You’ve likely heard this from us before, but we’re going to say it again – no money, no mission.
Your organization needs to experience sustainable growth to thrive.
And if your marketing isn’t driving profitable sales, then what’s the point?
What we’ve learned from working with nearly 100 different mission-driven organizations is the key to effective marketing is focusing on creating a brand that will sell.
While this process often doesn’t happen overnight, with intentionality and focus, honing your unique brand strategy can be the key to success.
So let’s talk shop on a framework we’ve created to help you tighten up your branding, attract your ideal customers, and keep them coming back for more.
But before we dive in, let’s address the elephant in the room: creating a brand that sells is no easy task.
It’s tempting to create something that everyone in the whole world would want to buy.
I’m the first to admit that any time I revisit Noel & Co.’s brand positioning and strategy, it is anxiety-inducing (and this is something I’ve been doing lately since our 5th anniversary seems like a good time to reflect and evaluate “what’s next” for us).
Because narrowing your focus on one (maybe two) target audience(s) and/or narrowing down your messaging to highlighting the KEY thing that specifically differentiates your product or service is TOUGH.
Inherent to this process is having to say “no” to certain opportunities or customers, so you can lean into what’s going to make your product or service SPECIAL.
Given that, if you remember one thing from this email, this is it:
If you want to create a brand that sells, it shouldn’t be for everyone.
To help you focus your brand strategy to drive sustainable growth, let’s walk through the four parts of our “Creating a Brand that Sells” framework, which you can download for free here.
1. What is your market category?
If you have a consumer product, it’s pretty clear what product category you’re in – food and beverage, beauty and personal care, apparel and accessories, electronics and appliances, home and kitchen, toys and games, etc.
With that said, whether you’re B2C, B2B, or both – if you are developing a brand that doesn’t fit into a clear category, it may mean there is an opportunity to ESTABLISH a market category.
However, it’s worth noting that being a category creator is very expensive because it often requires consumer education and it’s harder to build awareness.
For B2B organizations – determining the best market category for your organization is crucial and it can take months and sometimes even years to define.
We recommend B2B leaders read and follow April Dunford. She’s the author of Obviously Awesome: How to Nail Product Positioning so Customers Get It, Buy It, Love It.
- When April was early on in her career in sales, she went to work for a few founders that had expertise in databases, so they created a database company. At the time, Oracle owned the market on databases. They eventually figured out that their unique value proposition is their product’s ability to analyze vast amounts of datasets. So, the better and more effective market category was actually a business intelligence tool.
Understanding the market you’re playing in, the rules of that market, and its competitors is essential.
Ask yourself, what are the assumptions driving the market? And how are we going to be different?
Positioning is a powerful thing.
Also, it’s worth noting – the more you can align your market category around the value you’re creating for your customer, the better.
For example – if your specialty is developing websites, it’s more clear to call your company a “web agency” vs. a “digital agency” (shout out to Unity Web Agency!)
2. Why should people care?
Most of you likely recognize that profit and purpose don’t have to be a trade-off.
But just in case you’re newer to this newsletter, here are some compelling data to support the fact that having a clear PURPOSE can be a competitive advantage:
- 78% of Americans believe companies must do more than just make money; they must positively impact society as well.
- Unilever is one of the largest organizations in the United States, and it’s being driven by its Sustainable Living Brands, which are growing 69% faster than the rest of the business and delivering 75% of the company’s growth. Instead of having 70% of your workers disengaged, Deloitte found organizations that have a clear purpose have 73% of employees that are engaged.
- On another note, 70% of Americans are disengaged at work. Deloitte found organizations that have a clear purpose now have the opposite statistic: 73% of employees are engaged at work.
While you may be amped about your brand, “Why should I care” is what potential customers are always going to think to themselves…
Simon Sinek says it best in his “Start with Why” TED Talk.
- People don’t buy what you’re selling, they buy what you can do for them. They are asking:
- Why should I hire you?
- Why are you different?
- Why should I invest in you, and why is the ROI worth it?
A common pitfall a lot of companies fall into is focusing on the features they provide (i.e. the WHAT).
While people do need to understand what it is that you do, at the end of the day they don’t care about your features — they care about WHY your product or service is going to make their life (and the world) better.
3. How do we know we can trust you?
This is all about what makes you uniquely qualified.
???? The best form of marketing will always be word-of-mouth marketing.
Why? Because we trust the people we trust.
It’s incredibly valuable when someone gets a product or service recommendation specifically from a trusted friend or family member.
That’s why companies used to (and sometimes still) operate with marketing strategies focused on parties to drive sales. There’s a reason that Tupperware parties were popular in the 60s, and why multilevel marketing organizations still exist.
When I looked up “thousands of five-star reviews,” I found this ad for menopausal hair.
Apparently, I’m that old now.
One of our clients, Liles Law — Startups & Entrepreneurs has 65 5-star reviews.
That’s a lot of happy clients.
And happy clients create more happy clients. If you’re trying to evaluate which startup law firm to trust, that number of 5-star reviews makes a pretty compelling case.
Another example is Bombas socks.
Living by your values builds trust.
Do you know what also builds trust?
Everyone knows the I Heart NY branding.
And it probably should have never been tampered with.
Then, they went and redesigned it for “the new age.”
They have strategic reasons for doing so, but let’s be real. It looks like an emoji heart. It feels cold. It’s just the worst (in our opinion).
It can be hard to articulate why design matters so much, but it’s really important that it invokes the feelings you want your customers to experience within your brand.
Otherwise, it’ll reduce trust in your brand (we’re talking about you, NY).
For B2B, you might be able to get away with investing less in design in your earlier stages. (Confession: The Noel & Co. logo was designed in Canva. But, we’re thankful to be at a place where we can now invest in bada** design as we grow up.)
- Instead, focus your marketing on going out and building relationships. Have a “good enough” brand to get started. Eventually, work with a designer when it’s time to level up.
For B2C, you’re going to want to work with a designer ASAP, since you’re selling products directly to a customer.
- Our official recommendation: HAVE GOOD DESIGN!
4. Where will your customers find you?
How can you best speak your customer’s language?
DO LESS, BETTER
Doing less means telling stories. According to a Harvard study, we spend approximately 46.9% of our day daydreaming.
- We’ve only evolved so much since we were animals in the wild. Our brains try to conserve energy because they want to be ready for a crisis. That’s why storytelling works because it’s the way our bodies are meant to experience information. When stories are told, it triggers chemicals in the brain:
- Cortisol formulates memories
- Dopamine creates an emotional response, which drives engagement
- Oxytocin feeds empathy, which leads to creating a better relationship
Our recommendations for telling better stories?
- Check out Donald Miller’s Building a Story Brand book. It has an excellent framework for clarifying your message.
- KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE and create content that’s valuable and compelling to them… in the places they go – whether that be on certain social media channels, their inbox, or events.
At the end of the day, it’s all about finding your people.
As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out if there is anything we can do to support you!