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Resoundcast - the branding podcast from Resound, a creative agency
8 minutes | 23 days ago
Why Your B2B Company Won’t Build a Remarkable Brand (Part 1)
The Problem of Non-Branding At Resound, we believe branding is all about uncovering your authentic identity. But many people (especially in highly technical B2B industries like manufacturing, technology, or engineering) don’t believe in “branding”, or don’t believe it is capable of reflecting anything like an “authentic” identity. They think of branding as a company’s way of “putting lipstick on a pig”, and want nothing to do with it. We call this “non-branding.” What is Non-Branding? Non-branding is when a “brand” consists of nothing beyond an arbitrary name and logo (though the logo may just be the name in a stylized typeface). The company has no interest in knowing or communicating what it is outwardly, usually because of skepticism that there is anything authentic about its identity which could ever be known or communicated. The brand is an empty shell and doesn’t really think of itself as anything more than an empty shell. Why your company might be skeptical about branding: First, some people in B2B are skeptical about branding because they’re skeptical about their own company. They don’t actually believe in themselves. They’re discouraged by the lack of purpose and vision. They doubt that there is anything beneath the surface to be discovered about its identity. They just can’t buy into the idea that there could be anything authentic, genuine, or intrinsically remarkable about the identity of the company itself. The company really is just a piece of paper filed with a government entity and maybe a couple of bank accounts. Second, some B2B industry folks are skeptical about branding because they’re skeptical about everybody else’s companies. They’ve seen “branding” before, and it’s all a massive hoax to them. Branding to them is empty, deceptive, and profoundly inauthentic. “Branding” is just a bit of hocus pocus a marketing team makes up with no substance to it. Maybe they’re afraid that “branding” wouldn’t really fit them. When you see a lot of superficial branding pasted on that doesn’t match anything underneath, the most honest approach might look like not branding at all. Obviously, we’re biased. As a B2B branding agency, we don’t at all share these doubts. We truly believe there is something remarkable about every company which continues to survive in a hostile world where, as W. B. Yeats wrote, “things fall apart”. The 4 Causes of Non-Branding for B2B companies: There are four primary beliefs causing non-branding: The company believes it has no purpose. The company believes it is inhuman, not made up of people. The company believes it is not unique. The company believes it has no story to tell. All four of these beliefs are false. We argue that companies can and should take themselves seriously, and find their authentic identity. 1. Your Company Has a True Purpose You have a purpose. If your company has survived more than a few years then it inevitably serves a purpose in the larger marketplace or community. Some people must find you valuable, and you must hold true to some sort of values. The faster you spin a ball on a string in a circle, the stronger the string must be to keep the ball from flying away. The centrifugal forces pulling people away from one another in a modern world spinning at an ever-faster pace are so powerful that it takes a very strong bond to exert the opposing centripetal force needed to keep them together for any length of time. Whatever faults a business may have, it has at least succeeded in keeping people together. That bond that keeps the business from flying off into pieces is some sort of purpose it serves. A Company’s Purpose Doesn’t Have to be Flashy or Profound Not every business exists to, say, cure cancer or solve the AIDS epidemic, or end homelessness. The purpose your company serves may be fairly modest: it might exist to serve its customers by giving them a better way to organize their projects online, or access to some of the brightest software engineers in the world, or a machine to package their new brand of breakfast cereals, or whatever business your company is in. Nonetheless, assuming a free market and the free flow of information, companies that don’t serve their customers don’t survive long. Companies that do not communicate their purpose communicate that they do not have values. No one wants a relationship with a company that has no values. A company that avoids branding, that avoids reflecting on its purpose, only attracts customers who have no other choice. It is very limiting. Your “word of mouth” network wouldn’t extend very far if your customers didn’t share your values. If your company has survived so far, then you probably do serve some sort of purpose, and you do have some underlying set of values. Take the time to reflect on that. Identify it clearly, and you have the starting point for communicating your brand. 2. Your Company is People Every company (or organization, if you prefer) is made up of people. The word “company” derives from the root word for “companion”, compaignon, literally, someone who shares bread (pain) with (com) another. Companies are composed out of companions who accompany one another in some shared common work. What is being “organized” in the term “organization”? It’s not papers in a filing cabinet, expenses on a spreadsheet, or digital assets in the cloud. Once again, it’s people who organize themselves into an organization. An organization is people. Your organization is people. One reason companies tend to neglect branding is that they forget that they are made out of people: living, breathing human beings. The corporate name takes on a life of its own so that the individuals whose paychecks bear that name forget that they are part of the very thing for which they are working. Customers view the business as a kind of temperamental super-human demigod, and they feel lucky if they can get what they want from it without sacrificing too much. The “corporation” feels abstract and distant to the very people who physically embody it. It’s completely crazy and completely normal. Caring About Your Brand Means Caring About People Ultimately, caring about your own brand is a matter of caring about people. Your brand is how employees in the office identify themselves to the outside world. “Where do you work?”, is a question they have to answer all the time. It is the lens through which employees relate to one another, whether in an office or over long-distance video calls. Your brand is the intermediary through which your customers (whether they are individual people, or companies made up of people) relate to your business and your employees. If you care about relationships between people, you care about your brand. What if a business simply doesn’t care about relationships between people? What if its employees really are completely expendable? And what if how well it serves its customers is irrelevant? Well, then it doesn’t really sound like much of a “company” or an “organization” at all, and one has to wonder how it survives! When an “organization” manages to survive without seeking to produce value in the world . . . like a personality cult, a criminal gang, a state-sponsored monopoly, or a pyramid scheme. . . well, then, frankly, that sort of “organization” is simply too far gone for any of our advice on branding to apply. We take it for granted that most businesses seek to produce value and are concerned about customer relationships: as Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald’s, put it, “Look after the customers and the business will take care of itself.” So, we take it for granted that relationships matter for all value-producing businesses. Don’t Get Caught in the Non-Branding Trap There are still two more causes of non-branding that we need to unpack. We’ll do that in the next article so be sure to get on our email list so you don’t miss it. But until then, I want to leave you with this thought: non-branding is a real thing. With our branding agency, Resound, I’ve seen it first hand with clients and others. There are companies in every industry (and especially B2B) that don’t believe that branding is important. They don’t believe that they have what it takes to be remarkable. And they don’t believe that it’s all worth the time and effort. That’s so unfortunate, not because it’s just good business sense to build a remarkable brand, but because those companies really are remarkable. They simply need to be reminded that they are and why they are. So don’t forget: you are remarkable. Check out our branding services on our website if you want to find out more about how Resound helps build remarkable B2B brands. And if you want to improve your own brand, we have a treasure trove of free branding resources that will help you out. The post Why Your B2B Company Won’t Build a Remarkable Brand (Part 1) appeared first on Resound.
0 minutes | 2 months ago
4 Causes of Accidental Branding (Part 2)
The world needs your brand. Your brand is unique, dare I say, remarkable. So your brand needs to resonate strongly with its authentic identity. But we all know a lot of brands (especially B2B brands) that don’t feel remarkable. They don’t seem very unique. And that’s what I want to dig into today — the dangers of doing branding wrong, especially accidental branding. Last time we looked at the first two ways that companies can fall into accidental branding. Those two ways were: Confusing their brand’s essence with their business goals. And confusing their brand’s essence with their competition. Now I want to look at the second set of ways companies can fall into accidental branding. This risks a lot of confusion with their customers, staff, partners and ultimately creates a short-lived B2B brand. 3. Leadership A company’s leadership is the most prominent communicator of the heart of a company: its values, its mission, its purpose. The way leadership presents its values and purpose reverberates throughout the company at every level and resounds through its employees. Attempting to work out a company’s brand without the support of its leadership is almost always fails. Ultimately the leaders of a company are in the best position to recognize what does and does not fit with their company’s driving mission. Leadership ≠ Brand Having said that, an organization’s leaders themselves are not its brand. Unless we’re talking about the founder of the company, anybody else in leadership, no matter how amazing or influential or publicly prominent, is merely accidental. The present CEO is not the company’s identity, and the CEO’s personal tastes should not drive brand decisions. “The boss likes this color” or “The boss loves this typeface” are not brand-based reasons to make any decisions. The same is true of any other outspoken or prominent person in a business who may want to influence the brand around pet projects. The brand is not about them. Leadership Based Branding is a Rebrand Waiting to Happen The leadership of an organization often drives its brand towards the leader’s fantasies rather than the organization’s real abilities! The leader badly wants something, and the organization must transform its identity to serve as a tool for the leader to get it. When rebranding accompanies a change of leadership, often it is a sign that the former “brand” looked too much like the personal seal of the former leader. Unfortunately, the “new” brand often seems uncannily shaped to fit the predispositions of the new leader. Customers and employees feel the dissonance as the brand shifts and look for excuses to leave the brand until a new leader re-invents the business yet again. Divisional Distractions Leadership structures, like departments, sub-businesses, regional offices, or teams of people, are equally bad drivers of the brand identity of a business. Your customers usually don’t care much about internal politics, and your org chart tells them nothing about who you are and what you’re here for. Authentic branding will instead help them have consistent and seamless experiences across different divisions, offices, or teams. Exceptional Founders The founder of a company is the one possible exception to this rule. The founder of a company is essential to the company: without the founder, it simply wouldn’t have existed. There is no Ford Motor Company without Henry Ford and no Apple without Steve Jobs. The values and vision of a founder are often identified with the values and vision of the company. Still, even the founder of a company is never the whole of its identity. The company aims to outlive its founder, just as Ford and Apple persist to this very day. A founder’s job is to create something larger than themselves. The brand will ultimately take on a life of its own. So, even a founder is not infallible when it comes to recognizing when choices fit or don’t fit with an organization’s identity. 4. History One natural place to look for a brand’s identity is its history. A brand’s history is the story of what the organization has done over time. And what an organization does inevitably reflects who it really is and what it cares about. History gives us a lot of information about a brand. Longevity in a company often indicates customer loyalty, and that loyalty often hangs on a common thread of brand identity which has remained over time. It would be malpractice to try to brand a company without knowing anything about its history. But no brand is only its history. Even a historical monument, like the Antietam Battlefield, is not just its history. How it is experienced and interpreted will change over time, along with the environment. How much more true for a company that has to constantly grow and adapt! Stuck In The Past A company that defines itself by events in its past risks stagnating into irrelevance. Maybe your company did something amazing twenty years ago, but is that how you want to be remembered today? Don’t be like “Uncle Rico”, the 50-year old man forever living in high school varsity football memories! Maybe your brand is best expressed by retelling the story of your founding in a basement two-hundred years ago because that story best reflects the values and personality traits that continue to animate your brand today. But the mere fact that you have a long and interesting history to share doesn’t automatically make it the best window into your soul. Was It Just Something That Happened? Perhaps your company hasn’t been around very long; all the more reason to be careful in how you allow the story of your founding to be told and how you connect it with your identity. Stories about what you have done or the reasons the business was started tell us a lot about your brand’s underlying values and purpose. On the other hand, stories about things that simply happened to your business along the way are just coincidences. They’re void of meaning to the rest of the world. It’s like a story that’s all plot and no character development. The Cure for Accidental Branding: Your Brand’s Essence Ultimately, the foundational mistake in accidental branding comes from confusing what is important with what is essential. Your goals, competition, leadership, and history are all vitally important components to understand when building a B2B brand. However, Being important doesn’t make them the essence of the business. The essence of a brand is its unchanging core. Your brand wouldn’t be the same without it. You can – and should – find that essence for your brand. If you succeed, you’ll be well on your way to a Remarkable Brand. ____ Sign up for our newsletter if you’re looking for more brand strategy thinking just like this. You might also enjoy our podcast. And feel free to download any of our free branding tools. The post 4 Causes of Accidental Branding (Part 2) appeared first on Resound.
6 minutes | 3 months ago
How Brand Strategy Workshops Drive Clarity Deep
Without a structured approach, strategic planning fails to touch the ground. Here are the three ways a well-structured brand strategy workshop — and importantly, the deliverables — give you everything you need to turn your vision into an organized, almost-tangible set of tasks. Intro Strategic planning is great, but what happens when everyone leaves the planning meeting? The excitement is gone and the work needs to start. Stakeholders change their minds. As time passes, stakeholders forget the focus they brought with them. Stakeholders never bought in. People didn’t really understand the purpose when real life hits because they were never really involved. No follow-through. Ideas were exchanged, but nobody had a plan and a clear process. Nobody really gets it. Nobody has time, especially since they don’t know which part was theirs. Explanation: It’s a bummer when people show up not really understanding the meeting topic and then are expected to be involved. They soon lose interest, failing to contribute and take ownership. Especially when their comments are off-target. But a good workshop offers an explanation, creating consensus, accountability, and confidence. Consensus Among Leaders Without agreement among leaders, nothing downstream can be done with any confidence. And without the ability to examine ideas and communicate them — test them against goals, running them through the gauntlet of several points of view from your team and ours — it can be difficult to a) feel like you’re in agreement and b) actually be in agreement, even if you think you are. The solution: Define the goal. A conversation that leads to a strong idea of where you are and where you need to be. Verify unanimity. Diversity is great for some things; but you need everyone on the same page when it comes to goals. There’s just not much room for interpretation here. So ideas about the goal need to be brought quickly from the various versions that are in everyone’s head, in a step-by-step fashion, onto a whiteboard. Refine. Once you’re sure you have clear agreement within the leadership, you need several opportunities to clarify, object and refine. Deliverables: To reach this goal, you need a clear process that brings the thinking onto a whiteboard with clear decisions having been made for each thing. At Resound, the typical brand workshop brings together brand values, personality traits and brand story, so you know how to tell everyone about your brand. How do we do it? Without getting into detail, let’s just say we use Sharpies, Post-its, a slideshow, whiteboards, worksheets and a lot of hard work and engagement on the part of the participants. And there’s no reason you can’t do the same for content strategy, brand strategy or even product development. Accountability for Leaders Without agreement and involvement, leaders can’t be held accountable. They can go their own way, letting someone else make the decision. And if it doesn’t work out, they can parachute in and accuse the other person of failing. And this doesn’t just happen in big, evil corporations full of self-serving executives. It’s also practical. Remember, everyone’s trying to do a good job, and when you’re busy, you can’t do everything. So if some bright-eyed marketing director sends you an email with brand values, colors and a logo, you have to decide, “Is this really worth a bunch of my time and energy?” But a brand workshop invites everyone to collaborate, in real-time. It’s a chance to make decisions for the company and to engage with colleagues. It brings all of the leaders on the same page. And if they don’t engage, everyone in the workshop knows it. But if they do decide to engage, bringing their unique point of view to the table, you now have consensus, on which you can build accountability. Now that the leaders have participated in the day-long workshop and have had the chance to disagree and test ideas, Resound turns their decisions into a description of their company. We clean out all of the noise and focus on what we heard the company say as a whole. And if we stick closely to what we heard in the workshop, delivering a report that accurately reflects what was said, there’s now accountability for the whole organization to move as one. In other words, when we deliver the final deliverables, they’re written in black and white, with the permission of the team. Clear Deliverables Mean Nobody Can: Change direction. Accuse someone else of making a bad decision, as long as it reflects the brand values or traits. Fail to execute or support the general direction of the company. Deliverables for Resound’s workshops typically include a clearly written and thorough set of values, personality traits, and brand story. And this brings unity to the leadership team. Confidence for Doers Perhaps where most plans fail is in how those plans get interpreted for the doers — those people who aren’t on the management team, but end up being asked to do the tasks. The delegation could be incomplete because the manager doesn’t know what the front-line worker doesn’t know. Sometimes the manager forgets why he was asked to get the task done. Delegation can also fail to convince if the doers are not able to see the “why” behind what they’re being asked to do. Maybe they just don’t understand that the management is behind the work, in favor of it and in support of it. For the rubber to meet the road, you need deliverables that reflect the workshop and bring it down to ground level. For Resound’s brand strategy workshops, this is a set of visual and verbal guidelines that front-line designers and writers can use to create brand executions that reflect the brand’s values, personality traits, and brand story in an accurate way. Verbal guidelines show writers how to speak for you, delivering meaningful messages with the tone and attitude of the brand. Visual guidelines define the colors, shapes, photography and other elements that guide designers to give you a unified look and feel. Values, personally traits and brand story all work together as the foundation of these other things. And when these things are well-done, they help everyone — both inside and outside of the brand — to know what the brand is all about. And you know you’ve reached success when the writers and designers are so consistent that people can even know what the brand would and wouldn’t say. Convince Your Culture. Start with a Brand Strategy Workshop Brand workshops are a great example of strategic planning that makes the rubber meet the road. It wrangles disparate leadership goals and ideas into a list of values, personality traits and brand story. It delivers them in a way that encourages accountability since it’s clear and concise. And it empowers creatives by giving them well-documented guidance for how to create what they’re creating. All this works together to move your brand forward with confidence in a shared vision and express it to the world without friction or confusion. ____ If you’re looking for more brand strategy thinking just like this, consider signing up for our newsletter, or joining in on our next Brand Roundtablewhere we’ll be discussing creating compelling content and building remarkable brands with an intimate group of brand leaders and marketers like yourself. The post How Brand Strategy Workshops Drive Clarity Deep appeared first on Resound.
4 minutes | 4 months ago
4 Causes of Accidental Branding (Part 1)
We talk a lot about how the world needs brands as they are at Resound. Meaning – a company should be itself – have its own unique and true identity – and not try to be something it is not. This comes from our fundamental belief that – just as individual human beings are intrinsically remarkable – so are the organizations that human beings come together and create. And if you want to find out more about this belief and how we see it play out in branding and marketing, you’ll definitely want to grab a copy of our upcoming book, You Are Remarkable: How To Unlock Your Authentic Brand To Attract Loyal Customers. This is all really important because if you’re not working to understand your organization’s unique identity – get to its real essence – you can quickly find yourself branding the wrong way. This can lead to many unintended issues that will hamper your marketing and communications and ultimately your organization’s growth. Accidental Branding We like to call this lack of depth in finding an organization’s identity “Accidental Branding.” Accidental branding happens when you base your brand on something currently useful or interesting, instead of doing the hard work to deeply understand your company’s unique identity. It might reflect some aspects of the company here and now but it doesn’t really get to the heart – or essence – of the brand and will certainly not stand the test of time. Accidental branding can happen for a variety of reasons – and some of them may even seem excusable. Maybe there’s a rush to get it done to meet some arbitrary deadline, or because those involved in the process have little stake in the outcome, or maybe because no one wants to think super deeply about the organization’s ultimate purpose. No matter the reason, accidental branding will leave your brand without depth or a lasting purpose. What happens when a company goes for the “quick and easy” solution to branding? There are four things they’ll mistake for their true identity: Goals Competition Management Structure History Now don’t get me wrong: these things are important to your brand as you craft your brand story. But it is a big mistake to confuse any of these by themselves as the essence of your brand. Why? Because these things are all temporary: they will all change (and quickly!) This will create tension between the new state of the company and your branding. And that means you’re back to rebranding…again. Which leads to confusion with customers, staff, and vendors, and a weakening of your brand’s value. Two Common Accidental Branding Pitfalls: Goals When someone is asked to introduce themselves in front of a group of people, they usually describe themselves based on their current stage of life. They might share where they went to school. They may also share where they currently work, their current role and where they live, whether they have kids (and how many, and what ages), and maybe a few things that they like to do for fun. Introducing themselves in this way allows other people to draw conclusions about their current motives, desires, and goals. We can take an educated guess about how somebody will respond when we know their current situation. Your current stage of business isn’t who you are. You know your true motivations, what really drives you, how difficult it is to summarize yourself in a few words. And you also know how your current life circumstances don’t really capture the whole of who you are. Maybe you even resent it a little bit when marketers try to sell to you based on your demographics. Just because you make a lot of money doesn’t mean you like luxury watches. Just because you gave birth to a child doesn’t mean you want “mom” products. You know who you really are. The same is true of businesses. When you are introducing your business to a potential client or vendor, you may try to communicate the basics of where you are currently. You might share your location, size, industry, the product or service you’re currently most focused on, your 3-5 year goals, and the strategy you currently have to achieve them. That’s helpful information. But you also know that none of it really gets at who you are as an organization. None of it says why you exist where you are, why you have those goals, or why you’ve adopted that strategy. Your identity as a business isn’t your current size. It is the non-negotiable core that will still be there in the coming years, even if you move locations, grow or shrink in size, and have entirely new goals. In spite of this, businesses are continually tempted to brand themselves based on “where they are currently.” They develop definitions of who they are in terms of things that will quickly change. Maybe their current desire is to grow into the largest in the state, so they define themselves in terms of growth or size. Their current goal is to double sales to retired persons, so they define themselves in terms of serving retirees. Their current tactic is encouraging referrals, so they define themselves as a referral-based business. Don’t Be Disappointed with Your Brand. We all know that when an individual defines themselves in terms of their current goals, the inevitable result is disappointment. If they fail to achieve the goal, they are devastated, because their whole identity is wrapped up in their own failure. They become angry, listless, or disoriented. Yet if they achieve the goal and win the prize, then after a brief euphoria they feel emptiness because there is nothing left for them to do. They become just as disoriented as if they had failed because they wrapped their sense of self up in a temporary goal. The same is true of a business or organization when it defines itself in terms of a goal. Whether it succeeds or fails at its goal, the organization itself is still going to have to be there the next day. Does meeting or failing at its goal obliterate its identity and sense of purpose? Do its employees end up feeling lost and aimless? Goals, desires, and tactics all change. Your brand should reflect the aspect of your identity which doesn’t change. This identity can roll with the ups and downs of your organization’s whole lifespan. Competition Everybody knows how important it is to differentiate your company from its closest competition. One of the most valuable results of branding is that it immediately differentiates you from the competition. But while your brand should make you stand out, what stands out about you isn’t necessarily your brand. How you identify somebody is not the same as their identity. If someone was trying to find you at baggage claim in a busy airport, quickly glancing around the crowd, they might look for people of your height, your hair color, the kind of clothing you typically wear, or the way you usually walk. The way somebody quickly differentiates you has to do with how you appear, but little to do with who you are. Someone can make fashion choices to try to outwardly express their identity or to deliberately choose a hairstyle that will make them stand out, but few people are so superficial as to mistake the image they see in the mirror for themselves. Similarly, while the visual and verbal expression of your brand should quickly differentiate you from your competition – and it should certainly express and reflect your organization’s core identity – the relationship doesn’t hold in reverse. The way people differentiate you isn’t your brand. Maybe people recognize you as the “friendly” engineering firm, or as the “smart” realtors, or as the “punctual” accountants. People describe you in this way because they’ve encountered some underlying truth about your identity and what you value. You seem “friendly” because your brand values relationships; or you seem “smart” because your brand values knowledge; you seem “punctual” because your brand values responsibility. Your identity, however, lies in the values, not in the differentiators. Who you are is what differentiates you; your differentiators are not your identity. Companies that identify themselves with their differentiators inevitably have to rebrand. What differentiates you today won’t make you different tomorrow. You won’t still be the “friendly” engineers when a new competitor arises who beats you in the friendliness category. You can no longer define yourself as the “biggest” or “most award-winning” dealership when another dealership grows larger or wins more awards. If somebody else can copy it or beat you in it, then it’s not your authentic identity. Often it is when the competition changes and makes the old “differentiator” outdated that an organization has to face itself in the mirror for the first time and consider who it is and why it exists. What is its purpose and what does it value? Those aren’t questions you can answer based on a quick glance around the crowd. You have to look into your organization’s heart and soul. But Wait, There’s More…Next Time Okay, those are the first two ways you can get your branding wrong…accidentally. We’ll unpack the other two in a future post. (And if you don’t want to miss it, get signed up to our branding newsletter called Re:Brand.) But I want to leave you with these final thoughts on the ultimate reason so many companies (accidentally) get their branding wrong: Essence Ultimately, the mistake of accidental branding comes from confusing what is important with what is essential. Your goals, tactics, leadership, history, and differentiators from the competition are all vitally important components to understand when running a business or developing a marketing plan for it. However, being important doesn’t make them the essence of the business. The essence of a business is that unchanging core, without which it simply would not be the same business. We believe you can and should find that core. The world truly needs you as you are. ____ If you’re looking for more brand strategy thinking just like this, consider signing up for our newsletter. Consider joining in on our next Brand Roundtable Chat where we’ll be discussing creating compelling content and building remarkable brands with an intimate group of brand leaders and marketers like yourself. The post 4 Causes of Accidental Branding (Part 1) appeared first on Resound.
4 minutes | 5 months ago
How Newspapers Build Content for Skimmers
The abundance of interesting articles makes it tough to cut through the clutter and get your message into the hearts and minds of your audience. But newspapers have it figured out — and they have for a long time. They’re famous for delivering information quickly, speaking to the lowest common denominator of people: the skimmers. The good news is that you don’t have to write for every reading style. Because if you can get the skimmers, you can get everyone. Let’s talk about how to organize your info like a newspaper. First off, let’s give newspapers the credit they deserve: they model a great information hierarchy. And we can use this, especially for our busy B2B customers. We create messaging that will get to the point quickly. Not because everyone absorbs information in that way, but because if you can get skimmers, you can get other readers. Apply this to your email newsletters, website, and social, and you’ll watch your substance come to the front. Clear Headlines Clear headlines summarize the whole article. There’s no guessing and no click-bait. So how do you do it? Say it straight (then, if you can, say it “great”). Tell the whole truth really quickly, without trying to be clever. If you just landed a contract with a big company, and you want to tell people about it, consider: “Blimey Construction Wins $50 Million Bid to Build Cardinals’ Stadium.” Then, once you’ve said it straight a few times, add a superlative like “killer,” “best,” “top,” or give a number. Tell people exactly what you’re going to tell them to do. For instance, let’s say you want to talk about how to set up a manufacturing line for ice cream, but you want it to sound interesting, and not like a manual. You could say: “How to Set Up a Killer Manufacturing Line for Ice Cream.” Or you could say: “5 Mistakes that Will Lead to a Meltdown on Your Ice Cream Line.” Mistakes to avoid: Whatever you do, create tension with the headline. The first example above might sound happy and optimistic, but the second one sounds more interesting. Everyone wants tension. Tension organizes a story and makes you want to know more until your questions are answered. Make sure you build a little tension in the headline by telling them what they can get — or even lose — from the info in the article. Remember, you can’t make people interested if the topic isn’t relevant. But for those for whom it’s relevant, make the topic feel so clear and organized that they can’t help but click. Inverted Pyramid A clear opening paragraph/summary — the first or second paragraph in any news story — expands on the headline, giving slightly more detail on each aspect of the headline. Like an upside-down pyramid, a clear opening paragraph (working with a clear headline), puts the bulk of the information at the top, not the bottom. It lets people know if they’re wasting their time or not. Example from the Wall Street Journal: Headline: Grand Jury Subpoenas Sent to John Bolton’s Publisher and Agent Nut Graph (first paragraph): Federal prosecutors issued grand jury subpoenas to former national security adviser John Bolton’s publisher and literary agent on Monday, according to people familiar with the matter, launching a criminal investigation into whether Mr. Bolton mishandled classified information. Notice that the nut graph expands on information contained in the headline. How it can work for you: In any article you write, you want people to absorb the information. Write the problem first, because that’s what most people relate to, then talk about how you’ll solve it with your article. Give them everything you can right up front by summarizing. Mistakes to avoid: Remember that newspaper articles are written to fit into a newspaper. They put the good stuff up top in the article, but leave the details toward the end. Why? Because the editor might cut the end to jam in another article on the page, or might make the article “continued on page D8.” This is where you’re different. Since you can publish your whole article, blog post, or whatever in full (plus, you want people to read your call-to-action), try to avoid answering all the questions you raised before the end. Make sure even the skimmers have a reason to read to the bottom. Active Voice Writing in the active voice forces you to use more and stronger verbs than adjectives and adverbs (modifiers). This makes the piece more active and interesting, “showing,” rather than “telling” the reader what you’re claiming. Here’s where some examples will help: Passive: Resound is great! They were the best to work with. Resound has indispensable knowledge and unprecedented ability to build a website for us. Once Resound was done, the website got rave reviews from our customers and employees alike. Working with Resound was a dream since the communication was always great and we were never in-the-dark. Active: They didn’t just give us a pretty logo, they really looked inside our firm to understand our clients, our team, and our reputation in the community. Working with Resound on the firm rebrand was a great experience. They made the whole process (from brand audit to launch) run very smoothly. Their team is creative and professional. I am very excited with the final product we received from Resound.” I highlighted the passive words in the first example and the stronger verbs in the second. The passive words, sometimes called “to be” verbs, tend to weaken the sentence. By finding those weak verbs, you can look for a better sentence structure. For example: “Resound is great.” You’re not giving me any reason to think Resound is great. All I know is that you think they are. But if you told me something that Resound did, I’d be able to see what you mean. “We were never in the dark” could change to “By communicating regularly, Resound made sure we always knew what was next in the process.” Granted, we have to add information to the sentence to make it active, but that’s precisely the point. How it can work for you As we talked about before, “Say it straight, then say it great.” So take a two-step process to writing, starting with your crappy first draft. Allow yourself to use all kinds of crappy language and imprecise writing in order to get what you want down on paper. Sure, it’s crappy, but it needs to get down on paper as the first draft. Then, a day later, you go through it and cut stuff that doesn’t seem to add to the message and make the first paragraphs, headings, and summaries — and the important stuff — super clear, direct, and punchy. And you’ll be able to because you’ve written about it and are now so much more familiar with the topic. So what mistakes come with this process? Obsessively self-editing and also trying to edit when you’re still inspired by the topic. Let’s break these down briefly. Don’t self-edit during your first crappy draft. If you do, you’ll bog yourself down and you’ll find that it’s harder to finish. Along that same vein, the rule goes “Write hot. Edit cold.” This means to make sure you write when you’re inspired by a topic; this helps you to delve deeply into the topic. But then you edit when you’re not inspired; this helps you to be objective and get to the point. These rules are like cheats; anyone can use them. Follow these two rules, and you’ll activate your copy and become a better writer than some who are naturally more talented than you. Get the Skimmers and the Rest Will Follow The skimmers are the toughest people to engage. But often they’re the most valuable. Plus, the same article structure that makes it easy for skimmers also helps the regular reader who has a little more time. In other words, if you write clear headlines, give the main point up-front, and use an active voice, you’ll find that your articles attract more of the right readers and really engage them with a well-organized and active message. And even though you might not write the next great American novel, you can console yourself with the engagement and leadership you build within the industry through your clear writing. If you’re looking for more practical tips like these, consider signing up for our newsletter, or joining in on our next Brand Roundtable Chat where we’ll be discussing creating compelling content and building remarkable brands with a small group of leaders and marketers like yourself! Glean from our years of experience running our Phoenix area creative branding agency. We look forward to seeing you there! The post How Newspapers Build Content for Skimmers appeared first on Resound.
4 minutes | 6 months ago
3 Things Decision Modes Teach Us About B2B Buyers
Decision modes affect communication. The method and mood people bring into decision making affect their reasons for buying and how they need information delivered. This brings huge implications to the area of business-to-business sales and marketing. If you can figure out how to connect better with your customers on the basis of their need, delivering the truth in the way they need to hear it — not just based on their personality, but also their capacity/role when they hear it — you win. What are Decision Modes? What are “decision modes?” Decision modes reflect personality styles represented in buying behavior. Think about going to the store and browsing. Now think about going to the store to buy something specific you need for a timeline-driven project you’re working on. Even though you’re the same person in both situations, you display two different kinds of buying behavior. In a business-to-business capacity, that’s just magnified. The problem is that most B2B messages fail to make this distinction or make it without realizing what’s really going on. They either speak to themselves (whoever the owner is) or go too attribute-driven (no-nonsense, brass-tacks, impersonal, and sometimes braggy to seem confident). Why Decision Modes Matter Marketing has 2 main parts: media and message. And they both have to work. If you create the right message (copy, look, feel) for your audience, but deliver it in the wrong media choice or to the wrong audience, you waste money. If you hit the right audience, but fail to speak to them in a way that resonates, you waste your money. B2B buyers are buying for two reasons: what you can do for their company and what you can do for them. Do you ever wonder why B2B websites sound so stuffy and boring, bragging about themselves and telling you what you’ll get? It’s because they need to be logical. Not because all business people are logical, but because, in the end, business people need to look like they’re making responsible business decisions. They want to trust that you’re going to make them look good if they choose you or even just recommend you. So how do you get there with your message? Sorting out how to speak to different people in their roles at work can seem difficult, but if you understand a few basic things about how people think in their roles at their company, things could become much simpler, much more quickly. B2B Buying Is a Team Pursuit Think about all the people you’ll need to satisfy. Accounting/finance will want reliability and predictability with cash flow. Operations will want to see that you have processes in place to move things forward quickly and that you’re well-supported. Legal and PR will want to make sure you won’t get them in trouble, either directly or by association. Think of it as a business version of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Start by checking the above boxes. Make sure your website has testimonials, for example. Make sure you have work samples, showing that you’ve done this type of thing before. Let your site show that you’re focused and speak intelligently on all your outward-facing communication. Obviously, your website doesn’t show details about how you operate, but a well-organized and well-functioning site that has the basic boxes checked will get you past the first hurdle. This corresponds to Maslow’s “physiological” and “safety” requirements. They need to know they’re safe with you. So if you’re super-clever, great. But that might not be what comes out on your website. Don’t let your desire to be clever overshadow your dependability. Dependability and professionalism is safety in B2B. Hey, we’re a branding agency, so of course we care about the rest of Maslow’s pyramid. In fact, we think everyone should be offering reliability and structure with their special, secret sauce that sets them apart from their industry. But we have to get the basics right so that you’ll have a chance to meet them and build relationships, bringing them to a higher level of connection. B2B Has a Longer Buying Process B2C can be a pretty quick sale. And even a higher-ticket sale can involve less rigor than a comparable B2B purchase. A longer process means more time for them to look around. They have more time to be confident. They will have more time to gather information for their peers. More time spent building a case. So think about how to give them more over time. Many companies create a cascading set of information that gives people more detail until they’re ready to talk to a live person. This could be a website that delivers information simply but offers the customer more depth as they interact. It’s not too overwhelming, but also not too simple. It offers to solve business problems, and also offers enough technical information to demonstrate competency. This way if the buying process goes long, they haven’t exhausted all of your resources. They’re still a little curious. B2B is, by Nature, more Technical This is a bit like the last one. But let’s drive the point home. If your client is in a technical field, to make your B2B prospect feel good about doing business with you, show the following: Industry experience. You can’t always show your aptitude, but the proof is in a project you completed in their industry, and with a good result, perhaps shown by a testimony. Technical aptitude. Not just that you have the experience, but that you can think in the right way. You “get it.” They don’t have to describe everything to you and correct you at every turn. At Resound, we’re all a little bit into physics, technology, economics, and the principles that make up those industries and industries like them. This makes it much easier to pick up on the technical aspects of building, engineering, and even finance. Summary Understanding these principles of B2B marketing will help you create a general plan that will help you build communication to speak to the person who’s buying, no matter what he or she is like in everyday personal buying decisions. B2B brings out the responsible, data-driven shopper in us who wants to cover all the bases and avoid making provably bad decisions on behalf of the company. If you’re looking for more practical tips like these, consider signing up for our newsletter, registering for our next free video class, or subscribing to our book launch mailing list which will have tons of exclusive insights from our upcoming book. The post 3 Things Decision Modes Teach Us About B2B Buyers appeared first on Resound.
9 minutes | 7 months ago
3-Step Process to Differentiate Your Brand from the Competition
Comparisons help contrast two things, bringing out differences and showing how each is special. Why does this matter for businesses? Without bringing out the differences between you and your competition, your understanding of the difference will be mushy. And it’s hard to explain to others an idea that is mushy in your own mind. The mushiness comes from two places: your inability to call things what they are, and your lack of information. In other words, you will struggle to differentiate your brand from your competition. This process helps you deal with both: we focus only on the information you can know, and we analyze it in a way that forces us to make decisions and distinctions. Here’s how we’ll do it. Step 1: Write a SWOT Analysis First, organize what you know. Don’t let lack of information stop you: You don’t have inside info, so look at the outside: What does your competition say? How do they present themselves? Describe their messaging, creative, and positioning efforts. What actions are they taking? How do people feel about them? What do their customers say about them publicly? Workflow: After collecting this information, turn to your own business. Write down the following: Detail your operational strengths as an organization. How are you able to serve your customers well? What are your weaknesses? What about your company gets in the way of serving your customers? Describe your opportunities. Are there obvious opportunities out there in the market? What makes them such a good fit, given your strengths and weaknesses? What are the threats to your success? Market factors, like the economy. Indirect competition, like replacements for what you do. Direct competitors, who do the exact same thing you do. This is what we’ll focus on in the next step. For a more complete treatment of the SWOT, check out this article. Step 2: Review threats and your strengths Compare Yourself to Them Here’s where you really draw distinctions. Write down why you think this other company is a threat. What is it good at that makes it competitive to you? How do you compare favorably? How do they nullify your strengths by being better in that area? This last one is huge because it requires honesty. You have to admit that this other company is better than you at something you think you’re good at. Worry about how you’ll overcome them some other day. Today is a day for honesty. A good example: Let’s say you listed customer service as a strength, but another company has a better reputation for customer service. Be honest and realize that you can’t compete on that alone. Test Your List (Eliminate and Develop) Now, come up with all the strengths you have remaining, after you’ve eliminated some. Is there something you listed, like the ability to deliver reliably, that your competition has trouble with? Maybe that’s your big difference. Also, before we leave customer service off the table, let’s also think about what we mean by customer service. Your competition may have great scores in an area like that. But if you can deliver unique value, you might be able to cut them off. For instance, let’s say they lean on great customer service scores in surveys and they plaster it all over in their advertising. But even with that, you know they have wait times. And you don’t. This could be an easy way to differentiate your brand. So if customer service is so valuable to your market, you could advertise zero hold times, offering a more-specific and believable promise. Be careful though. If they own customer service, it can be tricky to win it from them. Make sure it’s worth the investment. Step 3: How do your comparative strengths differentiate your brand? Let’s review: Comparative advantage is the measure in B2B, not absolute advantage. There’s a difference. Absolute advantage is where you’re better than everyone else (in your market). Comparative advantage is where you have a lower opportunity cost. A great example: let’s say Michael Jordan is the fastest typist in the world. Agnes Jones is the second-fastest typist. So Michael Jordan should be a typist, right? Wrong. Even though MJ has an absolute advantage in typing, he made so much money playing basketball, it makes no sense for him to switch to typing. In other words, his opportunity cost is too high. Agnes, on the other hand, may have no skill that’s as valuable as typing, and, therefore, has a comparative advantage in typing, even if MJ is faster. Now, apply it to business The same thing applies to business. In finding out on what grounds to compete with competition… “To find people’s comparative advantages, do not compare their absolute advantages. Compare their opportunity costs.” -Lauren F. Landsburg What kinds of things can you offer that only you can be the best at? If someone’s better at that than you, and they compete with you, find another thing to be competitive at. Build on them. Can you shift and optimize a suite of products/services to bring out those strengths? How do these strengths help you best live out your values? How do these strengths help determine how you speak about yourself…the brand personality you show daily in everything you communicate? Brand values, personality, and the processes that make them work. Now you know your values, brand personality, and the skills that make you compare well with your competition. Develop processes that magnify those strengths. Create communication that sells the customer’s benefit from your strengths. Create brand messaging that magnifies them. Build around your values, personality, and actual abilities, and you’ll find a long-term platform to grow on and that will never fail you. In other words, you’ll uncover the way to differentiate your brand from even your strongest competition. If you’re wanting to dive deeper, consider signing up for our upcoming Brand Roundtable Chats. Our goal with these conversations is to dig into your brand issues and connect you with like-minded peers in the marketing and business space. Our CEO Mike Jones serves as the facilitator in these conversations, drawing on years of experience operating a creative branding agency in the Phoenix area. If you’re working on improving your branding chops, you won’t want to miss these hour-long discussions. The post 3-Step Process to Differentiate Your Brand from the Competition appeared first on Resound.
5 minutes | 7 months ago
4 Video Call Tips to Set You and Your Brand Apart on All of Your Video Calls
If you run a business or work for a business, everything you do on the clock (and sometimes off the clock) is a representation of your company’s brand. Remember when conferences, trade shows, and business meetings were a thing? Those were the days. When you’d show up to a conference, an event, or a coffee shop you were a direct representation of your brand to those you came in contact with. If you met with a potential new client, you were focused on making a great first impression. If you presented a keynote speech to a group of peers, you probably didn’t wear flip flops on stage. Well, people might not be meeting as much in-person right now, but the reality is that people still are meeting. Video calls are at an all-time high with people working from home, business buildings closed to outside traffic, and the uncertainty that comes with a global pandemic. So, my question to you is, why should a video call or virtual presentation be any different than their in-person counterparts? For many of us, the adventures of live video meetings are a new phenomenon, which means that now is a great time to set yourself and your brand apart on every video call. Here’s four ways, in no particular order, to do that on any platform and on any (virtual) stage. #1 – Use an HD Video Camera or DSLR as your Webcam If you think this sounds complicated and expensive, you’re not wrong. Well, you weren’t wrong last year. Historically, using an external video camera as a live video source was really complicated and required a lot of moving parts. Now, thanks to one of my favorite devices of all time, it’s actually really easy and won’t blast a hole in your wallet (or marketing budget). I present to you the magnificent Elgato Cam Link 4k. This little device lets you connect any camera with an HDMI output to any computer with a USB port. There are no software downloads and no instruction manuals. You just plug your camera into the Cam Link via HDMI, plug the Cam Link USB cable into your computer, and congrats, you now have the best looking video feed in all of your future video calls. Check out the difference (click to enlarge): As you can see, there’s a big difference between your standard web cam (Sam and Chris) and an HD camera (in this case, Mike’s using a 4k Sony Mirrorless camera). Not only do you get really nice color, you can look better in low-light settings and get that beautiful blurry background everybody loves. We’ve been using the Cam Link device for several months now and every time we jump onto a Zoom or Google Meet call, the reactions we get are fantastic. Turns out people love being able to see other people while they have conversations. So whether you’re jumping on a call with a long-time client or meeting a potential customer for the first time, level up your video game and set you and your brand apart during every virtual meeting or presentation. #2 – Use an aftermarket microphone If people like seeing you while you talk to them, then they love to hearing you while you talk to them. Crazy right? Groundbreaking stuff. Have you ever watched a video where the picture quality is really nice but the audio and dialogue sounds like it was recorded on a Talkboy? It’s off-putting and distracting. It’s the same in video communication. We’ve all been there, and have probably won a few rounds of Conference Call Bingo because of it, when someone’s audio source makes it really hard to understand what they’re saying. Well, once again, there’s a not-so-difficult solution to this problem that will beautifully broadcast your golden pipes to your lucky listeners. Get yourself a solid after-market microphone that connects to your computer. We like using this Audio Technica kit paired with the Scarlett Solo. This is the kit Mike used in the image above. You, and more importantly, your viewers/listeners, get rich and clear audio of your voice. There’s a ton of other mics, audio interfaces, and kits out there, so find one that fits you and your budget best. One word of caution: having a setup like this can lead to strong desires to start a podcast. Be careful. #3 – Make sure you’re well-lit (the lighting version of lit, not the millennial version) You may have heard it said that lighting is everything. Lighting can turn even the simplest video setup into a Hollywood set. Thankfully, we’re not using Zoom to film the next blockbuster. Lighting up your beautiful face for your next video call isn’t complex. First, understand what sources of light you already have in your workspace. All built-in webcams are going to automatically adjust the brightness of your picture based on ambient lighting. So, you could be sitting in a bright room but still look like a silhouette. If there’s a bright light source behind you, the camera will reduce the amount of light intake to compensate. Keep the brightest light in the room behind your webcam so it illuminates your face. Second, if you want to be extra fancy, you can grab a ring light or other external lighting source to make you look well-lit no matter the surrounding ambient light in your space. Whatever you do, keep in mind that lighting can really make the difference in how people see you on their screens, whether you’ve got a 4k feed or not. #4 – Get to know the ins and outs of your preferred video call provider This one is really important. It’s never a good look to jump on a call and be muted for the first 10 minutes or worse, have to cancel a meeting because you couldn’t figure out how to join a call. Pick your preferred video call provider (we like Zoom) and really get to know it. Watch tutorials, comb through the settings, and jump into a few test calls to really know your stuff. Even if you’re not a techy person, it’s always a good idea to know your platform. If you were giving a presentation using Powerpoint, you’d want to make sure you knew how to use Powerpoint. It’s no different with Zoom, Google Meet, or any other platform you find yourself using regularly. It call comes back to your brand Remember, even something as seemingly trivial as a video call can have implications on your brand and your company’s image. Video calls are here to stay. Use them to build your brand and your story, not distract from them. If you have any questions on how Resound uses the above tips to set our brand apart, don’t hesitate to reach out! The post 4 Video Call Tips to Set You and Your Brand Apart on All of Your Video Calls appeared first on Resound.
4 minutes | 8 months ago
3 Things Creatives Taught Me About Coaching Smart People
We all want projects to run smoothly. But it’s hard to find good help these days, right? And yet, we will become more effective and useful if we learn how to manage these kinds of projects efficiently by helping people to help themselves. Creatives. Innovators. Problem solvers. They’re not fundamentally different from accountants, doctors, or factory workers, all of whom may tend toward a linear process. Creatives simply spend more time in what researchers (and John Cleese) call the “open mode;” that mode where ideas and new solutions come. To understand how to coach — and delegate to — creative, smart people, it doesn’t hurt to have a process. But to build that process, let’s build a foundation of understanding. Principles for Creative/Innovative Work Let’s take a look at how people work. Task and Purpose The military does a great job of defining task and purpose. They don’t just tell you what to do, also why you’re doing it. “Do this so that he is able to do that.” We do the same thing in development work when we talk about user stories. “The user wants to fill in the email signup so that she can get the monthly email.” Defining this helps people to understand the scope. Because if I tell them why, they can understand the value of the task. He or she can then choose for themselves when to give up because it’s not worth it, and how to get the best result given the reason for the task. Read: they can make decisions without you An Organized Mind Leads to Improved Focus and Time Focused work doesn’t take as long. You get in, you get immersed, you finish and you deliver. And it’s satisfying. But how do you get there as a project worker? And as a leader, how do you help them? You have to solve a few problems for them, and then they can solve everything else. Your project workers have problems: They’re overwhelmed by the world. They probably filled their brain with emails, social media, and the news before they started work. They’re overwhelmed by competing priorities. If the workplace asks too much of people — too many small tasks — for creative workers, they lose focus. They get interrupted. It’s hard to work with interruptions, like people talking to you about other things when you’re trying to focus. This is especially true for strategists, writers, or developers — people whose work benefits from bringing a system of thinking into their short-term memory to play with. They try to hold too much in their brains. They have a bad working process and think that fewer steps mean faster work. But skipping steps can make work take longer and lack depth. Problem: Short-Term Memory is Limited With short-term memory(STM) in short supply, it’s folly to build work practices that depend on it being abundantly available. The solution? Save all that short-term memory for the task they’re working on, allowing them to absorb the work and really get into it. Why is it important to allow them to immerse themselves in their work? Because if you can protect their fragile STM, you will preserve their focus and prevent the disruptions that will cost them time, attention and frustration…and will cost you missed deadlines. Problem: Task Switching Costs You When you interrupt them, they have to break away from their thought and attend to you. Sometimes that thought took 15 minutes or more to develop. It could have been a Eureka moment, or it could have been building toward that. This is the task-switching penalty you may have heard about. If you’re task switching (multitasking is actually not a thing; we’re just task-switching): You complete fewer tasks. You make more errors. All this compounds for cognitively complex tasks. This saps motivation, too, because it’s always motivating when your brain is immersed in a problem that you can solve. Solution: Get them Organized Most times, people need you to help them organize their thoughts. You can’t do anything about the news they saw on TV they (irresponsibly) watched before work or the social media post they saw that has become a distraction. But you can talk them through their tasks, giving them a shot in the arm. Like a Counselor for Project Work If you had a process for working people through a problem, you could use coaching to create the happiest, most on-time team. But let’s look at some objections first. Objections “Don’t I have to know how to do their job before I can coach them?” Short answer: No. And this is the greatest thing about this approach: you only have to know the strategy and their place in the strategy to be able to help them. It helps if you know what the deliverable needs to look like to some degree. “But I don’t have time to meet with people.” Then create a team meeting where you help people help each other. It could be a standing meeting where you quickly go over things in a way that exposes misconceptions and insecurities about delivery. At some point, if you don’t have time to manage people, you don’t have time to be a project manager. “But I don’t care about people. Just the work.” If you don’t want to help people solve their problems, you may be lacking an understanding of the value of people and possibly missing an understanding of how they help you in your job. We all depend on each other, so it’s not just generous to help someone feel good about the work they’re doing. It also helps you by making them more competent each time they talk with you. Because this isn’t about giving them a fish; it’s about teaching them skills that will help them not need to bug you as much. Help Them Solve Their Problems When you’re helping people solve their own problems, you’re at the same time moving them through a challenge and showing them how to overcome similar challenges. You’re taking the role of a coach. Every industry benefits from this kind of thinking, but especially B2B businesses, where you see more technical, specialized work. In fact, this is where it shines, because so few people can help others do work they don’t understand themselves. But this process does precisely that: it helps you solve problems in processes you don’t understand by using your own logic, knowledge of the big picture and information they provide. Why this works When everyone’s afraid to ask a “stupid” question — usually in highly bureaucratic cultures where you don’t dare to show weakness or ignorance — miscommunications hide and become buried, often causing a problem in the process that nobody seems to be able to find. But by taking the unashamedly inquisitive approach, you question the very structure of the perceived problem, and like a surgeon, pull out the tiny cancer and show everyone. Often, there’s a “Wow, I can’t believe it’s that simple” kind of reaction. So What’s the Process? In a way, this is very Socratic. You just ask questions that work from the goal back to where they’re at. But so few people are willing to be good at asking questions. But for those who can, this becomes a superpower. Qualifications: If you care about people, you understand the goal of a project, you understand how people work and if you can write a job description and hire well, you might be good at this process. Let’s say a project worker is stuck. How do you ask them questions that will get them engaged? Here’s a good list to start with. 1) Get Them to Clarify the Goal Creatives need to understand the goal. Clarify the goal and make sure you’re both in agreement as to why the goal is important. Remember “task and purpose?” So what’s the goal? Why do stakeholders care? Client The client’s customer 2) Help Them Define Obstacles Creatives and other smart people are valued because of their point of view. That means they miss stuff that others think is obvious, simply because they’re looking at it from a totally different angle and are probably preoccupied with a certain way of doing things or an insight they think is the most important thing. Your goal is to help them walk through what’s important and what’s not. But here’s the rule: you can’t tell them what to do or solve it for them. It’s best if they arrive at their own conclusion. Why do people fail at this? They fail when they don’t understand that their experience doesn’t magically make something possible for someone else. Don’t assume they can follow your process. And although it’s tempting to tell them how to do it, you want them to own it, not you. So you have to understand the problem as they see it. And while some ways of thinking and working are easier for you than for your creative, they can solve problems you can’t and in ways you don’t understand. And this is the goal: listen to them and get them to talk about the obstacles. Have them define the obstacle: it could be something as simple as “I don’t like to make phone calls.” or “I don’t know what this deliverable looks like.” They might not have understood their problem. But if you listen, you can start to see where they might be confused. Then get them to define the problem. 3) Help Them Define Their Task Creatives, like many people, want to skip steps. If they think they get the obstacle, they’ll rush to a solution. But if you ask them to define their task — how they’ll solve the problem — it will help them work through problems without the time it takes to initiate another communication cycle with you. This is usually some sort of plan or process. This can really help if there’s a follow-up meeting too since it helps you guide their goal-creation process. So if you realize they don’t really have a real goal that’s measurable, you can talk them through it. Here are some sample questions: Describe the process that comes after this for you. More focused: What are your next 3 steps? What has to happen before you hand this off or deliver? What are your next 3 steps? Describe your process. This may take a few steps, and it may take practice, but this highly consultative approach matures people. It makes them more valuable people to work with. It’s a huge value for them as well, since it’s good for their career, and you’re helping them become stronger people. Questions to Get Them Talking Do they know they have a problem? Do they see a point of even talking with you? If you’re not sure how to ask, here are some questions you can ask if the conversation stalls. Process What’s your next step? Or next 3 steps? Why will you take that step? What do you hope it accomplishes? Drawing Ask them to draw a diagram of the problem. Ask them for a drawing of a user flow or data flow diagram. Clear goal Ask them to define the goal of the project. Ask them what the client’s problem is. Ask them about the client’s customer’s problem. Congrats. You’ve Just Helped Someone Solve Their Own Problem So how do you build your organization, make people happy and motivated and grow them so that they can replace you, even if you don’t know their job? You treat them like you’re a consultant. You audit their connection with the work, asking questions and exposing their disconnect. You help them see their contribution in terms of their task and purpose, giving you someone who’s plugged in, interested and aligned with you in the desire to complete the project well. And that’s a great way to build a solid organization that can scale. Creating a culture where this kind of coaching can thrive depends heavily on your brand. This month we’re launching a new opportunity for people to connect with a few of their peers and our CEO Mike Jones to discuss why branding matters and how to build remarkable brands as we dig into your branding issues together. Learn more and sign up for an upcoming session of Brand Roundtable Chats. The post 3 Things Creatives Taught Me About Coaching Smart People appeared first on Resound.
8 minutes | 8 months ago
Overcoming 3 Unique Challenges to Marketing a B2B Brand
If you’ve got a B2B brand – selling your products and services to other businesses – then you know that there are some very unique challenges to marketing your business-to-business brand. A lot of the branding lessons out there are great – and some certainly translate to B2B. But most of those lessons are built on business-to-consumer marketing. These lessons often fail to connect to the B2B world. I’ve learned a few lessons for B2B brands working with business leaders building and growing remarkable B2B brands leading our creative branding agency. And I want to share some of these lessons today and hopefully help you grow your B2B brand. Here are three unique challenges to marketing a B2B brand and some ways you can overcome them: 1.) B2B brands are built on human-to-human relationships first. Unlike many B2C brands, the first meaningful interaction a potential customer has with a B2B brand is with a person. Many B2C brands can get all the way from the first ad or marketing message to the first purchase transaction without the customer ever interacting with a human representative of the brand. Consider how you buy a new drink. You might see an ad on TV and then maybe some sponsored social posts about the product. Then while at the store (or online), you see the product and its packaging, get curious, and put it in your cart to purchase. Even if you deal with a cashier or salesperson, they don’t directly represent the manufacturer. In fact, they probably don’t have any specialized training from the manufacturer to tell you anything more than what’s on the packaging or the Amazon product page. (Having worked retail sales at a big-box electronics store in college, I can tell you the training I got on digital cameras definitely was less than half of the info you can find on a standard Amazon product page these days.) Now let’s consider a B2B brand – perhaps a manufacturer of industrial machines. It’s highly likely you’re not seeing ads on TV, YouTube or social media for the product. It’s just too narrow a market of potential buyers. Instead, you might discover the brand through a tradeshow, conference, industry publication or direct marketing. You’ll likely have a conversation with a brand rep pretty early in the purchasing process. Perhaps even right there at the tradeshow. And you certainly are going to have even more conversations in the research and final sale phases. B2B marketing requires tight integration between messaging and brand representatives. B2B marketing requires a much tighter integration of messaging and the people who directly represent the brand. We’ll take a look at some of the reasons for that later in this article. But the core of those reasons is that B2B marketing involves more human interaction than in the B2C world. These human-to-human interactions happen much earlier in the marketing and sales process than B2C and are much more crucial to the customer experience prior to any kind of transaction. The relationship with the customer becomes difficult to build if the messaging between ads, marketing collateral, platforms, and the people on the ground is off at all. Trust is threatened and it requires a lot of work for a sales or account rep to catch up. The brand and the people have to all be singing the same song. They should sing with their own personal voice and have the ability to flex to the specific needs of their customers. But all need to be singing the same familiar song. This is why brand assets like taglines, a Brand Story, and visual guidelines are so, so critical. Without these (and some solid training of how to use and integrate them) representatives of the brand are left without a clear understanding of the story the customer has already been told in other marketing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard from sales reps who are so frustrated with the marketing of their own brand because the story they’re telling customers is so different from what they’ve been told on the website, in an ad, or piece of collateral. Getting everything AND everyone working together, singing the same song is so critical to building a remarkable B2B brand. 2.) B2B brands have to market to multiple decision-makers and decision-informers. Yes, you can certainly find outlier B2C brands that also have this challenge – think automotive brands selling cars to married couples. But even then the complexity of decision-making in the marketing and sales process is nothing at all like B2B brands. Many of the B2B brands I work with have as many as 5-6 decision-makers to communicate with. Consider an ERP software brand. Their customers are manufacturers and large service providers who need a system to tie all of their operations together and give them detailed reporting on nearly every aspect of the business so they can track and improve performance. This system is going to be used daily by production, HR, finance, sales, and even marketing. It’s highly likely that the CEO, COO, and CFO will have a big stake in the final decision to purchase this particular software product. Certainly, the CIO also has a big stake in the game (and will likely be responsible for rolling it out and maintaining it). But it’s unlikely any of these people will be the ones doing initial research on different ERP products, initial demos, or even specking out all the needs. There will be at least another small handful of people involved. So who does this ERP software brand target with their marketing? The tough answer is probably: all of them. Of course, each of these people will enter into the decision-making process at different points, and not all have the final say. But all of them will play critical roles in either making or informing the final decision. And if just one key person isn’t on board with the decision, the sale could fall through. The value of B2B buyer personas For B2B brands, marketing to an entire account is tough. It requires a lot of research, strategy, and different messages and types of assets to key on the particular needs, pain points, and context of each person involved from the customer’s side. It’s certainly complex and requires a different approach than most B2C brands. One of the most important tools for B2B brands in dealing with this complexity is clear and well-researched buyer personas for each of these decision-making roles in a prospective customer’s business. Identifying their unique contexts, pain points, and goals will deliver huge dividends when creating messaging and going to market. You’ll know how to speak to each of them in a way that resonates with their particular needs AND you’ll be able to identify the right assets to create to get their attention. 3.) B2B marketing and sales cycles are long. Compared to a lot of B2C brands’ marketing and sales cycles, B2B brands’ can feel like an eternity. Weeks, months, and even years are the measuring scale for B2B brands as compared to days or even hours for some B2C brands. There are a ton of factors that play into the length of marketing and sales cycles for any brand, but for some of the same reasons we’ve already mentioned (like the relationship-first approach and a high number of decision-makers) as well as others (like the budgets, length of the contract, and even complexity of contracts) most B2B brands experience long marketing and sales cycles. Most B2B products and services just can’t be bought on a whim or negotiated in a single stop at an office. They require multiple people, product demos, various proposals, and contract negotiations, and likely some kind of legal review. And that’s not counting any of the marketing cycles prior to any kind of ‘sales process’. I remember working with a product brand that was looking to get out of selling directly through retailers and instead sell bulk to distributors. They were transitioning from B2C marketing and sales processes into thinking more B2B. One of the more surprising discoveries: the relationship-building process with the big distributors could take YEARS. Overcoming the challenge of long relationship-building cycles While at a tradeshow they got to talking with one distributor rep about how they could get the attention of more distributors – especially the bigger ones in their industry. This rep’s answer: make sure you show up at this tradeshow at least 5 years in a row. Many distributors would watch brands year-over-year at the tradeshow to see if a brand would keep coming back, grow their booth size, and basically prove they were growing. Only after several years of seeing this would some of the big distributors even approach the brand to consider a deal. (And I thought our sales cycles were long for branding projects. Sheesh!) So how do you overcome these long relationship-building cycles? Clear storytelling, from the get-go. Be clear about who you’re uniquely positioned to help. Know how your product or service solves their unique pains. And clearly demonstrate how it makes their lives better. Bonus points if you can do that with different kinds of media (articles, ads, ebooks, videos, podcasts) targeted at the different roles of decision-makers involved in the process. Best-case: focus on one or two roles that are the most critical to the sale. And it’s not always the CEO role. It could be the CFO or CIO. But there’s nearly always one or two that if you can really get them bought into your brand and your solution, through a good relationship, all the others will be infinitely easier. Consistency and strong relationships are crucial for B2B marketing As you can see (and probably already know) B2B marketing is vastly different from B2C. A lot of the surface level is similar, for sure. There are ads and content and websites and logos and messaging. But the nuances are what make all the difference. And if you treat them the same, you’ll find your marketing is that much harder and inefficient. Get a kickstart for your B2B marketing planning with our FREE Relationship Marketing Worksheet. It will help you strategize your messaging, buyer personas, and campaigns. And if you want to dig deeper on this topic and connect with some like-minded marketers and business leaders, sign up for our new Brand Roundtable Chats. These are limited-capacity, deep-dive sessions to dig into the brand-building issues and challenges in our various businesses. I’d love to see you at one soon! The post Overcoming 3 Unique Challenges to Marketing a B2B Brand appeared first on Resound.
3 minutes | 9 months ago
Our Rapid, 5-Step Brand Story Creation Process
Do you have a confusing, bloated, or boring brand story? Most of us just need a path to a clear, simple brand story that reflects our values. So let’s talk about that here. Note: Here’s the worksheet we use. Download for free here. Everyone wants to feel good about the story they tell about themselves — one that will give you a script and make you feel great about what you do and one that you’ll be proud to share (instead of nervous). Whether it’s an elevator pitch, a job description, text for a proposal, a slideshow, a conversation or the footer of your website here’s how to build a brand story that will make sense for you and your brand. What’s a Brand Story? Great brand stories do actual work. They give your hearer focus. If you can do that, you can take them down a path. And if your path makes sense, you might even use that valuable attention you got (read: earned) from them to offer your solution. A brand story, like any story, needs tension. So usually there’s some kind of problem that exists for your customer or client. The story needs characters and those characters have to make sense to the hearer. And it needs a solution that involves you. Characters in a Brand Story Before we get to the steps, let’s make sure we understand the characters. As I mentioned, if the reader doesn’t care about the characters, the plot is irrelevant. To illustrate, have you ever watched a TV show or romantic comedy with a couple that you just know should be together? Maybe they’re alone or with someone who mistreats them, and now they have a chance at love. She’s funny and innocent. He’s clever and heroic. They need each other. “No, you don’t understand: they NEED to be together!” So you keep watching as chemistry builds. Then the inevitable happens and something goes wrong. A previous lie emerges. Someone gets in the way. A misunderstanding threatens all their future happiness. And you care. It’s a fictional couple. Actors. And you know it. But you care anyway. In fact, if you paid for that movie, you actually paid to care about fake people! That’s tension and it involves you in the story. It’s what you want. But if you don’t care about the characters — maybe she’s just kinda immature and he’s still a good guy — you’re likely to think he deserves better. Or they’re just uninteresting or unlikeable. In that case, you just don’t really care if they’re together. So make sure they care about the characters. For a deeper dive, check out this article on why we care about characters. The Hero’s Journey Who are the characters in your brand story, you might ask? In a RomCom, they’re a would-be couple. But in a brand story, it’s a different kind of story. It’s about a hero, the hero’s journey and you (the guide). In this story, your hero is your customer and you are the guide, whether you’re selling a product or service that helps them build or do something. Now that your characters are set, let’s talk about the story arc. Steps to a Brand Story Plot Now that you have characters, you need tension, which usually takes the form of an obstacle between where your hero is and where he or she needs to be. 1) Beginning — State the Problem You have to state the problem, capturing their problem in a way that makes sense to them. You want them to understand that you see the problem, putting you on the same side of the table as them. If you can do this, you’ve conquered much of the sales process. So state the problem the way they would care about it. Bonus: make it brutally true and clear. This is sometimes called “agitation.” It works by making sure your client continually sees the value. Usually, it describes the suckiness of their situation. Remind them why the problem is important. Don’t sanitize it. Let it be severe. Think about a time when you’ve watched a movie where the hero gets the living hell beat out of him by the bad guy. He just gets destroyed. And just when you think it’s over, it gets worse. Pretty soon, you’re at the point where you’re wondering how he’s even gonna survive. But the closer he comes to death — the more it looks like he could never come back from this — the more you’re into it. And yet, you know it’s possible because it’s that kind of movie. And now you just have to see how he comes back. So now you have a character you care about, and you’ve given the story tension and a goal (the implied goal of the comeback). Great storytellers don’t let up. They have no mercy. Because the farther you fall, the better the comeback. 2) Middle — Your Arrival in the Brand Story So your hero’s beaten to a pulp. Now what? How does your arrival change the hero’s perspective? How do you change how the hero sees things? Remember, it’s important that you don’t solve the problem here. You only provide the inspiration — the hint at the actual solution. As the guide, you don’t change the hero situation (yet), you simply change his point of view. Think of Yoda and Luke, Gandalf and Frodo. Think about any time in the story where a hero was given counsel and hope. And the guide is invested. Yoda knows Luke has to go out and do it, but he wants Luke to win. He doesn’t just give him a slideshow presentation on the force, wish him good luck and go back to eating swamp food. No, a great guide — and a great brand — give the hero a feeling of hope and a feeling of your support. You’re behind them, and you matter, so “maybe I can be successful.” Gandalf was kind of awesome. Yoda was kind of awesome. Obi-Wan was kind of awesome. There are so many guides who’ve gone before us. They’ve paid their dues. They bring a confidence that gives confidence to this young, developing hero. And so the hero’s perspective shifts when you show up and create that confidence. 3) End — Your Hero’s Victory So we’ve talked about your arrival and how you’ve changed the hero’s perspective, so now let’s talk about how your hero came out victorious. For inspiration, think of ways you or your product helps real people. How have you seen this play out in the past? Remember that they’re the ones who overcome. But how did you contribute to their ability to overcome? How did you instill confidence and a small amount of ability? You have a small role, but you do have a role. 4) Bad Ending — What if They Refuse Your Help? Now we define the bad ending. Why? Because it gives you more backstory to draw from, even if you never mention it to people. This is what happens when the hero doesn’t overcome. You wrote the good ending a minute ago. The one where they take your help. But what if they don’t? What if they don’t get your change of mindset which you would otherwise have instilled in them, if they didn’t use the product or service, then what happens? And you can’t just say “they stay the same.” Things get worse if they’re not getting better. So be real with them. Tell them the worst that can happen. Sure, they ultimately go out of business. But you want to enrich the story and say why they went out of business or how they failed. What was the path? This alternate ending should create tension in your heart and motivate you to help. 5) Edit Your Brand Story Finally, you have all the facts aligned. The information is all there. Now, it’s a matter of putting it together, compressing some parts, expanding others, and making it your own. But just remember that a brand story is about how you help your client or customer win; it’s a story that’s about them. And that’s why it’s compelling. It’s a story where your customer is the main character with the problem, and you are the one helping them out of the problem. You create the tension, and you let your story do the work. This is how you create consistency in the communication of your brand throughout your organization. Download the worksheet and get yourself and your team on the same script. The post Our Rapid, 5-Step Brand Story Creation Process appeared first on Resound.
3 minutes | 9 months ago
4 Occasions Your Brand Story will Make You Stand Out
Your brand story touches off a story in the mind of your audience that involves them and sets you apart as the only one they’ll trust to solve their problem. But if that’s true, why are so many stories lacking empathy, focus, values and seriousness? Today, we’ll talk about these things as well as 4 areas your brand story will come up big. Too many people are caught by surprise without any kind of brand story. Ask them what they do, and they give you a weird and confusing story about what they do with almost no indication of why they do it. We wrote a post that goes over the creation of a brand story. But before you get started, let’s talk about why you’d want it and how you’ll use it. What’s a Brand Story? Great brand stories do actual, real work. They give your hearer focus. If you can do that, you can take them down a path. And if your path makes sense, you might even use that valuable attention you got (read: earned) from them to offer your solution. A brand story, like any story, needs tension. So usually there’s some kind of problem that exists for your customer or client. The story needs characters and those characters have to make sense to the hearer. And it needs a solution that involves you. Two Ways Your Brand Story Helps You This is how you create consistency in the communication of your brand throughout your organization. Deliver with Confidence People who lack confidence fail to impress. But it’s really a matter of trust than anything else. Because if you fail to impress, people may still like you. They may even feel sorry for you. But since everyone’s dealing with their own issues, when they need someone to help, they’re looking for someone strong, reliable, focused and dependable. Your brand story, if delivered confidently, shows others they can trust you. It impresses them with the commitment you show toward good values and a real, actual plan to help others, not because you’re out for cash, but because it’s a way you can make money and help people based on your values. The funny thing is, when you’re the kind of leader, in the kind of brand, whose values reside not in the opinions of others, but in the fact that you live according to your values, it at the same time doesn’t matter as much what they think, and, on the other hand, makes them more inclined to trust you. This opens the door for more opportunities for you to serve others. Not because you need them, but because you live out a commitment to help. Spur Interesting Conversations Your clarity of goal — your ability to know what you do, how you do it, and how it helps others — captures the imaginations of other people, sometimes even reminding them of why they first started their business. After all, most people don’t go into business thinking “this is gonna suck, but at least I’ll make some money.” Usually, you have some pretty cool visions of what’s possible. But then you get busy. And work starts to become transactional — a little more about getting the work done and getting paid than about feeling satisfied with your work. But your brand story feels deeper, because it is. Your brand story is bursting with your “why,” even when you don’t directly talk about your values. And when people think you’re talking about their problem, and you really understand their problem, it shows that you get it. It also shows that it matters to you. And while lots of people can claim they care, when your concern is anchored in your deeply held values, then you become a real, viable solution to their problems. At that point, who else will they trust as much as they trust you? When to Use Your Brand Story There are a few things you do in business that provide amazing leverage. They’re things with low investment, but extremely high long-term value. Your brand story is one of them. Here are a few ways your brand story pays off in the long run. 1) Pitching a Product So you have a product. What makes your funders believe that this is the product and that you’re the one to do it? Because you sorta have to prove both, don’t you? They’re not going to fund it if it doesn’t work. And they’re not going to fund it if you’re not committed. There’s value in you doing this. They can’t just buy the idea. They need to know that the one who’s excited about it — the one who thought of it — can also lead the effort. So whether you’re a manager trying to pitch an initiative or an inventor trying to pitch a product, they want to know there’s a problem the product will solve, and they want to know there’s a person behind it with a desire to fix the problem for people that’s embedded in their values. 2) Speaking at an Event Few things are more impressive than a speaker who knows where he or she is going at the beginning of a speech. Do you have a brand story that you can open with? One that you’re proud of? One that convinces your audience, right off the bat, that you’re not going to waste their time. “Hi, I’m Ron. My company, Smile Co, started when we realized the emotional toll middle school takes on our kids, resulting in depression, sometimes leading to suicide. We help kids dream and grow a plan for their future, reducing depression and setting kids on a path toward growth and fulfillment…” When you’re clear about your mission, you know the problem you’re solving, and you’re clear on your “why,” people know exactly what you’re about. Those who aren’t interested in that kind of thing will tune out. But those who are interested will be all ears. 3) Social Gatherings Few things are more impressive than a person who knows what he/she is about. So many people aren’t sure what to say to other people at networking events or social gatherings. Even at church on Sunday. How you speak about yourself and your company tells them a lot about you. What do you care about? How does your mind work? Are you in it for the right reasons? Unfortunately, when people hear you introduce yourself, they think you mean every word you say. And if you’re unprepared and disorganized, they think you keep a disorganized mind. How much more in a business context. Your brief and focused brand story will show your well-ordered mind and commitment to values-based service (problems you solve) wherever you go. 4) Website, Collateral, and Other Marketing Material Because your brand story contains all the parts of your brand promise — the problem, why it’s a problem, your audience (for whom it’s a problem) and the solution — it can and should be used in all of your communication. And if you run a content strategy, it can inform your first three-to-six months’ worth of content, as you talk about the different aspects of the customer’s problem, the different effects that can have on them, and the different pitfalls they fall into in looking for solutions. A brand story continues to reward your marketing long after the initial time investment. Your Brand Story Makes You the Only One Even in a crowded market, your brand story makes you the clear leader, especially when everyone else is content to remain a commodity, refusing to differentiate themselves and plant a flag in the ground. Your brand story spearheads all messaging and lets people know, in no uncertain terms, the problem you solve and why. And when they’re constantly hearing you talk about the same thing over and over again, it becomes difficult for them to ignore that you’re probably the foremost expert, the most committed and the most qualified to solve the problem. And for that reason, you become irreplaceable in their minds. Download the worksheet and get yourself and your team on the same script. The post 4 Occasions Your Brand Story will Make You Stand Out appeared first on Resound.
8 minutes | 10 months ago
Quick Process for Brand Values Discovery (with download)
Brand values give you confidence and set you up to know how to move your company forward with conviction — like there’s a spine of steel going through your company. How do they do this? By showing you what you stand for and holding you accountable to it. And with the right process and commitment, you’re not only defining values, but also carrying them out, both through your actions and your employees’. But how do you get there? Before we start, we have a worksheet that you can download here. It contains a four-stage guided process. This is the exact same worksheet that we use to direct our paid workshops. Ground Rules for Defining Brand Values First the rules. These rules help you avoid some common misconceptions that could both weaken your defined values and cause you more work than you need. And that’s not efficient. 1) Values aren’t benefits: What do I mean? “Results” “Success” “Profitability” These things are all good. But these are the outcomes. Without your special, secret sauce, all those measures of success will be more difficult to attain. 2) Avoid values that are too obvious. What do I mean? Integrity Service Honesty Those values fail to differentiate you. Everyone’s likely to claim those values. Heck, most companies even exhibit those values consistently. 3) Avoid values that just aren’t true. What do I mean? Determination, for instance, would be a false value if you had a really weak work ethic. It would raise serious questions within the company and outside of the company. And you don’t want confusion, because confusion doesn’t lead to confidence. It’s pretty straightforward, but make sure you can think of examples of how you exhibit values. If you can’t, then maybe you should seriously question those values. Framing Questions The first section consists of framing questions. If you can answer these questions in sufficient detail, then you wouldn’t really need to do the rest of this workshop. But for most of us, these questions are here to help you understand the purpose of all the following questions and show you where you are right now. What’s your brand’s passion? What do you care about? What gets your brand out of bed in the morning (if it were a person)? What does your brand fight for? What evil is it fighting? What good is it fighting for? These questions can help frame and show you where you’re at right now and then help frame everything that follows. Elimination Section The first big exercise is all about elimination. You go through a sample list of values and remove them until you get to 20-25. If you’re using our worksheet, you’ll find almost 4 pages of values listed. Print that out. Set a timer for two minutes. Cross out the ones that don’t seem true. Repeat two times until only 20-25 words remain. Fine-Tune Your Brand Values In this step, you’ll further reduce and organize until you’re down to three to five values. Here’s how you do that. Write down 20 to 25. Match similar words and then combine those into one. Prune the stragglers that don’t seem as relevant anymore and anything that doesn’t attain top-5 status. Define Your Brand Values Once you’re done with that, you should have three to five values for your company. And here’s how you do it. You don’t just look up the definition, but you write down what it means to you. So if someone were to say authenticity, you wouldn’t define it with “we are authentic.” Instead, you would say something like “We wear our heart on our sleeves.” “Show, don’t tell.” Here’s a rule in writing that applies here. Stronger verbs usually make a more impactful statement. It avoids modifiers (adverbs and adjectives) and uses actions instead. You’ll notice that the stronger definition uses a strong verb, not “We are authentic,” but “We wear our hearts on our sleeves.” Pro-tip: If you’re struggling with how to define your values using strong verbs, list what you do in your normal conversations, interactions, processes and operations that fulfill that value. Brand Values are Made for Testing That’s the process. Simple, right? But the hard part is coming. I once heard that a dead fish can go with the flow, but it takes a live fish to swim upstream. If your values give you a level of boldness, you will be tested. The question is, are you building a company that’s meant to grow and thrive through a challenge, or are you trying to play it safe? Because your stated values will test that theory. We’re not doing this to make a list of touchy-feely, nice-sounding words that we can put on a wall and show shareholders or customers. We’re developing a list of brand values that are close to our hearts that reflect the reason we have to wake up in the morning and to fight the good fight. When we define and own our values, we can train new employees and strengthen existing employees. We’ll all have a rubric from which to make decisions in the everyday workings of our business. And if we do this consistently, we will find it easier to do in more areas of our business, until we have such a strong brand that people can predict the kinds of things we would and wouldn’t do because of our consistency. Download the free worksheet here. And then if you need help, let us know. The post Quick Process for Brand Values Discovery (with download) appeared first on Resound.
5 minutes | 10 months ago
2 Common Brand Values Missteps That Keep Companies From Creating Authentic and Interesting Brands
Authentic brand values are one of the most critical parts of your brand strategy. Most companies have some version of them posterized on a wall in their often – often labeled as ‘Core Values’. So many companies find it necessary to have these values but very few of them actually have ones that are distinctive – truly authentic to the brand they’re building. Think about it: how many times have you seen companies with values like ‘customer service’ and ‘quality’ and ‘professionalism’? It’s like all these organizations use the same 10-word handbook of ‘core values’ and then just pick their favorite 5 to 7. And while these values aren’t usually bad, in and of themselves, they leave everyone (leadership, employees, customers, and even vendors) wanting something more. Authentic Brand Values are Different True, authentic brand values help inform everyone about the core beliefs and ethics of the organization. They flow from the purpose of the company. And when they’re expressed deeply and creatively, they become something much more powerful than a list of words that everyone learns on Day 1 of employment and then never thinks about again. Let’s take the example of Southwest Airlines for a moment. Here are their values: Live the Southwest Way: Warrior Spirit Servant’s Heart Fun-LUVing Attitude Work the Southwest Way Safety and Reliability Friendly Customer Service Low Cost What can we notice about these values? They start with ‘why’ and are highly internalized. They’re specific. And they are unique. Look at the first one: ‘Warrior Spirit’ brings to mind resoluteness, tenacity, and action. It helps us identify that this is not just about behavior (outward actions) but a mental state. It shows us how the value can be internalized and then expressed outwardly. Southwest could have just said: “action” or “tenacity”. But these would have only guided us to an outward behavior. Instead, they depict the frame of mind representatives of the organization need to be in – and if they’re not, no outward action will be quite right. And when we think about the experiences Southwest has built, they reflect that their brand values start from within. They’re not just surface level, superficial beliefs that everyone in the organization talks about but doesn’t really believe or internalize. No, it’s clear that most staff and leadership, in most situations, really believe in these values. And that leads to truly authentic, resonant experiences that keep customers coming back again and again. Gutcheck Your Values So maybe you’ve got some brand values already. How deep do they go? Are they truly unique and different? Do they help everyone in your company really understand the mindset of the brand? Do they inspire people to create experiences that ring true to the brand? If the answers are not a resounding ‘yes’ it might be worth revisiting your brand values. And as you do, here are two common missteps in discovering your true brand values. This will help you discover and communicate your values with authenticity and clarity. Misstep #1: Mistaking Goals (or Outcomes) for Authentic Brand Values I often find this misstep with companies with strong, visionary, action-oriented leaders. These leaders mean well – and they are great at getting everyone on the same page about where they want to go as an organization. They see the world in outcomes and goals – what are we trying to achieve? And then point everything back to these future achievements. The problem is that values are intrinsically not goals. If they were they would constantly need to change. Instead, we should think of values as beliefs or ethics or viewpoints on the world. They are lasting guideposts for how a brand should behave. Here’s a common goal that is confused for a value: ‘Success’. You might be asking, “That actually sounds like a decent brand value. I mean success isn’t bad, right? Shouldn’t our organization be aiming for success?” Success Doesn’t Show Anyone How to Move Forward Sure, success is great to aim for. But success is not what you value. It’s the end goal. It’s the outcome. ‘We are striving toward X and if we get there, we’ve achieved success.’ But if we remind ourselves that values are beliefs or viewpoints on how things should be done, we realize that ‘success’ isn’t really a belief or viewpoint on the world. It doesn’t tell us how to think about our work. It doesn’t guide our mindset as we execute for the brand. Nor does it tell us how we should go about getting to that successful end. It simply states where the endpoint is. And let’s be brutally honest for a moment, everyone defines success differently. So maybe it’s not even a great way to communicate your goals, let alone a ‘value’. Even if you get more specific with your success: profits, revenues, strategic goals, expansion, employee development, acquisitions…these aren’t brand values. They’re all endpoints. They merely tell you, ‘hey, we did it!’ Values stand the test of time. They outlast your temporary goals and they don’t change with each year’s new strategic plan. They are the pillars that support your brand. They’re the rules by which you play your game. Misstep #2: Mistaking Operations for Authentic Brand Values This is probably the most common misstep. It’s far too easy to mistake the operational necessities of your organization for values. If you’re in the business of making tires, you might be very tempted to make sure “Tires” is your #1 brand value. And if you have customers, it sure helps to keep them around if you create a good experience for them…so let’s get ‘customer service’ up on that wall poster! But just like goals, these are not true brand values. They’re operational imperatives. The actual needs of marketing, selling, producing, delivering, and collecting payment for products and services are simply the table stakes for a business. If you don’t care about your products or your customers or your operations…good luck keeping the lights on, let alone creating a brand that connects deeply with people. Sorting Out Your Authentic Brand Values How do you know if your brand values are edging into a statement of operational necessity? Check your competitors. What are their stated core values? If you find any that run across organizations (including your own) it’s highly likely these aren’t brand values. These are simply statements of what it takes to do business in your industry. And beyond that, stating operational needs as values can harm you in the long run. How would Nike have thrived as one of the most sought-after brands of all time if they had made one of their core brand values ‘running shoes for pro athletes’? For many years that is all they did (and their designers and engineers prided themselves in their niche focus). But if they’d formalized that as a value, plastered it everywhere, and if Phil Knight had made it his daily mantra, they’d never have grown into the incredible brand they are today. Instead, they made ‘achievement’ and ‘victory’ their core values. These spoke to the deeper, more foundational beliefs that drove both their entry as a pro-shoe producer and their eventual growth into hundreds of other products. A Caveat: I guess I can caveat this one a bit: if there’s something particularly interesting, distinctive, or unique to your operations it MIGHT be worth calling out as a brand value. Or if there are some things that just have to be top of mind all the time, forever, then, by all means, call them out. BUT be careful, if you stick with only these, you’ll find yourself lacking in brand values that truly reflect the deeper attitudes and beliefs that really make your organization interesting. If we look at the example of Southwest’s values again, they do highlight three more operational values: Safety and Reliability, Friendly Customer Service, Low Cost. But they do so only after outlining three deeper, more attitudinal values (Warrior Spirit, Servant’s Heart, and Fun-LUVing Attitude) that foundationally inform the latter three. If it weren’t for those initial three values, I don’t think Southwest would be as iconic, distinctive, and interesting of a brand as they are. Putting It Into Action As you work to discover your authentic brand values, keep these common missteps in mind and start asking yourself, “What do we really believe? What set of values drive the way we do things? How can we make them memorable and compelling?” It’s one thing to find your brand values. Do the hard work of digging deep, confronting your wishful thinking, and being brutally honest about what your organization really values. But you can’t stop there. Turn those values into a digestible, understandable, memorable framework for creating all your brand experiences. Break them down – explain what they mean. Get into real-world examples. You should show people how to use them in their everyday execution of the brand – whether in marketing, HR, customer service, sales, or even operations. And then give people memorable and ‘sticky’ ways to communicate them. I’m a big fan of slogans and mantras…but it’s your brand so you do you. And as always, if you need a helping hand, we’re here. We’ve got some great free tools (like our Brand Values Class or Brand Values Worksheets) to help you out in your discovery process. Or go deeper and contact us about our brand strategy workshops and consulting services. We love helping brands find their authentic selves and show them to the world. And remember, you are remarkable. The post 2 Common Brand Values Missteps That Keep Companies From Creating Authentic and Interesting Brands appeared first on Resound.
8 minutes | a year ago
Develop Your B2B Brand Personality Traits in 5 Days
Differentiating yourself in the market is a process, much like a high school grad going to college to find himself. Luckily, you’re a business, not an Adventure Education major (yeah, that’s a thing), and we don’t need a year, months or even weeks to get to the bottom of this. Let’s talk about how we can get to 5 brand personality traits in as little as 5 days. Most brands already have a personality, but without a formal process of realizing it, you don’t know how to live it out. Likely, you already have places where it comes out. And people like it. But because you don’t want to alienate yourself or embarrass anyone, you hide your brand personality. Your Process to Define 5 Brand Personality Traits in 5 Days So let’s get to it. The goal of this article is to give you an example process, so it’ll be easy to do it on your own or manage the process effectively if you hire it out. More formally, the goal: create and develop a list of 3-5 brand personality traits that can be translated into your communication, making you super-interesting to your ideal target audience. Why should you care? Because when you’re considering working with someone, you want to work with people who think for themselves, who fulfill their promises and have some kind of sense of humor. People who get things and just seem to understand what’s going on around them. Don’t you? Just Imagine I might be a little Archie-Bunkerish when it comes to John Lennon, but let’s take a page out of his book anyway. Let’s imagine. What if you were that business that everybody wanted to work with? That business that gets it? The business that is just clever enough in its communication and just interesting enough to be followable? That brand that knows the difference between what the industry is obsessing over and what’s actually important? In other words, for those who identify with your business and your way of doing things, what if you could be considered the best? Because when you’re that brand, you have a point of view. You’re telling them in economic hard times, they need to be thinking about today without ignoring the good times that are ahead. During a pandemic, when everyone’s empathizing, you’re the brand that says it’s not okay to stay scared. During an economic downturn, when everyone’s blaming, you’re telling people to take responsibility, find hope and work hard. But you’ll never do it if you’re too shy, if you haven’t developed your personality and built your business on it and clients who expect it. The Brand Personality Traits Process This process yields 3-5 personality traits that you can then formalize into a list of traits that guide how you communicate and even the kinds of products or services you make. Plan It Start by downloading the personality traits worksheet from Resound. Schedule a time to get everyone together, ideally five of your most senior people, and go through the worksheet together. Section 1 Go through the section “Which most closely represents your brand and why?” and make sure to talk about why you chose what you chose. For instance, you have a choice of sodas that represent your brand. But if you choose Fanta, that doesn’t mean your brand is Fanta. Remember: WHAT you chose is less important than WHY you chose it. And it’s your job now to talk about why you chose Fanta and why it represents you. Section 2 Choosing the words in the next step can feel like a lot of work. But you can make it go fast. Set a timer and make everybody move through them quickly. Don’t think, just circle. As you pare things down to your final words, you’ll be looking for between three and five of your top traits. Section 3 You’ll take these traits and you’ll say which ones are your current traits and which ones are your desired traits. Take your current traits and then turn them into sentences. Those sentences represent your brand personality traits and why. Section 4 Optionally, if you have traits that you desire to possess, but don’t think you quite have them yet, then write sentences for those as well. You may find those helpful in understanding how far away you are and potentially what kinds of things you’d have to do to change and adopt those traits. You might also find that some of those traits will never be consistent with your other traits or with your business. Refine Now spend the next 5 days refining them in order to have them ready to finalize on day 5. Assign a person who will write them and who you think can capture the deeper meaning. It doesn’t even have to be a senior person. And that person should be asking for feedback almost immediately. Talk about the traits. Try to find at least 3 reasons that each one doesn’t fit you. Find ways you’re currently living them out. Hint: where you find these, make plans to double down on them! Make it your goal to have them fully expressed and vetted in 5 days. Living Your Brand Personality Boldly None of this matters if you’re not able to live out your brand boldly and clearly in the world. Shy brands don’t inspire others. Your ability to directly and consistently live out your brand personality depends on getting a good start with a process like this one. And remember, this process is not a long, drawn-out, vague kind of process. It can be done in one day. With refinement coming in the next day or week. But it needs focus for that one day. If you do that and you sequester yourselves and fully complete the process, you will find that you’ll come out with a very good understanding of the personality traits that your company possesses, but has never maybe talked about. And you will understand the difference between aspirational, “want to,” traits, and ones that are actually true. And you will also gain the objectivity to understand the difference between what you want to think your personality traits are based on the fact that you’re the owner, and what they actually are based on the company you’ve created. And then, over the next week, refine those and have fun with them. Think of examples and play with them. Talk them over and find out if there are things that you do that don’t exhibit that personality trait. Also, talk about the ones that do and how you actually do live those things out. Then double down. This is how you make your writing fresh, your design unique and come across as genuine. Because before you can come across as genuine, you have to know yourself. The post Develop Your B2B Brand Personality Traits in 5 Days appeared first on Resound.
3 minutes | a year ago
Brand Personality: 4 Pitfalls to Avoid and Make You Look Genius
Great branding impacts your entire brand presence, including everything you say and do. Your brand’s personality is an important — and very visible — part of your that presence that builds favor and trust with your customers. These 4 principles for discovering your brand personality will help you as you nail down your own unique, authentic brand personality. Good Shortcuts and Bad Shortcuts can be good. As a kid, I was always looking for a shortcut to the store, so I wouldn’t have to walk around the block. But branding is a process. And when you don’t understand the process, the shortcuts you choose could actually waste your time and money, at best. And at worst, they could sabotage the whole process, stealing punch and conviction from your results and from the buy-in you’d otherwise get from your stakeholders. The good news is that most of us have a head start. We see our brand personality traits peeking out every once in a while. But just as soon as that happens, we worry we’ll be criticized for being quirky. “Stakeholders want to see responsibility,” we say. And then part of our unique personality dies. But not permanently. It turns out that when this happens, your personality is only mostly dead (thanks, Miracle Max). And a solid process for discovering your brand personality can bring that personality back to life and organize your traits in such a way as to make them usable. Even powerful. Our Goal: 4 Pitfalls to Avoid and Make You Look Smart With Your Brand Personality Traits In fact, it’s more than that. Because these are just some basic, but high-leverage, rules to make you smarter about branding. Why Do You Care? We almost forgot the most important question. For some of you, this is just a refresher. But have you ever worked with someone who consistently communicated confusingly and it made you not trust them? You could tell they didn’t have the character to really follow through on what they were promising. You don’t want to be that brand. Then there are those people who seem solid and trustworthy, but they don’t seem to really be that savvy with their communication. They might even have a ton of experience in their field, but they just don’t seem to quite understand you. They struggle to sort out what you know and don’t know and how you think. Although it is a much better situation than dealing with people who lack morals, it’s not ideal. It’s especially not ideal for a consultative relationship where you’ll need to communicate and develop a sense of understanding so that you’re not constantly clarifying things for them. Because that’s tedious and takes forever. You don’t just want competent people; you want people who get you and who you get in return. Your personality is what tells potential customers that you are competent and understand them. Brand personality pays dividends. But is it Really Relevant in B2B? We might think brand personality matters more for Business-to-Consumer brands. And it definitely has its own character – B2C brands can get away with more because of sheer numbers in their advertising. Their niches can be smaller in proportion to the total world population, while still being large enough to sustain a business. You can see how a B2C company can hyper-specialize with a sense of humor that can gain a cult following. This is a little harder to do in B2B. But it is possible. In fact, there are some brands that have built a following not because they just happen to be in the right place at the right time, but because they really know who they’re talking to and they’re not afraid to talk in their language. For instance, in the defense industry, they might talk about things like “lethality.” But you might not talk in such frank and blunt terms if you’re talking to a general audience of business people who are more concerned with developing cultures of empathy. But whatever industry you find yourself in you know how your particular audience talks and whether or not you fit in with them. 4 Pitfalls of Brand Personality Trait Building So let’s look at the pitfalls in the process to see if we can glean a few insights to help us make sense of the process and what it’s for. So the question is: what do people do to mess up their brand when it comes to personality? Inconsistency Impatience The propensity to take shortcuts Wishful thinking Let’s look at each one. 1. Inconsistency You are not consistent. This means that you are not consistently showing these personality traits. When Resound creates personality traits for a client, we cover a few bases, so you can speak consistently and with boldness by defining how you act during different situations. We write guides for our clients that cover areas like tone, voice, and mood. This shows people (employees and contractors, both present-day and future) how to create on behalf of your brand in a way that’s consistent, but appropriate for the situation. The takeaway: Consistency comes from defining your values to a sufficient level of detail, making your brand decisions followable and scalable. 2. You’re Impatient with the Rollout You haven’t shown people what to expect; you haven’t let them get to know you. We’ve all been in those situations where we first meet someone and they become a really good friend and someone we can joke with in a way that we can’t with other people. But that didn’t happen on the first day. At first, they had to get to know you and you had to get to know them. You don’t want to offend them by being too forward right off the bat. You want them to get to know you, laugh at their jokes, they laugh at your jokes, and pretty soon you have a connection. And then you can say whatever you want. But not at first. This is a process. You have to let people get to know you, so they properly interpret it when you do something daring. The takeaway: Roll things out with clarity, but with an increasing level of boldness, so both your employees and other stakeholders, can keep up with your style. 3. Taking Shortcuts, i.e. Your Process Lacks Organization and Completeness You have not gone through a formal process. A formal process gives you quick results while at the same time allowing you to vet all your ideas and all your thoughts about your personality. At Resound, we guide you through the process with your team. But what if you’re someone who wants to do it themselves? Make sure to download our brand personality worksheet and follow the process. Because a process will give you the proper amount of circumspection and will help you avoid backtracking when you start creating things. The takeaway: Give yourself the necessary time to execute your discovery process. It doesn’t have to take forever, but stay present and engaged when you’re in the process. 4. Wishful Thinking: Your Traits Don’t Fit You choose personality traits that don’t fit you. This is like the last one, where are you start to choose personality traits based on things that you like rather than things that fit you. This is why it’s important to have a team around you of people who are not exactly of the same personality as you. If you’ve surrounded yourself with people who think just like you, you’re less likely to notice when you choose a personality trait you like rather than one that you actually exhibit and can embody. The takeaway: Get the right people involved, so you don’t create a brand around yourself, rather than your company, because there’s a difference. It’s Time to Look (and Sound) Smart With Your Brand Personality Traits Branding is essentially everything people know and believe about your company. And it’s in your power to make sense of it all for them. But it’s a process. One which, if you understand it, can be a powerful tool in your hand as you discover and define your brand for a world out there that’s hungry for your point of view. They want (and need) to see your services and products delivered in a way that only you can. If you can just bring your personality traits out to play. If you want help discovering your unique, authentic, and compelling personality traits, our free Brand Personality video class may be a great place to start. Or jump ahead of the class and grab our Personality Traits Worksheet and start digging deep with your team. The post Brand Personality: 4 Pitfalls to Avoid and Make You Look Genius appeared first on Resound.
5 minutes | a year ago
Trust or Conversion? How Content Marketing Builds both Brand and Sales
Content strategy for B2B brands has two primary functions: to build trust and then develop that trust into working business relationships that benefit everyone involved. So how do you think about content strategy in order to set yourself up for building trust, and then converting? Let’s talk about that. Before we get going, I want to point out that, during changing times, we need to rest upon a firm foundation of values, no matter what’s going on in the world. For this reason, we’re focusing on the fundamentals: building trust through coherent branding and then developing that trust through a series of communications, via an email-based content strategy. Why Email? Right off the bat, email should be at the core of most content strategies. Here’s why: You own your list. Unlike your Facebook page or Youtube account, you own your list, and it doesn’t belong to anyone else. Email delivers the best analytics. You can know exactly who opened and clicked through, which is not something web analytics offers. It’s a media channel. It’s like creating your own magazine you get to advertise in, but you control all editorial content and put the “ads” where you want. Email allows you to measure and understand what your customer is doing at the individual level. In other words, where your website analytics only shows anonymized summary data, email shows you an email address and a name, including how they interacted with your content every month. If email is at the core of your inbound marketing mix, measuring all your returning customers and their interactions (perhaps together with your CRM), you now have the best data on those most valuable relationships (in other words, people who want to hear from you and who have said they want to hear from you). Gaining Trust Trust gives you repeat customers and higher-value customers. In other words, better relationships. People who aren’t trustworthy have to lower their prices. But if your customer likes and trusts you more than anyone else, you win and they win. Here are a few possible problems you might be solving by gaining trust. Your Competition is Untrustworthy You could find that building trust is especially important if: You are surrounded by competitors who are transactional – who see people as dollar signs and don’t really care about having a relationship or building trust with your audience. And there is value in creating such a relationship – return customers are less costly to acquire and more fun to work with. If people are starved for trust, you could be the breath of fresh air they want. You’re Post-Merger You can use email powerfully to build trust and engage your customers and other stakeholders after a merger or acquisition. Email gives you a chance to talk about the merger, even go into detail, and to address objections without rigid time constraints. In other words, you can talk to the people who said they want to hear from you and send them information to keep them in the loop. Because in a merger or acquisition, the last thing you want is for people to misunderstand. But if you’re sharing information about everything you’re doing, telling them what to think about it and why you’re doing it, then your intentions become clear and believable. You’re Entering a New Market A content marketing campaign is especially valuable when you’re new to the market and people don’t know you yet. They don’t know what to think about you, they don’t know your approach to business, and they don’t know your character. A gradually growing email newsletter is a great way to help them to know how you think. You’re Innovating Leaders in innovation are by nature teachers. They share their vision and paint a picture of the future. Even if you’re just solving a problem in an innovative way, people need to understand how it works. If it’s a service, they may need to understand a new workflow. Think of a new app that lets you buy stocks with no transaction fees. Instead of calling your broker, you get on your app. Now what? Some of us go to the internet to find out more about the app and whether it’s trustworthy and maybe even hints and tricks. The problem is, there are many ways to provide products and services. By having an audience who trusts you and wants to be educated by you, you have an opportunity to help them to think like you. And if they think like you, they’re likely to think of you as an irreplaceable partner in business. Do you have a way to help people think in a way that’s better than before? And can you offer products and services that help them to live out that new way of thinking? Email is a great way to make them unsatisfied with the old inefficient way to do it, and then empower them to do it better with you. Conversions This leads us to conversions. Let’s say you’re a finance consultancy. You’ve found a better workflow for helping innovative companies (let’s call them companies that build new products) to evaluate their investments more efficiently through the development process to avoid sinking more money into products that could be losers. For these investment companies, the classical way to look at finances is obsolete. But the industry continues to push classic, one-size-fits-all finance workflows. For this reason, you know that you need to educate them gradually to the point where they’re ready to hire you as a consultant. That’s the final goal. That’s the bottom of the marketing funnel. So what’s a marketing funnel? Glad you asked. Marketing Funnel (Review) Let’s review the marketing funnel. A ton of people will hear about you, a few will be interested, and even fewer will develop a desire to work with you. This is a funnel. At the top of the funnel is where people enter. They are very likely to be interested in what you’re saying, but many of them won’t descend to the next level of the funnel. Let’s look at the theory of how it works, and then let’s use our maverick finance company as an example. The Funnel in Theory It’s just classic marketing. You might talk to 500 people and get them to show interest. Out of those 500, you might talk with 100 who are willing to take the next step and email you. Out of those 100, maybe 10 will meet with you. And out of those 10, maybe two will become clients. So if you picture a funnel, at the top or widest part of the funnel would be those 500 people you introduce yourself to. The people who take the next step would be your 100 people – a little bit narrower part of the funnel but still pretty wide. And then the people who will meet with you are the 10 (getting to the pretty narrow end of the bottom of the funnel) and then below that are the two who actually become clients – the final output of that funnel we’ve been visualizing. This might even be a similar flow to your own marketing funnel. The Funnel Example So let’s go back to the finance brand who is trying to get people to think about financing a different way. The top of the funnel might be people who visited the site after having clicked on one of their ads. Those ads take them to a landing page that summarizes their financing consulting service at a high level (it’s the introduction to your whole system it tells them why the system is important, what kinds of companies benefit from it, and the risk of going with that other classic model). Then the brand gives them a clear path to the next step – a free consultation. Here’s another way to look at it: You get them to the landing page and ask them to sign up for an email list. Some will. After you send an email, some will open the email. Some of them will open it every month and even give it a look. A few of those people will end up clicking through and looking at particular articles on your website. You’ll be able to see this in analytics for the email. A couple of those people will sign up for your webinar. A few of those people who sign up for your webinar will be curious enough and see the value in your services or product so that they will ask you for help. Some of them will become clients. So you’re trying to get people from the top of the funnel which is visiting your landing page, all the way down to where they become a customer or a client. My Personal Funnel I use a funnel to help people out with advice. I get with people in half-hour increments and we talk about their problem. If it’s something we can do to solve it, I’ll let them know and we can move on to the next step. But if it’s not, I’ve helped them out a little bit and given them something to think about. In no case do I waste their time and they don’t waste my time. This is a great funnel when the end result is taking care of people, living out your brand, and then not having your time wasted. The Purpose(s) of Content Marketing Remember that email marketing serves a branding effort and/or it serves a lead-generation effort. If you know what kinds of interactions you need, you can figure out what kind of funnel you have to set up. And if you know your brand, you’ll be able to do it in a way that builds your brand, even while you’re asking for customers to take action. So we’ve now just talked about the purposes of content marketing. We’ve talked about ways to think about funnels and how to measure them. Take a minute to think about what results you want to see from your content, and then consider the kinds of results that you can get from setting up a measurable email marketing funnel. If you’ve benefitted from this post, consider subscribing to our monthly newsletter. You’ll receive more great content like this right to in your inbox every month. The post Trust or Conversion? How Content Marketing Builds both Brand and Sales appeared first on Resound.
11 minutes | a year ago
Measure Conversions in Content Strategy with Email
How do you measure content strategy? Mike talked about how to think about content strategy, setting the stage for this conversation. So do you want to build trust, or are transactions more important now? Let’s talk about the different ways to measure those two ways of thinking about content strategy. Can They Trust You? Let Them Know. People want to trust you. They want to say “yes” to you. But they’re also going to be paying you, so they don’t want a bunch of reservations either. Branding is probably the most important factor in whether people buy from you when reliability or collaboration matters, which makes it huge in B2B. In fact, the more important and consequential the purchase, the more important your brand will be. Not sure if that’s true? Do a thought experiment: if you’re buying gasoline, you’re not usually as worried about the quality. If your car starts sputtering, maybe you won’t be buying gas from them again. But if you’re hiring someone to paint your house, you want to know if they have references. Are they gonna spill things? Will they leave drips? Will they take my money and leave the job half-done? And what do you look at to see if you want to work with them? Their reputation, their record of past performance, how they present themselves or how organized they appear…you look at their brand. So reputation is important, but how do you measure all those things you do that build your reputation? How do you measure the monetary benefit of your values? Measurement Can Be Tough Because brand marketing teaches people how to feel about you, it’s hard to detect and hard to attribute. You can’t always tell how someone feels, and even if you could, you can’t always know what made them feel that way. But these people pay full price. They see you as “premium.” They trust you to be organized. They’re likely to be happy with what you’re offering because they already know you and trust that you do what’s right. Because they’re happy, they’ll tell others about you. And it’s hard to measure any of that. If someone likes you: They might tell someone else in a way that you can’t measure, such as a conversation. They might decide the next time they want to buy a product that they buy yours, and they may never tell you that. But they also may do some things that are measurable: They may continue to receive your newsletter, even if they don’t get a chance to read it all the time. They may open it even if they don’t get a chance to click on any of the links at this particular time. And they may read your blog posts because they want to know how to think well. They want your way of thinking so they can develop their own philosophy around the work that involves your product or service. Transactional Measurements It’s easiest if you sell a product or service online. If you sell it directly online, almost everything is measurable. You’re able to measure the entire funnel. But what about those things that are a little more consulting-heavy. Resound works with a lot of clients who consult, even if they sell a product or a service. Often, they’re big-ticket items that require some explanation or require some interaction, customer-to-salesperson, to provide value beyond just the product or service itself. This is where you can choose two different paths. Or both. You can choose to go after your existing clients and continue to build those relationships and pull them deeper into your thinking, or you can go after new customers. Let’s talk about both. Existing Customers: Building Value With existing customers, you can and should use a newsletter to teach them how to think. They need to think about your stuff the way you think about it. If you are a fleet automotive maintenance company, you might have a philosophy about maintenance that encourages people to run it on a 3-month schedule instead of a 4-month schedule. You may even be able to save them money that way. But because it sounds like more work, you may have to explain yourself. You have to share this philosophy and get it out there and show people why it will keep their vehicles running longer or how it will allow them to get more out of the vehicle and then sell it. Are you an innovator? You may have to convince people. Especially if you’re doing something counter to what the industry is doing or you want to make their really big deal about a small difference you make that makes a difference for people. Build an email newsletter. So you can create a newsletter list that nurtures leads (keeps them interested and gives them new information and new ways to think about things, along with opportunities to engage with you). You create a list of people who are more engaged and you give them more offers because they have shown that they’re more interested in what you have to sell. You give them opportunities and excuses to buy based on events that happen in the economy, holidays, or times that are special for you that they would understand, or times that are special for them. You engage their thinking and in a direction that’s going to help them to buy. The More Money a Sale is Worth, the More You Need a Content Strategy The bigger the customer investment and the longer the sales cycle, the more value a content strategy offers you. What Media are in a Content Strategy? The basics of a content strategy are email (Campaign Monitor, Mailchimp, etc.), a blog and social media. Why email? This is your marketing channel that reaches into people’s inboxes. You can see every interaction you have with them and you can see who did it. Why a blog? Because, like email, it belongs to you. Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter can disappear or decide they don’t like you and take away your blog. A blog is your real estate. Why social? Because although you don’t own the media channel, you can still reach people who haven’t heard of you. You might as well share. Remember, this content strategy is your content strategy. It’s your list. It’s your medium. It’s a little bit like having a magazine that you create for only your customers. You own all their information, you decide where the ads go; it’s yours. You can add any kind of production value you want to make it engaging and interesting and something they want to open and read. Getting Conversions from Nonexistent Customers So how do you get from someone who doesn’t know about you to someone who’s buying from you? Here’s a little refresher: to get people who aren’t already your customers to sign up to buy your stuff, it’s a process. There’s this pyramid that many marketers become familiar with that outlines conversions. You generate awareness, which gets them to know about what makes you different and start to understand how it might fit their lives. You move to interest, which is when they decide that it might be something that might matter and help them. You move then to desire, where they realize they want it. And then to action; where desire meets opportunity. Email supports this because it allows you to track people through the funnel and know who’s who. Google Analytics tells us how many. But it doesn’t tell you who went through and got to the bottom of the funnel. since you on this media channel, you are the one who is able to figure this out from the data. In fact, almost all platforms allow you to give this data. Build Your Subscriber List To build your list, most people… Advertise; tell people about what you have going on via social media. Once they follow the link to the landing page you offer them what’s called the “lead magnet,” something for free, to help them make the decision to sign up for your mailing list. Once they’re on your mailing list, you put them on a welcome journey which is a series of emails that guide them through a compelling case that, if possible, brings them to the point of buying. If they don’t buy through that journey, you simply add them to your regular list. And all this is automated. If they don’t bite on the email list, continue to give them opportunities to learn in a rich, email environment, ways to think about the job they’re trying to get done, resources that will help them, and then an opportunity to buy from you. So now you can see the funnel. They start out visiting your lander. So try to improve the percentage of lander visitors that sign up for your email list. They sign up for the email and get the lead magnet. They go into a welcome funnel that gives them an opportunity to buy. So try to increase the percentage of people who buy during that journey. They go into your regular funnel if they don’t buy (heck, and even if they do buy). So try to engage them with good content that improves their open rate (how many open the email) and click-through rate (how many follow links). The Goal: Straighten the Funnel So now what you’re trying to do is straighten the funnel. If you can you wanted to look as much like a silo as you can. You want the bottom of that funnel to spread out so that it matches the top. But this is hardly ever going to happen, and that’s okay. The point is that you’re measuring the percentage of conversions so the next level down the funnel and then doing everything you can to increase those movements down the funnel in a way that reinforces the reason people like you. In other words, bring them down the funnel in a way that builds on the reason people like you and trust you. It’s not complicated, and there are tons of tools that will help you to do this. But usually, it involves finding the right people and delivering the right message at the right time. And how will you know that until you do it? So what are you waiting for? Start building your funnel today. Speaking of funnels, if you’ve found this content to be helpful consider subscribing to our newsletter. We’ll send you even more great content like this right to your inbox every month. It’s all our brand wisdom from the month located in one convenient location. The post Measure Conversions in Content Strategy with Email appeared first on Resound.
8 minutes | a year ago
2 Practical Measures for B2B Brand Effectiveness
It’s hard to measure brand. But that doesn’t mean it’s not important. As practical people, we know better. At Resound, we’ve worked with some pretty tough, focused brands who don’t like to waste money. So it made sense to us when we saw branding elder statesman Marty Neumeier describe his brand ladder. He insists — and we agree — that branding not only increases your value in the minds of your customers, but it’s measurable. Let’s talk about how. Neumeier’s ability to create concrete philosophy around the value of branding helps everyone in business, especially B2B businesses whose rate of repeat customers and unpaid advertising by customers (free, word-of-mouth advertising), depend on their brand. But even as you’re thinking about measurement, remember that no gimmick or measurement should be your primary focus. All these methods of measurement should lead you to actually deserve return customers and the word-of-mouth the experience generates. How to Think about Measurement First off, let’s remember that just because something’s hard to measure doesn’t mean it’s not important. And if there is a way to come close to measuring it or approximate measurement, that might be better than measuring nothing. Let’s look at each one, using Neumeier’s terminology, for consistency. “Satisfaction” Neumeier calls it “satisfaction.” You call it “returning customers.” The truth is there are a few ways to measure branding. But what are the signs? Because if we know the signs, then we can measure. Simply put, do customers come back? Do they show signs that they’re interested in continuing to build that relationship at least in the short term until something better comes along? This is your first sign that your brand is solid. A strong brand works from the inside out, putting your team on the same page, singing from the same sheet of music, making success less accidental, and giving ownership to everyone at your company. This, combined with a great external message, both makes a promise and keeps it. But maybe you think it’s a good sales team and a good customer service team. You might say “We don’t do branding. We just preach a set of values consistently inside and outside the company that’s more than talk, but turns to action, showing integrity in everything we do.” Dude, you just defined the most important part of branding. But sometimes people just want confidence. Think about a big consultancy, like McKinsey. If you want to know whether your business strategy is sound, you ask for their mark of approval. Once you have that, it’s almost impossible for anyone to blame you for a bad business decision. There’s value in a brand name. Measurement is simple. How many people return? How many consider you their go-to? The simple, plain-vanilla way: You can see how many people come back by keeping good records of customers and their return. “Delight” Neumeier calls it “delight.” You call it “referrals.” What the heck is “delight” you say? It’s creating a pleasant surprise that the customer wasn’t expecting that’s in-line with your values and makes sense and extends the experience. Why do you care? Because it means referrals. Delighted people tell others about you. They defend you in conversations because they feel they know you. And they like you. Here’s where business-to-business is a little different. Although you can delight your customers by making them look smart and furthering their careers because of the great decisions they make, it’s not always such a personal experience as if you were an end-customer. In B2B, you’re more likely to get referrals because people want you to know they use you. It might be a status thing that reflects on the company. Keap (formerly Infusionsoft) and Salesforce users point to their use of the industry-leading software as a badge. They are the kind of company they use an advanced CRM. Mechanics are proud of the tools they use, because it makes them look serious. Consider Snap-on or Milwaukee tools. Measure: Find out how many people are recommending you by looking at social media and then offering a discount to the person who’s the new customer if they can tell you who recommended them. Apply it Here These are examples. The chances that this list is perfect for your business are pretty small. The real magic is when you discover how to build your measuring tools from your strategy, creating bookends that both plan and then find out if it worked, allowing you to adjust and troubleshoot until you have the perfect system for your brand. Build Your Strategy So decide the following, this is your strategy: Who are we serving? What do they want? Satisfaction: What promise are we making? What are we telling our staff? Is it the same thing? Do they believe it? Satisfaction: What are we doing to fulfill that promise? Delight: What can we do to make them proud to work with us? What are our competitors doing in that regard? What about another industry? How can we implement it here? Build Your Measuring Tools How will we measure satisfaction? Are our employees and processes equipped to satisfy? How do we know (that’s your measure)? Are our customers feeling it enough to return at a high rate? How do we know (that’s your measure)? How will we measure delight? Are our employees aware of what delights our customers and why it works? Are they able to recreate/support it in interactions with customers? How do we know? Are our customers delighted enough to feel they’ve been treated well enough to tell others about us? How will we know? Summary There are many ways to apply these measurements, but the best way will come not from an off-the-shelf measurement funnel or referral program, but from your brand itself. So let it originate honestly, through conversations that ask the questions above. In the end, this comes back to this question: Have you built such a culture that moves beyond dollars and cents that create such a value that you mean something because you’ve decided to mean something different? Have you seen that culture generate return customers? Have you seen that culture create actions that delight customers to the extent that they recommend you to other people as measured by engagement on social media or and or referrals that you can measure? Because if it comes from your values, it matches your personality and connects with your customers in a way that shows you “get” them, you’ll have the best chance to win their loyalty, because you’ll have earned it. If you’re looking for more practical tips like these, consider signing up for our newsletter, registering for our next webinar, or subscribing to our book launch mailing list which will have tons of exclusive insights from our upcoming book. The post 2 Practical Measures for B2B Brand Effectiveness appeared first on Resound.
5 minutes | a year ago
2 Stages of Development in B2B Brands
It’s tough for some companies to invest resources in building a great brand when they can instead spend money on making the next sale. And yet, if you ignore why you stand apart, you can be easily replaced. The question is not whether to brand, but rather how much, where and how? So let’s talk about the two stages of branding, so we can learn how to focus our efforts. Note: As we learn what it means to deal with COVID-19, and as we watch to see what the economy will do, this is a great opportunity to talk about tightening things up. That doesn’t mean we stop operating. In fact, it can mean quite the opposite, but with more discipline. And to exercise discipline first means developing an understanding of what you’re dealing with. At no time are organization and optimistic sobriety more important than times like these. So this conversation lays a foundation to help us understand where branding leads. It’s the first step in understanding how to allocate your resources, spending precisely what you need on branding and marketing. Branding and the Tough-Minded Business Resound serves some of the toughest-minded, growth-oriented, business-to-business companies in the greater Phoenix area. They don’t suffer fools or indulge themselves in foolish spending. The difference is that these businesses also know what they’re about as people — that flows into their business, causing them to grow in sophistication. Because sophistication comes in the trenches, where you have to make real decisions about whether you’ll do what’s right or what’s expedient. Businesses that don’t choose to do what’s right never develop the sophistication that comes from that experience. When you fail to avail yourself of each opportunity to do what’s right, you forfeit depth and strength of character. And it’s the same for companies as it is for individual people. What We’ve Learned Here’s what we’ve learned from our experience. I hope it helps you make sense of your situation. Branding comes under fire for being something that only the big companies can afford to do. Yet we can say from experience that our success has not made our clients undisciplined. They make bigger deals and work with better companies because they’re worth working with. They care about money, and they care about operations. But they also care about doing it the right way. And they know how to talk about it in a way that makes them desirable to do business with. Because aside from the ethical problems, companies that don’t care about anything bigger than money or efficiency create for themselves a glass ceiling. They don’t know why they can’t get bigger deals or keep relationships. It’s the companies with bigger values that see unlimited growth. They’re the ones who seem so generous and joyful, even in tough times. They’re the ones who come out of hard times stronger and usually with a larger market share. So how do you measure it? If you’re still with me, you agree that branding becomes an outflow of your values and gives you something much bigger to offer the market. The next question is, how do you measure the effectiveness of your brand? After all, it’s one thing to define your values, and it’s another thing to see them inform, coordinate and align your entire culture to the point that everyone, even outside the company, feels the energy of the brand. Two Primary Stages of Brand Effectiveness Marty Neumeier talks about it as a ladder that starts with satisfaction, goes to delight, moves to engagement, and then leads to empowerment. Most B2B companies will be interested in the first two: satisfaction and delight. Stage 1: Satisfaction Satisfaction begins with fairness and trust. They’ve purchased from you and want to do it again. They get a sense of closure. You are able to inspire confidence. They enjoy a solid experience with you that feels complete. Stage 2: Delight When clients look for opportunities to endorse you. When customers are delighted, they don’t just return. They identify with you and actively tell people about you. They can’t wait to tell other people about you. They’re proud to have your sticker on their car or proud that they use tools from your company because it means they have legitimacy. This happens in B2B all the time because it shows you’re at a certain status. So How Do You Make it Happen? Great brands create a sense of direction within an organization that creates a sense of direction outside of the organization. If everyone in the organization understands what the company is all about, measuring success and serving customers in a consistent way, you now have what is the starting place for a brand. What Branding Teaches a Culture It teaches people that you stand for something great. Companies that only talk about money with their employees, in terms of overtime, cost savings, efficiency and things like that, teach their employees that the important things are financial and directly measurable. And if it’s measurable then it matters and if it’s not measurable then it doesn’t matter. Branding, on the other hand, lives out those good values in relationships out there in the world, getting everyone focused on a cause that’s bigger…something you share with your audience. What Branding Creates Within Your Company When you care about money, but believe you get money NOT by thinking about money, but by helping others, it shows. Companies that care about money and care about making a lot of it, but also care about offering value and doing things that benefit other people, are able to align all those things. They align that desire to make a lot of money with an investment in their values. But the opposite is true, too. To focus on your values creates distrust. You can tell when someone is just all about the transaction and the money, and you feel used. All this reminds me of a quote I heard a while back. You can have anything you want if you can help enough people get what they want. -Zig Ziglar The truth in this is that you, by being someone who cares about people and also cares about making a lot of money, can make those two things work together in your brand. This is why it’s so important to define your company beyond just the money and those things that are easy to measure. Because if you can define your company by how it serves people, and if you can really make that your driving force — to where it feels tell your employees like it’s the driving force — then you’re on your way to a great brand that stands out from your competition. Build Your Brand Premium As real as a brand is, not everybody is willing to control it. It’s harder to measure than advertising because it’s the long-term result of a set of values and activities that are hard to measure together. And yet, you don’t want to be a commodity that’s easy to be replaced by your customers (or your employees, who might opt for greener pastures, for that matter). Start with your values and personality — your brand — and build from your strengths. Aim for what advertising, by itself, can never give you: repeat customers who tell other people about you. No amount of Groupon-like, transactional offers that buy temporary sales can build very much momentum without the ability to execute your values consistently. But for those companies that want a higher ceiling and a firmer foundation, decide what you believe and how you work. And you’ll build the kind of momentum that will work with your sales and marketing efforts to build your business in the long term. If you’re looking for more practical tips like these, consider signing up for our newsletter, registering for our next free video class, or subscribing to our book launch mailing list which will have tons of exclusive insights from our upcoming book. The post 2 Stages of Development in B2B Brands appeared first on Resound.
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