I’ve mentioned it before…
Branding, marketing, and sales teams don’t always play nice with each other. Either these departments play the blame game as to why their efforts aren’t paying off (i.e. Sales: “The 90’s called and want their website back.” or Branding: “Bob couldn’t sell a _____ to a_____ (insert your own words here).”
While it’s sometimes way more fun to call your co-workers names vs owning responsibility for your own shortcomings, we all know that the latter actually saves the day (in movies and in real life). And because I primarily come from the branding side, I’m going to dig into how those of us in branding can own our own shortcomings when it comes to sales and impact marketing and what to do about it.
Let’s first clear the air with how I’m defining branding (because really, everyone has their own definition). Your brand isn’t what you say it is, it’s what others say it is. It’s the total, all-encompassing “feeling” that someone gets when they come into contact with any part of your brand. And it can be with any of their senses. Think about walking into a department store at Christmas time and smelling the roasted nuts or holiday-scented perfumes (smell is actually one of the most memorable senses). It could be the music that you hear while you’re put on hold with your insurance company (yuck). You get the idea. For the sake of this article (and because I’ve spent the last 15 years studying visual design vs the art of smell), we’ll focus on branding as it relates to your visual marketing materials like your website, print collateral, and marketing communications.
So why do people choose to buy from one brand or another?
People do business with people (and companies, but remember that companies are made up of people) who they like and trust. Think of the last large purchase you made. Maybe it was a new car. Or maybe you just invested a lot of money into payroll with hiring a new employee. No matter where you chose to invest your dollars, you more than likely did some research, but ultimately had a good, likable and trustworthy experience with that car dealership or that candidate who you hired. That “gut feeling” of “I just really like and trust this person” may have even won out over some of the hard cold facts.
So how do you get people to like and trust you and your brand? Well, hopefully your brand is actually likable and trustworthy. Once you’ve got that down, here is how you convey it to others.
We’ve all heard (and believe) the saying “First impression is everything.” That’s because we all know it is. When you walk into a restaurant that you’ve never been to before, if the floors are dirty, and it smells like the garbage you just took out the night before, you’re probably not sticking around for long. This is where the first impression is important in your marketing materials:
- Your Homepage: Does someone know within 3 seconds of landing on your website what you do and why it’s better for them than your competitors? Is this message visually the first thing that someone sees or are you going to make them do all the work and look for it? Do your imagery and graphics reflect who you are or are you using cheap stock photography with people in suits when no one at your company even wears suits?
- Your business card: I used to think that business cards were dead. This may be bad since we design business cards. But interestingly enough, when I actually have my cards on me, get asked for one, and hand it to the person, I always see a light bulb go on as they handle and feel the weight of the paper and say “Huh, this is nice.” I can blab on about what we do all day long. But when I hand out that thick designed business card, people get it.
How do you achieve a good first impression in the above items? Know your roots—i.e. your customer and how you uniquely serve them better than anyone else. Pull together visual inspiration (Pinterest is great for this) of all the websites and imagery out there that you think reflects who you are. This could be colors, fonts, textures, photos, graphics, etc. We do this internally with all of our clients, and you should pull this together for inspiration when working with your design team as well.
When a friend isn’t consistent in your life—i.e. bails on plans, is nice one minute and then snaps the next, we call them unpredictable. Or crazy. When a friend continually reaches out—even if once per every month or two and is always kind and calm no matter the situation, we call them reliable. What kind of friend do you trust more? Let’s transition this to branding. You’re on tripadvisor.com trying to book a hotel for your next family vacation. You see the beautiful photos of the hotel on tripwire with the large, clean rooms, and huge pool deck area with groomed palm trees and white cabanas. There’s also some good reviews. For a sanity check, you do a Google search and click the link to their Facebook page. Not only are there some shady reviews here, but there are only 72 fans and mostly posts of the staff at their latest employee party with red cups and drunken facial expressions. So you go back totripadvisor.com and book the hotel right? Ha, no. You, a sharp researcher, take pride in the fact that you found out the real deal with this hotel and avoided a complete vacation catastrophe. Good work. So how do you avoid this catastrophe with your brand?
- Do a Google search of your company. All of the links on page 1 which are most likely to your social media channels, Yelp page, etc. should have consistent imagery, graphics, reviews, etc. ALL social media posts should convey the same level of quality and values both visually and verbally of your brand (as far as you can help it—if you find a link in which you have no control over the content, either reach out to them directly and ask to remove the content or contact Google depending on the context).
- Download our brand checklist to make sure that all of the visual components of your brand are consistent.
This works hand-in-hand with consistency. If you’re loyal to your friends, they’re (usually) loyal to you. Your friend John is never the one to make plans with you first. He says he’s going to help you on moving day, but shows up just as you get everything loaded on the truck (or doesn’t show up at all). Your friend Steve, on the other hand, reaches out to you at least once a month to grab a beer or whatever. When he says he’ll be there, he will. You almost feel guilty when he texts you because you know he was the one to reach out the last time as well. But when you need something, you call him. And when you have a half day to play golf, you call him. It works the same way with branding and sales. Your prospect and former clients may like and trust you, but if you’re not loyal to them with your communication, they may forget about you when it’s time to pull the trigger on buying what you sell. So how do you stay loyal?
- Email campaigns: Typically they get the best response or clicks to your website—especially for eCommerce if you’re offering a discount or sale. If you’re not selling products online, that’s ok too. Especially for larger priced products and services, your following may only need what you’re selling once a year, once every five years, etc. But if you give some resources or tips via email at least once per month, they’ll remember you and reward your loyalty when they need you. The frequency you send out email blasts is dependent on the amount of unique content you have to offer and your marketing budget. Just as long as you’re consistent.
- Advertising (Facebook ads, Radio spots, etc.): If you’re running radio spots, then you want to show your loyalty (and commitment) by running them at the same time every day for a long period of time. I listen to the same radio station every morning on my way to work and hear the ad for the same tax attorney. As annoying as the ad is, if I ever needed a tax attorney (which hopefully I never do), I’d probably give him a ring simply because subconsciously I see him as loyal and consistent. And I don’t know any other tax attorneys who provide that particular service that he offers. Though we don’t offer media buying here at Shovel (radio spots, tv spots, etc.), the same rule of thumb applies to print ads, Facebook ads, etc. Show your commitment to your prospects that you’re loyal and reliable and in it for the long haul. Be persistent, which in the case of advertising, is always a good thing.
Whew. That’s a lot of information. Just remember: First Impression, Consistency, and Loyalty. If you commit to these 3 principles in your branding, your sales will increase, and you’ll be a rock star in impact marketing.