You may already have a marketing strategy in place. But, what about your brand strategy? The latter is often overlooked as it’s frequently misunderstood and passed off as a “soft” item…one that can be dealt with at a later time.
But hold on…your brand strategy actually lays the foundation for all of your marketing activities. By not proactively taking control of it, you may be building a brand that is weak, miscommunicated, generic, fails to resonate with the target, is imprecise or one that you never intended. This can certainly arrest your momentum in corporate growth. Therefore, a precise brand strategy and marketing strategy working together are important, especially for mortgage lenders of which there are many fighting for the same business.
What’s the difference between a brand strategy and a marketing strategy?
To identify a clear example of brand strategy, let’s take a look at Tiffany’s. What do Tiffany’s ads look like? What type of imagery do they use? What language do they use in their marketing? Would they be more likely to advertise in Car and Driver or Robb Report? How would you profile their customer base? These questions represent a sampling of the questions you need to answer when developing a brand strategy. Of course, you know the answers to these questions because Tiffany’s is very consistent in all that they do. They’ve brilliantly set your expectations so that the path to a sale is very easy for you. There’s no guesswork in terms of what they represent or who the target market is.
So, what does this mean to you? If you deliver inconsistency, you’re making the path to the eventual sale more difficult for people because you’re making them wonder what you really stand for.
Your brand strategy takes into consideration the following items:
- How you will communicate with your target audience: Know your target audiences motivations for selecting your product or service so that you can persuade them rationally but motivate them emotionally with your messaging. For example, if you’re a business-to-business company that sells pipeline risk management software, you will communicate differently with the CEO of a mortgage company than you would with a secondary marketing manager, right? Of course, the first step is understanding the dynamics of the sale. This means knowing who will use the product and who will approve the money to be released for the purchase of that product. What motivates one does not necessarily motivate the other.
If you’re a retail lender, technology is providing you with enhanced audience segmentation capabilities so that you can target potential buyers based upon life events and much more. This allows you to formulate highly targeted messages that will be meaningful and resonate with the recipient, triggered by whatever the event may be.
Identifying what motivates your audience is important if you expect to really engage them in a way that will resonate with them. This is especially true now when audience expectations are much higher than they’ve ever been, receiving highly targeted messages from the credit card industry and other industries that are quite advanced in their targeting capabilities.
- The images you use: A picture is worth a thousand words…we’ve all heard this and we know it’s true. Therefore, the imagery you use in connection with your brand is an important component of your brand strategy because of what it communicates and how it makes your audience feel.
The type of images you use should be consistent across all mediums so that they come to be known as representative of your distinct brand. They should incorporate your unique characteristics and personality.
- Where you will communicate your messages: Be aware of where your target audience is, i.e. where they get information to meet their needs. Going back to my original example of selling pipeline risk management technology to mortgage bankers, which on and off-line publications, websites, bloggers, social media, etc. would you target to get your message across? Are you targeting messages to the end-user AND the one that approves the funds? How does that change your media mix? What events might you consider sponsoring to raise awareness?
Retail lenders have many ways to reach their audiences…through social media, programmatic display, snail mail, email, television, sponsorships and much more. Therefore, accurately profiling your audience, developing audience segments and determining where you will reach them efficiently is a top-of-mind concern. Ultimately, the goal is to optimize your communications efforts by channel and frequency to achieve the best possible ROI.
Position yourself with strength in the right places. Know where to place emphasis from a time and investment standpoint based upon effectiveness in reaching your audience.
- To whom you will communicate your messages: Understand the lives of your target audience…their concerns, aspirations, personalities, behaviors and lifestyles. This will help you shape your messages. For example, is your primary audience 1st time homebuyers or investors? Your key messages will be different for each.
- Success evaluation: Measure how far you’ve been able to “move the needle” within your target audience with respect to key, preset brand metrics. These may include items like familiarity, differentiation, credibility, preference, customer acquisition and many more. What you’re measuring and audience make-up will determine the appropriate measurement methodology.
A good brand strategy properly executed gives you the following benefits:
- Your target audience will come to know exactly what you deliver which makes it easier for you to engage them.
- Because you can engage them more quickly and easily, the path to closing more sales is much quicker because everything they see and understand about you supports what you say.
- In some instances, depending on the service you provide, you may be able to charge a premium for that service. If charging a premium is not an option, then alternatively, your ability to build market share is accelerated beyond that of your competitors.
Now, to isolate the difference between a brand strategy and a marketing strategy, a marketing strategy includes efficient ways to reach your target audience and encourage them to purchase your products or services. Let’s take a look at the elements of a marketing strategy…
- Goal setting: Setting realistic sales and profit goals is part of a good marketing strategy. Goals could include closed sales, number of new website visitors, new Facebook followers, inbound inquiries and more. Your brand strategy “greases the path” for achieving these goals.
- Prospect list determination: Your prospect list should be made up only of the companies or consumers that are most likely to buy from you, agreed? Do not be too broad and describe them in as great of detail as you can so that you have an accurate list of the most viable candidates for what you sell.
The criteria you can use to pull together a prospect list has become much more advanced than ever before with access to much more data, Big Data, which allows for enhanced segmentation. Enhanced segmentation capabilities allows for enhanced, more targeted messaging capabilities which builds a better perception of your brand and improves the sales process.
- SWOT analysis: A solid marketing strategy includes an honest review of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. The results of this analysis will help guide your strategy.
- Competitive review: As Sun Tzu states in “The Art of War,” “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” Accordingly, review your top 3 to 5 key competitors, their key messages, what venues they use to communicate about themselves, tactics they leverage, etc.
This information allows you to develop your messaging appropriately while keeping it in line with your very own brand and also determine in which similar areas and ways you may wish to compete.
- Activity schedule: Getting the word out about your products or services and educating your target audience about them is important to your strategy. These activities will include marketing, public relations, events, sponsorships, print advertising, retargeted ads, social media and much more.
- Result monitoring: This is too often done on the fly instead of planned in advance. While you develop your strategy, be sure to include appropriate tracking mechanisms to determine whether or not your marketing strategy is working. Without this element of the strategy, the goals you set are no more than hopes and dreams.
So, what’s the bottom line? Your brand strategy and marketing strategy are closely knit. They both require significant consideration and precision if you really want to stand out and be recognized for the great brand you are or wish to become!
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