The most innately understood facet of marketing is brand identity, even among those who know nothing about marketing. That’s because brands etch themselves indelibly into human emotions as early as childhood.
Branding is all about emotional connections and is deeply ingrained in consumer consciousness. As such, consumers of all ages are remarkably capable of investing more in a product or service bearing a certain brand, or “personality,” which is precisely what a brand is.
According to Kevin Leifer, “a brand exists in the minds of consumers…nowhere else. Your brand is how your customers perceive you.” Or as Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos says, “Branding is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”
While brands are largely intangible, transcending marketing strategy into the human psyche, they can nevertheless be concretely examined and developed. Let’s look at some key components of crafting a brand that will attract consumers, earn their trust, and stay in their hearts and minds:
More than anything, your brand must reflect your company’s purpose. That depends, of course, on knowing what that is. What is your vision for your business and, more importantly, your customers? What can you offer them that your competition can’t? What are your intentional goals beyond the point of sale? Consider the brands you respect and are drawn to, and ask yourself why—check out their mission/vision statements and explore how they make you feel.
There’s that word again. Without a discernible character, your brand stands to be muddy and forgettable. Think of human attributes for your company: is it classy, casual, fun, edgy, carefree, serious, open-minded, warm and fuzzy, conservative, philanthropic, whimsical…? This way, you begin to identify a personality for your brand upon which you can build content, collateral, events, and more.
Looks aren’t everything, but they go a long way toward establishing brand. First is the logo, a recognizable symbol of your business or organization that should appear on absolutely everything you produce across all media. Next are colors, fonts, type size and weight, packaging, web presentation, and other elements of design. While flexibility may become necessary (examples are Old Spice’s adaptations to attract a younger audience and Chili’s return to earlier campaigns), a consistent, uniform identity is key to successful branding.
As humans, we all want to belong. Successful brands evoke feelings of connection among like-minded consumers and leverage those emotions to reach them on a personal level. Take Harley-Davidson, for example. Its customers are kindred spirits, not simply because they ride motorcycles, but because they ride a Harley. Companies that cultivate feelings of belonging to a larger group understand that people have an instinctual need for relationships. The more you can invite consumers to engage with your brand on a deeper level, the more you will foster community and earn their trust.
Once you’ve identified purpose, personality and look, it’s time to present your brand. The most effective way to do this is through content, your story. According to inbound marketer Patrick Shea: “In every way, your content is your brand online. It’s your salesperson, your store, your marketing department; it’s your story, and every piece you publish reflects on, and defines, your brand.”
The importance of storytelling cannot be overstated. Adds Kathryn Wheeler, “People love stories. More accurately, people love stories that move them emotionally and to action.” In addition to design elements attached to your content, whether blogs, social media, print material, ads, e-mail, etc., the language you use should tell your story and portray the personality of your brand.
Knowing exactly what’s bringing people to your brand—and who they are—has never been easier. Monitoring tools such as Google Analytics and several others are free to use, and multiple social media platforms allow consumers to communicate directly with your brand. Inviting online conversations about your business in your “voice” demonstrates your commitment to customer satisfaction and reinforces your brand.
How well is your brand identified and understood? Let our team of experts help you develop your unique brand and create strategies, content and collateral that distinguish you from the competition and tell your story to the world.
IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.
Content Tips and Tricks
Debra Sheridan, president of IVY Marketing Group was invited to present a workshop at last month’s Life Services Network Conference in Chicago. The prestigious event drew hundreds of professionals in all areas of the senior housing industry. “Being invited to be a presenter was really an honor as this conference draws the very best in the field,” said Debra.
Debra spoke about the importance of keeping good ideas flowing in order to advance the sales process with more interesting content used within blog posts, social media updates, videos, eBooks, newsletters and webinars. “This content serves you in many ways as it improves search engine rankings, drives traffic to websites, helps to nurture leads and assists in establishing you as an expert in your field,” she said. “But it can’t be just any content. It has to be relevant and remarkable.”
Generating a constant stream of interesting topics is challenging. Debra offered some tricks for indentifying intriguing topics.
- Follow the news—if the media is already interested, if people are talking about a certain topic, join that conversation by writing a white paper, comment blogs, start discussions in social media, etc. Follow industry news as well.
- Subscribe to email newsletters from niche publications that cover senior housing and services.
- Set up Google Alerts for non-branded keywords relating to your industry, products and/or audience.
- Monitor social media conversations.
- Recruit content creators such as bloggers.
- Create “annual” and “best-of” features.
- Bring a video camera with you to tradeshows, events, programs, etc. Turn videos into blog posts and eBooks.
One of the best tips of all is to keep a backlog of stories and/or topics handy. This should include, but not be limited to, evergreen content. Not everything needs to be hot or trending or the latest buzz. Evergreen content includes topics that are always interesting to your audience regardless of seasonal trends, economic conditions or other external factors.
Debra concluded that, as is the case with beautiful women, “all content is more attractive if it is well accessorized. Use photos, videos, links to other sites, research, case studies, quotes ad anything else that will enhance the content of your publication.”
Dare to be Fascinating Presentation 2012
Content rules… your website, your blog, your online and offline newsletters and your customer experience. Make it fascinating by selecting topics that are interesting, entertaining and informative. The right content will shed a bright light on your organization. A strategic choice of media will create a wide net for your content to fascinate prospects and residents.
As senior housing and service providers embrace the inbound marketing strategies necessary to gain the attention of prospects, they are also challenged to continually create the meaningful content that supports the sales process.
Content marketing is the art of creating compelling and valuable content and distributing it through a variety of channels, online and traditional. It is the practice of developing relevant content in a consistent fashion to target buyers, focusing on all stages of the buying process, from brand awareness through to brand evangelism. Good content can circumvent the consumer’s desire to block unwanted messages because they find it personally or professionally beneficial.
Content marketing is also a science born in the strategic plan. Subjects are planned. Accessories and outside content to support the topic is decided. Distribution is determined. The voice(s) suited for each target group is honed. Metrics that gauge consumer influence during both the buying and retention process of a customer experience are established.
Here’s an example of how to make a less than dynamic story relevant to your strategic plan, your sales prospects, customers, general audience and media. The principles in this example can be applied to all the content you are considering.
Your news hook…
You have an ice cream social for residents, family and guests at least twice a year and would like to send a story and caption to the media for some free publicity and better attendance at the next ice cream social. You know people really enjoy it — but will the media help you tell your story with free publicity?
Let’s get strategic…
Consider why you want to have media cover and if this placement will hurt other placements you may seek with this publication. If you still want to move forward with it, think it terms of the publication’s readership; let’s say they are baby boomers who live within a 5 to 10 miles of where your ice cream social took place. Next, do the photos you took of the participants reflect the image you want to portray for your organization? At this point, you may decide that you really don’t have a very compelling story, your photos do not reflect the high energy and independence you want your community to be known for and finally you still have to get photo releases from the people whose photos will be submitted to the publication. Is it really worth it? It will be!
Look at all the angles…
First, think about the possible story angles that this can take on: the popularity of ice cream — why is that? What benefits does it possess? What are the most popular flavors? How many places can you buy ice cream within the area of the readership? Is there a physiological change within a person when then eat ice cream? Think about what would expand the interest of the reader and what could be relevant or entertaining to them.
Add the extras…
Then look at the photos you have. Can they be cropped to be more appealing? Can you add stock photography to the shot to make it more interesting? Do you have video to add? Links to other great sources and stories?
Make it last…
Review your distribution options: local print, online, your website, newsletter. Consider if this story now interests the readers of any or all of these venues; now, it probably will. Send it out, email or call to follow-up with the editor(s) and print it out when it is published. Create links to and from the publication and your website. This article has just begun to work for you….
Get permission for reprints and put them in your sales folders. Frame and wall mount the story in a prominent place, post it on your website and feature it in your newsletter.
How your content benefits marketing…
You have just developed a sweet little event into a marketing tool that helps people know what kind of community they are considering, the lifestyle they will enjoy when they move. You’ve also honored the activities of those who live at the community.
Wow, now you have created something really fascinating!
Don’t think you’re a remarkable writer? Then write about something remarkable.
Remarkable content is within your grasp every day. What made you smile today? What made you angry, or sad or surprised you? Dozens of simple, possibly significant triggers come into your life daily. Capture them, break them down into their basic parts. Think about why you reacted as you did and what greater impact that revelation could have on people with the same interests and you — especially those interested in your online content or blog.
It’s really very simple. Let’s say you see a field of daffodils. You find them beautiful and it pleases your sensory receptors. Ask yourself: why? Do you like the color of the yellows and whites against the rich green leaves with the blue sky backdrop? Although being in that field of daffodils might be a “you gotta be there moment” what the colors mean to you and others could be an intriguing topic. Throw in a few serious facts about color, such as studies that support the claim that yellow sparks creativity, green generally means freedom and the blue from the sky is calming. Invite others to think about color, what it means to them, how they use it, what the “universal” opinion of certain colors may be. Take a photo or video of the daffodil field to accompany your commentary. You just wrote a 400 word article that is interesting to read, relevant to your audience, about something… remarkable.
This very easy process can be applied to anything in your life whether it is work-related or personal. Every day you face new challenges. You have new ideas. Again, just think about them in a wider context to test the topic’s ability to be developed into something interesting for many readers.
All writers suffer from ‘writer’s block’ from time to time. They don’t know where to start and nothing is intriguing them. That’s when you get out the Guinness Book of World Records or Google something very strange and interesting. It will spark your creative juices and your fingers will be dancing over that keyboard in no time.
Another writer’s tip is to start in the middle rather than the beginning of your story. The opening to your narrative will show itself when you have written the body of your copy. In fact, since many people write two or three paragraphs before they even get to the true lead of their topic, starting in the middle can work out just fine.
The moral of this story is that your don’t have to be a remarkable writer, you just need something remarkable to write about.
Inbound or Outbound Marketing?
Do you want your prospects to look forward to seeing your offers, information and counsel? You can accomplish that with an Inbound or “pull” marketing strategy which means your prospects and customers seek information you have to offer based on their needs and interests. This is contrary to the Outbound or “push” marketing strategy that focuses on your features and repetitive intrusions.
In fact, approximately 40% of marketing budgets will be spent on content marketing in 2011 which exemplifies the Inbound strategy. Content marketing is characterized by its ability to inform customers and prospects about key industry issues. This may or may not involve the products or services of the company or organization publishing the content. This soft sell approach has a far greater market appeal than blasting the features of a company to its customers and prospects without regard for the benefit it brings to the recipient. Instead of finding ways to block an advertiser’s message, the customers or prospects actually “pull” in the information being delivered.
Content marketing is most commonly provided in print and online newsletters, online magazines, blogs, articles white papers, webcasts, webinars, videos and podcasts. This style of content is often available via email marketing, events and other forums.
There is one rule with content marketing: it must be relevant and valuable to create your customer’s and prospects’ desire to learn about you and your products or services. Think: what’s in it for them?
Here’s why it’s important to transition to Inbound/content marketing… According to the Customer Publishing Council and Roper Public Affairs:
- 80% of business decision makers prefer to get company information is a series of articles versus an advertisement
- 70% say content marketing makes them feel closer to the sponsoring company
- 60% say that company content helps them make better product decisions
Inbound content marketing is not a campaign: it’s a commitment. It takes 12 to 18 months to see the results of your efforts. An article published in Communication Strategy by John Buscall, entitled: “How Long Does It Take to Work?” stated that “After three months you might see a glimmer of results, after 9 months, your approach will start to be discovered by more people and at 12 months you’ll know that it’s working [and what adjustments need to be made to improve results]. And that’s if you commit to a plan, regularly create excellent online content for your marketing initiatives and track your metrics to know how you are doing.”