Your Brand’s One-Way Ticket to Greatness
As a brand and marketing advisor to many companies, I’m often asked what strategies and tactics are most effective when trying to reach prospective customers. I’ve even been asked if there’s a secret to creating viral content (more on this later).
It’s a fair question: Is there a magic ingredient when it comes to branding?
Should you find yourself struggling with this query, I hear you. If my experience is any indication, it seems lots of marketers and salespeople across all industries (and regardless of business scale) are grappling with the complexities of today’s marketing and sales environment. And if you need proof of this type of high-stakes marketplace anxiety, just Google “effective ways to market your business.” As of when this article was written, there are 597,000,000 search results on this topic alone. And within those results is a litany of articles outlining the top five or 10 (or, slightly infuriatingly, 11) things your business needs to do to reach its target audience and to do it in a way that yields maximum value. (Oh, and as if this weren’t confusing enough, each list seems to offer a completely different set of ideas as to how to proceed.)
In short: Marketing professionals are looking for a more simple solution to a rapidly multiplying problem.
So when faced with this problem, how do you know what mix of platforms, channels, and tactics are right for your specific brand? And, if we’re delving a bit deeper: What are the most critical points your messaging should strive to communicate if it wants to cut through and connect with people?
I, too, have compiled a list that may help answer these questions. But there’s good news:
It’s only one item long.
What follows is my description of the one strategy I’ve seen consistently employed by great brands that enjoy even greater results. I’ve watched this single tactic keep large brands ahead of the competition and I’ve witnessed it help small brands achieve hyper growth. It’s powerful, impactful, and it’s well within your grasp.
And here it is (insert drumroll if you wish)…
Sound overly simple? Far from it.
Okay, so what exactly does “extreme discipline” mean? As I define it, it means maintaining an attitude that’s unwavering, unrelenting, and laser-focused. It’s also a practice in patience and a willingness to embrace failure while simultaneously shutting out noisy distractions and detractors.
Brand alignment should be your guiding principle. It should serve as the foundation of your organization’s marketing and sales behavior…
Even more importantly? Extreme discipline is the toughest tenet you and your team will ever put into action.
It means having to say ‘no’ to things that don’t fit into your brand alignment — no matter how “hot” these burgeoning trends may be (more detail on this in a bit). It means never giving up if and when you fail. And it means staying the course, even if everyone else in the market jumps ship.
If exercised judiciously, extreme discipline can help simplify your strategy, hone your message, and, ultimately, boost your marketing ad sale ROI.
Here are some ideas to keep in mind as you move forward and develop your inner disciplinarian.
ALIGNMENT IS EVERYTHING
First things first: Before applying extreme discipline, you’ll need to align your brand. This will require establishing a clear correlation between your customers’ needs (and, by extension, the ways in which they view the world) to the twin pillars of your business: what your product offers and what your company stands for. Remember it’s critical that all of the key company stakeholders agree to this alignment. If you and your investors aren’t on the same page, extreme discipline will not come to bear.
Brand alignment should be your guiding principle. It should serve as the foundation of your organization’s marketing and sales behavior and should function as a moral compass during any and all decision-making processes.
EXTREME DISCIPLINE SHOULD SIMPLIFY YOUR LIFE
When you’re implementing extreme discipline, think of yourself as a sculptor. A sculptor’s task is, at its heart, rather straightforward — namely, to remove anything that isn’t needed and to whittle everything down so that you’re left only with what’s absolutely necessary.
Extreme discipline in marketing assumes the same approach.
Thanks to the fragmentation of media and technology, we in the global marketplace have inherited an intensely complicated world. As a result, we may find ourselves suddenly feeling lost and/or overwhelmed. But, like an artist, a marketer should view the surrounding complexity as a slab of marble, and immediately begin eliminating the unnecessary. Bearing this in mind, you shouldn’t look at what your competitors are doing, buying, or utilizing. Instead, you should pay attention to your brand alignment and weed out technology platforms that don’t fit in with your mission; all of those extraneous media outlets are just… redundant clay.
Once you’ve moved past the streamlining stage, ask yourself what your organization can realistically take on. For example: If you’ve discovered the best way to reach your audience is through Snapchat, make the active decision to be a contributor to that platform before moving on to Instagram, Facebook, or something similar. You’ll find more success when your brand has a reputation for being great at one thing vs. a history of being mediocre at several things.
Always remember your brand alignment. Take the time to identify the people who’ll be most attracted to your product.
Even better? Invest in some restructuring so you can concentrate on the big picture. If you have the budget, decide on tasks that can be outsourced to help free up your time. This can afford you the kind of focus that will be critical to creating — and sustaining — a great brand. You’ll be able to redirect your energy and allow your organization’s natural talent to shine through.
YOUR BRAND NEEDS A SINGULAR STORY WITH A CENTRAL MESSAGE
Too many times I’ve received client briefs that ask me to help them target “women between the ages of 18–55.” These briefs are often quickly followed by an additional note that reads, “But don’t alienate men either.”
Well, which is it?
This type of fuzzy direction straddles your communication strategy with a generic message that won’t resonate with anyone. You should aim instead to apply extreme discipline to your messaging, seeking out a specific group of consumers without being afraid to distance yourself from customers you don’t want and/or don’t need.
Always remember your brand alignment. Take the time to identify the people who’ll be most attracted to your product. Next step? Talk only to them. If other people happen to listen in, great. If they don’t, fine. They’re not the ones who need your product benefit. They may not suffer from the pain your product can alleviate. Targeting them would be a waste of precious time, effort, and, worst of all, money.
When trying to get my clients to hone their message, I ask them to think of their key audience as a single person. How old is this person? How does she dress? Where does she live? Who are her friends? Where does she hang out (virtually and physically)? Once the portrait is complete, I instruct my clients to cater their marketing only to this composite consumer.
Funneling your marketing dollars into too many channels can be a dangerous game.
That’s the kind of singular story you need to bring to the retail world if you’re hoping to achieve greatness. And you won’t be able to create this sort of tale without extreme discipline.
STRICT STREAMLINING IMPROVES ROI
Another big concern I’ve noticed is that marketers tend to agonize over whether or not their program spending is delivering an appropriate return on investment. I feel their pain; There’s no real tool and no set methodology for accurately tracking leads and sales to their corresponding ROI. Finding out what’s really working and what isn’t can be a fool’s errand.
Yet, despite these complications, extreme discipline can be remarkably useful when determining when and where to place your marketing bets — and discipline can also be wielded to help impact your investment in a positive way.
Funneling your marketing dollars into too many channels can be a dangerous game. It’s a bad strategy for several reasons. Reason one? When you have a lot of programs in play, it makes the water that much murkier, and you’ll most likely be unable to see what’s really effective. Reason two? Extensive multi-channeling can overload your team, forcing them to split their attention and — very probably — to cut corners. And reason three: Spreading your budget across too many programs can dilute the quality and efficacy of each one and leave you with an ineffective marketing strategy overall.
What to do instead? Find a small handful of media platforms that best align with your brand. You’ll find these platforms at the cross-section between where your audience hangs out most and where your brand has the most organic opportunity to connect with them. Devote your energies to those channels and become as proficient in them as you can. Utilize these platforms to earn your customers’ loyalty and trust. Only then will you be ready to explore new territory.
Building and growing a brand takes time, patience, and strict self-control. It’s hard work, but it doesn’t have to be painful.
Exercising extreme discipline will benefit your team by giving you the freedom to improve your skills in understanding and managing a marketing program that performs well. You’ll be able to spend more time with your desired audience, and, since you’ll have a better view of the tactics that are giving you the best return, you’ll most likely be much more efficient with your spending.
THERE’S NO SECRET INGREDIENT
Remember the question from earlier about whether or not there was a magic ingredient to creating viral content? Well, just in case it isn’t obvious by now, the answer is “No.” The key to creating viral content is to exercise — you guessed it — extreme discipline. And this goes for quality and quantity of content. Only extreme discipline will increase your odds of getting a hit.
Building and growing a brand takes time, patience, and strict self-control. It’s hard work, but it doesn’t have to be painful. When you have a plan that syncs with your customer’s needs, when you make sure all your activities are working with each other rather than against each other, and when you concentrate on succeeding at the things you’re doing now before taking on newer tasks, the payoff can be huge. Today and tomorrow.
What’s the biggest challenge your sales and marketing team is facing? Hit me up and let me know.