Left Without Branding

As a business, there needs to be some focus on branding.  What is branding?  To me, it means that you want to ensure that your customers know who you are and what you stand for.  But most importantly, that you know, and are clear with your internal audience about, who you are and what you stand for.

I’ve been lucky to be a part of organizations who have put a focus on this and those who have not, and have seen how those two scenarios differ.  Those who put a focus on branding knew what needed to happen in order to get the correct message out to their key audience(s).  Those things were:

  • Internal brand guidelines to ensure that the internal audience knows what the brand stands for
  • Dedicating resources to ensuring that your brand is communicating the appropriate messages, in the appropriate ways, to its key audience(s)
  • Dedicating resources to ensuring a consistent brand look & how the brand is presented to its key audience(s)
  • Discussing branding and marketing as part of the overall business’ success
  • Allowing the marketing, or branding, department to be the holder of how the brand is presented and being the brand police

You can image how successful those efforts were.  When branding and marketing was a part of all initiatives, it made the messaging consistent, it helped ensure that internally everyone was on the same page, and that the key audience(s) felt like the brand had its best interests in mind.

But what happens when marketing efforts are disjointed, or forced in to saying yes to things and not being a part of the greater picture?  You end up being left without branding.  Your brand might say one thing internally, but when there isn’t a key group of people in charge of being the brand police, you get a lot of different cooks in the kitchen and you put out a very disjointed message to your key audience(s).

Don’t let the second scenario happen to you.  Become your brands champion.  Fight for it internally first, and begin to make strides externally with a focus on your website, SEO, social, tradeshows, brochures, etc.  Any and all communications efforts should be consistent.

Good luck!

P.S. Here is a recent article from emarketer titled: B2Bs Struggle to Integrate Digital Communications

“The State of Social Marketing Report 2015” Overview

I just downloaded and read the 2015 state of social marketing report from Simply Measured.  As we all know, social media isn’t a fad that is going away.  But, how big of a role does it “really” play in the marketing mix?  How much of the budget should it take up?  How much time should you invest into it?  These were all great things to learn about.  I even tweeted out some screen shots, so be sure to follow me on Twitter, @Linder83.

So let’s start from the top in my own words:

How large of a role should, or does, social play in the marketing mix?

  • Large enough that it has its own strategy
  • Large enough that if possible the “team” has more than just one person setting the strategy & executing upon it, looking at analytics, and writing the content

How much of the budget should social get?

  • According to the report, the breakdown should be the following – overall marketing budget should be 10% of the company revenue (this we should all know already), digital marketing should get 25% of that 10%, and social should get roughly 10% of the 25% –>this last number is on the rise!!!

How much time should you invest into social?

  • Ideally, enough time to set a strategy, execute upon it, listen & respond to your customers, analyze the metrics, write the content, and anything else.  The actual “time” depends on how large your team is and how large your business is, or how large your reach is and how many platforms you are on as well as how different the content is on each platform.

Relevant Quotes:

  • Modern marketers don’t have to make purely qualitative decisions. The data available for any digital channel arms marketers with the ability to quantify their entire social marketing process.”
  • Social is now viewed [as] a legitimate channel in the marketing mix, which means there are three distinct needs, just as there are in other areas of digital marketing, like email or web:
    • The ability to define and plan a social strategy.
    • The ability to execute on that strategy.
    • The ability to measure the success of the strategy and execution.”
  • 2015 is the year to focus on video on Facebook. Video has made a big impact for brands, and is a major component of Facebook’s strategy to keep users engaged on the site. Make video a large focus of your Facebook marketing plan.”
  •  “Regular tweeting is key to brand success. 74% of brands tweeted at least three times per day (including Retweets and @replies).
    • •Tweeting out links is becoming the social standard. The number of links tweeted by brands increased 72% from Q4 2013 to Q4 2014.”
  • Instagram is one of the fastest growing social networks in history…Instagram has become the go-to platform for users interested in both sharing visual stories, and consuming them.
    •  Publish at least one post per week. Seventy-five percent (75%) of top brands publish at least once a week.
    •  Don’t keep your brand off Instagram just because it’s not obviously visual. Many unexpected brands have found success on the network.
    •  Pay more attention to caption content than length. Caption length has no correlation with engagement levels.”
  • Over 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, and generate billions of views each day.
    • Know what your best type of content is, and maintain a regular schedule.
    • Reach out to communities that are relevant to your videos. “
  • Pinterest has been raising brand eyebrows for some time now due to its ability to connect social and commerce.
    • Be sure to use general, highly searchable terms in your pin description, the origin URL, and your original photo title.
    • Create a foundation of evergreen content: content that is not news-, time-, or even product- based, such as how-to images. This will increase the chances that your pins get recycled through Pinterest and retain their positions on the top of search results pages.
    • Varying your posting timing can expose your brand to different segments of the Pinterest population and lead to more exposure, repins, and followers.”
  • Tumblr has over 234.6 million blogs, with more than 110.1 billion posts to date, and has attracted some of the biggest brands in the world. This is largely due to the customization and creativity that Tumblr encourages. Brands on Tumblr can build a blog using one of the thousands of templates the network offers, or by designing their own in HTML. Few social networks allow this type of flexibility.
    • Use the tools that Tumblr provides. Their marketing blog (marketr.tumblr.com) and brand resources provide tips and tricks that any brand can use.
    •  Focus on amplification. Tumblr posts last longer than other networks, but only when created with longevity in mind. “
  • Google+ may be the most powerful social network you never use. Integrated with YouTube, Gmail, and several other services, Google+ has over 2.2 billion registered users…Despite criticism about declining adoption and low engagement, Google+ has attracted 78% of top brands, and 66% actively posted in the month of April.
    • By adding your circles and select individuals to your share settings, you trigger a notification for those users that you’ve shared a post directly with them.”
  • Marketing programs constantly evolve, and social media is no exception. The real challenge will be for social marketers to understand the relationships and inter-workings of other digital marketing channels, develop a common language with other teams, and continue to measure and improve programs.”

Lastly, go ahead and download this awesome report from Simply Measured!

 

Adding a Retail Strategy in a B2B Business

I’ll tell you about something that makes me, as a marketer, cringe. Allowing sales to run with a retail strategy without any involvement from marketing.  The reason that I cringe isn’t because I don’t think that sales has a part in this kind of strategy, they absolutely do.  However, to say that “we’re taking a different approach” tells me that only the sales and selling side is being considered.

I cringe because a mentality of “anyone can be a marketer” is being applied.  A lot of business efforts need to keep marketing and branding in mind.  In order for your customers to know who you are, regardless of what market you are focusing on, you need to have a consistent message.  By letting everyone run their own campaigns you are going to get away from your core brand…unless of course everyone is completely in sync with everything which would be truly amazing.

Marketing has the unfortunate job of being the nay-sayer now and again, the teacher, as well as the communicator of what can’t/shouldn’t be done due to the importance of maintaining the integrity of the brand.  This is even more critical when you are talking about a retail side to your business.  This is where you are coming face to face with your direct customers who are seeing your brand because it is what they are looking for…and if they don’t see something they like, then see you later!

What do you think?

Facebook Changes its CPC Definition

Yesterday I began exploring Lynda.com.  It’s been a while since I visited the site and it has changed tremendously.  Before going ahead with my free 10 day trial I wanted to watch some sample episodes and the one that caught my eye was the free marketing tips.

As it turns out…Facebook has decided to change its CPC definition which for all of us in the marketing world means that we’ll actually get to truly measure the effectiveness of our Facebook ads.  We will no longer have to say that we’re doing a good job simply because people are clicking “like” on our ads.  We will actually be able to track link clicks, which is what we’d measure for all of our other efforts.  In essence, how many real conversions did we get from all ads and compare Facebook ads to other PPC ads.

Hallelujah!

Read more about it on brainpulse.com or visit Lynda.com

Performing a Social Media Audit

(Updated on 8/25/2015: Check out this awesome social media audit checklist & template from Hootsuite)

The above sounds so easy, no?  Well, it can be but only if you do it all the time.  If the only thing you are doing while managing a, or several, social media account(s) for your business is posting or tweeting and failing to constantly be keeping an eye on metrics and the competition then you might be in for a rude awakening when your web traffic doesn’t grow, or you’re not getting as many conversions, or the conversation stops.

So what do you need to do?  I’m in the camp of constant monitoring of everything.  Ask anyone I have recently worked with and they’d say if someone mentioned metrics or being able to show an ROI for a marketing related activity then “I knew Linda would be happy.”  But it’s true!  It’s so difficult to prove the point of marketing.  It’s a lot of gobeldygook and “awareness” and “impressions.” But luckily, in this day and age you can even measure PR!

So what should you be doing?

Here are my 5 easy steps (also check out my Social Media sections, particularly the post titled The Statistics That Matter)

1. Create not only a monthly posting calendar but also a plan – what are you hoping to achieve this month? Set some goals and drive towards them.

2. What’s trending? What are people in your universe talking about? Make sure to weigh in on the topic, if applicable of course.

3. Measure, measure, measure.  Take the end of each week to assess progress and see what you’re doing well and what needs a bit of love.

4. Be flexible.  Don’t be so ridged in your planning that you don’t allow for spur of the moment changes.

5. Keep an eye on the competition.  What are they doing that could be interesting to look into?  What can you do better? How can you stand out?

Now, when looking at a full on audit, here is some expert advice that I’ll be sure to use:

10 Basic Steps to Perform a Social Media Audit
Performing a Social Media Audit
How to Perform a Social Media Audit
How to Perform a Social Media Audit Even if You Hate Audits

Performing a Brand Audit

I had a recent conversation with someone who said that when he started on as a marketing manager he took it upon himself to perform a full on brand audit and ended up learning more about the company and its brands than most people.  Now, I’ve been involved in re-branding exercises, and VOC’s but I haven’t really performed a brand audit in its true nature.  Knowing that this is something that could bring tremendous value to a brand I decided to explore what it means to perform a true multi-step brand audit.

In my search, I came across a few sources, which I’ll cite as I go but the one that came up first, due to its great SEO, was a post from Miles Design.  So get ready and get your pencils out! (P.S. Speaking of pencils, and you’ll understand why later, have you checked out my Hire Me! section of the blog?)

What is the purpose of a brand audit?

The purpose behind a brand audit is plain and simple: to gain a fundamental understanding of where your brand stands in its current state.

When and why should we audit our brand?

The majority of business go through the process of auditing their brand when they have a vested interest in making a change within their organization. Maybe they’re rebranding, or refreshing their current look. This would be a perfect time to take a look at your current brand and see where it has shifted since its inception. Perhaps an organization is unhappy with their internal communication and employee relations. A smart CEO or CMO might take that opportunity to judge what their brand stands for, who they are as a company and what they need to do from a communications stand point to fix the internal problems or issues.

Brand Audit Example

An extensive brand audit should look at the following categories:

Internal

  • Positioning
  • Brand Values
  • Unique Selling Proposition (USP), brand promise, or brand essence
  • Voice
  • Culture
  • Product / Service positioning

 External

  • Corporate Identity – logos and other brand elements
  • Collateral-brochures, print materials, trade show displays, etc.
  • Advertising
  • Website
  • SEO
  • Social Media
  • Sponsorships/civic-involvement/memberships
  • News/PR
  • Content Marketing and other assets – blogs, white papers, case studies, articles, books, etc.
  • Testimonials
  • Videos

 Systems

  • Corporate identity/brand standards
  • HR policies/on-boarding process
  • Sales processes/touch points
  • Internal systems
  • Customer service systems

 Do the math.

How many new clients/projects would you have to win to justify the costs of a rebrand?

For most professional service firms, one or two clients would be more than enough to justify the investment.

Below are some additional resources:
Conducting an Effective Brand Audit – Ignition Consulting Group
Critical Steps When Conducting a Brand Audit – 8 Ways Media

P.S. The next blog post will be about conducting a social media audit so come on back!

Q3 – Marketing Roadmap Update

The above might not make business sense to your business but the point is, this is Q3, or 2H (second half) of the year.  What have you learned from the first half?  Let’s assume a few things and then work through those assumptions.

Assumptions…You were tasked with…
1. Creating a brand new 2015 marketing strategy at the end of last year.
2. Increasing brand awareness for your brand while also supporting some sales goals, such as improving web sales.
3. Increasing web traffic.
4. Improving the SEO & PPC outcomes.
5. Helping launch new products.

How will you track success on the above?
1. Creating a strategy is one thing, having that strategy work out is quite another. As a leader of a team, or department, you need to be monitoring the outcomes of all of your activities.

Can you track how many leads were collected at a tradeshow? Is this more or less than last year? And did more of them open a post tradeshow email you sent?

What about costs for all of your activities?  Is the effort worth the investment?

I was once told that as a manager I was spending too much time on planning and research. I would have agreed with that statement if my team wasn’t proving that what we were doing was actually working.  And if no one spent any time thinking about what the next practical thing to do would be we’d be in the same situation we were in before.  No plan and a lot of time and money wasted.

2. Brand awareness is a tricky thing.  Wouldn’t it be nice to tie a pretty bow around every “like” you get and tie it to a sale?  That would be the best success story ever and I would take that job in a heart beat.  But, reality is that brand awareness is hard to track. Your best bet is to be present in the places where your customers talk.  Find the right forums, social platforms, news outlets, sites, blogs, magazines, whatever and be present.  Answer people’s questions and be there when they need you.  It’s a huge effort, but somebody has to do it in order to get your brand out there in the right way…and the right way isn’t beating your customers over the head over your most awesome widget and its 13 different features. BORING!

Now web sales fall into that “yay factor” where you can easily track things back to your marketing efforts, most of the time.  If you have the right tracking tools in place you’ll be able to easily see that a sale came from an email you sent, or that they clicked through a digital ad in a pub, or better yet thought your Facebook posting was SO compelling that they simply had to have your latest whos-it. Congrats! You’re on easy street now.  But, if your efforts are not driving sales then you need to re-evaluate what you are doing.  Perhaps you’re in the wrong place, or perhaps you’re simply there at the wrong time…or, you’re not using the right lingo to attract your perfect customer.  Evaluate, measure, repeat!

3. I love to help increase web traffic.  In my last role, my team was able to increase web traffic by over 100% as compared to the previous year.  Now, the fact that we had an online store at that time certainly helped, but the planning that went into all other marketing activities also didn’t hurt.  We were able to roll out a new PR plan and got a ton of new eyes on our site.  We also improved the look of our emails and our paid ads.  Just those three things alone will help you bring in some changes.

4. Improving SEO & PPC outcomes is a monumental task.  Let’s break these two into two topics.

SEO – this is an effort that a lot of people need to be involved in.  Marketing needs to hold the reigns on this one as all marketing activities must tie into the same SEO plan.  You can’t have three different departments on three different pages and marketing trying to keep up with everything, that’s how you end up below the fold or worse yet on page 2 of a google search. You need to sit down with whoever the other stake holders might be…perhaps it’s your technical writers, or product folks, or applications team, and don’t forget your sales team.  You need to make sure that you set some very specific goals as to what you need to be focusing on and what specific terms you will be using to convey your story.  To be honest, this should have been done at the beginning of the year, but let’s not get the perfect get in the way of the good.

Once you have your strategy in place, make sure that those terms are the ones you are using everywhere.

Title tags, alt tags, meta descriptions, video descriptions, product descriptions, social media postings, PR, ads, the list goes on and on but at a minimum you need to have these areas covered.

PPC – this can be a tricky one.  The easy part is that once you have your SEO strategy and keyword list you should use the same keywords for your PPC efforts.  The fun part is, that you can really play with your PPC money. If you’re looking for brand awareness, then do some display ads.  Google will even help you with this.  Pick the keywords you want to focus on and they will supply you with a list of sites that talk about those related topics.  Pick where you want your ads to appear and once again Google will step in and create the ad for you.  You might not get a lot of sales out of it, but you can be optimistic, but you will sure as hell get a lot of  eyes on your ads…i.e. impressions, and that’s a good thing.

But, be careful with your budget as it can dwindle very quickly.  In one of my last roles we had to really reel in the spend and instead of trying to be all things to all people we chose to focus on branding and getting our name out there, and guess what, we finally got some conversions!

5. Ahhh, product launches.  Another place where there can be too many cooks in the kitchen.  But, this can be easily mitigated if you have a plan!  Have I said that word a few times already?  I love to plan, and I love numbers…but I digress.

In a previous role we had just gotten into phase gating. Phase gating allows for proper planning for a product launch.  There can be times when a product needs to be launched yesterday but if that’s the case then often times…someone dropped the ball, especially if no one knows about this new hullabaloo product.

In order to have a successfully marketed new product you need to get a few ducks in a row.  Get everyone aware of the product and its features, but more importantly, why its even needed in the market.  Get the appropriate content written about this new product and get some collateral pulled together.  Collateral that has been planned ahead for will not only look better but will also last you more than a month…I say this because if everything is a rush, then chances are some things haven’t been thought through and you’ll need to update your new lit the minute it comes in house, and that would be a shame.

Make sure that you have your team trained, your ads lined up, your press releases written, samples ready to show off at the next tradeshow, and your team ready to blast the hell out of this new thing.

Here is a word of caution, just because you’re the first on the market doesn’t mean you’ll succeed.  There is a time and a place and a right way to do things.

So with that, I leave you with a few thoughts.

1. Have you looked at the metrics from the first two quarters? What are they telling you?

2. Have you thought of a way to improve a current process or two that will allow you to have even more success in something?

3. Have you considered not doing something?  It’s ok to say that this thing you suggested just didn’t work.  It’s better to admit that now, rather than at the end of the year when you’ve spent twice as much on it.

Good luck, and knock Q3 out of the ball park!!!

Marketing Roadmap

I’ve been in a particular situation where looking ahead and planning was, let’s say, more than frowned upon.  In my opinion, without a plan, you’re up sh*ts creek without a paddle.  Of course, it’s one thing to plan and not execute.  But it’s another to plan, execute, and find new ways to improve the original plan.  It takes time, research, and analysis.  So here is what I typically like to do when taking on a new marketing team or joining a new company entirely.

1. Assess the situation.  Meet with any and all potential players and get a sense for what the biggest hurdles are and where the low hanging fruit can be found.

2. Based on your findings, create a high level plan of what needs to be accomplished in a set period of time, be it three months, six months, or a year.

3. Look into what challenges need to be overcome in order to get to the next step.  In my case it was: figure out which markets we need to focus on in the upcoming year and then figuring out how we will reach the target audiences in those markets.

4. Begin to set your plan into motion by changing up the marketing mix, and introducing new processes, within the department in order to meet the overall business goals & objectives.  Although, this might not be necessary in all situations.

5. Create a marketing roadmap.  The way I’ve done things in the past was diving things up by markets, this may not be ideal in every industry. I would then look at when the buying times occurred for those markets and hit them during those strategic times, all the while preparing content ahead of time in order to be prepared.  This won’t always work out of the gate unless you’re being brought in to a smooth running machine that simply needs a leader.

6. Set the roadmap in motion and observe.  Look into the metrics and see what’s working, and what needs tweaking.  This will help you not only assess the overall marketing situation but also learn about what works and doesn’t in your new industry, or market, or…whatever.

7. After about three months, or a quarter, take a look at the body of work.  What do you need to put more focus on?  What is working better than expected and hence needs more man power? What needs to be moved on from? Based on your analysis, set up the next quarter’s plan but continue to adjust as needed as you might now be focusing on an entirely different audience that likes to consume their information in an entirely different way.

8. Start to think about the bigger missing pieces and how you’ll fill the gaps.  In my experience, content creation and content strategy has been the biggest hurdle to over come.  Everyone needs to be on the same page and that page takes a long time to turn.  You need to prove the reasons why you need a strategy and then get everyone on it.  Without that, you are constantly chasing.  But in order to get people to understand its importance you need to show some kind of metrics that prove that what you are doing is working.  Metrics such as more eyes on your site, leads from paid eblasts, or more sales from certain social platforms or digital publications.

9. Present your future plan with an explanation as to why it is needed.  Explain why you need everyone to collaborate together, and works towards the same goal.  In some cases this might be a no brainer, but be prepared to really have to dive deep on this one.

10. Measure, measure, measure.  You should never stop. Digital marketing is always changing. New platforms pop up, new metrics get unveiled, and you need to stay on top of it.  Don’t let people tell you “You shouldn’t be doing that, just delegate.” Sometimes, you need to do something yourself, especially if that something is a new strategy or if it’s something that was broken in the past and someone really needs to dive deep to figure out the issues before handing it off.

Good luck!

Plan, execute, measure, repeat!

ATL, BTL, and TTL Marketing

I first saw these acronyms in a job description as I was preparing for an interview: “…deliver engaging and creative campaigns, ATL and BTL, to support brand and product launch programs.”

“What in the what?” is what I thought. A little bit of digging lead me to finding out that these are fancy acronyms for all the things we are all already doing in marketing.  ATL, BTL, and TTL refer to the kind of marketing you are running. These acronyms come mainly from the advertising world and refer to the specific kind of audience you are trying to reach and for what purpose.

As you can see above, and as I realized, we have all more than likely done both ATL & BTL marketing with the above outlined goals in mind.  In my most recent job my main goals were brand awareness, finding new customers, and growing our web traffic (among many other goals).  We reached our goals through email, PR, video, advertising, tradeshows, social media and the web. Quite a ATL & BTL mix.

What about you?  Does your marketing department mainly do ATL or BTL marketing?  Or is it a happy mix of everything?