Marketing, prospect targeting, customer engagement and other aspects of brand management have transformed significantly in the past 15 years, which goes to show that the Millennium truly was the "end of the world as we [knew] it." Sure, the world did not end, nor did all of the technologies that were around at the time completely crash, but those solutions have gone largely extinct and been supplanted by a more futuristic range of digital tools and communications frameworks.
This has presented entrepreneurs with a relatively tremendous double-edged sword, as getting all of the best practices and strategies right can be difficult, but the opportunity to reach more prospects is readily available to everyone through the Internet. In fact, many have argued that Internet marketing essentially leveled the playing field between small businesses and larger enterprises, as the cost of reaching a high number of consumers has gone down in many ways.
It is a tightrope, though, as mistakes and less desirable public issues go viral in the blink of an eye, which can threaten small businesses significantly when not handled properly and potentially put an end to their stature in their respective marketplaces. The modern branding conundrum is best described as a balancing act of sorts - one that ensures all potential inroads are traveled and opportunities are grasped, but in such a way that does not waste corporate dollars or run the risk of hurting the brand image.
If you would like a quick overview of what it takes to build a strong marketing plan that is relevant in the modern era, check out this six-minute video from the Kauffman Founders School on entrepreneurial advertising:
Intelligence is key and planning is a must, and the resources necessary to help entrepreneurs build a strong marketing strategy from scratch are readily available so long as they know where to look. Let's go through some of the more important concepts associated with winning brand advertising strategies and what it takes to separate your company from competitors in your marketplace, beginning with the core demands of the modern landscape.
A strong start
Entrepreneurs will need to remember that the number and diversity of channels that can be used to reach, engage and convert prospects are certainly growing as time goes on, but more focused efforts tend to be a bit more successful. Here are a few matters that ought to be reconciled before the first advertisement is sent out to current and prospective clientele:
- Brand itself: Simply put, you will not be able to build a strong marketing initiative, or customer relationship management strategy, when you do not know what your brand represents and how it is different from others. Work with as many employees as possible to establish missions and values, as well as a voice that will be consistent across all advertising initiatives.
- Channels in use: The best example of the need for accurate, targeted advertising efforts comes from social media, as so many companies have gotten this aspect wrong. Many will try to canvas as many social channels as possible, thinking it is best, but this is not the case. Rather, pick you battles carefully, and put more effort into fewer ventures to ensure your brand image is strong across the board.
- Analytics: Far too many small businesses will think about measurement a bit too late in the game, and this is the first step toward some relatively serious problems down the road. Make sure you have analytics and metrics worked out before the advertising strategy hits the ground, as the data generated and insights accrued will be invaluable when working to improve upon past efforts.
- Internal or outsourced: Especially if you are running a brand new business, you might not have the experienced staff members necessary to get marketing projects into motion properly. Recognize when you need support, and look to outsourced marketing solutions providers when you are not confident, as this will protect your brand image and likely yield more efficient use of budget.
Once you have these matters ironed out, you will want to think about connecting various strategies to one another to ensure that all customer-facing policies are aligned and centralized. For example, CRM and marketing processes should be highly intertwined, as this will help to more efficiently and effectively manage clientele throughout the full lifecycle of the professional relationship. Cloud services can be invaluable in these efforts, notably specialized software.
In that same vein, another major component of modern branding involves cross-departmental collaboration in the small business.
"Communication between IT and marketing needs to be tight."
IT and marketing
Because so much of today's marketing equation is intrinsically rooted in novel technologies, communication between the IT and advertising departments needs to be streamlined. Earlier this year, Gartner affirmed that managers in each department should be on the same page at all times, and that companies which have the tightest connections built between these two lines of business will likely excel in their respective markets.
"Marketing continues to be a hot area of IT investment and technology innovation with a rapidly growing application portfolio that demands greater integration and focused investment," Kimberly Collins, research vice president at Gartner, explained. "IT leaders supporting marketing will need to develop a strong relationship with marketing leaders to help marketing derive the full potential from its IT investments."
The analysts went so far as to argue that the average company that sees more prolific teamwork between chief information officers and chief marketing officers will see a 25 percent improvement in brand management performances. This goes for companies that target other businesses, as well as those that are more consumer-focused, and should be a priority even when the firm is small enough to not have chief officers.
Looking forward, these basics will need to be taken care of to ensure that the firm is prepared for the forthcoming changes that will certainly begin to take form in the coming years. Agility might be the most important aspect of brand management, and can be achieved by building a strong, flexible foundation from which all advertising efforts will be launched.