In 1980 Michael Porter transformed the marketing world with his text on Competitive Strategy. It remains a brilliant work in its simplicity, a fundamental approach to analyzing the competitive landscape. Porter’s five forces brought clarity to a topic muddied by countless unproven approaches.
But there’s even a simpler approach: Three words that inspire even the smallest competitor to dream big.
Be big somewhere.
If you can’t compete with the big boys in their space, make a smaller space. Control the scope of your solution to one only your brand can satisfy. Of course it has to be realistic and meaningful to customers. But by the fundamental laws of mass merchandising, customization of solutions will almost always be rewarded with greater target attention and higher profit margins.
Many marketers mistake market opportunity for market size. But consider this: Would you rather own a 1% share of a market that’s 1 million strong or a 30% share of a market that’s a tenth that size…with higher profit margins?
I know. It’s against a marketer’s very nature to think small, but as a strategic consideration, it can be the best fuel your small or middle-market brand can get. And with all you’ll learn at a lower risk inherent in a more tightly defined market, you’ll be far more efficient at expanding to larger ponds later. This kind of long run approach drives long-term brand profitability.
If you can’t be a big fish in a big pond, shrink the pond.
You can’t put a whale into a fish bowl. But it doesn’t take a huge fish to rule there. So here are a few tips to shrink your way to success.
FOCUS, FOCUS, FOCUS.
First focus on your customers.
Draw careful distinctions between what customers think they WANT and what your expertise tells you they truly NEED to satisfy that want. For example, people have long searched for their favorite radio station that plays the kind of music they are in the mood for, when they are in the mood. What they really needed was a way to access a personally customizable music playlist without buying all the recordings. Enter Pandora. People couldn’t “want” it because they didn’t know the technology existed. The magic lies in the way you analyze and interpret a customer stated want.
Next focus on your offer.
Second, focus your offer and positioning so tightly that the offer itself actually defines a segment, albeit smaller. Competitors tend to disappear when your brand appears to be the only one that can satisfy a very specific set of needs. This strategy done right can make your brand appear as prominent as the giants, to those who matter.
Then focus on your motives.
Be authentic. If your brand is truly customer focused in the most authentic way, you have no competition in the traditional sense. In its place, you have a commitment to serve your customers in a way they cannot be served elsewhere. That demands being constantly connected to your customers as well as non-customers. Anticipating their needs. Developing solutions based on your thought leadership around the application of new technologies, techniques, and trends.
And don’t forget about alignment. Aligning your business goals with those of your customers and your employees makes for a self-perpetuating success. Be sure to conduct a strategic alignment exercise at least once a year to be sure your brand is keeping up with changes in technology, regulation, competition, and other market forces.
Many organizations are very good at developing brand and marketing strategies that have the potential to produce excellent business results. But often these strategies become diluted or even derailed due to misaligned execution. Other organizations are experts at flawless execution of strategies that may not align with actual customer behaviors and organizational goals. The reality is that it takes both to succeed. And that requires a holistic approach, connecting internal and external components to create a symbiotic brand.
When marketers fail, it is generally tied to their inability to connect strategy with in-market execution. My new book, “Getting There from Here: Bridging Strategy and Execution,” takes on the task of not only outlining how critical it is to bridge this gap but also identifying the rewards on the other side: operational excellence and in-market impact. It is an excellent reference for perspective and processes that help bridge expectations, experiences, and behaviors among all brand stakeholders at every touchpoint.
Visit http://amzn.to/1yK9DTG to download a copy. Whatever your goals, it will help you get there from here by giving you tools and processes to effectively bridge strategy and execution for better business results.
Getting There from Here: Bridging Strategy and Execution
Page 15: The power of the bridge between strategy and execution
Page 59: The RAPPORT Process; a master process and language that helps align every level of your organization
Page 125: How to conduct an effective Strategic Summit
Page 42: How to know a good vision statement when you see one
Page 116: How to build a metrics bridge dashboard
Page 17: The true relationship of brand and marketing
Page 21: Harnessing the relationship between business, brand, and innovation
Page 34: Finding strategic alignment control points
Page 53: How to be sure you’re selecting the right opportunities
Page 56: When estimating can be better than counting
A creatively relevant story about people’s lives can lead to stronger brand relationships…even in B2B.
Over the past decade, content marketing has become the staple best practice for strengthening brand relationships. Blogs (like this one), white paper marketing, book authorship, branded documentaries, and one of the most intriguing and creative forms—branded webisodes—provide today’s marketer with an expanded palette of options to deepen and broaden customer relationships. The use of Webisodes—part of a trend called branded entertainment—is growing because marketers are compelled to find new methods to reach consumers in an era when traditional media are losing personal engagement time to the Internet. Webisode formats can range from a previews/trailers; a promotional series, part of a collection of shorts, or conversely, segments of a long form piece such as a TV series.
In any of the above formats, effective webisodes:
Use entertainment and video storytelling to engage stakeholders
Television and movies taught us that visual storytelling is the “killer app” for engagement. Done well, ironic humor and humanitarian appeal are especially effective approaches.
Emotionalize the brand
Emotion adds dimension more powerful and motivating than even logic to any relationship.
Relate to issues first
Focusing on issues or cause (social, life stage, cultural, moral, political, or other lightning rods) tap into people’s mind at a visceral level in contrast to sales approaches that trigger emotional barriers.
Promote buying v selling
When people “buy in” to a cause or an issue, selling isn’t needed to make a transaction.
As my mom used to say, “Everything’s different but nothing has changed.” Blogs are really just reincarnations of the company newsletter with one big difference: WordPress and other digital blogging tools make it easier for anyone with a computer to be a publisher. White papers are still one of the best tools for thought leadership positioning. The difference here is digital creation and access. And webisodes are very much like early radio and TV serials, sponsored, owned, and produced by advertisers and their agencies instead of by producers and networks. The difference is the medium: broadcast versus the internet, the latter providing some game-changing advantages.
Media trending toward web video
It’s no longer news that web video is taking a bite out of TV viewership. Nielsen’s (television audience research) most recent study indicates that viewing by 18-24-year-olds dropped by a little more than 4-and-a-half hours per week. http://bit.ly/1p7nVvc That’s equivalent to roughly 40 minutes per day.
At the same time, YouTube now reports that:
YouTube reaches more US adults ages 18-34 than any single cable network
More than 1 billion unique users visit YouTube each month
Over 6 billion hours of video are watched each month on YouTube—that’s almost an hour for every person on Earth
100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute
YouTube is localized in 61 countries and across 61 languages
My purpose in citing these stats isn’t to diminish TV advertising. It’s still the 800-pound gorilla to beat. But rather, my point is to emphasize that webisode marketing done right—with focused objectives, cogent strategies, and the right metrics attached—can now create a serious competitive advantage with clear ROI. For many brands that either can’t afford TV time or don’t fit into the TV advertising model (such as B2B), webisodes can present a green field of opportunity.
Can webisodes deliver real business results?
Many media historians portray our current period as the “post-broadcast era,” implying that audiences are sharing more of their video consumption with the web and media other than broadcast. Not to say that web entertainment will replace broadcast or cable TV. That would be like doomsters of the 1940’s and ‘50s who presaged TV replacing radio. And though it probably won’t displace TV, web video does contribute to an ever-fragmenting, increasingly complex media landscape in which consumers have so much choice that traditional media-driven marketing it is neither practical nor effective. That’s why content-driven marketing provides a sorely needed solution. It creates valuable, targeted content to repurpose in as many media as possible.
On the flip side, in order to get views, web video needs to be supported with targeted search marketing, SEO techniques, social media, and traditional promotion. This support allows audiences to discover what’s important to them, in a compelling format, on demand—when they have a specific heightened need or interest. Webisodes fit this solution profile like a glove, versus dubiously relevant promotional content force fed as an inline component of entertainment programming (aka TV).
On October 6, 2006, rapper Sean Combs (aka P. Diddy) debuted DiddyTV, sponsored by Burger King. Today, YouTube shows the first webisode garnering more than 993,000 views and 70,000 subscribers while building a social web brand community for a cultural niche. Not bad for an inexpensive webisode series. However, if you look deeper into the comments and thumbs down click counts, you might see a balanced story.
The following year, Mini Cooper launched Starsky & Hutch/Dukes of Hazzard webisode spoof “Hammer & Coop.” The effort, which centered around a six-episode web series, generated 1.5 million views and consumer interest that eventually translated into 800 vehicle sales (at least that’s the official report). But Mini didn’t just entertain visitors, it also presented a Mini web configuration tool to bring visitors closer to buying. The official report is: “Three hundred seven thousand unique visitors went directly to Hammerandcoop.com and spent an average of six minutes viewing the videos. Another 722,000 connected there through miniusa.com. Of the 722,000, 355,000 of them configured a Mini (by model, engine and extras); 22,000 people saved their configurations; and 2,400 of those sent them to dealers. Min reports that data represented about a 33% conversion rate that translated to about 800 vehicle sales.” http://adage.com/article/madisonvine-case-study/initial-results-mini-s-hammer-coop-effort/116193/
While I see a couple holes in the metrics strategy (from what I can tell, the 307,000 hammerandcoop.com visitors weren’t directly connected to configuring a car or the resulting sales funnel), this early example of webisode infotainment broke new ground for the medium. Bottom line: Mini Cooper sales were down 4% Q1 2007 YOY. However, US Mini Cooper annual sales hit their highest historic point to date in 2008, at 54,077 units. http://www.goodcarbadcar.net/2011/01/mini-cooper-sales-figures.html It gives pause for thought.
Webisodes for B2B
What about for business to business brands? Blendtec makes blending technology for home, manufacturing, and foodservice. They launched their webisode series “Will it Blend” (www.willitblend.com) in 2007, featuring its founder, Tom Dickson, in a wacky role as a lab technician attempting to grind up everything from cubic zirconium “diamonds” to iPhones in Blendtec brand blenders. YouTube shows more than 6.7 million views on the “diamond blend” show including more than 16,000 likes and only 2013 thumbs down.
AnotherB2B example is an animated production by Lawson, a provider of software and service solutions in the manufacturing, distribution, maintenance and service sector industries. This webisode provides a good competitive positioning tool, effectively promoting Lawson’s “Simpler is Better” brand. It’s no slouch for such a nichey industrial target at more than 89,000 views. I’d like to see a metrics bridge that connects these views to results in a shift in positioning, revenues, and/or margins.
Business-to-business brands can use content marketing—including webisodes—to exploit market niches with a fresh approach to engaging their customers, limited only by imagination and, of course, budget. Unlike broadcast TV, web presence is free, so the only cost in getting a series on the web is production, which can be managed incrementally with theme, creative development, and production values, which new technology has made dramatically more efficient.
But wait. TV has built-in audiences (that’s what you pay the stations and networks for). With webisodes, you’ll have to generate the audiences yourself (you knew there had to be a catch). This “detail” has been the primary barrier in the success of many web videos.
What’s the right objective for webisodes?
Social media and advertising can get pretty expensive in the quest to promote your webisodes for customer acquisition. So why not start by using them to improve the lifetime value of your current customers? One excellent use for webisodes is cross selling lines to existing customers. Webisodes can provide context (relevant issues and situations that uncover real needs) in dramatic, comedic, or simply interesting ways (how to, etc.). This leads the customer to buy into a larger brand context and a larger solution set. With effective funneling surrounding the webisodes, it’s possible to tightly track ROI on existing or past customers.
A proven ROI formula?
Despite a few days of exhaustive research on the web, I haven’t been able to identify any recent B2B webisode examples. Maybe that’s because there’s not yet a tried and true formula that links webisodes to ROI. GroPartners is now engaged with one of our clients in an effort to do just that. We’ll keep you posted.
Meanwhile, if you have any additional information on webisodes that you’d like to share on my blogpost, please leave a comment (link top of page). I’d love to post it.
A strong corporate brand strategy is one of the most powerful forces an organization can marshal. Properly operationalized, it can measurably improve top-line effectiveness for product brands and bottom line efficiencies throughout the organization from the stock room to the board room − and everywhere between. In the best brands, the strategy acts as a guide for every stakeholder decision, from the highest level to the most granular, which can result in reduced management costs and greater employee satisfaction.
But just as any other kind of strategy, the true power of brand strategy is activated only with aligned execution. A brand strategy road map helps brands stay on track with clear process, aligning business, vision, people, and process.
Brand strategy originates in your organization’s vision and values. Aligning business goals, customer wants and needs, and employee satisfaction with that vision is critical to sustainable growth.
Virgin operates 53 separate brands, as diverse as airlines, records, books, and health. All Virgin brands are based on the same vision and values:
“Virgin believes in making a difference. We stand for value for money, quality, innovation, fun and a sense of competitive challenge. We strive to achieve this by empowering our employees to continually deliver an unbeatable customer experience.”
Experience…Founder Richard Branson showcases the Virgin brand with his swashbuckling extreme sports, spaceships and experience-steeped TV commercial roles. By contrast, many organizations mistake the branding process for an identity exercise. And while that is an essential piece of brand, there are three major components to branding:
A brand strategy road map helps communicate the process to senior management and provides “gates” that must be sequentially satisfied to move through the process. (Click graphic to enlarge)
Your company’s best branding strategies will almost always come from aligning customer insights with organizational vision, values and business objectives. Those strategies are brought to life with brand development (logos, messaging, governance, programs, products, services) and should permeate your organization’s processes and culture/employees. Only on this strategic footing is the brand ready to push outward to customers through sales and marketing touch points. This process helps organizations “live the brand,” so customers’ and consumers’ brand experience is consistent with what the brand stands for. This consistency provides a host of business benefits from enhanced productivity, support for premium pricing, and deflection of competition, to higher revenues and margins.
Mergers & Acquisitions
When a merger or acquisition occurs, though there may be solid business due-diligence behind the transaction, brand misalignment is likely. Rarely are two brand cultures so similar that an alignment action isn’t needed to optimize business performance. Developing a brand strategy roadmap, along with some seasoned facilitation and guidance, helps resolve brand misalignment issues so people and processes support a common goal.
Get the (big) picture?
Alignment essentially assures that people, processes, and business goals all understand the vision and support each other. Alignment of talent, brand delivery, marketing, operations, and other functional areas and stakeholder groups make up the entire alignment picture. “People” include not only employees, but also distributors and customers.
Chicken and egg
There’s a debate among brand consultants about whether business strategy drives the vision or vice-versa…that business strategy may change the organizational vision. I’d like to hear your thoughts on this. Leave a comment (see top of post).
Delighted customers are worth more than their individual revenue streams.
In my August, 2010 frenchonbrand.com, “Is Customer Delight Overkill?” (http://wp.me/pU6PC-25), I downplayed the concept of customer delight as potentially over-performing on the premise that people don’t necessarily want to be delighted, merely satisfied. My logic was that over performing in this area causes excess cost. Since then, and as a result of one of my reader’s well-informed and thoughtful comments (thanks, John H. FMB!) — and more research on the subject — I’ve moderated my position on customer delight and pass along the following convincing metric: a way to measure the impact of customer delight on word-of-mouth promotion to optimize the investment.
I realized the impact of customer delight extends far beyond the customer, after a review of W. Edwards Deming’s Profound Knowledge and Fred Reichheld’s “The Ultimate Question” (Net Promoter Score a.k.a. NPS). In this holistic approach to business, operationalizing customer delight becomes essential to its importance. Instead of viewing “delight” as overkill, I can now reconcile it with other favorable business results, such as increasing the lifetime value of a customer (promoter) beyond the customer revenue stream, and into areas such as:
Low-cost customer acquisition via referrals (reduced marketing costs)
Viral customer acquisition (referrals of referrals)
More nimble market response due to vibrant customer connections (innovation)
Continuous improvement of operations through cultural alignment (operationalized brand)
And many more
The result is sustainable growth.
To measure customer delight word-of-mouth radiance, Reichheld offers the following formula (this can be modified per individual situation). A customer survey is needed to capture the information needed to perform the calculations below (contact GroPartners for specific survey content).
Pick a benchmark date in the past (for example, the past 12 months, or last fiscal year). Then use this measurement process.
1. How many delighted customers do you have?
Find out how many of your new desirable customers were referred by other delighted customers (NPS of 9 or 10, meaning “on a scale of 1-10, how likely would you be to refer a friend or colleague to your brand?)
2. What is your average new customer worth?
Calculate (or see industry analysts’ calculations) what your average new customer is worth in dollars and cents.
3. Calculate the total value of those new delighted customers
Multiply the data from #1 (above) by #2 (above)
4. Calculate the value of positive comments
In your NPS survey, also ask respondents for positive or negative comments that support their NPS rating. If x number of positive comments generated $y in revenue (from 3 above), divide y/x to calculate the value of each positive comment
6. Calculate the value of each promoter
In your survey, find out the number of people per year to which each promoter might have commented, and multiply the average number by the value in #4 (above) to get the value of word-of-mouth per promoter. This is the “magic number” that helps optimize customer delight.
Anything can be measured. Even the power of customer delight. Now I’m a believer. How about you?
frenchonbrand.com is content published by
GroPartners Consulting helps middle-market organizations bridge strategy and execution for better business results.
Brand is the network of relationships that surrounds a business or product, including all its touch points.
I once spent the better part of a year convincing the CEO of a marketing organization that brand was not a subset of marketing, but instead, the reverse. To my surprise, during that year, I noticed his perspective is fairly common, even among marketing folks.
To many people (especially direct marketers and finance folks), “brand” associates with really fluffy connotations. In reality, brand is much bigger than marketing. In fact, it’s bigger than the products brought to market and even bigger than the companies that make the products that go to market. Why? Because the brand includes not only the company and its products, but relationships among its people, all its functions, channels (distributors, etc.), customers and even – to a degree – its competitors. It encompasses values, purpose, beliefs, and ultimately, identity. Essentially, brand is about that precisely dicey issue of “what you stand for” and what that means to people in the context of their lives. Finance guys often get heartburn from brand discussions mostly because they can’t easily and accurately prove out ROI on brand investments. An operationalized approach to brand investments can quench the heartburn. This means placing strategic metrics among and between internal operations, customer touch point metrics, marketing results, and financial results.
The difference between Marketing and Brand
Click image for a larger view.
Marketing builds and measures transactions. Brand builds and measures relationships. Even though marketers refer to building relationships through marketing, the goal is transactions, so technically, there’s a little brand blended in with the marketing mentality. Brand relationships continue after marketing has delivered products to customers. The goal of branding is to build relationships as a pipeline for transactions.
Where marketing is about all the intelligence and activities it takes to drive transactions, brand focuses on the underlying relationships and expectations among stakeholders around the transactions. When positive relationships exist and expectations are met, the stage is set for a continuous stream of transactions (i.e. successful sales and marketing campaigns).
This sets into motion a chain of operational implications, both internal and external. Brand-aligned organizations use this as an opportunity to examine the dynamic and causal relationships among employees, customers, and operations. Identifying cause-and-effect among these forces builds business value – the goals at the core of business operations. To do this successfully, an operationalized brand metrics program should first be in place (for more on this, contact Gropartners).
The truth is, most people feel more comfortable gaining a level of trust before they take the leap into a transaction. Until they experience a level of satisfaction or value as “compensation” for the currency they trade, customers experience anxiety and feel vulnerable. But they may not even take the leap until they feel they can trust the seller (kind of “chicken-or-egg” first). So whether an ad campaign puts a friendly face on the brand, a sampling campaign lets you “try before you buy,” or a recommendation from a trusted friend disarms you, some level of pre-transaction relationship is usually required to help minimize the feeling of risk and start the flow of transactions. This, and it’s post-transaction counterparts (“customer care,” etc.), wrap the transactions up in “relationship wrappers.”
Brands are relationships between people and products, services, or ideas, which are made of three fundamental elements: focus, distinction, and trust. The word “brand” should be distinguished from ‘branding.” “Brand” focuses on the strategic dimensions of a relationship while “branding” refers to execution. “Branding” is a term that broadly defines the scope of activities that bring the brand to life for stakeholders –- creative application of brand values, identity and communications (logos, taglines, guidelines, messaging, etc.). These activities “voice” the brand to stakeholders. And while these are certainly essential elements of brand, they are usually products of creative execution under strategic direction.
So when you hear or use the phrase “brand marketing,” it generally relates to issues about customer relationships and delivering on the promise. In contrast,”product marketing,” issues are mainly about transactions and delivering the product. That’s how brand marketing and product marketing work hand-in-hand to build business value. And that’s why you find many high-profile CEOs personally driving brand conversations and initiatives. The big picture guys get it.
Today, content is king in branding. This is a long post but worth the read, with practical tips you can use today!
Mark Addicks, CMO at General Mills, predicts, “…many marketers will start with content as a way to engage their best customers and grow their business versus advertising.” This powerful statement carries with it some game-changing implications, and signals the realization by Corporate America that brand—the baneful black hole to bean counters everywhere—isn’t some fluffy little eccentricity.
Think about it. If brand is the relationship between two entities (corporations, products, people, etc.), based on focus, distinction and trust, then building that relationship requires more than self-indulgent glorification (aka “brand advertising”). Consumers and end users are more well-informed than ever before and they reward with consumption those who make their lives easier. They are not the lemmings of times past who were really glad they used Dial and wished everybody did. Or who got too wound up after drinking a pot of fully-leaded coffee, so they switched to SANKA and became a better person. No, today, we are a nation of jaded consumers searching for the truth under all that brand advertising.
We digital-age consumers do this with research and social media, mostly. In the epoch BW (before the web), research was hard work, and not often worth the consumer’s time. By contrast, today we can find out in 30 seconds how much a worker building iPads in China earns in a day ($17/day in a single facility employing more than 250,000 workers – one of the best jobs in China, reportedly). So, getting right down to “just the facts, ma’am,” has become the great global kneejerk reaction to seeking the skinny on a product before purchase.
The bottom line for branding? In my opinion, it’s actually good news. While brand advertising as we know it may fade in favor, it will be upstaged by a branded form of content that actually helps people become more productive. Much of this new branded content will be driven by processes such as message mapping.
Propel your brand with content that bridges strategy and execution resulting in transactions
Case in point: I’m shopping for a new boat propeller (the old boat prop looks like it went through a shredder). Most marinas are closed this time of year and I don’t want to travel to get one. But I don’t know what size it is, or any of the other technical stuff I should know before attempting to order one on the web. So, I consult Google for “how to size a boat prop.” The results return all kinds of help from places that sell props. I wasn’t yet searching to buy a prop, just to figure out what specs I need. So I clicked on a paid ad that led me to a landing page whose ad seemed to be aligned with what I wanted to know.
A site named prop.com hosted a very helpful landing page, explaining in readily understandable terms how to determine what size, pitch, and style of prop is needed for various applications. It also showed me how to optimize the boat’s power performance by selecting the right prop. It really seemed these guys knew their stuff.
Even though the page design wasn’t highly professional, the content was pretty well written and exactly what I was searching for. The content quickly built my confidence in the brand, which transferred my trust into a same-session transaction. Here’s why:
The content matched my search query far better than others (promise matched performance), whose links took me directly to transaction pages of their websites without any acknowledgement of my search for propeller info (promise/performance mismatch).
The content was complete yet brief, so I could get on with my transaction. It built an appetite for my transaction without overshooting or losing my interest (didn’t waste my time).
An easy-to-find link at the bottom of the prop.com landing page led me directly to the host brand site transaction page (very convenient access to get my prop now that I knew what to buy).
But just when I thought I’d won the ecommerce lotto (found exactly the information I needed, became educated enough to make a confident online purchase over $100, all in less than eight minutes), the entire process derailed. When I clicked on the link at the bottom of the page, the host-brand site loaded and – OMG – charts chock full of unfamiliar jargon and specifications bullied me into a psychological fetal position. No way could I begin to connect the knowledge they provided on their highly informative landing page with my needs. The result: no sale.
In a nutshell, although their content and search strategy was great and the landing page motivated me to visit their website – ready to spend – they fell woefully short at the point of sale. It was not easy to buy! Where was that helpful brand whose content wooed me to the point of transaction? Lost somewhere in transition, I guess.
Lesson? Content-driven digital presence has the potential to immediately and dramatically close the distance between brand building investments and ROI. That translates into excellence in bridging strategy and execution, the key to survival in this New Age of brand marketing.
So here are some useful tips for planning your brand content-to-transaction strategy:
Use a content-driven landing page with useful info and no selling between your search ad (or organic result) and your transaction site.
Be sure that your search result is relevant to the search term. This builds the first rung of trust.
Offer content that is well-written, brief and to the point, yet complete within the scope of the topic (don’t try this at home – consult a professional, and test it) — again … no selling.