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What Is Branding? How Is It Related To Marketing?

Dear Reader,

What is branding, anyway? It is regularly tossed around by both amateurs and veterans in the marketing and advertising field as if it was some hot, sexy stuff right out of Hollywood and carried with it a glitter of its own. Branding sounds so glamorous, right?

Well, it’s not. In fact, it’s cold and hard, and extremely precious to the minutest details possible. But it would be hard to deny that there is a touch of humanity to the branding concept. Guess what? That makes defining the B-word almost impossible to people who don’t understand it yet.

However, I aim to achieve the impossible in this letter. So let’s get on with it.

A Few Branding Definitions...

The question is tricky, and I would like to start with Cheryl Burgess’ quote from Blue Focus Marketing: “A brand is a reason to choose.” That’s trite and cute, but no novice will probably be able to understand the concept of Branding from that little quote.

Okay, let’s hear what Mr Leo Burnett has to say: “A brand symbol is anything that leaves a mental picture of the brand’s identity.” Ah! Now we got a far more concrete answer this time.

So, a brand is formed with one or more ‘props’ that instantly help a prospect to recall the personality of a company. The symbols can be anything and everything starting from name, term, design, symbol or anything whatsoever—as per the American Marketing Institute.

Fair enough.

Let’s hear what one of my most favourite marketing authors need to say about it.

A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another. If the consumer (whether it’s a business, a buyer, a voter or a donor) doesn’t pay a premium, make a selection or spread the word, then no brand value exists for that consumer. Seth Godin

As we can understand from the definitions above, a brand is not tangible in nature. So, don’t think you have a brand just because you paid that Fiverr designer $25 to design a cool logo for your website. Brand is all about perception.

Al Ries says, “A brand is a singular idea or concept that you own inside the mind of a prospect.” In Ze Frank’s words, it’s the “emotional aftertaste” that comes after an experience (even a second-hand one) with a product, service or company. More like the hot iron mark on a steer’s hindquarters. Just remember, the business, and not the customer, is the steer here.

branding marketing

My Perception of Brand (Pun Intended)

If you were to ask me, an insignificant marketing copywriter, I would say:

Your brand, in essence, is akin to a living being: it has an identity and personality, name, culture, vision, emotion and intelligence. Or let’s say, your brand is what your prospect thinks of when he or she hears your brand name.  Your brand name brings back a complete snapshot of everything he thinks he knows about you—both factual (e.g. It comes in a robin’s-egg-blue box), and emotional (e.g. It’s innovative and professional). Your brand name, which lives in reality, activates the essence of your brand, which lives in imagination.

I agree with the remark made by Jeremy Miller of Sticky Branding that branding is forming an emotional connection with your customer. That relationship resides in your customer’s mind.

Mr Shakespeare said, “What’s in a name?” I say EVERYTHING.

Now comes the far more important question. Marketers, adjust your glasses, grab a cup of coffee and pay attention now.

How Branding Relates To Marketing

To answer this question, I will have to start by quoting a TSL Marketing article:

“Successful branding yields benefits such as increased customer loyalty, an improved image, and a relatable identity.”

That being said, let us go over the objectives of marketing once.

Objective  #1. Engage with target audience

Look, let me put this straight for you.

Nobody does business with a robot.

Even when a consumer is buying a product or service from a business, which is essentially an artificial person, they are still buying from a “person”.

And to prove that a business is human, it needs to act human. It needs to engage with its audience like a human.

By staying engaged with your target audience, you effectively humanise your brand and also set yourself up as an ideal person to buy from or do business with.

And who achieve this purpose?

Of course, the marketing team—because it’s the numero uno objective of marketing.

Objective #2. Prove industry leadership

When some random Mr Smith opens shop in your niche, the only way to stand out of the crowd is to get on top of the ladder.

This is the second biggest challenge of marketing—to become the first name in the customer’s mind in a particular industry.

Your marketing process including content marketing, that is, content, blog articles, offers, client communications, and social media engagement, should all focus on setting yourself and your company aside as industry thought leaders because when it comes time to open the wallet, people want to do business with them.

Once you are an industry leader, not only will your competitors but also prospects will follow you. They will listen to what you have to say. They will buy everything you say. They will follow you like little-lost puppies (well, maybe not so but still somewhat).

But for that to happen...

Your business needs to come to the front bench of the class.

You need to speak up a lot more than you already do.

You need to be present every day, even when it rains heavily.

Be proactive and participate in every event you can.

That’s when you get that much-coveted attention from both your class teacher and that special blue-eyed blonde you like.

Understood?

Objective #3. Building a loyal following

I didn’t use the word “leads” or “traffic”.

Do you think it sounds too harsh to your prospects?

Suppose, you go over to your favourite cafe, and the waiter standing beside you flatly shouts out to the barista, “Hey Mack, another existing customer arrived. Generate as much revenue from him as possible.” Would you visit that cafe again? I guess no.

That is exactly why I hate business terminology.

Forget about building a pile of leads.

Start building a community.

You don’t need customers. You need loyal supporters of the WHY of your business as suggested by Simon Sinek.

And I hate repeating it. It’s again a part of marketing.

Now speaking of supporters—and loyalty—we have finally reached to the most important objective of marketing.

Objective #4. Establish a brand that your target audience “falls in love” with.

If you have read so far, you are in for a treat.

Because I am finally going to answer one of the most baffling marketing questions now.

Is branding actually marketing? Yes, a resounding yes.

You see, marketing aims towards determining and laying the foundation of your business brand.

But actually, the whole process of marketing is in essence brand building.

Yes, that’s right.

It’s not just the one of the objectives of marketing. It is the ONLY objective of marketing.

Whether you market a product or a whole company, you are essentially moving towards entrenching the brand of the business.

Let me tell you from my own experience and from what most marketing folks will tell you, the very first step is to define the end goal, that is, the brand to be established.

Who are we as a company?

What keywords do people search to find our products/service?

Who are our buyer personas?

What makes us different?

How do we convey our expertise through content and graphics?

What value are we providing?

What makes customers buy from us? What makes them return?

Then, all forms of marketing get executed to make the brand a ‘reality’ in the mind of the customers.

A complete paradox this article has been, hasn’t it? Reality-imagination, beginning-end, branding-marketing...whew!

Your takeaway of the letter:

The brand is the perception someone holds in their head about you, a product, a service, an organisation, a cause, or an idea.  Brand building is the deliberate and skilful application of effort to create the desired perception in someone else’s mind. That’s the first and last goal of marketing.

How marketing does that?

Moving the prospect through various stages to converting them into customers, and finally, into brand evangelists. It starts with Branding, and it ends with Branding. This one sentence pretty much sums it all up.

That’s the reason why David Packard of Hewlett-Packard fame once ironically observed that “marketing is too important to be left to the marketing people.” Because a brand is almost...forever. Many a company became giants and many withered away—all because of one word: branding.

By the way, if you are still confused about what branding is, just go by what David Meerman Scott says:

“Branding is what lazy and ineffective marketing people do to occupy their time and look busy.”

Can’t argue with that.

As ever,
Ron C
Founder, CopyeWriting

P. S. Take the How Strong Is Your Brand Personality? Test here and see where you stand in the Branding game.

The Greatest Sin Of A Content Marketer

Dear Reader,

I tell you...

If you are doing this, you are committing a GREAT SIN as a content marketer.

Be honest.

Are you following the herd?

What I mean is, are you doing something just for the sake of doing it?

Because others (maybe influencers) are doing it?

Have you mistakenly fallen prey to The Tipping Point theory of Malcolm Gladwell?

If you said yes, I don’t blame you.

“Let's face it. We live in a command-based system, where we have been programmed since our earliest school years to become followers, not individuals. We have been conditioned to embrace teams, the herd, the masses, popular opinion -- and to reject what is different, eccentric or stands alone. We are so programmed that all it takes for any business or authority to condition our minds to follow or buy something is to simply repeat a statement more than three or four times until we repeat it ourselves and follow it as truth or the best trendiest thing. This is called "programming" -- the frequent repetition of words to condition us how to think, what to like or dislike, and who to follow.”

― Suzy KassemRise Up and Salute the Sun: The Writings of Suzy Kassem

So yes, you are just being human. I am not that different either.

However, let me put it out to you as bluntly as I can.

You are doing it WRONG!

Why?

The sole reason is that you are a “marketer”.

Why do you think they always ask for ‘creative bent of mind’ when they post that ad on Monster? It’s not for the sake of including it because it sounds so dandy and the company was in lack of better criteria.

It is because...

Your job as a marketer is to disrupt marketing strategies.

You heard that right.

As a marketer, you don’t follow the age-old, outdated strategies on and on. It will diminish business results further over time and you will end up getting handed the pink slip, ouch!

For example, look at the content marketing industry today.

For God’s sake, every Tom, Dick and Harry is writing 2000+ word blog posts. I never knew there were so many “experts” around me—on every possible niche under the sun.

content marketing fallacy

Tell you what, it’s a fallacy.

But I am not going to criticize the industry here. If one likes to pose as an expert in his black suit and speak to a hall room full of audiences, who am I speak against it?

Everyone has right to do what they want to do (at least within restrictions).

However...

If you as a marketer try to follow the herd and spout out long-form pieces one after another, to prove “Who’s your daddy?” theory, you are the Bigger Fool, my friend.

Rather, do something different.

If they are writing 2000+ words articles, write 200 words—but of superior value.

Make it count.

Remember, at the end of the day, your customer desires higher value, he doesn’t go looking for 2000+ words posts or infographics or whatever.

Be different.

Be valuable.

21st Century Marketing Formula: Value + Uniqueness = Success Click To Tweet

As Seth Godin says:

“In a crowded marketplace, fitting in is a failure. In a busy marketplace, not standing out is the same as being invisible.”

Can’t beat that. Love his ideology.

Your Content Marketing Takeaway-of-the-Day:

Go in the opposite direction searching for a higher value to your customers.

As ever,
With my best wishes,
Ron C

Does The Secret Sauce Of B2B Content Marketing Still Elude You?

Because there is no secret sauce in content marketing, my dear friend. Look at my straight face here. I am not joking at all.

In fact, I am going to reveal a profound truth that might have been eluding you for a while.

Digital marketers and entrepreneurs: prick up your ears, as I am going to sprout the century’s most enlightening...

Oh wait! Let me start with a verified truth here.

In life, we tend to chase our tails at times ... in an illusion of the presence of some invisible magical power around us. We like to think or let’s say, we WANT to think in luck—which I totally believe in—that nothing is in our hands. But in reality, a lot remains in our hands. Seldom do we realize that the power is within us.

The magic lies within you as a content marketer.

It’s not by chance that a slight 1 percent of internet entrepreneurs have 100K+ Twitter followers while the rest have a mere hundred. It’s amazing how that little, privileged segment of entrepreneurs are being talked about in almost every other blog in that particular niche. The community admires them, “worships” them and eats out of their palms—even if some of them are selling $2000 ecourses. (Quite a BIG sum, right? Is it worth it? That’s another topic.)

b2b content marketing

First, can you tell me what’s separates these ‘special’ people from the pack?

Can you guess?

It’s the Power of their Brand.

Are you wondering, “Huh! Why are we talking of Branding now?”

Have patience. Let me explain. (Taking a long sip from my coffee mug.)

Come to think about it...

What’s driving that solid brand in the first place? I mean, how do you think these entrepreneurs created one for God’s sake?

Yes, you guessed it correctly, my friend.

By the Power of Grayskull! (I am kidding.)

It’s through their Awesome Content Quality.

Go through each of their blog posts, their reports, their infographics or sometimes even their landing pages.

You will see that they give so much value. Whether through the interactive quizzes, colourful graphs and geeky informative charts, they give, give, GIVE!

CMI’s Chief Content Adviser Robert Rose says, “If we’re truly focused on delivering value through content — value that is separate and distinct from our product or service — then the experience becomes ‘enhanced.’ This enhancement is what will be additive to the customer’s perception of what that brand provides.”

So true. I fully agree. Thumbs up.

Awesome Content Marketing Begets Unbeatable Brands. Click To Tweet

Only with the right content marketing strategy can you build a solid, time-tested brand for your B2B business. A Brand that stands out and shines in its own industry niche. But optimizing for such a content marketing campaign with the highest return potential requires ... umm ... ATTENTION.

I agree with 4 aspects of a great content marketing strategy as suggested by Talia Wolf:

The content: Map the content people actually want and need. Why should people read your article vs. someone else’s? What will you be saying that is new and different?

The influencers: Next, map out influencers who would be interested in this article. You can collect quotes from them, mention them, or simply add them to a list of people you’re going to tweet to or reach out to via email when the article is ready. The more personal you get with them, the more likely they are to share the article.

The media: Map out websites and publishers that would be interested in your article. Many publishers feature articles they find interesting or syndicate content. Reach out to them and let them know you’re writing a specific article they may be interested in. Reaching out beforehand will give you an indication if they’d like to see certain information in that article for them to share it or syndicate it.

The promotion: Writing the content is only 20% of the job. The other 80% is promotion. Don’t just rely on sharing it a couple of times on Twitter and LinkedIn. Have a list of all the sites, communities, and platforms you’re going to promote on.

If we tend to these four factors regularly in your content marketing campaign, you can rest assured that you business graphs—whichever you prefer—will go up.

BUT, BUT, BUT...

There’s one another crucial aspect of a perfect content marketing strategy that we are missing here. Perhaps, that’s the reason why your card house is crumbling down again and again. Or maybe, you are not being able to reap the results you want.

Normally, as soon as we start talking about content marketing, the following objectives begin popping up in our mind from nowhere—it’s become so cliché these days, seriously:

Generate traffic and visibility in social networks

Yes, this one is indeed important. I believe, if nobody gets to see my content, it’s no use creating it. Then...

Improve SEO positioning

Ah, how can we ever forget about the search engine robots, right? With all the hype of automation going on around us, we may as well become robots ourselves. But that’s best kept for another letter.

Promotion of a product or service

Your content needs to sell. Everyone says so. That includes me as well. He he. However, we are still not talking about one particular objective of content marketing.

Getting loyal subscribers

Nopes, this is not the one we are talking about. Yes, getting LOADS of subscribers has never made any marketer unhappy. But guess what, this is still not the one.

Add to this...

Building A Solid, Unbreakable Brand

Seen it and already know how powerful it can be. In fact, all of the above can be accomplished if you manage to succeed at this one only.

(Courtesy to the $2000+ courses! No offence to those entrepreneurs. I know a few and I can tell you, they are a bunch of the most hardworking people on this planet. But frankly speaking, not all those courses are worth it. However, they sell like hotcakes. Brand, my friend, that’s called a Brand. And in case you are wondering, oh, I am damn jealous, you know.)

If you listen to Talia’s advice, you will achieve all of these objectives. However...

I believe we are missing ONE IMPORTANT INGREDIENT from the content success matrix.

Let me add this one.

Want to know about the most consequential, earth-shattering secret sauce to your content marketing strategy?

“Hey, you said there’s no secret sauce at the beginning of this article!”

Well, I lied. Straight face. Can’t I?

The secret sauce of your B2B content marketing strategy is ... wait for it ...

Branding First. Content Second. Click To Tweet

You probably didn’t get it, right? I can see it in your blank face.

Let me say it again ... in a simpler way.

You don’t do content marketing first in order to build a brand as a result.

You focus on branding first for a perfect content marketing campaign.

I think, this has been aptly brought out by Jillian Hillard, director of brand marketing, small appliances, at Electrolux, commented:

“For brands, it’s no longer a question of how you can use content to enhance the consumer’s perception of the brand, it’s a necessity. Content is the gateway into a brand’s soul.” 

You build a brand by focusing on BRANDING at all times. You cannot be telling your copywriter, “Hey, get me an article about the latest industry statistics.” And then, you daydream how it will increase the brand score of your business.

You create branded content to create a brand.

Savvy?

Stop reading right now, and give it a long thought.

Doesn’t that really make sense?

Unfortunately, this is where most marketers and entrepreneurs falter. They lack the right content marketing strategy to start with. Needless to say, it doesn’t fetch you the expected results.

3 Main Essentials Of Branded Content Marketing

branded b2b content marketing

Your B2B content must demonstrate your brand values and principles.

Content marketing is not advertising—bold and direct. As a content marketer, you need to bring forth the essence of your brand in a subtler manner.

Your B2B content must achieve the business priorities.

Are you trying to find new customers? Retain existing customers? Cross-sell? All three? Are you a direct-seller with ecommerce sales goals? Whatever your marketing goals are, your B2B content marketing strategy must cater to your business goals ... always.

Your B2B content must serve your customer needs and desires—a challenge for most businesses.

We live in a selfish world, and as humans, businesses too care about their self-interests. You need to go further. Traditional research, customer surveys or lengthy pitches from sales professionals might not cut it anymore.

Understand what moves your customers, their needs, their desires and their fears. Create content not to advertise your business, but to cater to their personal lives. Make it ‘shareworthy’!

It is the secret sauce that’s been lacking in your B2B content marketing strategy.

Give them more than they expect from you.

Give ‘em value, my friend.

As ever,
Ron C
Copy-e-Writing

Relationship Marketing With Solid, Interactive Content In 2017

“I want a relationship with you.”

“Why?”

“Because I love you.”

“Come on, seriously? That cheesy you are?”

“No, I just spoke from my heart, you won’t know…”

Oh, my dear readers, I love you too.

But okay, these are the lines from a very boring Bollywood movie—becoming more of a downgraded version of Hollywood movies these days. Well, even Hollywood movies suck these days.

I know I sound too cynical. Can’t help it, it’s in my nature, man.

Do you still want a relationship with me? That’s great.

Then keep reading on.

Because today, we are going to talk about relationships, I mean, Customer Relationships.

And how well-connected and almost inseparable it is from your Content Marketing strategy.

For many who might not be so well aware of the term…

Relationship marketing is about relationships, of course. Here, the idea is not just getting new customers; it is reaching the right public, the one that’s able to perceive and extract the best out of your solution or product, reaching their goals and total satisfaction. And it goes beyond that, focusing on building and nurturing long-term relationships to increase loyalty and make clients loyal to your company.

We are talking about generating more business opportunities, and yes, we do want to improve the company’s revenue and get a bigger number of clients. However, relationship marketing aims its attraction efforts on:

  1. Your target prospects with fit, able to get results from and with your company.
  2. Identifying opportunities that can really benefit from that purchase.
  3. Creating connections and providing a good communication throughout the funnel
  4. Keeping clients happy and engaged even after the sales cycle is over.

If we take the dating analogy, it is about building a momentum where the woman gets smitten with you, agrees to sleep with you and is still happy to have more of it every day afterwards. She is a happy and satisfied client you have a very HARD-core relationship with.

(God! My examples—complete baloney I know! Forgive me.)

And the most important confession now as a copywriter now…

Can any sales or ad copy ever achieve this? NEVER.

What a sales copy does is, lure the woman or manipulate that 16-year old (underage alert!) to sleep with you once and only ONCE. She might regret it later and not see your face again. Heck! She can complain to the police. Whatever.

But the point is, no relationship is formed. No loyalty is created.

That’s where content marketing comes in.

Content marketing comes in to fill the gap left behind by traditional advertising or marketing methods (We are talking about brochures, flyers, website banner ads, etc).

But How Does Content Marketing Work To Build Customer Relationships?

The short and precise answer to that is: If someone comes to you for advice and you help him again and again, you create a relationship with him.

Forget about selling anything to him at the moment. Who cares! If you have an audience, you will have ready buyers.

According to a study by Robin Buchanan and Crawford Gillies, the increased profitability associated with relationship marketing is the result of several factors:

There’s less dating around. Loyal customers don’t go shopping around and they’re far less to switch. As an added bonus, they’re less price-sensitive because they’re more focused on the value than price.

It’s the foundation of word of mouth. Strong relationships are essential to a high Net Promoter Score — the chance that a customer will happily refer your business to a friend.

Your regulars are your rock. Returning customers buy more and buy more often. They’re often less expensive to serve because of their familiarity with your business and how your product works.

Expansion becomes easier. Longstanding customers are much more likely to purchase ancillary products through upselling and cross-selling.

You reduce the cost of acquisition. Happy customers introduce you to new prospects, reducing the need to paid advertising and costly marketing campaigns.

—      From an article by Gregory Ciotti

That’s what content marketing does for your business.

“What if businesses decided to inform, rather than promote? You know that expression ‘If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; if you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime?’ The same is true for marketing: If you sell something, you make a customer today; if you help someone, you make a customer for life. In every business category, one company will commit to being the best teacher, and the most helpful. And that company will be rewarded with attention, sales, loyalty and advocacy by consumers who are sick to death of being sold, sold, sold.”

— Jay Baer, author of Youtility

So How Does Creating Mind-Blowing, Quality Content Affect Your Relationship Marketing Strategy?

Oh, I can ramble on and on…on this topic. Remember, it’s my job to ramble on in print.

However, I normally like to keep my letters short and to the point (apart from a little frivolous yapping in between). So, in the next 350 or 400 words, I will try to wrap this up.

Reason #1. Content marketing helps you retain long-term customers.

Research has shown that the longer a customer stays with a brand, the more valuable they become. In fact, an annual increase of just 1% in customer retention can equate to a 20% increase in revenue annually. When you work on building relationships with your customers, and not just selling to them, you begin to develop loyalty, which means they’re more likely to stick with your brand for the long haul.

Reasons #2. Content marketing helps you increase the likelihood of referrals.

Regardless of the dozens of different marketing techniques out there today, word of mouth is still the most powerful, with 84% of consumers citing the recommendation of a friend or family member as their most trusted source when making a purchase decision. The more satisfied and loyal your customers are, the more likely they will be to refer your brand to others. The best way to achieve this is through relationship marketing.

Reason #3. Content marketing helps create your “market moat”.

This term coined by me, proudly speaking, means how much market power you have—not based on your market share, access to limited resources or market penetration, but by dint of love and loyalty of your customers. Interactive, engaging content anthropomorphize your brand in the eyes of your target audience which they get into a unique relationship. It’s all in the personality, man.

Reason #4. Content marketing creates a two-sided interaction with your market.

When you’ve got a whole slew of happy, loyal customers in your corner, you’ve got an instant test market at the ready. Whenever you need to try out a new product or propose a new service, your loyal clientele will be there to offer feedback. Want to know how you’re doing? Ask your long-term customers. Their feedback can help you determine what your business’ greatest strengths are as well as identify areas that need improvement.

Content marketing DOES form an indispensable part of any marketing campaign. Yes, short, snappy two-liners look sexy and they do work in their own way, but when it comes to long-term advantages, long-term content, those 1000+ words articles, in-depth videos or podcasts and so on, rules. As @Kit_Smith says: “Content marketing can help you build an audience for the longer term, as good evergreen content will provide years of value.”

For the sole reason that they help to build a clout around you—the denser and the more outstretching it is, the better. And it all starts with one term ‘relationship’.

To your success,

Ron C.
CEO, Copy-e-Writing

P. S. It took me another 600 words to complete it. Whew!

Top 5 Secrets To Awesome B2B Content Marketing Strategy

We need to stop interrupting what people are interested in and be what people are interested in.” ~ Craig Davis, former Chief Creative Officer at J. Walter Thompson.

And my friend, this is what makes Content Marketing perhaps the only marketing left today. Not my words, it’s Seth Godin who said it. A fine man with a wealth of marketing knowledge, I admire him.

Yes, he is true.

According to the 2017 B2B Content Marketing Trends, 39% of companies are increasing investment in content marketing.

Do you know the most surprising thing though? If you are an entrepreneur, you need to pay attention now.

Most businesses do not even know how to utilize the power of content marketing. They are CLUELESS.

Want evidence?

Two of the leaders in B2B funnel benchmarking, Sirius Decisions and Forrester, will tell you that inquiry-to-closed-won conversion ratios are often below 2 percent in most industries, even for those who follow best practices.

Of course, if you go upstream of lead capture, the conversion rates of clicks or traffic to closed-won business are absolutely microscopic.

There are many reasons for these low conversion ratios. The most important of ‘em all is:

48% of small organizations have documented content marketing strategies(Source)

41% of large organizations have documented content marketing strategies(Source)

The competition is growing more intense every day, with avalanches of new content sliding into the market. And let’s face it, creating compelling content is hard.

(I consider myself to be an experience content marketer, and I spend over 2 hours in a single piece of article! Don’t be surprised; it’s the norm these days.)

In short, the market seems to believe that content creation, in and of itself, will win the day. It won’t. You really need the right content.

Well, I have listed 5 crucial steps to content marketing strategy that is geared to increase the quality and effectiveness of your content significantly.

STEP 1: DEFINE WHERE YOU CAN WIN - YOUR NICHE!

Media companies, marketing agencies, and our own egos often lure us into the crazy idea of expanding our target market. I must have heard this type of sentiment a thousand times from otherwise thoughtful, intelligent people.

We do so in the name of economies of scale or because we fear missing out on revenue opportunities. Don’t do it. Focus, focus, focus. Start with a rigorous exercise of looking at your current customers for the solution you are trying to sell. Begin with qualitative intelligence-gathering. Talk to the best sales people, the product team, the post-sales team, and the sales engineers:

  • Who are your most profitable accounts     and why?
  • Which accounts have the greatest longevity and why?
  • What do these accounts have in common?
  • What accounts are unprofitable and why?
  • How can we avoid them?

Then do quantitative analysis, ideally matching your customers to third party databases to add dimension to your profiles.

Share the findings with the most relevant stakeholders to get a consensus on the ideal customer profile. Define account characteristics. Break your market into two or three segments, based upon their potential value. If you can only afford to speak to one of the segments, talk to the most valuable one. (Often the market leaders, if you can win them over, will influence the rest of the market).

Please understand that your definition today will change tomorrow. So make this an annual exercise for every solution you sell. For new solution categories, you may need to have a running dialogue until you find the ideal customer profile, experimenting as you go. And of course, find different ways to test and optimize your messaging hypothesis.

For companies with multiple products and services, you’ll generally want to look for one of your solutions that can most readily open the door to your other products and services.

FIND FOOT IN THE DOOR SOLUTION FOR OTHER THINGS YOU SELL

Microsoft, for example, started with tools for programmers initially. These attracted the most technically savvy people, a group with enormous influence over the next wave of early adopters.

Next, Microsoft created an operating system (well, Microsoft bought one and licensed it to IBM, to be perfectly accurate). The operating system created a platform for selling desktop productivity products like Word and Excel and their relationship with developers let them encourage those developers to build other desktop software and utilities.

There was enough critical mass to gradually expand from the desktop to the network and the applications on the system. Initially, the enterprise applications were BackOffice-focused but gradually became customer facing, like CRM Dynamics, Bing, and now LinkedIn.

This sequencing idea is the essence of product strategy and a key to demand generation success.

STEP 2: UNDERSTAND YOUR TARGET “CONTENT” AUDIENCE

Once you are clear on the kinds of accounts, you want to attract and the value you offer, it’s time to understand the decision dynamics for your solution in those accounts. While you will want to look at the entire path to purchase, let’s focus our attention on the top of the funnel:

WHO IS MOST LIKELY TO CHAMPION THE IDEA?

Not all champions get to vote.

You are really looking for one of those rare people inside an organization who can influence others.

Many try.

Few succeed.

Think about the functional role, the attitudes, the personality type, the credentials, the likely beliefs, and so on. This persona is who you are speaking to.

Even when your message reaches others in the company, as it probably will, they will often find this person for you.

Let them know who to look for.

WHAT EVENTS TRIGGER INTEREST?

Trigger events can be positive or negative (although, generally, people are far more motivated by pain-avoidance than by gain-attainment). These events can happen within a company or externally. They can happen on a day or over a long period of time.

The point is that those events often trigger companies into consideration for your solution. In many cases, these are problems your company can help address. You’ll want to understand what those trigger events are, like layoffs, leadership changes, new regulations, rapid growth, competitive encroachment, a round of VC funding, or employee turnover or customer churn.

You can then reference or otherwise leverage one or more such trigger events to help connect what your champion cares about to the possibility your solution might make a material difference. You can also research the prevalence of these trigger events in your target market to gauge the possible volume of demand that might exist.

Describing these trigger events clearly helps build for your prospect a bridge from what he or she understands to what he or she hasn’t considered.

WHAT UNCONSIDERED NEEDS CAN YOUR SOLUTION ADDRESS?

Generally, for people to change, they must feel the status quo is unsafe. And to do that, you must help them see what they do not see.

Jill Konrath in her excellent book, SNAP Selling, talks about “crazy busy” buyers. These are people who get so close to the day to day whirlwind of their jobs, they lose perspective. You want to help them see their situation with new eyes. This is the heart of the story you must tell.

To tell this story well, you really must understand the implications of these unmet needs.

Who is impacted by the status quo?

What does doing nothing cost, both short term and over time?

If you can quantify the benefit financially, you will empower your champion with the universal language of money, a language that everyone understands.

TO TELL OTHERS IN THE ORGANIZATION ABOUT YOUR SOLUTION, WHAT KEY BELIEFS WILL THE CHAMPION NEED TO HAVE?

You are not trying to get a champion to buy your solution at this point. You need your champion to begin to share your story enthusiastically with others.

To do so, she will need to believe a few things. She’ll have to believe your solution could make a big enough difference to warrant prioritizing your solution over any number of other things. Such an overarching belief often has some stepping-stone beliefs.

For example, I was just looking at a very cool software program (Conversica) that can apparently understand written email responses, including their tone and sentiment. So one stepping stone belief is that the AI engine can actually understand the nuances of the written language. Another is that my prospects won’t know they are not emailing a computer. A third might be that the program won’t inadvertently annoy my prospects.

WHAT EVIDENCE CAN YOU PRESENT?

Again, you are not trying to win the sale here. You are only trying to earn enough commitment to move the prospect from their status quo to interest in having a conversation with your company.

Still, you must present sufficient evidence to make the promise you are making credible enough to warrant taking the time to take a deeper look at your solution. To do so, you will need to marshal sufficient evidence to address the key beliefs your champion must have, both about your solution and the viability of your company.

Ideally, you are getting most of this information through direct interviews and/or focus groups, augmented with simple surveys. Usually, 5-10 interviews will give you what you need. If the information you are hearing gets redundant, you’ll know you have talked to a sufficient number of people. One tip: talk to these individuals during the purchase process or shortly after that while the experience is top of mind.

STEP 3: CLEARLY ARTICULATE YOUR TRUE VALUE PROPOSITION FOR YOUR PROSPECTS

Duh! Right?

And yet how often do you see words like “leading,” “exceptional,” “largest,” “greatest,” and other unbelievable, vague, vacuous claims?

One reason social media has become so popular is because people want another source of information they can trust: information from their friends or really anyone but the vendor and their media conspirators.

Part of the problem is that there is a LOT of things you can say about your solution and your company. But verbosity is confusing and boring. And if you really research your market, you’ll have a far more to share than you will need at the top of the funnel.

To find your value, you need to look at your solution through an honest, competitive lens and through the eyes of your customer. When doing so, you are looking for something your ideal customer wants badly that your competition doesn’t have. If your customers don’t want it, it doesn’t matter. If your customers want it and your competitors can also provide it, you’ll be in a low margin commodity business. Instead, you are looking for your only-factors, the ones your customers care deeply about and that only your company can make.

If your customers don’t want it, it doesn’t matter. If your customers want it and your competitors can also provide it, you’ll be in a low margin commodity business. Instead, you are looking for your only-factors, the ones your customers care deeply about and that only your company can make.

This is another case of getting your key stakeholders in a room to really grapple with this problem and come to a consensus. Look for three areas where you stand out and then build your messaging and story around these three value positions.

STEP 4: DEFINE YOUR MARKETING OBJECTIVE…OR SIMPLY, THE CALL TO ACTION

It’s important before you start to create content to consider your objective. It’s not to build your brand. That can certainly be something that happens as a by-product of your efforts, but it’s not the goal. The role of content at the top of the funnel is also not to generate clicks, traffic, inbound calls, or even leads, either. It’s also not to sell your product or service. That may be the endgame, but it’s not the objective at the top of the funnel.

I like to think of the objective as going to a party. Yes, you might secretly be hoping to meet the man or woman of your dreams, but you don’t go around asking someone who appeals to you to get married.

Rather, you’re just trying to spark a conversation, typically by being observant and interested in the other person. That’s the goal with demand generation. Show enough insight and interest to spark a conversation. Within the demand generation framework, each element must support that objective. If not, trim the fat, using your objective as a knife.

STEP 5: AND OH YES, DO LOVE YOUR PROSPECTIVE CUSTOMERS

This one may seem obvious, but there is a reason why sales and marketing often have bad reputations in the public square. Loving your customers starts by being respectful and empathetic toward them. And that means being authentic and honest, even if your tone needs to be playful. Treat them the way you would want to be treated. To the best of your ability, you want to climb behind the eyes of your would-be champion and experience the world the way she does. The more deeply you connect with them, the more effective the story you will tell.

This connection to your audience will generally help you find the right tone and voice, just as it does with people in your personal life.

Of course, with these five steps, you still need to create the content and adapt the content to the most appropriate method(s) of contact.

You’ll also need to make sure that the content and messaging at the top of the funnel is congruent with what comes later on.

But you’ll have a sound basis for breaking through the noise in the ever changing market because what you will offer will be rare, honest and true.

Now, if you are thinking to yourself, “Why take all these pains after all?”

Hmm…you can, after reading the statistics below.

Businesses that use content marketing get 6x more conversions than businesses that don’t (Source)

Content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing (Source)

Content marketing generates 3x more leads than traditional marketing(Source)

82% of marketers who regularly blog see positive ROI from inbound marketing in general (Source)

Do you wish to be left behind?

I guess, no.

Until some other day…

To your marketing success,

Ron C.
CEO and Chief Copywriter, Copy-e-Writing

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