CEOs have given in, no longer enforcing key business objectives and expectations with their marketing teams. Those CEOs primarily cite that their teams have “continuously failed” to bring about business growth.
The findings are part of the Fournaise Marketing Group’s 2012 Global Marketing Effectiveness Program, wherein they interviewed more than 1,200 CEOs across North America, Europe, Asia and Australia.
While their report confirms that the majority of those CEOs possess their own in-house marketing departments, they do so “purely out of tradition.” It’s a sad indicator that defeatism has permeated most CEOs, in that they “made the conscious decision not to expect more from marketing than branding.”
It was a widespread consensus that marketing professionals live too much in the brand, creative and social-media bubble. Those CEOs didn’t find marketing professionals to be ROI focused, i.e., intent on bringing accountability, directly correlating how they spend the money with achieving a positive impact on P&L.
A mere twenty percent of CEOs contend that their top marketers need to become ROI accountable. The report went on to add that seventy-three percent of CEOs believe marketers lack credibility because they cannot prove the impact of marketing on business.
However, of those CEOs, seventy percent admit that their own lack of trust and attitude is to blame for the poor reputation of marketers. The lack of expectation of performance has ensured the continuation of bad marketing.
Jerome Fontaine, CEO of Fournaise, stated, “Whether we like it or not, what CEOs are telling us is clear cut: They don’t trust traditional marketers, they don’t expect much from them. CEOs have to deliver shareholder value. Period. So they want no-nonsense ROI Marketers; they want business performance; they want results. At the end of the day, Marketers have to stop whining about being misunderstood by CEOs, and have to start remembering that their job is to generate customer demand and to deliver performance. This is business.”
“The key to inspiring the organization is to do internally what marketing does best externally: create irresistible messages and programs that get everyone on board.” – HBR
Internal marketing and content development is almost unheard of, yet it is what allows a brand to excel past normal expectations. Employee dedication is unwittingly taken for granted as an expected behavior pattern. But we all know that this is not the case. In fact, dedicated employees engaged with their brand is quite rare. Internal public relations and messaging form a critical backbone to any branding endeavor.
“Ironically, almost all companies were meticulous in planning and executing consumer communication campaigns but failed to devote the same care to internal communications about strategy. That’s a dangerous oversight.” – HBR
Again, we know that companies will expend much planning, care, finances and effort to reach out to their external target audience and forget the most important aspect of their word-of-mouth marketing: their employees. Internal campaigns tell your employees that they are important and this keeps morale high. Your clientele will notice your inspired team by their efforts, their helpfulness and genuine smiles.
“…the most effective marketers lead by connecting, inspiring, focusing, and organizing for agility. But none of those activities can be fully accomplished, or sustained, without the continual building of capabilities.” – HBR
Those who move fast can do so because they are aware, educated, trained and competent. To organize for agility, you must commit your efforts, time and finance to building capabilities within your staff and your company. Great brands never stop asking the critical questions, “How can we become better?”, “What can we do to exceed customer expectations?” and “What is the next step to becoming truly remarkable as a brand?”
Personal Branding & My Brand Agency Orange County
Learn How To Create A Personal Brand
Here are my seven personal branding tips:
1. Determine Your USP & Visual Identity – You have to clearly determine what makes you distinctive. Your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) must be genuine and one that aligns with your core purpose and ethos. A USP that is fake will be smelled out and your brand will be rebranded by late-night comedians, industry bloggers and voracious online reviewers. Even good brands get attacked, but do not let them attack you for being disingenuous.
Additionally, your branding needs to be visual for PR & marketing purposes, as you will be needing to impact your audience with YouTube videos, photos, Vine, Instagram, infographics, packaging and the like.
2. Clearly Establish Your Target Audience – One of the key strategies on how to create a personal brand is to determine which audience(s) you want to convert into long-term customers and committed fans. What are their ages? What types of media do they consume and trust? Where do they live? What are their hobbies or interests? What do they consider valuable? Know who they are, how to appeal to them, as well as how to best reach them.
3. Secure Your Name For Your Blog & Social Media – This is a must and a priority. When people search for your brand they find you, not some other person that shares your same name. Securing your own name is a vital step in how you create a personal brand.
4. Set Up Your Blog – You need more than just a website. You need to establish and manage your own “Media Center.” Like an actual media corporation, you need to establish yourself as a reputable, distinctive and indispensable brand that is publishing valuable, insightful, and relative content and news. Your blog is your best outlet for your best content.
5. Publish & Distribute Content – While your blog will be the main focus of your content strategy, content can also be created and shared via YouTube, other bloggers, news agencies, and many more outlets and sources. I have identified over 50 types of unique content that you can create and distribute for your personal branding strategy. Great content, widely distributed, is a vital component in how to create your personal brand.
6. Connect With The Right People – You must do this online as well as in person. By continually connecting with an ever growing audience of the right people, your message and branding will then begin to gain proper attention and traction. Want your content and branding to go viral? Then always make and nurture great connections. You do this through email, social media, webinars, writing books, putting on seminars, going to events and making powerful friends and alliances. Getting others to share your content is crucial in how to create a personal brand.
7. Establish Your Credibility With Notable Accomplishments & Stellar Performance – Nothing speaks louder or more effectively than demonstrated results and competence. You need to come through with the goods and deliver results. And in a tasteful manner, you need to make those accomplishments known. Nothing speaks better than fast, friendly and effective service. In fact, take it up a notch. There is a step beyond service – Hospitality. This is a key point that makes Nordstrom an iconic brand. In how to create a personal brand, this is a point that is missed by most.
How To Create A Personal Brand: Gaining The Help You Need
The biggest concern of how to create a personal brand is, “Am I doing this right?” We are all our own worse critics and trying to figure out this crucial life move can be daunting and frustrating. My advice to those people who are struggling with how to create a personal brand for themselves is to get a business coach or a mentor who has successfully navigated the personal branding waters.
If you would like assistance in how to create a personal brand for yourself, feel free to contact me at [email protected]