Read Time: Approximately 11 minutes
In my 25+ years of working with and triaging brands, I have seen them as living creatures. Some are vibrant and welcoming, but more are some form of 1/2 completed Zombie monsters that are better at scaring away customers than attracting them.
A brand that is alive, on the other hand, inspires loyalty. People immediately understand your value and buy into your vision. Fewer resources are spent convincing customers to choose you, and employees are easier to attract and retain.
However, for a brand to be alive, it must have all the right body parts.
See how your brand stacks up.
Your brand's foundation is the epicenter of all of your marketing. It is your brand's beating heart.
Foundational elements include a HUMAN vision, mission, and core values but also extend into brand intent, sensory brand queues, and six other key components.
When I say HUMAN vision and mission, it is not what you read in most corporate brochures or that invisible line behind the receptionist's desk. A HUMAN vision is a vision of the possibilities of what the world could look like if everyone used your products or services. It is not full of superlatives, marketing hype, or meaningless corporate-speak, but a true compass expressed in human terms.
The foundational pieces of your brand are ultimately what will connect with the hearts of your audience. They are what will set you apart from everyone else vying for their time, money, and attention. They will determine who will be attracted to you, why they should care, and why they should move beyond curiosity to action.
If you gloss over the foundational elements of the branding process, you are essentially releasing a brand with no heart... a zombie brand! It won’t matter how much money you spend attracting traffic and attention, your zombie brand is all your audience will see. And they will most likely flee to your competition before you even have a chance to explain how you can make a difference in their lives.
If you gloss over the foundational elements, you are essentially releasing a brand with no heart... a zombie brand! It won’t matter how much money you spend attracting traffic and attention, your zombie brand is all your audience will see.
This is the funnel that moves people from interest to action. Your marketing strategy and processes are your brand's thinking brain.
Many of you invested time, money, and hair into your brand's foundation, the beating heart. You expressed your vision in human terms, how you will achieve it, whom you need to recruit to help you, and who your ideal audience is. You peeled back the layers and researched who your REAL competition is; you’ve staked your position and created your brand guide. But when it came time to animate your brand and set it free to meet all of those new customers, you forgot its brains?
Unfortunately, strategy and marketing processes (your brand's brains) seem to be an afterthought for most organizations. Because they are not as sexy as tactics, many organizations skip straight-over processes to the attention-getting new shiny things. But processes are what will make the difference between your brand happily smiling and throwing $100 bills into the wind or a brand that knows exactly what each $100 bill you invest in is leading to.
Process is what moves people from passive attention to active interest to engagement and then bankable action. Process is what gets the people who were attracted to your trade show booth, your website, and your content... to take the next step that will attract them into your orbit... and then to take subsequent steps that will help you reach your brand's ultimate goals.
Processes are what will make the difference between your brand happily smiling and throwing $100 bills into the wind or a brand that knows exactly what each $100 bill you invest in is leading to.
The strategies you employ and the processes you create will determine how well you are moving people through your actions funnel and which tactics/traffic sources are working best. A great process always includes a hook, a big picture, a call to action, a reason to take that action, and how to take the next step. It enables your audience at every step, from awareness to bankable action.
Automating your processes can save enormous amounts of time, money, and hair. It can also fill the many cracks your audience may be slipping through.
This is what attracts people to your brand and into your process or funnel. Your tactics are your brand's pheromones, smiling face, and open arms.
Tactics generate traffic. They are what attract people to your messages and pull them into the open arms of your smiling new brand. They are the first contact most people will make with your brand. They are what attract traffic into your process.
But be aware! A smiling face without a beating heart is just a zombie in disguise.
Many businesses skip over the foundational parts and the processes in favor of tactics. After all, tactics get attention. They are easy and sexy. Unfortunately, they rarely work because, without a strategy, it's often the wrong type of attention or attention from someone who has no need for your products or services. The result is endless frustration chasing attention that goes nowhere.
You MUST HAVE the foundation and process pieces in place for your content and tactics to actually work. Content is not limited to advertising and promotion. It includes all the copy and all the creative in every marketing touchpoint, including your website, blog posts, social media, print, television, radio, and even your business cards and promotional products. You can even include your customer service interactions.
Content is how your brand expresses itself. It is the hand you hold out to people to guide them through your process. The vivid picture you describe makes them want to take your hand and follow you across the bridge to the promised land you described in your vision.
Your website and landing pages will most likely be your most important content. They are often the first AND last place someone visits before they take that singular action you want them to take. Unfortunately, most sites either trap visitors in a one-sided conversation or merely scratch the surface of their visitor’s wants, needs, or desires. They talk about how to treat the immediate symptom but rarely offer advice on the core issues that are causing their visitor's pain, anguish, and sleepless nights.
A smiling face without a beating heart is just a zombie in disguise.
Many websites are written by a tech or designer and are not purposefully written to convert visitors into an active and engaged audience that will either join you, hire you or rave about you. If your website, your business cards, or your promotional products fail to connect, ask people to do something specific, and then start drawing them into your orbit ... Your brand will still lumber along as that 1/2 alive, 1/2 conscious zombie monster that will push your prospects closer to your competition.
This is what measures what is working and what is not. Your metrics prove that you have a brand connecting with the right people and getting them to do something meaningful like joining you, buying from you, or raving about you.
Metrics count how many people are running FROM you and how many are running TOWARDS you.
Measuring if something is working is one of the most important activities in marketing. Yet too many businesses fail to dedicate the time to do it, don't know how... or worse, focus on metrics such as LIKES, VIEWS, and IMPRESSIONS. All of these are great for your ego, but you can’t eat likes.
Having an audience is amazing, but remember, zombies attract audiences too.
If you don’t measure how well each marketing investment is performing, how will you know what’s working and what’s not?
I can’t tell you how many of our early clients would have considered a trade show a success if they had 500 eager people coming to their table and walking away with their free swag or 1000 people putting their business cards into a draw for the grand prize. No one seems to care if a single one of those people knew who they were, what they did, or even had the remotest need for their products or services. Others had been over the moon when 100 people watched their video. But for all they knew, it could have been their mother and her pet chihuahua hitting the play button 99 times. You get the picture.
Engagement and shares on social media are good benchmarks that give you macro insights into how AN audience reacts to your messages. However, if the demographic data is too broad, the insights you gain become less useful.
I personally like to focus on measuring actions towards a goal. Leads are great, qualified leads are better, and bankable action is best. Having an audience is amazing, but remember, zombies attract audiences too. What you want is an engaged audience with a high proportion of advocates.
This is the all-important who and what. It is the result of both your process and your metrics. Data is what will be fed back into your marketing foundation to make your brand's heartbeat even stronger.
Data is our most powerful tool as marketers, but it can also turn against us if we don't take the time to look deeper and apply insights. The most common error with data is only interpreting it superficially.
Great decisions are based on great data and investing the time to interpret that data. The most common error with data is only interpreting it superficially. Here’s a great example:
A client exhibited at three shows in a year. The cost of each averaged $25 000. They had a full-page ad in a trade magazine for $18000/ year and an annual client open house, which averaged $20 000 per year.
Trade Show 1 generated 18 new leads
Trade Show 2 generated 34 new leads
Trade Show 3 generated eight new leads
The Trade Publication (no idea)
The Open House generated six new referrals
Looking at the surface data, most would conclude that Trade show #2 was the best investment and resounding winner, that the ad was a failure, and that the open house was a marginal venture. But when we pulled back the layers of the onion, here is what emerged:
Trade Show 1 generated 12 qualified leads
Trade Show 2 generated four qualified leads
Trade Show 3 generated eight qualified leads
The Trade Publication (still no idea)
Open House 6 referrals
The real data started showing a MUCH different picture. The show that was considered a resounding success was now considered the dog, and the two they were considering dropping looked like the big winners. The trade magazine still looked marginal at best.
But wait! It gets better.
Once we implemented a “process,” we uncovered even more data for the next year because we tagged those qualified leads and where they came from, then followed them through to see which touchpoint was generating the most bankable actions. To make a long story short, once they started measuring the right things, they found, in this case, that the ad in the trade magazine was performing much better than previously thought. They stopped exhibiting at 2 of the trade shows and diverted the savings to focus more on their brand, customer journey, and advocates.
Good decisions come from good data and finding true insights in that data.
We feed the data back into the system to improve our processes, tactics, and sometimes even our foundation. The better information we get, the better decisions we make, the more we connect with our clients, the better data we get.... and on and on and on.
The process continually improves connection and wastes less time, money, and energy. But most importantly, when it all works together, you have created a living brand!
David Betke has dedicated his career to helping brands that give back make a bigger difference. His campaigns have helped save a 65 000-acre forest forever, reduced carbon emissions in a city measurably, and helped recruit three senior engineers during the height of a labor crisis. One even generated a 6000% return within six months and attracted many great customers for life. David has been recognized with seven national marketing awards.
Greenshows™ is a division of Avatar Brand Management Inc.
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