In the age of constant change and information overload, content marketing and branding are often more important to success than product quality or technology. Contrary to popular belief, word-of-mouth and viral marketing are not substitutes for more fundamental branding activities. The challenge is that many new business owners still don’t know where to start.
The right strategy for branding these days is to create a memorable total customer experience, rather than hyping the product and company. Innovation is the key to setting your company apart from the onslaught of promotional media from your competition: email blasts, banner ads, pop-ups, social media posts, podcast ads, television spots, and more.
Today’s consumers know what they want and expect to get it when they want it from the source of their choice. Here are ten recommendations for building your branding plan:
- Find out who your customers are through social media. Traditionally, branding meant targeting a customer segment, and hoping your guess was right. Now, you can get direct contact and real insights by testing innovative messages through social media even before the product is ready for sale. You can use the feedback to fine-tune both your message and the product.
- Actively lead conversations and genuinely listen. Customers today want relationships with their preferred sellers, not just a good transaction. That means they want to see you as a trustworthy leader with innovative ideas and a real point of view. They need reasons to keep coming back, and a conviction that you really care about them personally.
- Tell a story with your brand and make it memorable. People remember and become loyal to a passionate or emotional story they can relate to. They have a short memory of – and no loyalty to – “lowest prices” or “easiest to use.” These days, they like to see a connection to a higher purpose such as addressing a societal or environmental problem.
- Engage customers with a contest, event, or give-away. Use engagement to drive home your value proposition and persuade customers to amplify your message by spreading the message to friends. The target goal is to lead them to the final step in making a buying decision and then coming back as a repeat customer.
- Capitalize on the massive power of mobile. Highlight how your brand supports mobile for shopping, usage, and support. Mobile is far more powerful than print, broadcast, or billboards as a delivery vehicle, with its instant capability for establishing a relationship, initiating a transaction, or providing feedback.
- Position your products via personalization. Characterize your brand as one that builds relationships through personalization. For example, rather than selling shoes, you could sell a walking comfort service by digitally measuring feet and personalizing the fit to each wearer’s unique needs.
- Focus on product differentiation and setting yourself apart. You can’t win by being “just another” company that competes on price. Use insight, intelligence, and innovation to get your brand heard in a world that is inundated with similar messages. Do the research to find your most compelling competitive advantage, and then highlight and embrace the differentiation.
- Use personized smart advertising to target your customers. Today, online advertising can target individual customers based on location, personal interests, and past purchasing and browsing behavior, as well as age and gender. The challenge is to do this in a natural way that adds value, rather than being perceived as invasive or creepy.
- Pay serious attention to packaging and delivery. For too many companies, packaging and delivery are afterthoughts but they shouldn’t be. Steve Jobs was a master at this with his attention to detail and style in packaging, and he made Apple a premium brand. For e-commerce solutions, people remember your brand when they see instant delivery.
- Use analytics to assess your – and your competitors’ – efforts. These days, developing branding by gut feel alone is foolish. There are many tools available to gauge the impact of each new initiative, including Google Analytics and SimilarWeb. These also keep you abreast of competitor efforts. Focus your limited resources on the branding elements that work best for you.
It’s a major failure today to attempt a rollout of an innovative product or solution without an equally innovative digital branding strategy and plan. Even the best products won’t sell or be remembered if customers cannot quickly grasp the differentiation. Don’t rely on traditional branding techniques for your innovative solutions. The success of your business depends on it.