I came across one of those end-of-the-year surveys that show what marketers are most concerned about for the coming year. Not surprisingly, the top two issues were lead generation and demonstrating ROI. Way, way down at the bottom of the list of a dozen or so topics was branding.
It makes sense, because lead gen and sales are what keep us all employed. But undervaluing the role of branding in ROI success is shortsighted. Good branding supports lead generation, which ultimately creates positive ROI. Fixating on a lead gen and ROI without the help of a firm brand foundation, however, assumes there’s a shortcut to the narrow end of the sales funnel. It’s like taking flying lessons but only learning how to land.
The fact is every potential customer is seeking a solution to a problem. And a business may offer fabulous solution options. But, if that business’ brand is unfamiliar to said customer, the customer will keep on clicking to find a more recognizable—and perceptually trustworthy—brand. One Forbes survey found that B2B purchasing decision-makers consider the brand a central (rather than marginal) element of a supplier’s value proposition.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to take several years and millions of dollars to build a brand into an efficient tool that helps all your other marketing activities work harder. Every blue-chip brand has three key items in place. And you can too.
1. Brands stand for something.
We usually start with a brand promise. Don’t confuse this with a mission statement, a vision statement, or any of those things you see on the successories posters about teamwork and leadership. This is a practical statement that has three elements: What you do, for whom you do it, and why they should care. It’s that simple. Use this handy fill-in-the-blank mad-libs version as a starting point:
“[company] is a [category] that works for [target] by providing [differentiated product or service]”
Here’s one we use at Ten Pound Hammer.
“Ten Pound Hammeris a creative agencythat works for B2B brandsby providing marketing programs that deliver a solid ROI.”
The process doesn’t have to be complicated. This is a living statement that you have the ability to modify over time. But having a solid brand promise will help you focus your efforts, evaluate what customers you target, and determine the best way to reach them.
2. Brands know their customers.
Customers are people too—even B2B customers. This isn’t a new discovery. Whether your client is based in a high-rise that houses 600 employees or at a roadside shop employing 15, every business is made up of individual human beings. So, it’s important to remind ourselves that we are selling our products and services to people that have emotions. And studies show that human beings make their purchase decisions based on emotion and value connectedness.
So we encourage our clients to write out personas of their ideal customers and think beyond the company and title. Think of what they worry about, what personalities they have, and what their values are. Lastly, give them names. When you’re creating a campaign and you ask yourself if it will resonate with the CFO of a fortune 500 company, it’s impossible to really know. But it’s easier to evaluate what you’re creating if you ask yourself, “Would Lorrie connect with this message?”
3. Brands are consistent.
Brand consistency is the glue that holds your marketing together. And all it takes is paying attention to some communication basics that are often ignored. We find it helpful to define a brand persona much like you would do for a target customer. There are two primary components to brand consistency that every company should consider.
First is brand imagery. Yes, this includes your logo and its proper usage. But it also involves typography, colors, photography, and illustration. Businesses must make sure that whenever and wherever their brand shows up—even internally—the imagery is correct and consistent with created standards. Within B2B and channel marketing, it’s way too common for sales team members to go a bit rogue and create marketing materials that stray from brand standards. And each time this happens, the brand gets diluted.
Then, there is brand voice. This is how your brand would speak if it were a person—a specific tone, attitude, and emotion. Brand voice could be technical sounding or very conversational. And, equally important to consistent voice is the constancy of industry-specific terminology used by every employee—and any hired marketing firm. I’ve seen this problem wreak havoc on large organizations that market across verticals when key industry terms are not agreed-upon and subsequently used every time.
These brand consistencies help create and sustain a strong brand presence, which then breeds familiarity, connections, and trust…ultimately improving marketing efficiency and effectiveness.
A strong brand drives ROI.Branding is certainly an investment that builds over time. You have to remember that increased exposure and visibility lead to familiarity and trust. And brands can’t focus solely on self-promotion. Rather, content must speak to relatable challenges and offer solutions. Connection is established and values are shared. Then, when lead-gen activities are employed with brand connectedness, you get the secret sauce for profitable ROI.