5 (free) ways to tighten up your brand communication
Sales tactics are fine, but wouldn’t it be great to have your customers seek you out for a change?
More often than not, small companies find themselves in a constant battle for new customers. Because this ongoing effort uses all of their resources, it becomes the extent of their marketing.
However, companies in this situation are missing an important step in their marketing: creating and maintaining a strong, authentic brand expression that speaks to the customer.
Why is this important? Think of it this way: You may be working hard to acquire new customers by purely tactical sales efforts—incentives, giveaways, limited-time offers, a constant stream of new products or resorting to outright gimmicks. These are all proven ways to win new customers. But they all put you in the position of the desperate suitor, willing to do anything to get attention.
Wouldn’t it be better to meet your customers as more of an equal? As an expert in providing what they’re looking for, so that they actually seek you out as much as you seek them?
Here are five tips to better understand your brand communication, so that you get more out of your marketing spend by focusing on those who are most likely to buy your product or use your service.
Best of all, these tips are scalable: if you’re a small business owner, you can take on a lot of these yourself; as your business grows, you can hire a specialist or an agency to take care of keeping your brand communications effective and relevant, ensuring that customers keep coming back and new ones find you.
1. Understand what your brand stands for.
Most successful companies have a clear picture of what their brand’s core values are and how they want to be seen in the eyes of their customers. Take time to figure out what your brand stands for and what emotional response you want customers to get when they think of your company.
In a recent international study of 1,800 brands, with 350,000 respondents, 77% of consumers said they buy brands that share their values. Whether it’s trying to engage people around the world or making a positive impact in your local community, determine what your brand values most—what does your brand stand for?
Most often, this means creating a brand story that resonates authentically with your ideal customer. For instance, Montreal-based Brave & Bearded is a beard-product business started by Max Fortin; his story involves getting fired for growing a beard (authenticity), finding a community online to “vent” and share beard-related inspiration (resonance), and then starting a beard-grooming brand to help others like him nurture and grow what would be an important feature of their physical appearance and personality (a brand with ongoing emotional response via a strong community).
Fortin’s brand story appeals to exactly the kind of customer he’s selling to: those who consider their facial hair a core part of their identity.
2. Stay true to that vision.
Customers want and expect authenticity.
To continue with the previous example, Brave & Bearded aims to become the first place that comes to mind for beard grooming–related expertise or products. In line with this vision, the brand offers not just quality products, but also articles, tips and videos about grooming, personalized customer service (including quick responses to questions about products), and incentives like free shipping and free samples in orders. The result: thousands of five-star reviews and satisfied, returning customers who consider the brand a reliable source for grooming products and advice.
Many companies skip this step—stating your vision is good, but a consistent application of that vision over time is what will make your brand great.
3. Get to know your customers.
The terms “target audience” and “buyer persona” are more than just buzz words; knowing who is most likely to purchase your product or service can be a powerful marketing tool.
Making it seem like you are talking directly to your customer is a very efficient way to spend your marketing dollar, as long as you also consider how relevant or useful your message will be to your audience.
Not every company has a multi-million marketing budget for huge research programs or a team of experts to find out who their customers are. That’s ok, because there are low-cost initiatives you can do to understand who your target customer is. Even if you get just your customers’ name and email address, it opens the door to online marketing and the ability to start building a buyer profile.
Demographics: Start with understanding demographics—these could include factors such as age, income, location and employment status for consumer brands; and company size and industry for business-to-business brands. Demographics can be collected through methods you might already have implemented, such as shipping addresses or customer profiles that include their birthday and/or job title.
Psychographics: Take it a step further and look for insights about a customer’s attitudes and beliefs, which are more of a factor in their buying decisions. Find out their personality, values, opinions, attitudes, interests and lifestyles. Typically, you would need to conduct customer interviews, surveys or focus groups to get this information. Some basic information about interests can often be found in your website analytics.
But remember: don’t just collect data to collect it—have a plan on what you’re going to do with your data.
For instance, if you’re a clothing company and find out your target audience are extroverts living in an urban city centre, you might want your marketing to show groups of people out having fun in a busy restaurant, instead of someone at home reading alone.
Once you have this information, you’re able to use platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Amazon to get very specific with your advertising and make your ad dollar go farther.
Understanding who your customers are will help you target your marketing, communicate more meaningfully, increase loyalty and, if done properly, increase sales.
Why is targeting important?
People are more likely to engage when they feel that brands are speaking directly to them. From curated Netflix recommendations to the Amazon homepage, we now expect personalization. According to a survey, 83% of consumers are willing to share their data to enable a personalized experience and 91% of consumers are more likely to shop with brands who recognize, remember, and provide relevant offers and recommendations.
Companies pay millions of dollars to purchase personal data on current and future clients. If you can start building these profiles for free just by asking customers for their email address and some preferences, and they’re willing to give it to you, why wouldn’t you?
Always remember, though, that if you go through the trouble of asking customers for their interests, make sure you have an actionable reason to do so—or you’ll just be wasting both of your time. For example, customers are more likely to open an email if it has content that they’re interested in, like discount codes or links to resources.
4. Create worthy content.
Businesses, large and small, are successful when they are an expert in whatever it is they’re selling or offering. Once you’ve established your brand vision and determined your audiences, give them a reason to keep coming back; share your knowledge through blog posts, social media and YouTube.
Creating content can be a significant time investment, but if it’s worthy and useful for the audience, it is a great way to create free brand awareness and will help customers find you through SEO.
Physical therapists Bob Schrupp and Brad Heineck, for instance, enhanced their practice by starting a YouTube channel back in 2010, Bob & Brad, to share videos on health and fitness advice, as well as product reviews. The videos are charmingly awkward and humorous, adding to the authenticity of what they’re doing and who they are—and has an audience base of 3.42 million YouTube subscribers. On their website, they also offer a free video series about common at-home therapies, each accompanied by a printable guide with information about conditions. Tying in the business angle is their Amazon store for branded mobility products.
Start small with content, in whatever form. Write articles (like this one). Create a newsletter. Make short videos or animated social posts. Don’t worry if your efforts have a homemade look, as long as that suits your brand—but if you’re going for a more polished image, you may need to hire an expert.
Whatever you create, post it on your social channels and send it out via email to your customers. It doesn’t need to be fancy; if it’s quality content on topics they’re interested in, they’ll engage with it.
However, one thing you want to avoid is trying to “push your product” too much in your content; consumers will see through that. Be genuine with why you’re creating the content. Ask yourself—what is the audience getting from this? Why should they care?
Becoming a “subject matter expert” helps validate your brand; if you’re a small business, especially, it shows you know what you’re talking about.
5. Use your analytics. And keep using them.
All companies should be tracking email analytics, website analytics and social analytics. Collecting this information gives you free insight into how your customers are engaging with your brand and can help direct marketing and sales decisions. It allows you to personalize your communications and create a more positive experience for your customer.
You don’t need a large team or investment in software to collect this information; in fact, it is likely that all the analytics you’ll need are easily accessible through the tools and platforms you already use (because this article focuses on free ways to improve your branding, we won’t cover paid social, paid search, etc.—those are topics for future articles).
Email analytics: Most email marketing programs these days offer basic analytics, such as open rate and clickthrough rate. Reviewing these stats can help you determine how you can optimize future campaigns. Are customers not opening your emails? You might need to rethink your subject lines. Are customers not clicking through to your content from emails? Check if the content is relevant to your audience or if the call-to-action is clear. This step is easier if you already have a good understanding of your customer profiles and their interests.
Social analytics: Social platforms are designed to provide you with analytics to help you understand who your audience is, what they’re interested in and how they respond to posts. With social, the key is to go beyond tracking “vanity metrics” like followers, likes and comments. Though that information is good to know, it doesn’t give you anything to act on. Are customers actually clicking through to your website or completing the call-to-action you’re hoping for? If not, then it doesn’t really matter if they’ve liked the post. (See our article on steps to achieve the best ROI from social.)
Website analytics: Google Analytics, which is free, is the most common tool to get insights into what’s happening on your website. Metrics such as pageviews, user activity and demographic information show you who is visiting, where they’re coming from, how long they stay, which pages they see, and so much more. You can also set up goals and track how well you meet those goals. For instance, if your goal is to increase sales, you can track how many people who came to the site from email or social ended up successfully placing an order.
Putting it all into action
Integrating analytics from email marketing, social posts and your website can give you a complete understanding of how your campaign is doing—and where you need to focus your marketing dollar.
Watch for trends in your data. Do more people come to your site from email versus social? If you’re posting regularly on social, then you may need to change up your social content to test what resonates more with customers. If you see an increase in customer acquisition linked to a recent email campaign, it could be worth investing in more campaigns like that. Similarly, if you see a decreasing trend, such as consistently low organic engagement on Twitter, it might be time to rethink whether you need to spend resources on that platform.
No matter the size of your company, data should be driving your strategic decisions. It may seem daunting, but if you take a bit of time each week to learn your analytics, it will lead to more informed strategic decisions—and, ideally, more profit!
Get started today.
At our agency, we find that these five steps work best in sequence, and we’ve found them to be successful for businesses large and small. It may seem like a lot of work, but don’t worry—you don’t have to do it all at once. Try one step per month, and keep at it. Over time, you should start to see a shift: instead of you always chasing customers, they might actually start to chase you!