Saturday, October 8, 2016

In today's multi-channel marketing world, branding basics have not changed

Today's digital marketplace has more channels, but smart marketers know that the basics of branding have not changed.  So here is a quick reminder of some of those basics to remember.
1. Building a strong brand identity still starts with knowing three basics - your target, your competition and the benefit(s) you offer that target in relation to your competitors.No matter how complicated or crowded the market is is channels or competitors, this is always the best place to start.  I call it the "positioning triangle", and it is still the best way I have found to understand how to build your brand.  

The first step in building your brand is to know your target audience, who they are and who they think they are.  That's not always the same thing.

Then you must identify who your major competitors are, and the major benefit that audience.  And you  must also know more than the functional benefit of your product or service, but also the emotional benefit your brand delivers.  Understanding and delivering on the emotional value your brand offers is the long term key to success.

2. Building a strong brand identity still means aligning your external messaging with internal awareness and action. An important part of a strong branding strategy is to ensure that your internal audiences are in sync with your external communications. Too many marketers fail to nurture an internal awareness and passion for that external promise. One great example of this are banks who want you to believe they are friendly, but don’t deliver. When was the last time you saw a branch manager rush out of his chair to greet you? Or had a teller stop and smile and ask how you are doing today? Now I am sure that there are some friendly tellers and managers out there, but if your brand strategy is “we’re friendly and we care about you”, then your customer interactions must live up to that claim. All day and every day. If the expectations you create aren’t delivered, you may lose a customer for life.
3. A good branding strategy still addresses these four elements – it is unique; it is believable; it is relevant; and it is true.• Strong brands still must offer something unique or differentiating to their customers.Most business categories have too many choices. Customers need to see you as not merely a good choice, but the best choice to meet their needs. The challenge of a good branding strategy is to find out what makes you unique, and then communicating that difference to your key target audience(s).
• Strong brands must still make claims that are believable to their audiences.Customers should have permission to believe that your brand promise can be met. Today’s consumer is more knowledgeable . . . and more skeptical, than ever. Make sure you can give them enough logical rationale to justify their brand decision, before, during and after the purchase decision.
• Strong brands must still be relevant to be considered.This seems obvious, but this is often missed by marketers who forget to ask these basic questions. Does this really matter to my customers? Is this the most motivating way to present my brand? Being relevant becomes essential in a world with so many choices and opportunities.

• Strong brands still make sure that what they promise to deliver is true.Making an unsupportable claim may get you a one-time sale. But if you don’t live up to that claim, you will probably lose that customer. Plus all of the others they will tell about their bad experience. A Yankelovich study found that, on average, people with a positive experience tell three others, while people who have a bad experience tell eight. With the Internet’s easy access to thousands of potential customers, a bad experience can be devastating.

Today's multi-channel, digital world has changed how we go to market.  But, it has not changed those basics of how to build a brand.  Whatever you do with your brand, remember this: Brands that thrive reflect their core culture and unique character, solve relevant needs, and provide a consistent experience for their customers.

Good luck with your branding development. I hope these thoughts help you along the way!

Monday, October 3, 2016


For over 30 years, I’ve been directly involved in new business development for advertising
agencies on a national, regional and local level. So I’ve learned a few “tricks of the trade”
over the years, and along the way have led teams that won over $200 million in new billings.

At the same time, I’ve learned that there is no magic, one-size-fits-all answer to winning
new business.  There are a lot more than eight major mistakes in the new business world, but I’ve broken it down into the eight most common and correctable mistakes agencies make in planning and prospecting.

1. They don’t start by identifying their agency’s strengths and weaknesses.

Too many agencies waste a lot of time, effort and resources chasing business that they have little to no chance of winning. There are a lot of good agencies out there, and they all look alike to a certain degree to prospects. So marketers often look for reasons to eliminate you from the review, not include you. If you don’t have the right experience, the right personnel, the right location, the right reputation, or whatever they think they want from an agency, then you are wasting your time, effort and resources.

2. They don’t have a positioning strategy that will separate them in the prospect’s mind.

There are too many agencies out there fighting for the same prospect’s attention. And most agencies have dropped all of their size criteria to chase just about everything on the planet. So if your agency doesn’t stand for something, you’re toast. And in today's marketplace, you must own a niche, or even a niche within a niche, to be considered.

3. They don’t develop a realistic target prospect list.
The two most obvious barriers that prospects use to eliminate an agency from
consideration are size and experience. Size becomes an easy reason to say no. Most
prospects don’t want to be the largest, but they want to be important enough to feel like
they will get top management attention. They don’t want the agency to be dependent on
their income in case they want to make a change. And they certainly don’t want to be the smallest for fear of being treated as a second-class citizen. Geography used to be another major elimination factor, but in today’s world of instant communication and Internet data transfer, it’s not as important as it used to be.

4. They don’t have top management buy-in to make the necessary investment to be

Unless your most senior management agrees to fund and participate in an aggressive new
business program, your chances for success go down dramatically. Please notice that I said
fund and participate. If you don’t invest dollars in a new business program, you’re facing an uphill battle. But a dumb mistake that many agencies make is that the most senior executive(s) are not an active part of the new business development program. Clients want to feel that they are getting the most experienced to work on their business. And they want to feel important enough to warrant more than a token effort from the boss.

5. They rely on over-the-transom prospecting instead of developing and executing a
proactive, awareness-building new business effort
The mega-agencies and the creative powerhouses can rely on prospects to call them. But for most agencies, if you don’t have a good, proactive prospecting effort, you will be unable to sustain growth (or grow beyond your local sphere of influence). There are a lot of ways to run a new business program, but the most important is simply to gain awareness among the prospects that you exist.

6. They don’t have a well-rehearsed, professional presentation team.
Too many agencies make the mistake of taking the department head (or even worse
whoever is available at the time) and putting them on the new business pitch. If your
presenters have a major defect in their presentation style, or content, or simply their
personality they will doom the agency to failure in the pitch. How many times has an agency brought a department head to a new business pitch, only to have that person give a terrible presentation?

7. They don’t have a social media strategy to stay top-of-mind with clients and prospects..
Many agencies talk a good game when discussing the need for a social media strategy that keeps a company top-of-mind in the industry, but then have an agency blog or Twitter account that has a year-old post as the latest entry. If you tout the value of any marketing tool to a client, and don't take advantage of that tool, then you risk coming across to a prospect as either lazy, dumb, or worst of all, full of b.s.  None of those will win business.

8. They don’t understand that unless you have a relationship with a prospect, your
chances of success go down dramatically.

Client’s don’t want to make a risky decision. So most will tend to make the safe decision, whether it is the best one or not. When I look back over the years at all of new business pitches I have made, the one constant when I didn’t succeed was when we had no real relationship with the prospect prior to the pitch. Sometimes the agency reputation and/or category experience got us through the RFP and into the finals, but if we didn’t have some personal or professional bond established at some level, we didn’t win the business.
You win new business before the pitch, not during the pitch. That means you should be meeting with the prospect, talking with the prospect, sharing ideas with the prospect, building a relationship with the prospect before the pitch. People hire people they know and trust before they hire people that may not be in sync with their thinking.

There are a lot of other mistakes that agencies make on a regular basis. So I will simply leave you with this thought. At this very moment, you can bet that some other agency is trying to build a relationship with one or more of your clients. And if you are like most agencies, 25-30% of your business will leave after two years, no matter how good you think the work is that you are doing for them.

So new business is not only important, it is vital for your continued growth as an agency.
Do you really want to keep making the same dumb mistakes in your new business  program?