The Number One Marketing Trend Businesses Need to Know in 2019
I bet that when you clicked on this link, you were expecting to see an article about chatbots, some new social media channel all the young people are using (who probably don’t have the money to buy what you’re selling), or maybe some obvious truths repackaged with clever jargon from the latest Seth Godin book and sold as wisdom both new and profound.
At the risk of self-parody, perhaps that last point isn’t too far off the mark. But, as the old song by Peter Allen goes, “Everything old is new again.”
As we approach the new year, many business owners will be reflecting on the performance of the previous 12 months and planning what they will do differently in the next 12 months. So today I want to talk about…
It’s no secret that products and services are becoming increasingly commoditized through the digital freelance economy and e-commerce giants.
How many once-thriving service professions and once-popular electronic products have been replaced by free mobile apps and low-cost software? How many brick-and-mortar businesses that span almost every vertical are closing their doors as online competitors comfortably undercut their prices by several percentage points?
These trends shows no sign of slowing down. So the question becomes: how does your business avoid being just another head of lettuce?
The answer lies in Brand Building.
Whether you run a clothing shop on Main Street or a multinational corporation on Wall Street, your business MUST differentiate itself by creating and nurturing a strong, unassailable brand.
What Do I Mean by Brand Building?
As someone who has talked to hundreds of business owners, I’ve encountered a lot of confusion around the term “Brand Building” and what it actually means to build a brand.
First, let’s talk about what your brand is NOT. Your brand is not your logo, font, or company colors. Your brand is not your website, brochures, ad campaigns, product packaging, or the interior design of your store or office. These are outward signals – end results of a internal process. Focusing your efforts on these things alone is confusing the ends with the means.
Your brand – your identity – is defined by your audience and how they relate to you. Therefore, building your brand means first figuring out, in this exact order:
- who you serve
- what you serve
- where, when, and how you serve
Who You Serve
You need to be clear on who your customer is and learn everything you can about what resonates with them and motivates them. If you haven’t done this before, a great place to start is by going through our customer avatar worksheet.
What You Serve
Figure out what you can provide that gives your customer exactly what they need and want. Then craft your offer in a way that makes it irresistible to them.
Where, When, and How You Serve
Uncover all the ways you can deliver your product or service to your customer better than your competitors. Focus on that customer experience and find ways to surprise and delight them throughout the process. Make transactions a pleasure.
Putting It All Together
Once you have your fundamentals in place, only then is it time to focus on the meat and potatoes of building your brand.
First, devise a well-crafted mission statement that focuses on your who, what, and how. Then print that mission statement in big, bold letters on a giant poster and place it somewhere that it will stare you and your employees in the face every single day.
Next, become relentless in pursuit of your mission. Reinforce it through your hiring practices, your employee training, your messaging, your marketing materials, your paths to purchase, your delivery, and any service, support, and followup that happens after a sale.
Finally, analyze every future business decision within the context of your mission and act accordingly.
That’s brand building. That’s also your primary marketing strategy.
Why is Brand Building So Important Right Now?
The marketing landscape now changes so rapidly, that any competitive advantage to be found by adopting the latest trend, tool, platform, or channel is just a flash in the pan – good for a few months at best, before everyone else is using the same thing.
That’s not to say you should ignore current marketing solutions, as any number of them may significantly improve your business.
Just don’t allow yourself to get too distracted by all the shiny objects, grow too attached to one particular solution, or confuse a list of tactics with a cohesive strategy. Rather, stay focused on the fundamentals of building your brand and implement whatever will effectively serve this purpose.
You’ll save yourself a lot of money, time, and trouble.
A Word of Warning…
In the words of direct marketing legend Dan Kennedy, ”The only asset that can be kept safe from every threat and made to appreciate in value year after year is the relationship you have with your customers.”
Never forget that protecting and/or improving your customer relationship is an ongoing process that must remain sacrosanct.
Earning healthy profit is a primary goal of any business, but any company that puts the profit demands of its shareholders ahead of the best interest of its customers will have signed its own execution long before the axe falls. The current “retail apocalypse” among major chain stores serves as an excellent cautionary tale about brand erosion through decades of complacency and compromise.
While there is nothing inherently wrong with seeking ways to improve your bottom line, you cannot allow it to affect your customer experience or stymie your own innovation. Remember that there is always someone out there looking to “build a better mousetrap” that will turn your core product offering into their value-added bonus – rendering your business obsolete, if you’re not careful.
A strong brand strategy will draw your ideal customers to you like a magnet and grow a captive audience whose loyalty cannot be swayed.
When done correctly over the long term, you will find you have grown a tangible asset of immeasurable value: a business with an iron-clad reputation, hungry customers, and a loyal following that resists competition, economic downturns, and other market forces beyond our control.