Without a sound infrastructure, your brand management strategy will fall short and will not gain traction with key players within the online world. What do I mean by infrastructure? It is having in place the strategy, policies, team members (employees or outsourced help) to properly communicate your unique position in the marketplace, the benefits you bring to the lives of others and why your key audiences should be inspired in sharing your branded content across multiple platforms and channels.
“Infrastructure refers to the basic physical and organizational structures needed for the operation of a society or enterprise, or the services and facilities necessary for an economy to function.” – Wikipedia
Why Infrastructure is Crucial For Your Brand Management Strategy
What are your brand’s “basic physical and organizational infrastructure” and necessary “services and facilities” so that it can function and be economically promising? This article is by no means an attempt to define branding or its importance in business and marketing. This article is to point out that without a sound understanding of the importance of an infrastructure for your brand management strategy, and what that all entails, you could fail without ever really knowing why. To succeed in branding, you have to support that brand management strategy with services, staff training and a host of many other things. Here is a basic checklist of what your branding infrastructure should contain. You may want to copy it and even add to and adapt this for your own needs.
- Sound market & keyword research
- Mission statement, well publicized
- A written marketing and PR strategy
- A contextual content strategy
- Social media and content policies
- Well-developed marketing and PR budget
- Set marketing & sales objectives and quotas
- Corporate ethics policy
- A unique selling proposition
- Distinctive logo, colors and packaging
- Company training manuals & courses
- Customer support staff
- Company website & blog
- Appropriate branded social channels
- An organizational chart
- A CMO, Director of Marketing or someone similar
- Marketing staff (designers, writers, bloggers, A/V people, etc.)
- Strong relations with KOL’s, marketing partners, strategic relationships & affiliates
- Internal communications system and schedules
While there is much more that could be added, this is to point out that your brand management strategy is much more successful, sustainable and profitable with supported with a well-built and tightly organized digital infrastructure
Your Brand Management Strategy Is Not an “Expense”
The biggest false idea that is literally crippling more business people than I know is that marketing is looked upon as an “expense”. Many a CPA will argue my statement, pointing to ledgers and complicated textbooks from fancy universities to prove their stale dated principles, but it nonetheless a point to bring up. What is a budget?
“A budget is a quantitative expression of a plan for a defined period of time. It may include planned sales volumes and revenues, resource quantities, costs and expenses, assets, liabilities and cash flows. It expresses strategic plans of business units, organizations, activities or events in measurable terms.” – Wikipedia
I am not using the word from an accounting perspective, but about a mind-set and strategy of an entrepreneur, the mindset that leads to success. Have you ever heard of a major start-up or a new invention from a CPA? Business geniuses and marketing mavericks rarely get an OK from a committee or a CPA before launching their idea to the world. And trust me; most CPAs will freely admit that their own industry is in last place when it comes to marketing innovation and prowess.
Marketing is the necessary and vital business process of creating desire and moving products and/or services into the hands of consumers. Manufacturing cannot achieve that all on its own. Accounting sure can’t achieve that, and nor do board meetings produce that very type of result. Only marketing can create desire and thus move massive amounts of product into the hands of eager buyers.
To pigeonhole and devalue the role of branding and marketing as an “expense”, is what opens the door for too many businesses to stop cold any and all small business marketing strategies that could move them forward and upward.
Too Many Businesses Make This Mistake
Your Brand Management Strategy Requires a Budget
Unfortunately, too many business people tend to cut their marketing budget in a knee-jerk reaction when they encounter financial strain. Yet, cutting back on your marketing efforts is the last thing you should be doing. Intelligent promotion, effectively executed, is your best path out of financial stress. Research has proven conclusively, that those companies who increase marketing during hard times expand far in excess of their competitors when the economy eventually makes and upswing.
This is too easy to prove, and anyone can go to a shop empty of clientele, yet whose shelves are full with merchandise.
The key with small business marketing is to be proactive and consistent. Let me reiterate these two points again as this not idle advice. Being proactive is the opposite of worrying and blaming the economy or your competition. Lack of consistency is where 95% of small business marketing efforts fail.
Your brand management strategy is a vital and integral part of the planning for any business to become successful and highly profitable. When marketing is lowered in status to an “expense”, and thus cut, your business has diminished a vital part of its plan for continued success.
Strategy – “A plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim.” Greek stratēgein ‘be a general’, from stratēgos, from stratos ‘army’ + agein ‘to lead’
When I set out to coach any business on their marketing challenges, my first action is asking them a question that leaves 99% of them stumped, “May I see a copy of your written marketing plan?” As you may guess, the majority of these business people cannot produce one because they do not have one.
Imagine a general trying to lead an army into battle without any strategy. He would not only lose the battle, but more men would needlessly die in that failed attempt. History is strewn with empires that have been lost due to incompetent or omitted strategies. Strategic planning is a vital and primary step in success in military operation, sports, business and marketing. While you may not lose soldiers in the business world, you will lose a lot of money and trusted contacts if you go about business reactively, versus in an analytical, strategic manner.
It is vital that before you expend any money or effort with content marketing that you sit down and write out a strategy for your business. This would of course include your marketing and sales tactics. Your strategy should be as specific as possible. Who does what action and processes? What target audiences do you want to reach and covert? What type of your market research will you conduct? When will certain objectives need to be reached and by what date? How will performance will be measured?
Ancient Treatise on Strategy
One of the most famous and oft quoted written works on strategy is The Art of War, by Chinese general, Sun Tzu. It is commonly known to be the definitive work on military strategy and tactics of its time. It has been the most famous and influential of China’s Seven Military Classics and “for the last two thousand years it remained the most important military treatise in Asia, where even the common people knew it by name.” It has had an influence on Eastern and Western military thinking, business tactics, legal strategy and beyond.
In the words of Sun Tzu, “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.”
According to the Department of Trade and Industry, up to one fifth of the 400,000 businesses that start up each year fail within the first 12 months of operation. This gives an approximate figure of 80,000 businesses failing annually. According to the SBA, over 50% of small businesses fail in the first five years.
Do you believe that all these businesses developed, followed and regularly reviewed their strategy in business or with their marketing? According to the Harvard Business School, “Customer-centric and competitively dominant marketing strategies are vital to business success.” Strategic planning to business is the mind that moves the body.
Tactics Without Strategy
Consider the antithesis. Imagine we have all tactics, actions that we take in business on a daily, weekly and quarterly basis, but we do so with zero strategy. We simply show up and take whatever action we need to as a reaction to what happens to us. It is like trying to play defense only and expecting to score enough points to win.
Reactionary marketing is solely defensive. Example: handle the referral whenever they happen to walk in on their own accord. Analytical business is offensive and defensive, by predetermined choice. Analytical marketing figures how to maximize more referrals with proactive initiatives and programs. Strategy is about developing how to perform on both sides of the offense/defense paradigm.
Unfortunately those who only think in the now, have a problem thinking and planning for the future. We live in an instant gratification society who has become accustomed to failure, waste and blaming the economy. What sets great brands and their marketing apart is the time they devote to developing and enforcing a well-crafted strategy founded on sound market research.