Lead generation requires a couple of prerequisite steps in order to yield winning results. Are your conversion campaigns driving the results you are looking for? If not, maybe you are missing a key element.
This past week I had a call with a prospective client. She wanted to run a paid ad promo to get people to purchase her “service” for Mother’s Day – 1 month away. She shared with me that she ran a similar paid ad promo for Valentine’s Day and needless to say it bombed. Her expectation was that she would run targeted paid media ads on Facebook and get people to sign up for a monthly subscription. I basically told her there was little chance of success because she was missing two key elements.
When was the last time you saw a sponsored ad, did not know anything about the brand, and followed through on the brand’s CTA (call to action)? If you have never acted in this manner, how can you expect others to do it when you run your marketing campaigns?
Brand Building is key to successful lead generation success. There are two elements of brand building that must be in place before you run lead generation campaigns.
Brand Building starts with brand strategy.
A brand strategy can be hard to define but encompasses:
What your brand stands for.
What promises your brand makes to customers.
What personality your brand conveys through its marketing.
Here are three things every brand needs to define:
Audience Development is part of brand building and is a key prerequisite of lead generation. You can Google “touch points before purchase” and find various reports that indicate numerous touch points are required before a purchase is made. One source states that it takes 5 to 20 touch points. Granted, this is quite a wide spread that really does not zero in on the exact number, but suffice it to say,it is not one ad that will lead to a conversion. You need to communicate your brand story and product positioning to your target audience before hitting them with a CTA ad.
“Audience development is all about: building and nurturing a crowd of loyal people and customers around your brand who constantly engage with you and keep coming back for more.” (Source) You might ask, “how can you use audience development to generate leads if audience development conditions existing customers?”
I will give you an example of an approach that I am using with a current client. The client is a start up with minimal following and awareness of their service.
Step 3 – Publish content on your blog and social media channels.
Step 4 – Boost your post to your targeted audience using a set audience definition on social platforms driven by behaviors and demographics.
Step 5 – When people “like” your post, invite them to follow your brand.
These five steps result in increased awareness for your product/brand and increase your audience following. This means that subsequent posts and paid media will increase your audience reach. Thus you are building an audience prior to producing CTA ads. If you work on brand building (brand strategy and audience development) prior to lead generation activities, I guarantee you that your lead generation will yield higher measurable results.
While brand building is not a short term objective, it makes your short term lead generation more successful.
“Branding is a concept that extends far beyond the marketing of ‘brand name’ designer jeans and other products. A company’s brand represents their market identity—who they are, what they do, what kind of quality they provide, their reputation for trustworthiness, and more.” (Source)
Brand Marketing at Its Worst
This past week, I was reminded of foolish brand marketing. Vice President, Analyst and Gartner Fellow, Augie Ray published a spot-on LinkedIn post this week. Augie was questioning how brands change their persona for April Fools Day and in part, he stated:
“… A brand can’t be colorless and provide mediocre customer experiences 364 days a year, then change people’s minds with a tweeted joke. No one’s ever said, “I’ve been disappointed with that brand’s products and hate their customer service, but dammit, I just have to stay loyal because their social media April Fools posts rock.”
… Brands have personalities, but successful ones are crafted with consistency. You don’t change minds with an uncharacteristic joke posted on the same day every other brand is posting its uncharacteristic jokes. If your comms, ads, and engagement are otherwise dry, commercial, brand-focused, and sales-oriented, focus less on your April Fools strategy and more on your brand personality the rest of the year.”
Trying to be funny and snarky is likely “off-brand.” Go back to the original definition of brand marketing at the top of this article. Off-brand is the opposite of that description and is a marketing failure. I would predict that 99 times out of 100, attempts by brands at April Fools posts fail. If they do create product awareness, they are introducing their audience to an erroneous persona. April Fools posts do not increase brand reputation and they do not yield deeper product consideration or conversion.
Brand Marketing at Its Best
Conversely, I saw a great example of brand marketing while watching the NCAA Final Four. Google nailed it with their “Get Back to What you Love”. Watch this commercial:
Why do I feel Google nailed it? The commercial is pretty simple. It lacks star power both in the way of celebrity cameos and aesthetics. But the commercial displays the three imperative ingredients that bring a brand to life to increase an audience’s interest to use your product/service. They are:
The ability to make a point(s) via storytelling
Creating an emotional response from your audience
Subtly demonstrating product value
Storytelling is important because it is the most natural way to get points across. Psychology Today explains why people embrace stories in their article, “The Psychological Power of Storytelling.” They state, “Our brains still respond to content by looking for the story to make sense out of the experience … Stories are authentic human experiences.”
One of the best ways to win over an audience is to create an emotional bond with them. The Google ad starts out with “words” we all understand. Each of us have experienced what they talk about in the past year. That draws us in emotionally, but then they continue to take a “challenging” experience and provide an uplifting message of hope. How can your brand express a reality and then make others feel better about the future?
And the last piece of bringing a brand to life is likely the most difficult. After all, most companies are for-profit companies and their objective is to sell their goods. So if we need to use marketing to sell, how can we do so without being overly aggressive? I go back to the days when I would write “whitepapers” for technology companies. A whitepaper should state a problem, provide a solution to the problem, and then quietly state, “our product provides you the solution.” 95% of the paper is about the problem and solution, and only about 5% is about your brand.
While the entire Google commercial “shows” their product, the focus is overshadowed by the story they tell. I cannot emphasize enough how well this is done.
So how does one go about creating pinnacle brand marketing as opposed to mediocre brand marketing. The answer to that is Killer Creative Briefs, which is the subject of my previous article on this blog. There is a method to great marketing.
Right to the point – killer creative briefs make the difference between a great marketing campaign and anything less than that.
Rhetorical question – are you satisfied with anything less than great?
Let’s first get some simple definitions on the table.
“A creative brief is a document that informs the creative approach and delivery of new marketing or advertising campaigns. It connects the requested creative work to the broader business goals by clearly outlining the strategy of the campaign.” (Source)
These 7 steps give you the foundation for writing a creative brief, but what does it mean to have a killer creative brief. I would say all these steps are important but there are three key elements.
First and foremost, it is imperative that you have a deep understanding of your target audience. This means understanding their desires, motivations, and needs. Highlight these areas when you describe the target audience. Give your creative team a detailed description so they can truly envision who they are speaking to.
The next key element of a killer creative brief is having a clear definition of the objective of the campaign and potential challenges to accomplish this objective. Explicitly state what you want the takeaway to be from the creative output. Understand there is a difference between a “takeaway” and what is explicitly communicated. (See Understanding “The Takeaway” is Key to Great Content for further information.) The takeaway should detail how you want the target audience to feel; what actions you want them to take.
The third element is truly understanding your brand. By this I mean the “Why” of your brand as Simon Sinek so keenly emphasizes. Also, understand your brand’s voice – specifically the brand’s persona, language, tone, and subject matter. Here are some examples as they apply to the brand voice:
In summary, there are three imperative elements to killer creative briefs.
Deep understanding of the audience the marketing campaign is meant for – provide knowledgeable detail to your creative team.
Define the objective of the marketing campaign – do not try to write the copy for the objective, but rather detail the takeaway of the objective.
Understand and stay true to your brand – continually reinforcing your brand identity, values, and voice will build long-term success. Switching these characteristics for a specific marketing endeavor will cause confession and mistrust from the intended target audience.
Yes, all of the seven steps from HubSpot’s guidance as mentioned above need to be included, but the stellar definition of the three key elements will definitely be the difference between a killer creative brief and one that is just OK.
You can find a number of Creative Brief Templates here.
When you write a blog post, do a podcast, record a video, what is your purpose? Are you trying to provoke “a feeling?” Is there a desired “call-to-action” you want individuals to take? Do you actually think about this before you start writing/recording?
These are key questions that must be answered as you decide to invest time and effort into content marketing.
A key question I always ask people as I coach them in content marketing strategy and execution is, “What is the takeaway of the content?” Takeaway being a key fact, point, or idea to be remembered.
This is very similar to my approach on raising my children – I don’t want to tell them what to do. I want them to realize what to do.
So every piece of content you produce should start with two questions:
“What am I looking to accomplish?” – gain brand awareness; reinforce brand or product value; get the target audience to sign up; etc.
“How do I want people to feel after they have consumed my content?” – motivated, inquisitive, empowered; etc.
Now use your creativity to drive the takeaway objective without explicitly stating it. This reminds me of my days in B2B technology marketing. We would write “white papers.” The format of a white paper is 1) state a problem, 2) state the solution, and 3) softly imply your product/service provides the solution with a differentiation from that of your competitors. 95% of the white paper content is objective formulating of the problem and solution. 5% is subjective and recommends “we have the best solution for you.” The content is compelling to your target audience because it is very soft and subtle on pushing your agenda.
So whether you are a marketing strategist, a content producer, or hybrid of both, approach content production as a three step process:
Explicitly state your desired content takeaway.
Use your creativity to imply (as opposed to explicitly stating) your desired outcome.
Once your first draft of content is complete, review steps 1 and 2 to make sure the content has a high likelihood of being compelling to your audience and successful from a business perspective.
Let your audience have that aha moment because they came to the realization!
I have often stated that marketing is the psychology of business. If I want you to buy a widget from my company, I would be best equipped to understand you. Understand what turns you on. Turns you off. Your wants, needs, and concerns. What are your motivations? That is why empathy (the ability to understand and share the feelings of another) is so important.
For many years, the psychology of marketing has been broken down into five principles to help us better understand human behavior to attract an audience to brands or products/services.
Reciprocity Principle. The belief that if a brand does something good for you, you are more likely to return the favor, and have increased commitment in the future.
Information-Gap Theory. When someone has a gap in their knowledge in a topic that interests them, they will take action to find out what they want to know.
The Scarcity Theory. Humans place more value on the things that they believe to be rare, and place a lower value on what can easily be accessed.
Social Proof Theory. People trust products more when they know others who can validate their value.
Loss Aversion Marketing. Most people would prefer to avoid losses compared to acquiring gains.
Now these five theories are well documented to help us better understand how to get people interested and emotionally attached to a brand. But it is time to reassess how to effectively market your brand.
Think back over the past year of COVID and the impact that the virus has had on our mental state. (I do not mean to ignore the tragic losses many people have suffered as a result of the virus.) The CDC states, “The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major effect on our lives. Many of us are facing challenges that can be stressful, overwhelming, and cause strong emotions in adults and children.” ) If we look at the baseline of everyone’s mental health prior to COVID compared to COVID one-year in, almost everyone’s mental health has diminished due to an increase of stress and anxiety. Just about all of us are facing challenges and struggles.
Behavioral psychology is the study of how people act when they’re limited in the ability to interpret the world around them. How do we interpret the world around us these days? How well have we all interpreted the past year. We are tired of the current condition and crave a different mindset, looking to a return to a more “normal” lifestyle.
Brand leaders must be cognizant of this human condition and tailor their brand communication accordingly if they want to be successful in these challenging times. Look at the theories above. How many actual people do you think you can emotionally draw into your brand following these theories?
“Brand over product” and “remaining relevant” – I would suggest these brand qualities are pinnacle as all brands’ audiences are suffering mentally. While I would not suggest changing your brand story (as consistency is king, another Coca-Cola marketing staple), I do encourage that brand communication offers messages of hope and happiness for one reason and one reason only – that is what people crave today. Another approach to make people feel good can be accomplished showing humor in these challenging times as M&Ms has done.
You will create emotional ties to your brand if you provide reasons to love the brand – specific to what your target audience needs given their mindset. And I would say that EVERYONE needs more hope and happiness in their life after the past year. Are you inspiring positivity in your brand communication?
Over the past few years, “storytelling” has been described as an imperative marketing strategy and tactic, but the word is thrown around too much without a fundamental understanding of purpose and outcome. Simply stated, storytelling should be used to increase awareness, engage your customers and inspire your followers. It gets your target audience emotionally attached to your brand. Storytelling, when executed successfully, builds brand strength in every stage of a sales/marketing funnel – awareness, consideration, conversion, loyalty, and advocacy.
“Storytelling is a quintessentially human way of sharing knowledge and making big ideas accessible. For businesses, it’s a highly effective method of illustrating what you do and how you can help your customers, without putting people off by talking too much about yourself.” (Source: Insights for Professionals)
“For the leader, storytelling is action oriented—a force for turning dreams into goals and then into results.“ (Source: Harvard Business Review)
And what is the outcome of successful storytelling? A study found compelling results. “Researchers introduced a brand to two subject groups, relating a brand story to one group, but not to the second. What they found was a notable difference in the way the two groups connected with the brand. The subject group [that] experienced the story reflected on the brand in more positive terms and was willing to pay more for the product than the non-story group.” (Source: ABZ Creative Partners)
Simon Sinek, in his famous 2009 Ted Talk – “Start with why” presented The Golden Circle:
He emphasized that brands (and leaders) need to start with the “why” brands are in business, not the “what” they sell. This is the start of the brand story. Successful marketing strategy starts with “why you do what you do, not what you do nor what you sell.
Why – What’s your purpose? What’s your cause? What’s your belief? Why does your organization exist?
People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.
Great brands inspire us. They have a story. They have a belief. They have a why. They have our trust.
So your brand story needs to start with “why.” Then you can move onto the “how” and “what” of your brand story.
When you continue to define your brand story with regards to “how” and “what,” consider the recommendations provided by Ernie Harker. In his book “YOUR BRAND SUCKS – How to ignite a brand that doesn’t,” Ernie states that you build your brand definition by answering the following questions:
1. Where did your product or service come from? Why was it invented/developed? Who invented/introduced it?
2. If you have a proprietary process or trademark, what is it?
3. What is remarkable or memorable about your company or product(s)?
4. What can you deliver at a consistently high level that you want your business to be known for?
5. What about your products or services is unique to your industry and important to your target customer?
6. Why do customers currently come to you instead of your competition?
7. What do customers love about your business? What do they tell their friends about your business?
8. What do your competitors envy about you, or what would you like your competitors to envy about you?
9. What do you want your customers to say after interacting with your brand that would be nearly impossible for them to say about your competitors?
10. How do you want people to feel about your company?
11. If you haven’t launched your product or service yet, what is your competitive advantage?
“The ability to articulate your story or that of your company is crucial in almost every phase of enterprise management. It works all along the business food chain: A great salesperson knows how to tell a story in which the product is the hero. A successful line manager can rally the team to extraordinary efforts through a story that shows how short-term sacrifice leads to long-term success. An effective CEO uses an emotional narrative about the company’s mission to attract investors and partners, to set lofty goals, and to inspire employees.” (Source: Harvard Business Review)
In summary great storytelling that yields business success starts with “why” and must be “remarkable and memorable.”
Like many of you stuck within the confines of our home, my family and I try to figure out what to watch on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV, and/or Hulu on any given night. One night, my wife suggested Hillbilly Elegy – she read the book and loved it. I checked the critic reviews on Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes – and the movie was pretty much panned. I mentioned this to her and she said, yes, but it is a worthwhile story to hear.
Should we watch a movie (or consume any content) if it is a good story but poor content production? Or for that matter, what happens when you don’t have a good story from the start?
If you read that article, you might recall my Brand-Product-Content-Communication model where I emphasized the “brand” is the core of marketing. “The goal of brand marketing is to link your identity, values, and personality with communications to your audience. Essentially, your brand is the bridge between your product and your customer.” (Source: https://blog.rebrandly.com/what-is-brand-marketing/) Storytelling needs to happen within brand definition. The “why” and the storytelling of your brand product/service should strongly resonate with your target audience.
“To become a brand storyteller, you must find the great stories to tell, have a process of telling them, and have the right people to tell the stories. The brand is never the protagonist in storytelling; rather, it plays the part of the solution or the vehicle through which the story is told. The story is instead focused on what people care about, which humanizes the story. The effect is often subtle, but impactful.” (Source: Mohanbir Sawhney – https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-become-brand-storyteller-mohanbir-sawhney
Copywriting – Because Words Are Important
At one point in my career, I was the head of product marketing and my boss, a brilliant Chief Marketing Officer with a PhD in Cognitive Psychology would always remind me, words matter.
Copywriting is the act or occupation of writing text for the purpose of advertising or other forms of marketing. The product, called copy or sales copy, is written content that aims to increase brand awareness and ultimately persuade a person or group to take a particular action. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copywriting
Storytelling is not the same as copywriting. A “copywriter” is not necessarily a storyteller.
Storytelling and copywriting are different skill sets (although, an individual may have both proficiencies) and in successful marketing what we really need is both. Storytelling, as an endeavor, happens in a different marketing function than copywriters typically practice. Far too many brands ignore brand development and the importance of storytelling scripts as an imperative function within brand development.
It is easy to think of storytelling and copywriting as the same, but they really are different and happen in different stages of Marketing Strategy and Planning. But the outcome of both storytelling and copywriting are executed in “Communication.”
Brand communication is “the combination of activities that influence customers’ opinions of a company and its products,” according to The Cambridge Dictionary.
Proper brand communication requires a process that truly aims at the stated objective – “to influence customers’ (or potential customers’) opinions.” Are your company’s content producers, social media managers, and performance markets really accomplishing that? Do they even know what the brand stands for? What the brand’s voice is? And do they reflect that in the blogs, posts, and ads for your brand?
DO YOU WANT TO RUN YOUR BRAND ON HACKING OR STRATEGY?
In the past decade, marketers have been too shortsighted and many have had an over-focus on “growth hacking” in lieu of a solid long-term marketing strategy that yields successful results in good and bad economies and over a life-time-value provided by their target audiences. As stated in the article, “Is Growth Hacking Dead? The Truth About Growth Hacking in 2020:”
Today, it is the role of a marketer to find the right channel, place, and platform to target people in the most cost-effective ways. If short-term growth is the business goal, it’s the marketer’s job to help strategically recommend the most effective way to get there.
Marketing is no longer just a revenue tactic. It’s not just about reach and frequency — and it’s not just about click through rates either. Modern marketers are interested in tactics like lifetime value (LTV), customer acquisition costs, net promoter scores, and much more.
Today, the concept of marketing is more holistic, where marketing, sales, support, and product teams need to be aligned. Modern marketers need to be proactive learners, quickly adapting to new tools, methods, and market trends.
It is not that growth hacking is a bad activity, but in most cases the growth hacker efforts are not integrated with the overall marketing strategies. I have witnessed far too many companies that have a “paid media specialist” that posts ads without the guidance or collaboration with brand, product, or content managers.
IT IS ALL ABOUT BRAND COMMUNICATION
So let’s dive into the holistic brand communication strategy and plan that WILL yield sustainable, long-term success for companies/brands.
What is a brand strategy?
A brand strategy can be hard to define but encompasses:
What your brand stands for.
What promises your brand makes to customers.
What personality your brand conveys through its marketing.
Here are three things every brand needs to define:
The brand is at the core of it all. You cannot have a successful product/service, content plan, and communication execution without a solid brand definition and position. “The goal of brand marketing is to link your identity, values, and personality with communications to your audience. Essentially, your brand is the bridge between your product and your customer. Brand marketing is not just about putting your logo and business name in as many places as possible and expecting to generate sales. Many times, the importance of brand marketing gets overlooked, as it takes time. Many marketing departments are focused on short-term goals, rather than nurturing long-term goals that impact the entire business, like building a brand.” (Source: https://blog.rebrandly.com/what-is-brand-marketing/)
So you believe you have a strong product or service for a defined target market. Your next step is that you need a positioning statement that succinctly defines your offering. Here is the product positioning statement:
For …………….………… [target customer]
Who ……………….……. [key qualifier – form]
Our product is a ….. [product category]
That provides ………. [key benefit]
Unlike ………………….. [main competitor]
Our product ……….… [key point of differentiation]
This positioning statement is for internal use only. It is not explicitly communicated. The positioning statement should drive your content and communication plan. All content and communication should support and reinforce the product/service positioning statement.
Your content strategy is the intersection of the brand and product strategy coupled with your target audience behaviors, needs, wants, and motivations. You should lean more to what is compelling to your audience than pushing your own brand agenda. Your content strategy objective is to get your target audience emotionally attached to your brand.
I have written an extremely detailed content strategy playbook that can be found here:
The series provides the following:
Content Marketing Goals and Objectives
Determining your Target Audience for Content
Leveraging Your Brand Position to Produce Compelling Content
Social Audits to Drive Content Marketing
Messaging Strategy Before Content Strategy
Developing a Content Marketing Strategy
How Do You Know Your Content Will Pay Dividends
Content Marketing Metrics
The Power of Orchestrated UGC – (User Generated Content)
Earned Media – Finding Influencers to Distribute your Content
What Does It Mean to Produce Data Driven Content?
How to Determine Which Content is Driving Success for Your Brand
How many articles do you read that tell you that you need to have social media presence, to blog, to produce videos, to do podcasts, etc? Yes, it may be beneficial to do these things, but I strongly suggest you have a communication strategy that points to the types of communication and platforms you need to participate in. The communication strategy should be driven by your target audience behaviors – the platforms they are active on and how they are influenced. Understanding your audience behavior will drive you to a communication plan. Your communication methodology must include a plan that utilizes owned, earned, and paid media. It also needs to address the use of original, curated, user-generated, and influencer content.
This may be a tad off topic for the “SocialSteve Blog,” but it is something that I think everyone needs.
2020 has been a hard and challenging year for most. For many, our mental state and spirits have been diminished – we need a “pick-me-up.” And what is the universal pick-me-up? MUSIC!
Earlier this year I saw Marco Benevento posted a T-shirt on Instagram he was selling that stated “music is medicine.” On Twitter, he posted “music is medicine … I need it everyday …” I always looked at music as a good positive drug. But yes, it is medicine also.
So I would like to “gift” you with music. My following top musical picks are below. I hope you will listen, give them a try, and find the medicine you need.
Let’s continue to gift others through this year and the coming year. Let’s work at making others feel better. Nothing works better than music. So share your favorites throughout social media throughout 2021 – just tag it #MM2021.
And to EVERY musician, I am sending positive vibes. You are as good or even better than nature’s medicine. You shift, excite, chill and everything in between in the minds, souls, and hearts of your audiences. Hang in there. Let your art be the shining star in these dark days and joyous ones in the very near future. Hopefully you will get to share your art, your gift, with someone or many people rejoicing altogether. We will get there. Hang in there.