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Effective Branding Strategies

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In this third and final blog I will focus on the ability of great companies to employ effective branding communications strategies. These are the tools they need to help build and reinforce their reputations in order to attract and retain the best employees and best customers over time.

Marketing strategies that work

There is only one place to begin a discussion on marketing. That is to focus on customer service and the commitment of the company to its current customers.

While most everyone discussing this topic wants to jump into a conversation about social media, advertising or web site optimization and other essential tactics to attract new customers, by doing so they may be ignoring their current, existing customers – which is, after all, their most important audience.   

The best marketing tool for any business is the strong voice of satisfied, loyal customers who consistently refer others.  

Influencer marketing, also termed Influence Marketing, is defined as a form of marketing that has emerged from a variety of recent practices and studies in which the focus is placed on specific key individuals (or types of individuals). It identifies the individuals who have influence over potential buyers, and orients marketing activities around those influencers.

Loyal customers and clients not only remain with the company over time, expand the list of service they use or products they purchase but they also encourage others to do so as well. They speak on behalf of the company, offering an objective and fair appraisal, based on their own experiences.

As a result, there is no longer as much a need for high profile sports stars or other famous persons to endorse the company when real life users take on the role and responsibility for motivating others. Just think of the power of Yelp or Trip Advisor, two examples of websites that share observations and experiences offered by customers, and the influence they have over future purchasing decisions.  

A balanced marketing mix is core to the plan

Given that extraordinary customer care is the number one marketing tool, and that influencer marketing is an important strategy, there are still a wide range of additional legitimate and effective ways to reinforce the company’s message and promote its distinctive products and services.

The key to using all of the available branding platforms is to understanding what is unique about the company and at the same time understanding what the customer needs, wants and values.

Every company of any size should conduct an annual situational analysis. Reviewing the organization’s mission, having a clear message that distinguishes the company, and defining the customer profile can help to align the marketing and branding approach into a coherent and unified strategy.

There is great temptation to utilize social media as a prominent branding tactic - and for good reason. It is an inexpensive way to build awareness with a targeted audience. But it should be seen as one component of an interconnected communications plan rather than as the entire plan. Companies with limited resources and time can prioritize which tactics are most effective for their audience – whether it is Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, blogging, newsletters or email information blasts – and leverage a selection of those tools that are most likely to be most efficient.

Branding tells your story

In addition to traditional ads, social media and events, every organization should encourage media interest. It is the local press that is well positioned to help the company get the word out, tell its story, and differentiate its message. The press is not an adversary but rather can be seen as a partner to the business community and leverage for its ability to build awareness with the targeted market.

Regardless of which tactics are selected, the company must not lose sight of its unique selling proposition (USP), its distinctive services and products and the needs of its target market. Relationships with existing clients should never be under estimated and the power of referrals from loyal, raving fans should always be regarded as a top priority. 

John Mellage, CPA, Sobel & Co.