Big brands understand that success isn’t random. They invest big resources in developing a strategy to build brand awareness, differentiate among competitors, and engage specific audiences in order to build connection.
Smaller brands want and need these things too (who doesn’t?!), but they don’t have endless resources. The good news is that resources are relative. Smaller firms don’t need the millions of dollars that billion-dollar brands spend to make a meaningful investment in their marketing strategy.
The Small Business Administration recommends small businesses with revenues less than $5 million should allocate approximately 7-8 percent of their revenues to marketing. This allocation could be slightly less for established businesses looking to simply maintain market share, or more for start-up businesses or those in growth mode.
Knowing how much to spend on marketing is empowering. Knowing how to spend those marketing dollars is critical.
Too often, small- and medium-size firms choose to simply DO rather than to PLAN. The lines between strategy and tactics become blurred. Asking about their marketing strategy, I might hear that they are planning to increase activity on social platforms, build a new website, or implement a monthly e-newsletter.
These are tactics, and while they may be quite valid, action without thoughtful reasoning – or simply doing something because it’s what “everyone else” in your space is doing – does not constitute a strategy.
A brand strategy is a map to achievement. Creating a strategy must balance identifying where you want to go (visioning/goals) with understanding from what point the journey begins (current market position). Both are crucial.
Imagine, for example, mapping a path from San Francisco to New York versus creating a plan for a journey to New York that originates in Orlando. BIG difference! You don’t simply jump in the car and start driving without a thorough understanding of where you are and how this relates to where you want to go…not to mention more detailed considerations such as weather, road work, traffic, and other factors.
Developing a solid strategy to guide brand building efforts is a huge step toward both efficiency and success.
Development of a brand strategy will:
- Identify firm strengths and weaknesses
- Clarify and detail both vision and goals
- Discern the brand personality
- Recognize market opportunities
- Distinguish differentiators among competitors
- Outline the ideal client profile
- Define WHY clients choose your brand
- Generate messaging that effectively communicates with target audiences
- Build consensus among team members
- Connect tactical efforts to over-arching business goals
The biggest value here is, arguably, CONSENSUS among team members. It seldom (like never) works for leadership or the marketing staff to create a brand strategy without the participation of a wide sphere of stakeholders, staff, and outside influencers, including clients and collaborators.
Lacking these important perspectives, the strategy is not only flat and two-dimensional, but it’s also deficient in the crucial “buy-in” needed to get traction and realize success.
Building a brand strategy involves in-depth discovery and assessment. Key questions that need to be examined include:
- Why was the firm established and why is it vital today?
- How does the firm see itself and its current market position?
- Where does the firm imagine itself in the near future and beyond?
- Who are the firm’s biggest competitors and how are they positioning themselves?
- Why do clients choose to work with your firm over the competition?
- Why are clients loyal to your brand?
- What influences the client decision-making process?
Creating a brand strategy is a process, a few key steps involving research, evaluation, and planning that can set a firm on the path toward clarity, focus, differentiation and, ultimately, more business. Remove random from your branding efforts by developing a strategic plan.
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