How to Build an Audience with Social Media Brand Marketing

Founded in 2015, revenue intelligence startup Gong is now valued at $7.25 billion. They’ve grown to attract big-name clients like LinkedIn, PayPal, and Shopify, mostly through social media channels rather than organic search. Gong is an excellent example of a company dedicated to finding the best content marketing fit and delivering insights that resonate in […]

The post How to Build an Audience with Social Media Brand Marketing appeared first on CXL.

Founded in 2015, revenue intelligence startup Gong is now valued at $7.25 billion. They’ve grown to attract big-name clients like LinkedIn, PayPal, and Shopify, mostly through social media channels rather than organic search.

Gong is an excellent example of a company dedicated to finding the best content marketing fit and delivering insights that resonate in formats that engage.

In this article, you’ll learn how to use social media brand marketing to build a well-known brand and grow your business.

Why social media is one of the best approaches to building your brand

People spend an average of 145 minutes on social media every day. And users say that social media has increased their access to information, ease of communication, and freedom of expression.

Sprout Social research shows that 55% of people learn about new brands on social networks, and 68% agree that they enable them to interact with companies. 

With potential customers spending so much time engaging and absorbing information on social platforms, it’s an obvious place to gain awareness and build positive relationships with your brand.

Social media lets you get close to your target audience and build relationships that put your brand top-of-mind when they need you. It also helps you learn about your audience, gaining qualitative insights that help you understand their unique pain points and how you can solve them.

It’s how people are using these channels that makes social critical to brand perception and business growth

Refine Labs CEO, Chris Walker, summed this up perfectly in an appearance on UserGems’ “The First 100 Days” podcast:

“The reality is buyers trust their peers way more than the results they get. They know there are affiliate links. They know there’s pay-to-play stuff. They know that the vendor’s blog isn’t objective. And so, when people are making buying decisions, they make those searches elsewhere. They make those searches in places where their peers are: a Slack community, a Reddit channel, a Facebook group, a direct message, an email, or a Zoom. They talk to somebody that they trust more than the results they get in Google.”

These places where people hang out, learn, share content, and form opinions about brands are what’s known as “dark social.”

When someone shares your YouTube video on Twitter, you can track that metric.

What you can’t track as easily are “dark social” shares that increase your brand awareness. Around 77.5% of all shares happen organically (e.g., via a WhatsApp group chat or an email to a colleague) and are amplified by word-of-mouth. Of the remaining shares, 7.5% happen on Facebook and 3.1% on Twitter. 

GetSocial social shares infographic

This is the kind of hyper-personalized social sharing you need to build your brand.

In a New York Times study, a research group looked at the psychology of sharing. It found that 73% of people process information more deeply, thoroughly, and thoughtfully when they share it. 85% of people also said that reading other people’s responses helped them understand information and events. 

“Sharing information helps me do my job. I remember products and information sources better when I share them and am more likely to use them.” – Anonymous study participant 

When people share your content with like-minded groups on social media, it helps build affiliation and keeps you top-of-mind. These are key ingredients in building a brand people care about

Develop a social media marketing strategy that nurtures relationships

Your social media marketing strategy should tie back to your brand’s goals. This is the value that you’re trying to get from your social media marketing efforts.

For example, your goal could be to increase customer satisfaction scores. The strategy you build around this goal would look completely different to a strategy built around driving free trial sign-ups.

Once you know your goal, there are two approaches to take to a social media strategy: meeting demand and generating demand:

  • Meeting demand tries to discover what’s out there already and respond to it to stay relevant to the target market. It’s about injecting yourself into the conversation.
  • Generating demand makes the story more about your brand. It’s about trying to create a conversation yourself. 

Meeting demand is much easier out of the gate than generating demand. It’s also easier to measure. Generating demand is more challenging to get right.

It’s less granular and harder to measure (a lot of shares happen through dark social). But it generates greater reward when your brand has created a conversation that puts you front of mind for months to come.

You can blend the two across different social media channels, but you’ll more likely want to select one or the other as your primary means of engaging with your audience.

No matter how you choose to approach your content creation, make sure it’s something worth sharing. Impressions and likes are not inconsequential, but sharing content improves activity performance and creates a bond with your customers. It does this by building brand equity and aiding recall. 

The New York Times study also looked at what drives people to share content. It identified five key motivations that reveal sharing is all about relationships:

Social media sharing quote

When developing your strategy, think about the kinds of content that will help your customers enrich the lives of others, connect with others like them, and feel valued in their own circles.

1. Choose the right social media platforms 

Focus only on social networks that progress your brand marketing goals and objectives. If your audience isn’t active on a platform, it makes no sense to spend your marketing budget there.

Embrace trial and error (and testing) to establish whether a platform meets your long-term brand marketing objectives. Use data to validate this.

Look at your audience demographics:

  • Who are they?
  • What age are they?
  • What is their job role?
  • What are their interests?
  • What problems are they looking to solve?

Take this information and dig deeper to understand what your audience is saying about your industry and products and where they’re discussing them. 

Find out where you’re most likely to get in front of the right people by:

If you are targeting women between the ages of 30 and 49, Pew Research Center’s social demographic data reveals you should look into Facebook:

Social platform users by demographic

Most brands operate across more than one channel. But the idea is to focus your efforts where your audience is and tie everything back to your objectives.

2. Create brand consistency at every touchpoint

Customers tend to evaluate their options on several channels before buying. Your brand must be consistent across these touchpoints to maintain trust.

But if each social platform has different audiences and intentions, how do you create consistency? 

Build a value proposition and a sub-brand for each channel.

By creating a sub-brand for each channel with a sub-voice, you can maintain your brand values and purpose while communicating in the best way for the audience on that platform.

Cross-posting without considering the audience puts your content at risk of not getting seen or shared, which is a waste of resources. 

The overall aim with consistency is not to be identical on each platform, but to maintain your brand’s purpose and build trust. 

In a world where trust in the media is at an all-time low, people are turning to brands to fill the void:

“Businesses build institutional trust on honesty and consistency through transparent messaging and authentically caring about their customers. Because so many other institutions are falling short in these areas, this is where businesses, whether big or small, can pick up the pieces and fill the trust gap.” – Pamela N. Danziger [via Forbes]

Brand trust is now one of the biggest considerations people have when making a purchase. It’s also a key ingredient for turning customers into advocates.

Earn trust by sticking to your brand’s purpose and creating your brand’s value proposition for each channel to maintain consistency. 

Take Gong’s LinkedIn content:

LinkedIn post from Gong.io

Each social media post, even when it includes a video or infographic, features Gong’s brand tone of voice. But the style of written posts is also consistent within the platform.

Moving over to Instagram, their brand is instantly recognizable with their use of all caps and business-building purpose:

Gong.io's Instagram profile

They feature more photography, especially people-based images, on Instagram because that’s the best practice on that platform.

On LinkedIn, they share mostly text-based posts and infographics or webinar clips while maintaining their brand message and purpose. In a feed full of brands vying for attention, this familiarity makes customers (and potential customers) stop and take notice.

Build your brand value propositions for each channel with your main brand guidelines in mind (the rules related to your message, positioning, and brand identity). 

Find the balance between reaching your audience, meeting their intentions, and maintaining brand consistency. Use this to build your sub-brand framework that every digital marketing campaign must follow.

3. Maintain posting cadence

To stay top-of-mind, extend consistency to how often you share content.

Posting cadence can be a tricky thing to get right. You don’t want to overwhelm followers or come across as inauthentic and dilute your brand. You also don’t want followers to overlook you or forget about you.

Research from Hootsuite suggests the ideal number of times to post on the major social platforms are as follows:

  • On Instagram, post between three and seven times per week;
  • On Facebook, post between one and two times a day;
  • On Twitter, post between one and five tweets a day;
  • On LinkedIn, post between one and five times a day.

What works for one brand doesn’t always work for another, so these numbers represent where to begin your testing. 

Aim for consistency over frequency, and quality over quantity, as Jay Baer reinforces at Convince and Convert:

“The best social media publishing frequency is: when it’s worthwhile.”

The best practice is to create a social media posting plan and stick to it.

The content Gong posts to its Instagram feed is a mix of sales tips, social proof, themed-based content (e.g., related to a holiday or cause), and light-hearted posts.

It loosely follows the “4-1-1 rule,” popularized by Joe Pulizzi at Content Marketing Institute. The rule suggests publishing four educational or entertaining posts for every one soft promotion or hard promotion post.

Valuable content builds your brand. Promotional posts work to capitalize on their success. 

A content calendar will keep you organized. It will also give you a bird’s-eye view of what you’re sending so that content doesn’t become repetitive or stale.

When CoSchedule began using a social media calendar to promote posts consistently, it found that clicks to a single piece of content increased by 3150%:

Posting on a regular schedule helps you harness the repetition principle. This works on the basis that if something happens often enough, people will eventually be persuaded. 

Repetition creates a pattern, which first grabs attention and then creates the comfort of familiarity.

Monitor results to learn when people are most likely to engage with your posts. 

What signifies meaningful engagement is somewhat of a sticking point: headline metrics given by social media platforms are not usually as valuable as they appear.

For example, “views” on Facebook can be very short (three seconds). Videos on the platform also autoplay as users scroll, so don’t consider Facebook’s view count meaningful. 

This is where an external social media analytics platform, like Sprout Social, can help qualify metrics like views, likes, shares, saves, etc.

Your posting schedule shouldn’t replace an active social media presence. Building a brand on social media requires your participation. This means joining conversations and responding to feedback. 

One of the reasons Lessonly, a corporate training platform by Seismic, has been able to grow its brand on Twitter and LinkedIn is because of team members like Marketing SVP Kyle Lacy posting and engaging with his own followers.

He strengthens audience relationships with every comment he responds to. People who trust Kyle are more likely to trust Lessonly.

Your customers want to hear from and interact with the leaders and employees behind your brand. It helps them feel like there are real people behind the business.

For every post that goes live, set aside time to interact with your audience.

Create social media content that serves your audience

When Facebook first launched in 2004, it was text-only. Since then, more social media platforms have arrived with a multimedia approach.

Video content typically performs best on social media because it keeps users on their platforms for longer, meaning algorithms are likely to favor your content over text-based posts alone.

It’s also more engaging. For example, tweets with video attract 10 times more engagement than tweets without video. And video content gets the most engagement on Instagram.

Engaging your audience is easier with paid social, where you’re in charge of the context. You control the audience and the placement. This is good for contextually specific content aimed at an audience with prior knowledge of your brand.

But when building a brand organically, you need to think differently. 

Wistia’s Phil Nottingham notes in his organic social media course

“We need to understand that people really, generally speaking, don’t know much about us when they discover us on social media. And we have to create for that lack of context and embrace it.”

Create contextually broad content that offers value regardless of where users view it or if the audience has prior knowledge of your brand.

Fuel this content by responding to industry culture to meet the demands of your audience.

Creative consultancy Long Dash does this often:

Long-Dash Instagram content

Their posts about bias and inclusive stories are relevant to their target market. They’re also valuable and shareable. 

People can share this content in their Instagram stories, direct messages, and off-platform to spread knowledge. It’s also a way for them to self-identify if they feel Long Dash helps them reflect the person they wish to be.

Look closely at your chosen social platforms and decide if your content meets the needs of your audience and suits the style of the platform.

YouTube users, for example, can watch videos in many ways. Users will often search for a video, or they’ll watch one that the algorithm suggests, or one that’s embedded on another site, or a video that another user has shared with them on dark social. 

Since users discover content through search and social sharing, you’ll need to have both an SEO-focused strategy and a social strategy.

Facebook and Twitter users, on the other hand, consume content more passively while scrolling through the platform.

Formats are also widely varied. YouTube is mostly for watching videos. Instagram is exclusively video and static image content. Facebook content is a mix of video, text, and images.

When creating content, think about who will be viewing it.  

Where there’s a crossover in type of content, repurpose what gets engagement. Chop long-form videos on your YouTube channel into bitesize clips for Instagram.   

Turn long-form posts on LinkedIn into a blog post and link to them on your Twitter account. 

Experiment with contextually broad content to get more eyes on your brand. Learn what’s resonating with your audience and amplify popular content with paid social to extend its reach.

Boost organic posts that are getting traction with some of your paid media budget. This will allow you to generate more awareness and engagement from content you already know resonates with your audience (meaning you’re likely to see a lower CPC and CPA).

Use your brand to build a community

Break down the barriers between business and customer by cultivating a community where people can interact without expectation. 

80% of companies say that brand community building has helped increase traffic, while 64% say that it has improved decision-making. 

To reap the rewards of customer insight and advocacy, learn what your audience wants from your brand and build your community around the results. 

As FeverBee founder Richard Millington notes:

“The secret to a thriving community is relevance. Your audience will only visit and participate in your community if it is the most relevant way for them to satisfy their needs and desires at a given moment.” 

Knowing what is most relevant to your audience will come from your research.

The one-to-one interview is the best way to understand your audience on a deeper level, but it’s costly and time-consuming. 

Supplement interviews with asynchronous surveys via platforms, like Wynter. Shortlist some pain points and benefits statements, then validate them with real responses from your audience.

Segment your audience based on their responses to identify unique clusters. What needs and interests do people share? What problems do they look to you to solve?

With those segments, choose three to five people to interview. Find out what content they consume, the types of people they want to connect with, and the kind of roles they take on.

Use this information to establish the main goal for your social media community, and develop personas for the kind of people you want to build it for. 

Taking the time to strategize will help you create content that encourages your audience to participate.

For example, the founder of social platform Bloc, Joshua Wood, runs a community on influencer platform Tribe to interact and learn from its audience:

“We use the platform for our user base and advertisers to discuss almost everything regarding our software. We also encourage our users to complete surveys that we can use for SEO purposes. 

For example, we ask people an array of questions on ‘restaurant marketing’ and then use the answers and data to write data-driven articles. These are always very easy to get published by journalists and bloggers.” [via Natalie Luneva]

CXL uses Facebook Groups to unite marketers, entrepreneurs, and business owners around conversion optimization, analytics, and growth.

Screenshot of CXL's Facebook Group

CXL creates trust and reliability by providing a group for people to talk about CRO, analytics, marketing, and growth. CXL team members actively participate and stimulate engagement alongside user-generated content:

CXL Facebook Group member post

Employees are your earliest brand advocates. 72% of people report feeling a bond with brands when employees share information about the business online.

Their buy-in is as important as that of stakeholders. Encourage your team to engage with your community and spread the word around their own social circles. Let them build their personal brands

Extend this encouragement to members. 75% of people say they favor companies that offer rewards. They’re also more likely to recommend them. 

Use community-exclusive offers such as product discounts, member-only resources, and referral incentives to show your appreciation. This will help strengthen relationships and foster loyalty that results in customers choosing you over the competition. 

Conclusion

Social media brand building is about relationships. Earn trust and create emotional connections by being consistent with your purpose but tailoring your content to each platform. 

Create valuable, engaging content that people feel compelled to share, on the major platforms and on dark social. Build a community around your brand and reward loyalty. Show your authenticity and reliability, and people will repay you with advocacy and loyalty.

Learn how to build a winning brand on social media in CXL’s Brand Marketing Minidegree.

The post How to Build an Audience with Social Media Brand Marketing appeared first on CXL.

Brand Strategy vs. Marketing Strategy (And How they Work Together)

Humans love shortcuts to decision-making. Brands do that.  More than three-quarters of consumers (76%) say they would buy from a brand they feel connected to over a competitor.  Building that connection with customers requires a clear brand strategy to define why you exist and a solid marketing strategy to communicate that purpose with your customers. […]

The post Brand Strategy vs. Marketing Strategy (And How they Work Together) appeared first on CXL.

Humans love shortcuts to decision-making. Brands do that. 

More than three-quarters of consumers (76%) say they would buy from a brand they feel connected to over a competitor. 

Building that connection with customers requires a clear brand strategy to define why you exist and a solid marketing strategy to communicate that purpose with your customers.

In this article, you’ll learn how to design a successful brand marketing campaign that expresses your brand’s core values, create content your customers crave, and ensure your entire brand ecosystem is designed to support customer loyalty.

Understanding brand strategy vs. marketing strategy

Your business strategy is the roadmap that details your business goals and the actions you will—and will not—take to reach those goals. It sets your priorities and guides all decision-making across the business.

For example, at global employment platform Indeed, one of their values is “Job seeker first.” This means that every job matters, even if they don’t make money from it. It also means that they’ll seek out and post every job they can find because that’s what is best for the job seeker. 

Indeed’s values drive the business, not the other way around. If it were, they would only seek out the most lucrative positions for the highest commission.

Sticking to their values has helped them attract over 250 million job seekers every month. Employers recognize this too, so many of them make sure to post their jobs with Indeed.

A clearly defined business strategy allows you to set your brand strategy. Your marketing strategy is what amplifies that brand.

Brand strategy: Defining why you existing in the world

Your brand is how the world sees your business. It’s your reputation and ultimate differentiating factor. Getting your brand strategy right is critical to gaining and keeping customer attention.

The most important part of brand strategy is to define what your brand stands for: your purpose, core values, and brand positioning. Defining this helps people understand what you do and creates those shortcuts when it comes time to make a decision.

Brand also helps customers understand themselves and gives them a way to self-identify. Customers like to buy from brands that represent their ideal selves. This is called self-congruity, and it helps customers build strong emotional connections to brands that help them reflect the person they wish to be.

You can encourage these connections by shaping your brand purpose and values around your customers’ desired personality and lifestyle.

If you have a global brand, this might mean different things in different markets. Your brand might need to shape its strategy to be relevant depending on where you’re marketing.

Indeed’s German branch was struggling to close sales because they had no awareness in that market. After running a culturally relevant marketing campaign, Indeed rose to number one in traffic and sales in Germany. 

Indeed’s CMO Paul D’Arcy says their priority is brand awareness and reducing friction:

“The number one thing we’re doing is making sure that that product is everywhere and a click away when people are looking for a job or looking to hire.” [via The Drum]

Brand focuses on the big picture—the story you tell to your customers to show how you understand them and their pain points. Deciding on this starts with your “why,” which we’ll cover in a moment.

Brand strategy isn’t just for marketers and their campaigns. It supports long-term company growth by helping every department, from sales to product and customer success, align on the company’s priorities.

Marketing strategy and marketing plan: Reaching and attracting customers

Your marketing strategy is a function of your brand strategy. Brand sets the long-term direction, and marketing outlines the shorter-term actions (which tactics you will use to communicate key messages with your customers). 

Marketing initiatives include campaigns, content, PR, and interactions with your target audience or customer. 

Your organization may require multiple marketing plans at once, with each aimed at reaching different personas within your audience or working in service of different products and services. 

The brand strategy has some roots. Once you decide your brand strategy, you should stay the course to build brand equity. (However, don’t be afraid to pivot when change is needed.)

The marketing strategy is continuously in flux.

You might update your marketing strategy in response to campaign performance, customer needs, external trends and events, budgets, and even competitors’ tactics. 

Take one of the biggest events that many brands have faced yet, the COVID-19 pandemic. Most brands had to immediately pivot their marketing strategy to stay relevant to their customers. 

Their brand values, purpose, and mission remained, but several marketing campaigns were dropped for new ones.

Ads began to feature people in masks, on video calls with family and friends, and staying at home.

Like Yellow’s “Robyn’s Undies” campaign featuring a new business owner and her husband working out of their home:

Branding and marketing overlap slightly in the visual expression of your brand. Your brand strategy should set your brand’s visual identity, and your marketing strategy should incorporate that brand identity into your campaigns.

How business, brand, and marketing strategy work together

Effective integration of these three strategies requires that each informs the others in a top-down fashion: business strategy first, then brand, then marketing. 

Brand strategy cannot effectively communicate a brand with a muddled business strategy, the same way a marketing plan is useless without a brand strategy to set its direction. 

All three strategies rely on a deep understanding of the customer and a clear vision of the organization’s purpose. Build customer research into each and ensure your marketing activities speak to what customers actually need. 

Use marketing as the vehicle to communicate your brand

Most business buyers (95%) are not currently in the market to buy, according to research from the B2B Institute and Professor John Dawes of the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute.

With such a small cohort of possible buyers at any given time, messages that only aim to move customers closer to purchase fall flat, or worse, overwhelm and annoy potential customers, who are exposed to thousands of ads per day.

Targeting exists to help you reach the buyers who are in-market right now. But those buyers are unlikely to consider your brand if they are unfamiliar with it.

To get their attention, pay attention to the details. Use market research, owned data, industry reports, and market trends to identify what it is that your customers truly value in your brand. 

Build your brand from the inside out to ensure it’s consistently delivered everywhere your customer comes into contact with your company.

Every touchpoint is an opportunity to build or subtract brand equity from your brand.

Create a touchpoint map to find out where these places are. These outline every interaction a customer might have with your brand along their journey.

Invite team members to brainstorm and document touchpoints with you. Then focus on the touchpoints where your brand needs work to fit that consistent brand image. 

Don’t overcomplicate things with new touchpoints—strategically add brand value to the ones that need it, instead. 

Marketers should focus on becoming and remaining the top-of-mind option for customers when they are ready to buy, rather than wasting energy and resources trying to convince out-of-market buyers. 

This requires a shift from marketing designed for short-term gratification to marketing that takes a long-term view. Marketers must adjust their expectations and metrics with expanded brand tracking

A focus on brand awareness and brand lift, while harder to measure with numbers and revenue, contributes to overall growth by widening your customer base and deepening your relationship with them.

That’s not to say we should all abandon performance marketing altogether. Instead, we must challenge performance and brand marketers to work together to drive business growth.

The 3 components of a brand marketing strategy

By setting a strong brand strategy, you’ve already done the hard work to define your brand’s story. That strategy and story serve as the backbone of a successful brand marketing campaign.

Stay relevant with your customer using the right channels and tactics to deliver on the promises outlined in your brand strategy.

In practice, this requires marketers to: 

  • Build and maintain trust with customers by expressing your brand values;
  • Ensure your brand stays top-of-mind through creative that gets noticed and remembered;
  • Build brand affinity with your customers through positive brand experiences.

Laying the foundation: Understanding and expressing your brand purpose and values

Successful brand marketing relies on a clearly defined brand purpose and strong brand values to guide your team’s decision-making.

Rooting your brand marketing efforts in your purpose and values helps generate long-term affinity and trust by showing your customers what sets you apart and why they should trust you.

Trust drives purchasing decisions. According to Edelman research, 88% of consumers say trust is an important factor when deciding which brands to use.

Winning brands start with a “why.” They have a purpose beyond just making money. 

That brand purpose or mission statement should not just be an internal north star. It should be clear, pithy, externally oriented, and enduring.

A few examples.

  • Sonder: “Eliminating inefficiencies as we grow to deliver hospitality that’s both remarkable and accessible. Because everyone should be able to afford an extraordinary place to stay.”
  • LEGO: “Inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow.”
  • Tableau: “We help people see and understand data.”
  • Glassdoor: “To help people everywhere find a job and company they love.”

To understand your “why,” ask: what sets your brand apart? How would the world be worse off without your brand in it? This is usually something your CEO should contribute to.

Brand values answer your “how.” As in, how will we act in service of our purpose? What do we stand for?

Values help make decisions clear. They help guide and shape your brand’s standards, beliefs, behaviors, expectations, and motivations.

Your values must be credible and contextualized. Savvy buyers can see right through values that only exist on paper.

Clearly define your values in the context of your organization. How do you live up to your values and ensure they permeate throughout your culture?

Identify and articulate your brand values with these practical steps:

  • Workshop your values and create a list that everyone in your company can vote on.
  • Give the winners to a copywriter to make them compelling and align with voice-of-customer. Give them a contextual subheader or short paragraph in the brief to help them get started. 
  • Test the brand values and messaging you come up with. Think of situations your company has been in in the past, or might face, and check that they would actually help you make decisions. If not, keep working on them.

If you already have your brand values, or if you’re ready to test them, ask these questions:

  • Are they guiding, clear, and unique? 
  • Do they correlate with the experience you want to deliver?
  • Do they capture the essence of your culture and brand? Survey your employee base to find out if your values are authentic.
  • Do they set you apart from similar companies?
  • Do they help your employees know how to act?
  • Do they inspire behaviors that will help you differentiate?
  • Are they credible, and can they be consistently applied?

Salesforce exemplifies proving its commitment to its brand values by contextualizing them:

screenshot salesforce brand value contextualization trust and customer success
screenshot salesforce brand value contextualization innovation and equality

Adding context on how each value shows up in their organization and a link to learn more about how Salesforce delivers on the value. This extra insight reinforces the idea that Salesforce truly builds its values into its culture and ways of working.

Brand purpose and brand values cannot exist solely on a company’s website. They should guide all brand marketing activities, from what you say to how you say it.

Brand messaging: Create content that engages your customers and sticks with them

Successful brand marketing campaigns show your customers that you understand them. Rather than action-oriented content designed to sell your product, brand marketing content should be memorable, valuable, or simply entertaining. It’s more about building a positive association with your brand than pushing customers to take action.

1. Deliver on a need

Content that teaches, rather than sells, reinforces your brand’s authority as an expert. A deep understanding of your customer and their pain points allows you to create content your customers actually care about.

Consider ServiceNow, a software company that aims to “make work, work better for people with modern digital workflows.”

Its target customers are likely only purchasing software solutions every few years, but the brand stays relevant by producing thought leadership that is of clear value to business leaders.

screenshot servicenow software company site homepage

In partnership with the Wall Street Journal, ServiceNow released a series of branded content that covers topics like low-code IT solutions, workflows, and the habits of agile companies. 

These articles aren’t necessarily designed to push business decision-makers to purchase their products, but they do elevate ServiceNow’s authority and expertise.

Partnerships with respected third parties, like publishers, opinion leaders, or other organizations can add an additional degree of credibility to your message as well.  

2. Elevate your values

Kantar research shows 68% of consumers expect brands to be clear about their values. Being explicit about what your brand stands for and why they should trust you is now the lowest bar.

Today’s consumers are more attracted to brands that make the world a better place than ones that make them better people (63% to 37% respectively, according to Edleman research). 

This is largely due to the younger generation entering the market and making more global goal-oriented decisions. Use this to guide your values-based messaging.

Buffer is a company with deep-rooted values. The company lists its values on its website with a note about its purpose: 

“We want to build a different type of company that’s focused not only on the bottom line, but also the happiness of our customers and team, and our personal growth along the journey.”

screenshot buffer company values list site page

That first value, transparency, is especially important. The company goes a layer deeper into why this value matters and how they live up to that value with clear language on the site:

Screenshot of Buffer company transparency value site page

Each element of the transparency value is clickable, allowing site visitors to investigate each element further.

Buffer consistently creates content that speaks to its values, which it posts to social media and its Open blog about remote work culture. 

screenshot buffer company contents that speak to its values

Stories like these two about the company’s pay analysis and process give the company a platform to express the ways it lives up to its values like transparency. It also demonstrates leadership from Buffer by being so transparent.

To stay culturally relevant, speed matters. The majority of respondents in Edleman’s 2021 Trust Barometer Report expect brands to issue a timely response following major news events.

Brands must move at the speed of culture infographic

3. Tell a good story that sticks with them

Brands can establish an emotional connection with their customers through storytelling, which builds a narrative using an artful blend of data and emotions.

Storytelling is personal. It creates relationships and provides value to customers, as Carla Piñyero Sublett, IBM’s SVP and chief marketing officer says:

“As B2B marketers … our number one responsibility is to create relationships and add value. That’s not going to happen by peppering LinkedIn inboxes, chasing with banner ads, or flooding inboxes. We need to create more of that pull than a push by educating and inspiring customers through right storytelling.” 

Narrative can be an extremely effective tool for brand marketing because it not only holds an audience’s attention and cultivates intrigue, but also helps people remember information.

Jennifer Aaker, a professor of marketing at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, says that people remember information when it is weaved into narratives “up to 22 times more than facts alone.”

Brand content that leverages storytelling can help reinforce your customer’s recall of your brand.

Some brands create storytelling in partnership with publishers, as HBO did when it teamed up with The Atlantic to create a branded content piece about its limited series, Watchmen.

Screenshot HBO series watchmen the massacre of black wall street

While it is an advertisement for a TV show, the brand and the show are not the central focus of the piece. Instead, it tells a story of the forgotten history of Tulsa, Oklahoma—a history and place that serves as the backdrop and the setting of the show.

Screenshot HBO series watchmen the massacre of black wall street graphic novel

The story unfolds across several panels of content in the style of a graphic novel.

Screenshot HBO series watchmen the massacre of black wall street graphic novel 2

This approach is unexpected from a brand looking to drive engagement with its services. It de-centers the brand in favor of telling a story that audiences can appreciate. 

This shift is what makes it so memorable: storytelling that prioritizes the customer over the brand helps build trust and affinity.

Whichever approach you choose, creating content with authenticity and consistency is key. Authenticity is easy when guided by your brand values; consistency ensures you’re capturing awareness.

Post regularly on social media, engage with your audience, and keep an eye on how your content is performing to understand where you can optimize current and future content.

Perfect the message, and don’t get stuck on the medium. You can easily tailor content to each of your brand platforms. 

Developing a brand ecosystem and brand experiences that drive client loyalty

Your brand marketing strategy must encompass your entire customer experience. This determines how much your audience trusts you and how likely they are to be loyal to your brand.

Half of customers say they would switch to a competitor after just one bad experience, according to Zendesk, and that number jumps to 80% when customers have more than one bad experience.

To create a consistent brand experience, you must understand and prioritize all of your brand touchpoints.

Conduct a brand audit to compile all of the ways a customer interacts with your company. Consider any action a customer might take in service of specific goals. Is your platform designed to make that action simple, or is it unnecessarily complicated?

Be an advocate for your customer. All brand marketing activities should have a clear purpose and a clear value. Consider audience research to unearth your blind spots and learn the voice of your customer (how they’re talking about your solution).

Simplify the user experience whenever possible by removing friction (e.g., help them get to your solution in as few clicks as possible). 

Evaluate each touchpoint to ensure the messaging is true to your brand. Consistency is key; a sudden change to your brand language or even the look and feel of a piece of content can erode trust with a customer.

The goal is for every interaction with your brand to deepen your customers’ connection. Understand what your customers want and need—and deliver on it.

Conclusion 

As author Stephen King once said, “A product can be quickly outdated, but a successful brand is timeless.” 

Getting your brand right is essential. And expressing that brand through marketing is what helps your brand stay top-of-mind for your customers, increasing the odds that they’ll think of you when they’re ready to buy.

To learn more about marketing strategies from top experts, take CXL’s Marketing Strategy course.

To build a strategic brand from the inside out, check out CXL’s Brand Marketing Minidegree.

The post Brand Strategy vs. Marketing Strategy (And How they Work Together) appeared first on CXL.

What is Brand Equity in Marketing? (How to Become Memorable)

There are two cans of soda on a table. One is a Coca-Cola can, and the other is a cheaper, white label cola brand. Which do you choose? You’ll probably choose Coke because it’s more familiar. It’s the safer bet.  Coca-Cola has brand equity that makes people gravitate towards it. With the right framework, any […]

The post What is Brand Equity in Marketing? (How to Become Memorable) appeared first on CXL.

There are two cans of soda on a table. One is a Coca-Cola can, and the other is a cheaper, white label cola brand. Which do you choose?

You’ll probably choose Coke because it’s more familiar. It’s the safer bet. 

Coca-Cola has brand equity that makes people gravitate towards it. With the right framework, any startup can achieve this in their industry.

In this article, you’ll understand what brand equity is and how to build it so your audience reaches for your product, service, or solution over the rest.

Why brand equity matters now more than ever

Every day in the U.S., almost 12,000 new business applications are submitted. In the SaaS industry alone, it’s estimated that every company founded in 2019 had around ten competitors on average.

If you haven’t invested in brand awareness and built connections, why should anybody choose you over all that competition? 

Without brand equity, you can’t tap into a customer’s “consideration span” when they’re ready to buy.

Invest in relationships so when the time comes, your audience will instinctively choose your solution to fill their need.

Take Shopify. It’s one of many ecommerce software platforms on the market but only the fifth most popular by market share.

Image source

It’s also not the cheapest ecommerce platform: Squarespace plans start at $12 per month, Woocommerce has a completely free plan, and Shopify’s plans start at $30 per month.

Yet, in 2021, Shopify posted record sales, growing 113% year-over-year and doubling in brand value to $828 million. Squarespace on the other hand, grew 24%.

Why did entrepreneurs turn to Shopify to launch their start-ups and not one of the more widely used and cheaper platforms like Squarespace or WooCommerce?

Brand equity. 

Since its launch in 2006, Shopify has positioned itself as the best solution for small-end and startup entrepreneurs.

Whereas, Squarespace’s value proposition is more about building a beautiful website.

Image source

Shopify has also funneled a ton of resources into educating its audience and helping them succeed.

Its tools are designed for beginners and its brand marketing focuses on helping would-be entrepreneurs build successful businesses, as evidenced by their Quickstart Guides: 

And its customer stories, which act as social proof to show customers what people like them have achieved on the platform: 

Shopify boasts 891K followers on Instagram, compared to Squarespace’s 294K followers and WooCoommerce’s 36.3K followers.

Studies show that only 5% of B2B customers are ready to buy. To grow a brand, you have to be familiar to the other 95%. When they’re in the market, they’ll remember you.

This is why Shopify doesn’t have to be the most widely used platform or try to compete on price. It builds brand equity with its entrepreneur audience by sharing helpful resources and creating a community of like-minded business builders.

Building brand equity helps businesses compete through brand-relevant memories. It grows your brand by investing in future buyers, while lowering CAC (less spend on ads) and increasing ROI.

What brand equity looks like, as demonstrated by customers

So, why do people gravitate towards Coke instead of the cheaper alternative brand?

Trust.

It’s the reason that 69% of people buy from a brand they know over one that gets better reviews. 

It’s also why companies can charge a premium for products even when they can’t demonstrate their superiority. And it’s why three-quarters of people will stay loyal to a brand, even if another starts trending. 

Brand equity helps build the relationships between the perceived benefits and perceived costs that people relate to that product. That consumer perception can be positive or negative.

If consumer perception is positive, it indicates that:

  • They’ve heard of you
  • You’ve built trust

Brands that have built positive brand equity can usually charge a premium. Negative brand equity, on the other hand, means customers would be willing to spend more on a generic product than a well-known brand. 

Negative equity often happens following major recalls, or when a company causes some publicized CSR crisis. It’s why reputation management and following good business practices is a critical but unseen part of a company’s brand.

You don’t have to have been a HubSpot customer to know they’re a go-to company if you ever need a reliable CRM. 

HubSpot built brand equity through community-building, blog posts, social media marketing, and its HubSpot Academy. 

HubSpot has built its brand to over 100,000 customers and $1 billion in annual recurring revenue in 2020. Despite the uncertainty of the times, companies believed in HubSpot and used the CRM to scale their businesses.

Their appreciation of the business didn’t go unappreciated:

Image source

On brand building, Intuit co-founder Scott Cook once said:

“A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is, it is what consumers tell each other it is.”

If you’re creating a brand people like, they’ll be happy to sing your praises on social media and in forums.

Take this thread from the Superpath community, where a marketer is seeking some insights on Clearscope and SEMrush

By delivering a positive experience, Clearscope has created customer loyalty. This has produced an army of community advocates.

Every word-of-mouth recommendation that Clearscope receives strengthens brand equity. That’s because 90% of people are much more likely to trust a recommended brand, even if that recommendation is from a stranger. 

In this example, HubSpot engages with praise and feedback it receives, strengthening customer relationships:

While the internet has enabled people to advocate for the brands they love, it’s also empowered them to share negative feedback and lodge complaints.

Sprout Social research shows that only 8% of dissatisfied customers would stay quiet on an issue, and 47% of those voicing their opinions and experiences do so on social media. 

Image source

Every complaint posted publicly is seen by a person’s friends and followers. And the further a post spreads, the bigger the dent it can make in your brand equity. Stay ahead of this by responding to negative feedback immediately.

Trello works hard across its social media accounts to address complaints and feedback from its target audience:

More than four in five people expect a brand to respond to social media comments in a day or less. Trello counters any negative impact the original comment has made on people browsing YouTube comments by getting involved early. 

Trello is only able to do this because it’s using social listening to gauge and manage brand sentiment. It only takes a single bad review to strip away your competitive advantage.

The components of brand equity (and how to build and acquire them)

When it comes time to decide where to allocate resources to build brand equity, it seems like the best way forward would be to drive a brand awareness campaign.

But if your market is crowded, you’ll need to stand out with more than just recognition. You’ll need to build an emotional connection, too.

In the current landscape, it’s important to both create a strong positive emotional response and to be instantly recognizable. 

When something new and disruptive is around the corner, achieving recognition and connection is critical to establishing long-lasting brand equity. 

To do this, revisit your branding strategy.

1. Brand awareness

Become the top-of-mind brand by tapping into what makes your audience tick. 

  • Reverse engineer customer behavior by digging into your existing data to find out how they interact with your business. Ask: What resonates with the target audience? Which current marketing tactics get the most engagement? What images and messaging inspires action?
  • Talk directly to your customer base. Use surveys and courtesy calls to establish how customers found out about you, and what they most like (and dislike) about your brand and products. 

Use this information to drive your marketing and create campaigns that people want to share and shout about online.

At this stage, the aim is to achieve brand recognition, so focus on value.

One way to do this is through useful content. Document collaboration tool Bit.ai, for example, created a resource to help its target audience make an onboarding checklist:

Not only does this offer tangible benefits (people learn how to create a checklist), it helps position Bit.ai as a helpful, authoritative brand. 

For readers, when the time comes to purchase a document collaboration solution, they’ll remember Bit.ai as the brand that helped them solve a problem. 

Another way is by giving away something for free, such as a trial period or tool. CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer is a standalone tool to help marketers improve their headlines.

Right now, marketers are looking to spruce up their headlines. Further down the line, they might be looking to improve their entire marketing campaign. 

And when comparing options, which is going to be more appealing? A brand they’re seeing for the first time in SERPs, or the brand that helped craft a great headline a few months ago? 

2. Positioning

Brand positioning is hard work. Offering a great product or service isn’t enough—that’s table stakes. It takes work to discover what your actual value is to your customer and how you should sit in the mind of your customer.

Once you’ve settled on a position, you need to commit to it consistently. Create a consistent brand message that conveys your core values and mission across every channel so that people know who you are and how you’re different from the competition. 

For example, Toggl is a set of tools designed to help teams work more effectively:

Its USP for its most popular tool, Toggl Track, fits in with the company’s mission to be effective, empowering, and effortless. 

And as any great positioning statement should, it makes it clear who the product is for (teams) and backs it up with substance: “Reliable time tracking software loved by 5M+ users.”

Establish your message by nailing the following four elements:

1. USP. Come up with a compelling unique selling proposition that combines what your customers want with what you do well. Toggl’s target audience wants to work more productively; Toggl Track helps them do this. This is communicated in its USP: “Time tracking for better work, not overwork.”

2. Your target audience. Use customer personas, social listening, voice of customer research, and surveys to learn your audience’s interests, goals, and pain points 

3. Your story. Listen to what your customers say to identify what they consider most important. Then, tell stories that speak to those values to build an emotional connection 

4. Your message strategy guidelines. Develop guidelines that set out how your team will create materials. These should include your mission statement, USP, value proposition, and brand pillars. Build everything from your product to your brand marketing campaigns with these guidelines to ensure your position and messaging are consistent across every platform.

3. Relationships

Give people a reason to gravitate towards your brand from their earliest interactions by showing them you’re a safe bet.

This can be done with social proof in the form of reviews or customer stories, or with brand associations. 

Buffer, for instance, lists its marketing partners and clients on its homepage.

The marketing partners speak for themselves. However, even if you’re not familiar with these client brands, that eight other companies have trusted, Buffer gives them enough credibility to warrant consideration. 

A similar effect can be had by working with influencers.

Take Wix, which partnered with influencers like Karlie Kloss to create instructional ads on YouTube.

If you’re a fan of Karlie Kloss or are familiar with her work, knowing that she uses Wix for a website immediately builds a degree of trust in the platform. It also gives Wix brand equity over competitors that aren’t using similar tactics. 

Trust-building and trust-maintenance are both important. Track and listen to conversations around your brand and become an active voice in the community. Thank customers for their praise and address their concerns, like in the HubSpot and Trello examples. 

Every touchpoint is an opportunity to influence and build sentiment toward your brand. From experiences with your website to conversations with you on email and live chat, to how you reward them for their loyalty, every interaction point needs your attention. 

4. Storytelling

Brands use stories in a variety of ways: to be funny, to incite a movement. Ultimately, the goal of storytelling is to resonate with your audience and build connections in their memories.

“Tell me the facts and I’ll learn. Tell me the truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.” – Ed Sabol

Good brand storytelling can stir emotions and encourage audiences to make recommendations.

Regardless of industry or medium, compelling stories share the same fundamental elements: 

  • Plot and conflict. A series of events and actions that relate to the struggle between protagonist and antagonist.
  • Characters. The hero of the story (protagonist) and who or what they’re faced with (antagonist).
  • Setting. The time and place that the story happens, brought to life by landscape, scenery, buildings, seasons, or weather. 
  • Theme. A central idea or belief that defines the purpose of your story and why you’re telling it.

For example, in this Mailchimp presents story broken down by Erica Schneider in her guide to business storytelling, the main character is a software developer. The plot is focused on him trying to successfully work from home, but he’s facing conflict from constant interruptions that are derailing a video call. 

It’s a universal story that Mailchimp’s audience of entrepreneurs can relate to. They can see themselves in it. This helps to create an emotional connection. 

In crafting your narrative, follow the tried and tested guidelines of storytelling, as laid out in Pixar’s 22 rules, which say that all great stories are:

  • Universal
  • Have a clear structure and purpose
  • Have an easy to root for underdog
  • Appeal to our deepest emotions
  • Challenge our perceptions
  • Simple and focused

Measuring the impact of brand equity

Brand equity is difficult to measure because it works with the intangible, like feelings and familiarity. There’s no metric to measure customers’ emotional responses and what impact those subjective emotions have on your business. 

You can get a general feel for how your brand is being received by using social listening tools. There are other brand awareness metrics you can measure to build out this picture, including:

  • Direct traffic. The number of people typing your website URL into the search bar
  • Overall traffic. The number of people viewing your content and spending time on your website
  • Social engagement. The number of people liking, commenting, following, reviewing, and sharing your content across social media.

These won’t, however, tell you the financial impact these measures are having on your bottom line. For this, look at figures such as:

  • Average transaction value. The total value of all transactions divided by the number of transactions over a set period (e.g., week, month, year). So, if sales of $200,000 were generated from 10 transactions in a year, the average transaction value would be $20,000. 
  • Customer lifetime value (LTV). The retention value of your customers, which can be calculated by multiplying customer value times the average customer lifespan. (Customer value is the average number of purchases times the average purchase value.)
  • Customer acquisition cost. Analyze how much it costs to acquire each customer by dividing your total marketing spend by your number of new customers over a given period.
  • Adoption of loyalty and referral programs. A growing number of sign-ups indicates brand resonance. If numbers are dipping year-on-year (or over a set period), it may be a sign that equity is suffering.
  • Market share. Calculate your market position to see how you stack up against your direct competitors. This is done by dividing total sales of a product line or industry by sales of your company over the same period. 

While these metrics aren’t wholly representative of brand equity (pricing, product features, and product quality will all influence sales, for example), positive numbers act as indicators that your brand is hitting the right notes with customers. 

Conclusion

Positive brand equity is a protective fortress for your brand. Your products might not always be the cheapest, newest, or trendiest, but if you give people a reason to care, you’ll be rewarded with advocacy and loyalty.


To become and stay relevant, listen to your target customer. Find out their desires and pain points. Establish what makes you different and tell stories that create emotional connections.

To learn how to build your brand’s equity, check out CXL’s Brand Marketing Minidegree.

The post What is Brand Equity in Marketing? (How to Become Memorable) appeared first on CXL.

Brand Marketing vs. Product Marketing: What’s the Difference and Which Should You Invest In?

In 2018, after two short years and $3 million raised in startup funds, recruitment AI company Ansaro shut down due to bad market fit. As it turned out, their AI interview notetaker didn’t address a huge pain point. Muun found a market need but failed to compete with bigger names that provided customers with authoritative […]

The post Brand Marketing vs. Product Marketing: What’s the Difference and Which Should You Invest In? appeared first on CXL.

In 2018, after two short years and $3 million raised in startup funds, recruitment AI company Ansaro shut down due to bad market fit. As it turned out, their AI interview notetaker didn’t address a huge pain point.

Muun found a market need but failed to compete with bigger names that provided customers with authoritative content and resources. Muun’s more well-known competitors had more features and better pricing.

Both companies suffered from a fatal lack of marketing. One neglected its positioning by failing to target the biggest pain point, and the other failed to build a brand that its customers could trust above the other major players. 

To succeed in today’s crowded market, you need to harmonize product marketing and brand marketing.

In this article, you’ll learn the difference between brand marketing and product marketing, and how to balance both to stand out above the crowd.

Brand vs product marketing: Friends or foe?

Both brand marketing and product marketing are important to a well-built marketing strategy. They rely on each other for success.

Product marketing informs strategic positioning and ensures alignment across the company. It partners with sales to close more revenue, informs product teams to deliver better products, and in some cases, co-owns demand generation activities with marketing teams.

Product marketing is responsible for tasks like:

  • Developing and executing go-to-market (GTM) strategies;
  • Researching and understanding target segments;
  • Analyzing competitor activities;
  • Developing product value propositions;
  • Defining messaging strategies;
  • Ensuring customer success teams and salespeople understand the product features.  

Product marketing uncovers where to play and how to win. And then it ensures that all of the organization’s efforts match that true north.

Brand marketing provides a strategic approach to building relationships between your brand and your customers. It uses the insights gained in product marketing to work out how to reach them.

The goal of brand marketing is to make your brand the first and most obvious choice when they’re looking to buy.

Brand marketing is concerned with objectives such as:

Brand marketing is about building connections through emotion and experiences, a key driver in consumer decision-making. Peter Noel Murray, Ph.D., reports:

“Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) shows that when evaluating brands, consumers primarily use emotions (personal feelings and experiences), rather than information (brand attributes, features, and facts).”

When consumers make purchasing decisions, the choice is more driven by how they feel about your brand than what they know about your product.

Take Bellroy, a leather accessories retailer.

Their predominantly male audience has a problem: fitting a full wallet into their back pocket.

Bellroy has designed a range of slimline wallets to solve this challenge. They use product marketing techniques to target and educate their customers.

Using an interactive slider, Bellroy calls out the competition. They demonstrate how much slimmer their wallets are compared to a competitor, tackling both what it does and why it’s the superior choice.

Bellroy follows this with a brief animated video that uses storytelling (scientifically linked to emotional responses) to describe common pain points and answer the critical question, “Why do I need it?”. 

This is where brand marketing makes a play. Product marketing tells Bellroy that discomfort while sitting is a (literal) pain point for their male audience. Brand marketing paints this picture for them through story.

Bellroy understands what captures the attention of their target audience (beyond the relevant challenges) based on their market research. Using this, the brand taps into broader motivations.

They use these insights to launch branding campaigns aimed at influencing brand associations (customer feelings about your brand). 

Bellroy has built a consistent identity across social media that evokes feelings of adventure, durability, and uniqueness.

For example, here’s their vibe on Instagram:

Here’s a video on Twitter featuring their products being packed away onto airplanes and put through trials:

The consistent messaging makes customers associate their products with travel and touches on shared sustainable values. The aim is to be the top-of-mind brand when their jet-setting target customer next needs a wallet.

Bellroy needs product marketing to position their wallets and educate their users about their most relevant benefits. They need brand marketing to elicit positive feelings about their brand and build awareness and loyalty.

Product marketing: Drive brand alignment

Product marketing teams spend most of their time liaising with product teams (88.3% of their time), marketing teams (84.2%), and sales teams (75.9%).

Product marketers own a variety of marketing responsibilities, which can be roughly divided into two broad categories: pre-launch and post-launch.

During product development and before launch, product marketing responsibilities revolve around the GTM strategy, positioning, and developing messaging.

Post-launch, product marketers focus on improving sales enablement and work to drive demand and adoption of the product. Product marketing shows value in its ability to improve usage, lift customer LTVs, and decrease churn.

This is particularly true for complex verticals such as B2B SaaS products, where product marketing’s ability to pinpoint users with the most need and educate them on product features and benefits proves useful.

ConvertKit is a prime example of product marketing propelling a brand to $29 million ARR and $80 million LTV.

The marketing platform has a specific and unique selling position: “The only marketing platform built for creators, by creators.”

screenshot convertkit product marketing platform homepage

But success didn’t happen overnight. Founder Nathan Barry launched in 2013 to help creators sell their books and courses but failed to meet revenue goals and eventually stalled. 

After doubling down and investing resources specifically into the email marketing for creators niche, revenue started to build again.

In 2017, the brand invested again in a redesign to distance themselves from incoming competitors. It included visual funnels, automations, and other features inspired by how the platform can best meet the needs of the customer.

screenshot convertkit product marketing platform for musicians

ConvertKit has positioned its messaging to reflect their creator-focused mission and answer three questions:

  • Why buy anything?
  • Why buy now?
  • Why buy from you?

Prelaunch, ConvertKit discovered a niche to occupy and targeted its messaging towards creators. Post-launch, the brand optimized its product and messaging again and finally saw the revenue jumps they had hoped for.

Defining your brand’s building blocks with product marketing

Product marketing is responsible for securing the company’s positioning, messaging, and value proposition. Once identified, it will ensure these functions are represented in everything the company does.

Market positioning refers to your brand or product’s ability to influence buyer perception relative to your competitors.

Positioning is the reason ConvertKit wins with creators, while Drip is favored in the SaaS and ecommerce market.

screenshot drip product marketing platform homepage

ConvertKit and Drip both technically do the same thing. They’re marketing platforms with a heavy focus on email. 

But you can see from the value proposition on Drip’s homepage that they’re targeting ecommerce, while ConvertKit calls out creators.

Messaging is a subset of your positioning. It defines what you want to communicate to your audience and in what form.

ConvertKit’s messaging centers around validating business education (because many creators are not businesspeople) and building a creator community. 

Drip’s messaging focuses on business best practices and support for independent companies.

screenshot drip example messaging web page

Both companies offer heaps of resources, from blog articles to webinars. 

And the value proposition is a crystal-clear, big picture articulation of why buyers should engage with your business rather than a competitor. It’s arguably the most important component of your marketing messaging because it will drive your target customers away if it’s not on point.

While there is no perfect formula, your value proposition should at least contain these ingredients:

Let’s look at another example in Bubble.io.

screenshot bubble no code web app builder homepage

Bubble.io clearly states what they do (“build web apps”), their benefits (“without code”), and who it’s for (“entrepreneurs”). It also uses social proof (“join 1,336,580 Bubblers”) to build trust and includes an animated visual of the user-friendly experience.

Use product marketing to boost reach and sales

While many organizations are unsure of product marketing’s position within the company, the product marketing team’s efforts unify the company’s strategy. 

Product marketers work across the whole organization to continually zero in on the best benefits for customers and build better products in an ever-changing market landscape. 

Where you focus product marketing will depend on the goals of the company at any given moment. 

When a company is in a growth stage, focus product marketing in your marketing department. Product marketing can partner with marketers to: 

  • Find channels;
  • Decide on content;
  • Refine messaging; and,
  • Remove friction to signing up and booking demo calls.

One of the most direct ways product marketers can drive revenue after a product has launched is by partnering with the sales team. Product marketers enable sales teams by demonstrating how to ease friction based on where the customer is in their journey.

Product marketers can help sales teams:

G2 Product marketer and Forbes council member Yoni Solomon says selling the product internally is just as important as selling the product to your customers:

“Before we’re ready to sell our products to a market full of buyers, we need to first sell them to a room full of our own people. And this room full of people needs to understand the personas, problems and capabilities that are core to our value story to deliver it the right way.” [via Forbes]

Brand marketing: Create a community of raving fans

Having a brand strategy used to be a nice thing to have. Now, because of competition and a consumer trust crisis, it’s critical.

If product marketing is figuring out what your product can do for your customer and the best way to relay that message, then brand marketing is how you execute it.

For example, Slack has been able to steal market share from big dogs in business communication like Microsoft and Cisco.

Slack puts a lot of effort into their brand (including a 2019 identity redesign that corrected a number of branding sins). 

Their content across touchpoints like their website and social media consistently matches their core values.

They show empathy and solidarity by inviting mental health advocate and Olympian Simone Biles to speak at their digital conference.

On LinkedIn, they help their users thrive by helping them set boundaries.

Their values are also consistently echoed on Instagram, where they don’t always talk about the product but share stories from their users.

screenshot slack on instagram user story

Good branding helps Slack compete with giants. By creating content around their values and putting budget into resources that help their audience, like webinars and content, they’ve built their reputation in the business communication space.

Slack’s experience isn’t a phenomenon. Strong brands win across the board. According to Mary Kyriakidi, Demand Generation Director and Brand Guidance leader at Kantar:

“In good times and tough times, strong brands win. In good times, strong brands grow value faster; in tough times, strong brands recover faster.”

To build a strong brand, you need customer research. Slack is only able to connect to their audience because they understand how their product can benefit them the most.

With a solid foundation of product marketing, brand marketing can help you win a greater share of the market and even become a category leader. 

Use brand marketing strategies to build brand equity

Brand equity is what makes people reach for Tylenol over the pharmaceutical alternative. It’s the intangible value consumers place on a recognizable product, and it’s the reason they’ll opt for a more expensive option.

Brand marketing works to improve brand equity by influencing the audience’s perceptions of your brand. It helps consumers build cognitive shortcuts to your brand when there is too much information (or competition).

Research suggests that people buy from brands to construct self-concepts. They form brand associations, and then choose the brand if it supports the image of themselves (and the societal group they want to be in).

It’s why sustainable fashion brand Another Tomorrow can charge $590 for a sweater that costs $30 from fast fashion brand The Gap.

screenshot another tomorrow brand equity example oversized v neck product page
screenshot gap textured v neck product page

Use brand marketing strategies to build brand equity:

  • Understand what customers want (i.e. what they want to be). What ingroup are they looking to join or remain a part of? 
  • Have an audience-aligned purpose. Shape your messaging and content to fit their ideal constructs, so they’re inclined to absorb and share it.
  • Shape personal and company brands to fit. Construct content guidelines and any employee advocacy guidelines to stay true to your brand marketing strategy.

Use storytelling to enhance brand marketing

Storytelling is a tactic commonly adopted by brand marketers as a method of resonating with their audience. It allows us to connect directly with brain areas that are associated with experience, feeling, and emotion. 

G2’s Yoni Solomon believes we need to sell our products internally before we sell them externally to unify the message. 

He also believes that with compounding competition (15,000 SaaS companies in the US in 2021), stories will be what drives sales in the coming years:

“We’ve proven we can come up with new ideas. We’ve proven that we can build great tools. We’ve even proven that we can make them all plug into each other and work together.

But it’s the story that wins the hearts of buyers by capturing their pain and putting them at the center of their own hero’s journey that will make the difference between who wins and who loses.”

Insurance company Lemonade does this brilliantly.

Buying insurance is painful for most people. It’s complicated, it’s demanding, and for many, it’s unavoidable. Lemonade identified those pain points and then turned the quotes and claims process on its head.

Lemonade rarely mentions its product on Instagram. Instead, the brand commissions and shares art depicting images related to the types of insurance it sells (cars, homes, pets, etc.).

They also donate unused premiums to customer-chosen nonprofits through their Giveback scheme.  

Despite targeting its young user base with content that has little to do with insurance, Lemonade has grown to a base of 1 million users and posted $94 million in revenue in 2020 in six years.

Lemonade sidesteps the pain of buying and claiming insurance and makes it an even more enjoyable experience by offering charitable donations and attractive, scroll-stopping visual content.

Use the following design-thinking process to craft stories for your brand while keeping your customers’ pain points and values in mind:

  • Empathize (What is your audience feeling?);
  • Define (What is your story mission? Who are your characters? And, what is the plot?);
  • Ideate (How can you give your story more depth with intersectionality?);
  • Prototype (Which of my ideas are viable? How will the audience react to this story?);
  • Test (Did my story meet the success indicators?).

They can be powerful, emotive stories, like Greenpeace’s homeless polar bear in London video that formed part of their “Save the Arctic” campaign.

screenshot greenpeace emotive story homeless polar bear in london

The creators employed a “what if” framework to unsettle viewers and tap into the warning of complacency. By putting the main character (the polar bear) in a modern London setting, it seems as if this future is closer than you think.

The creative team behind this video used intersectionality principles to adapt the polar bear’s experience to a story that many city-dwellers are familiar with: homelessness.

Storytelling doesn’t always have to be emotional. They can also be relatable stories, like Zendesk’s funny Instagram posts about working in customer service (often remotely).

screenshot zendesk funny instagram posts about working in customer service

Zendesk are so committed to their storytelling movement that they spun a narrative about a grunge band called “Zendesk Alternative.” In a nod to search terms driving customers away from their business, they called out competitors while making potential customers laugh.

They even gave Zendesk Alternative their own website.

Use storytelling to connect with your audience. Whether that’s through humor, inspiration, or a tug on the heartstrings will depend on your audience research.

Combine product marketing and brand marketing to build your company’s moat

Some people believe product marketing is led by the head and brand marketing is led by the heart. There’s elements of truth to this, but there’s more overlap than most people realize.

To become and remain competitive, you need both brand marketing and product marketing at each stage of your company’s development.

In the early stages: 

  • Use product marketing to execute the GTM strategy. Product marketing will help with activities like market research, competitor analysis, and determining actual product benefits relative to your market.
  • Use brand marketing for awareness. At this stage you’re still building your audience. Introduce people to who you are and what you stand for. Don’t be afraid to run campaigns that don’t center around the product, and stay fiercely loyal to your brand identity for consistency across touchpoints.

In expansion and growth stages:

  • Use product marketing research to refine messaging and positioning. Markets have probably changed since you first opened. You might know your target customer better or they might have changed completely (just look at what happened in 2020). Optimize your market segments, sales strategies, and pricing based on your new insights. Understand the barriers to overcome and what problems you can solve for your audience at this stage.
  •  Use brand marketing to focus on emotional connection with customers who already know your brand. Now that you’ve built a sizable audience, you can begin reinforcing those relationships and encouraging them to share your brand with others. Consider affiliate and influencer marketing.

For mature companies:

  • Use product marketing to focus even more on optimization, or on responses to market disruption. Mature companies are often working across many channels with various campaigns, and the risk is that they lose touch with their target audience in the process. Product marketing’s job at this stage is to keep everything tied back to the customer when things feel like they’re moving in several directions.
  • Use brand marketing to ensure your brand identity is relevant in the current market. Your identity and brand values may be dusty if you’ve been in business for some time. But, consider what equity you hold before executing a rebrand. Don’t give up on your heritage, but focus most of your marketing efforts on embracing the struggles of today.

Conclusion

Though product marketing has been around longer than brand marketing, it’s no grandpa. It’s still as relevant today as ever. Brand marketing is also critical to building a lasting, memory-building reputation.

To master the strategies, skills, and mindset you need to advance your product, take CXL’s Product Marketing Minidegree.

To learn how to create and define a strategic brand identity, so you can build a successful brand, check out CXL’s Brand Marketing Minidegree.

The post Brand Marketing vs. Product Marketing: What’s the Difference and Which Should You Invest In? appeared first on CXL.

How to Build and Measure Brand Awareness

Studies show only 5% of B2B buyers are ready to buy right now. You can’t force the other 95% into a buying position by spamming them with nurture sequences. When people are finally ready to make a purchase, your goal should be one of two things: Customers recall your brand, or at least;  They recognize […]

The post How to Build and Measure Brand Awareness appeared first on CXL.

Studies show only 5% of B2B buyers are ready to buy right now. You can’t force the other 95% into a buying position by spamming them with nurture sequences.

When people are finally ready to make a purchase, your goal should be one of two things:

  1. Customers recall your brand, or at least; 
  2. They recognize you in a lineup of other brands.

If you haven’t invested in brand awareness marketing then the opposite will happen. Your audience will flock to brands with a strong reputation because they don’t associate you with their need.

In this article, you’ll learn what brand awareness marketing is and how to become the only obvious choice when the prospect is ready to buy.

What is brand awareness marketing, really? 

Brand marketing is the most powerful weapon in your growth arsenal. When done right, it works tirelessly to build your reputation

Brand is how you win in crowded markets. It’s what builds shortcuts to your solution in your customers’ minds when it comes time to decide which is right for them.

Brand awareness marketing is the way to accomplish that. It’s the sum of activities to help your brand become the instinctive choice for consumers.

Those strategies are built on two components: brand recognition and brand recall.

  • Brand recognition happens when your target audience recognizes your brand when they see it (even if they’ve never used your solution). This level of familiarity means you have successfully made it past “obscurity.” Your brand is now closer to being chosen when the need arises.
  • Brand recall goes a step further. It happens when a customer can name your brand when reminded of what you sell (aided recall) or without that reminder (unaided recall).

Brand awareness marketing’s most formidable opponent is direct response marketing. Direct response aims to generate immediate action by asking customers to do something. Brand awareness marketing aims to make your brand the name people think of first and trust above all others.

While direct response is still popular, it’s not what it used to be. 

  1. There’s too much competition today asking people to take action. Consumers need trust to drive decision-making and loyalty. 
  1. You’re not guaranteed to reach your customers when they need you. Hammering people who aren’t ready to buy with cold calls and nurture sequences isn’t likely to be profitable.

If you want to direct more of the 95% of consumers that aren’t yet ready to commit toward your brand and away from competitors, brand awareness marketing is the way to go.

Why should marketers care about brand awareness marketing?

To get more eyes on your brand and build trust, you must understand and communicate why you’re different. What makes you the right solution to a specific problem?

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to stand out on qualities like features and customer service alone. Brand awareness solves this. Anyone can create a chatbot, but there’s only one Drift

Take Canva, a graphic design tool that offers similar features to Adobe InDesign and Illustrator, Figma, and Sketch. Despite its competitors having more advanced features, Canva boasts over 60 million monthly active users and is currently valued at $19.5 billion.  

Canva’s popularity comes from understanding who their customers are and being visible to them. It’s a platform that empowers non-designers to make visually impressive designs without any training or technical expertise. 

Early on, Canva teamed up with tech influencer Guy Kawasaki to advocate their mission as “Chief Evangelist.” Canva tripled their user base in two months. 

Rather than competing against the likes of Adobe with paid advertising, Canva puts effort behind social proof, getting featured in tech publications and sharing tweets from active users helping to grow awareness with its target audience. 

Screenshot of brand advocate tweet

From there, Canva can rely on the product’s strength to empower and deliver value to users, resulting in further social proof. And the wheel keeps turning. 

Canva doesn’t have the household name status of Adobe. But it knows how to reach its target audience and earn trust, recognition, and brand equity that fosters customer loyalty and powers growth.

In another example, digital marketing agency Red C conducted a study to uncover how searchers interact with the Google SERPs. While it was a small sample size, it illustrates the influence that branding has on buying decisions.

When asked by researchers to perform tasks such as shopping for a cruise holiday or a new party dress, 82% of participants selected a brand they were already familiar with, regardless of where it ranked in the SERPs. 

“For example, for the search term ‘king-size duvet covers’, someone clicked on Matalan, which ranked in position nine in the organic results,” said Diana Agop, Planning and Insight Executive at Red C.

Having a go-to brand in mind led respondents to scroll down and look for that specific brand regardless of the ranking.” [via Econsultancy]

Matalan’s brand marketing efforts clearly made an impact; a strong brand identity outweighed its SERP ranking. 

Put resources behind these 3 key areas in your brand awareness marketing strategy

Brand awareness marketing is not marketing to the masses. The goal is not to throw spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks. 

To get in front of the right people, stand out, and ultimately get chosen, start by putting your resources behind three key areas.

1. Identify the channels where your audience is most active and double-down

There can be a temptation to get your brand widely recognized by running a blanket campaign that targets all major platforms. 

Not only is this resource-heavy, but you also risk missing the nuances of social media platforms. This can mean potentially alienating your audience before you’ve really got going. 

A video of you dancing around the office, for example, might go down a storm on TikTok, but it’s unlikely to perform as well on LinkedIn. The audiences are just too different.

Start your brand awareness campaigns where you know your audience is active (turning up regularly, liking content, commenting, and sharing) and create content and creative that’s suited to those channels. 

There will always be some element of trial and error and testing the performance of different platforms. But you can make an educated guess on where to focus your efforts by comparing customer personas with platform demographics data. 

Facebook is most popular with 25- to 34-year-olds in the US, whereas nearly seven out of ten Pinterest users are female. And where LinkedIn’s largest age group is those aged 46 and over, Snapchat reaches mostly 13- to 34-year-olds

These generation- and gender-spanning audiences will be receptive to different kinds of brands and content. You need to establish a comprehensive view of your target customer, so you know which brand awareness campaigns will offer the best possible return on investment.   

As well as learning where your audience is, think about the intent behind their use of these platforms.

Here are some statistics to give you an idea of how usage and motivations differ:

Each platform serves different needs. For your brand awareness marketing to have an impact, it must meet the right needs in the right place.

Tap into niche communities to further understand the questions your audience is asking. For example, Indie Hackers is a community full of entrepreneurs, makers, and marketers sharing their experiences and seeking advice:

Example of a community (IndieHackers)

Take the insights gleaned from these communities to reverse engineer customer sentiment and pain-points. Use this when ideating blog post topics and creative campaigns to create a message that resonates.

Create awareness campaigns that work to the strengths of each platform

Cross-posting content is ineffective. Every social network has its own content specifications (e.g., video length, character limits, etc.) and consumption behavior. So it’s important to diversify brand awareness content. 

Mailchimp uses highly visual content on Instagram aimed towards creatives: 

Mailchimp's Instagram feed

But they use a slightly more formal approach on LinkedIn, with a professional brand voice and content based around news, features, and integrations:

Example of a LinkedIn post from Mailchimp

Use what you know about your audience and where they’re most likely to interact with a company like yours to build brand awareness strategies for each platform. 

Start with the channels you have experience in. For example, if you’ve successfully grown an audience on LinkedIn at previous roles or ventures, start there (as long as this is where your audience is active). 

Once you’ve created a system on one channel, experiment and scale with new ones.  Repurpose your most successful campaigns to suit new audiences. 

2. Encourage sharing by tapping into network effects

Viral marketing is hard to replicate. It’s far easier to encourage a specific audience to share something that they believe in.

If viralty is a priority, use constraint and rely on existing resources. For example, stock image platform Dissolve hit over 2.7 million views with “This is a generic brand video” made entirely of footage from the company’s website:

Example of branded video campaign

Dissolve boosted their brand awareness by boldly poking fun at some of the ways their customers use their footage. It struck a chord with their audience and took off. 

Build influencer relationships that align with your values

To access “other people’s audiences”, build relationships with content creators, thought leaders, and other startup leaders building their personal brands. If their values align, they will have active and engaged audiences full of your ideal customer. 

How do you build these relationships? The common answer is to “add value.” But the advice around this is misleading.

Most industry influencers don’t care if you share their content on social media or link to them in your blog post (unless you’re a well-known brand).

To get their attention, help influencers get what they value most. Let’s say they’re a regular guest on other people’s podcasts—can you hook them up with a podcast connection?

For example, Rand Fishkin loves talking about his startup, SparkToro. Any brand reaching out to Rand with a podcast spot offer might mention how their audience would get value from SparkToro (as demonstrated in his conversation with Landbot):

Tweet from Rand Fishkin

Other ways to get influencer attention include:

  1. Affirm opinions. Is the influencer opinionated on a certain topic? Feature them in your content and back up their opinions (as long as you believe in it too).
  2. Get them featured. If you’re writing for well-known publications, reach out to target influencers and ask them for a quote. You get unique insights for your content, and the influencer gets their name in front of a wider audience.
  3. Make introductions. This isn’t limited to podcasts. Are you connected with other influencers or experts that they should meet? Most influencers love meeting other smart and like-minded experts.

Appeal to the interests of journalists and editors

Looking to get a surplus of attention? Nothing quite beats digital PR.

Create content that feeds the interests of journalists and editors at industry-leading and mainstream publications. This can include:

  1. Data-driven reports. Survey a large segment of your audience to collect a statistically significant sample size. Organize that data into trends and present it in an in-depth report.
  2. Industry commentary. Provide your view on a specific trend happening in your industry. Breakdowns are an effective way of doing this, providing journalists with unique takeaways that add value to audiences.
  3. Creative and reactive content. Share your opinion on a recent industry event. Your expert insights may peak interest and jumpstart critical discussions.

For example, every year Pipedrive creates a new version of their State of Sales report:

Branded study from Pipedrive

They survey hundreds of sales professionals and report on their findings, providing industry experts with unique data and statistics to cite in their own articles. They’ve been picked up by authoritative sales, technology, and marketing publications like MarketingProfs, G2, and Coschedule.

Get the gang together with side projects

Building influencer relationships can take time. Speed the process up by creating “side projects” and getting several experts involved in the creation and launch process.

Mention did this when creating their Influencer Marketing Stack (IMS), partnering with other experts and brands to provide unique insights, resources, and advice:

Example of a branded Microsite from Mention

They launched IMS as a standalone product, garnering over 2,000 upvotes on Product Hunt:

While Mention had some brand equity behind them, you can replicate their success by galvanizing several influencer relationships as part of a single launch. Create an exceptional content asset, treat it like a product, and provide contributors with everything they need to help spread the word for you.

3. Captivate audiences by telling the stories that move them

Seth Godin once said, “Marketing is no longer about the stuff you make, but the stories you tell.”

This doesn’t mean you can use storytelling to get away with a subpar product. You still need a viable product that serves a need in your market.

The take away from Godin’s words is that the narrative you create for your brand is what connects you to people and sets you apart

That’s because our brains are wired for stories

“When you’re lost in a good story, it’s not arbitrary, it’s not pleasure for pleasure’s sake. It’s biological, it’s chemical, it’s a survival mechanism.”– Lisa Cron [via WRVO]

Stories establish an emotional bond. They’re relatable. They give people a reason to care. 

As a marketing tool, stories incite a desire to learn more. 

AppSumo founder, Noah Kagan, does this brilliantly with his YouTube channel

Take this video of him telling the story about being fired from Facebook: “What I Learned About Depression After Losing $1B in Facebook Stock.” 

Story-driven content from Noah Kagan

The title is honest, authentic, and intriguing. Not many people, men especially, are open about depression. And who wants to admit to losing $1 billion in stock? The transparency is appealing.

It’s also relatable. Maybe not the specific experience, but we’ve all been through struggles in our jobs. 

What Noah also does is bring hope: he’s living proof that no matter how bad things get, you can go on to achieve success. 

By the time Noah reaches the end of his story, you’re keen to learn more from him and his brand. It’s a masterclass in B2B storytelling.

Tell compelling stories that hook people

Every successful story is built on the same foundational elements. Use these elements to tell stories that stick your customers’ minds and encourage them to share:

  • Plot and conflict. Establish a protagonist and antagonist. These are your characters. The protagonist is the good character that we cheer for when they overcome conflict created by the antagonist. The plot is how this dynamic unfolds, and the plot must be as relatable as the character.
  • Character. To create emotional investment, use identifiable struggles you discovered in your user research. Pinpoint the emotions and characteristics to highlight, then weave those in with a telling backstory.
  • Setting. Create a time and place, and establish a mood by using descriptions of landscape, scenery, buildings, or seasons. Evoke experiences that are similar to what your audience is going through.
  • Theme. Give your story a central idea or belief. Make sure you understand why you’re telling this story. This usually fits in with your carefully chosen brand strategy, such as your values and purpose. Your theme should be loud, clear, and easily understood. When it comes time to edit your story, chop everything that doesn’t tie in with that purpose.
  • Form. Decide how you will tell your story: spoken word (e.g., a presentation), written (e.g., a blog or social media post), audio (e.g., a podcast), or digital (e.g., animation). Choose your medium based on where you aim to reach your target audience. 

These story elements can be applied in short form, such as to a single post (like Noah Kagan’s story), and in long form to tell a consistent story across your entire brand.

Is it working? How to measure brand awareness

Your brand marketing strategy hinges on understanding your customer. To be that top-of-mind brand, you need to get specific about what they want and what they’re trying to avoid. 

You learn this through your existing customer data and social listening.

Once you know that, you can determine the content that will motivate them to share—so you can get in front of more people like them.

Use quantitative and qualitative data to figure out pain points and desires

Dig into your existing data to find clues about what engages your audience the most.

This can be as simple as analyzing your top performing content, emails, and landing pages, specifically which actions customers took from their first interaction to purchase.

  • Which landing pages did they visit?
  • Which emails did they convert on?
  • Which social or email links did they click through on?

Look for common emotional hooks that inspire action.

  • Does emotive imagery sway more customers?
  • Do certain colors or types of messaging get a stronger reaction?
  • Does influencer marketing or user-generated content perform better than branded content?

Quantitative customer data will tell you a lot about how people are interacting with your brand. What it won’t do is unearth the “why.” To figure this out, complement numbers with qualitative data.

Send feedback surveys via email. Ask your customers:

  • How did you hear about us?
  • What is it about us that made you choose us over our competitors?
  • What do you like most about our product/service?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how satisfied are you with our product/service? (Follow up with: Why did you give this score?)
  • What are your biggest challenges?
  • What do you think we could improve on to deliver more value?

Combined with the right metrics (more on those below), the answers to these questions will help you identify what makes you unique and appealing to your customers.

Use this insight to craft engaging content and inform your brand marketing strategy.

Use social listening to discover what customers are saying about you and their needs

If a brand is, as Jeff Bezos says, “What people say about you when you’re not in the room,” then social listening is putting your ear to the wall to listen in. 

Social listening tools like Sprout Social or Brand24 allow you to stay abreast of brand sentiment and industry insights across social media, blogs, forums, and other communities. 

With social listening you can:

  • Learn the questions your audience is asking;
  • Understand what problems they’re looking to solve;
  • Discover the types of content and creative that appeal to them;
  • Track mentions of key terms;
  • Gauge feelings about features, new offers, updates, etc., and;
  • Catch onto trends early.

Get an idea of your existing brand sentiment by monitoring keywords around your brand name and any public-facing members of your team. 

Take writing assistant platform Grammarly, which uses Sprout Social to monitor customer communication about their brand on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Reddit.

They use the platform as part of their customer service outreach, but also to check out their brand health and competitive share of voice (how much of the conversation in their space is about them).

It’s become such a powerful product intel resource for the company that they plan to make it a key lever for their broader marketing, product, and user research teams.

In a world where 64% of people want brands to connect with them (and help connect them with other people), taking the time to learn your audience’s problems and desires is crucial. This is where the roots of brand awareness take hold. 

You can’t measure everything, but these KPIs will help

There’s no specific metric to determine if your brand awareness efforts are working. But there are KPIs to review to assess popularity and learn where to tweak campaigns. 

Use these numbers to get an overall health check on your level of brand awareness:

  • Direct traffic. Look at the number of people who typed your brand name or the URL of your website directly into the search bar. This will tell you how many people know your brand and are looking specifically for you. 
  • Overall traffic. This won’t tell you exactly where people came from, but it will indicate whether the number of people viewing your content and spending time on your website is increasing.
  • Social media engagement. Assess the number of people following, commenting, sharing, and liking your content. This will indicate how many people are aware of your brand and what kind of impact your content is having. 

Combine these with the qualitative measures we mentioned above, like social listening and customer surveys, to understand who’s talking about your brand and what they think of you. 

Make sure what people are saying on social media or in surveys matches the impression you want to make. If it’s not, review your brand strategy to make sure you’re connecting in a way that aligns with your UVP and mission.

Conclusion

With a well-executed marketing strategy for brand awareness, you can tell the stories that connect to people, and try to claim that prized top-of-mind position.

Start by getting into the minds of your customers. Establish their desires and what problems they’re looking to solve. Use this to power your messaging. 

Continually measure performance, analyze trends, and listen to discussions around your brand and industry. 
To learn more about brand awareness marketing, look at CXL’s Brand Marketing Minidegree. The course helps you build a brand worth remembering and sharing.

The post How to Build and Measure Brand Awareness appeared first on CXL.

How to Radically Stand Out with Brand Marketing

Jeff Bezos’s private space technology company Blue Origin was founded back in 2000. You’d think that no one could recreate a product so sophisticated and advanced as space rockets, right? In 2002, Elon Musk created Space X. He was swiftly followed by Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic in 2004.  With enough resources, products can always […]

The post How to Radically Stand Out with Brand Marketing appeared first on CXL.

Jeff Bezos’s private space technology company Blue Origin was founded back in 2000. You’d think that no one could recreate a product so sophisticated and advanced as space rockets, right?

In 2002, Elon Musk created Space X. He was swiftly followed by Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic in 2004. 

With enough resources, products can always be copied. It’s tough to compete on product alone and you’re likely to see diminishing returns.

The solution: build a brand. The moat you create with brand is harder to replicate.

According to Edelman research, when that trust is built, 61% of people will become vocal advocates, 57% of people will purchase more products, and 43% will stay loyal. 

In this article, you’ll understand how to build a memorable brand that your customers want to buy from. Learn how to identify what your customers want from your brand, how to build momentum with content, and then explore some brands that excel at brand marketing.

Brand is your strongest asset

For most of 2021, CXL didn’t have a marketing team. And yet, revenue went up by 45% YoY. 

Why? Brand.

Your brand is your strongest, most sustainable long-term asset. It keeps working for you when you’ve logged off. Your brand is your reputation – that intangible thing that determines whether your customers trust you above the rest.

There have never been more brands competing for attention than there are right now. Studies show that only 5% of B2B buyers are ready to buy. You can’t force the other 95% to move into a buying position now; you can only create brand awareness so you’re what they think of when they’re ready. 

If you spam the non-buyers with sales CTAs, you’ll only annoy them.

Your brand is how you differentiate, build awareness, and sear your solution into customers’ minds so they think of you when that time comes.

Why should customers choose to do business with you? How do you ensure they have a first-class experience?

Build the answers to those questions into your brand strategy. Lean into your strengths, and don’t try to appeal to everyone. 

CXL, for example, leads on the strength of its course instructors and the depth of its course coverage. Our instructors are the top 1% of practitioners from real, successful companies—not self-labeled gurus.

By demonstrating proven marketing expertise, we can provide a consistent, valuable experience for our audience. 

Build a radical, memorable brand strategy

Define your unique value proposition— the primary reason your customers should buy from you. This process helps you zero in on who your customers are, what they need, and what they expect from you. Do this, and you’ll know who your brand is for (and who it’s not).

Understanding what your customers crave 

Your brand is a combination of words and action. Both should reflect what is important to your target market and accentuate your core values. 

Kantar research shows 68% of consumers expect brands to be clear about their values. That means being explicit about what your brand stands for and why they should trust you.

Your brand values should permeate through your entire business and marketing strategy, from external interactions (including social media content) to internal culture (more on that in a bit).  

Edelman’s 2021 brand trust research shows that 86% of people expect brands to take one or more actions beyond their product and business. Actions selected by participants included:

  • Giving money to good causes;
  • Addressing societal challenges;
  • Supporting local communities;
  • Telling hard truths;
  • Creating positive change in society;
  • Addressing political issues;
  • Displaying representative images;
  • Supporting culture and the arts;
  • Making our culture more accepting, and;
  • Not supporting misinformation.

To understand your customers’ needs, expectations, and core values, conduct user research on an ongoing basis. This way, you can speak the customer’s language and identify what the customers need to make their buying decisions. You’ll also be able to relate more to your target customer in your brand marketing efforts.

As your brand and your customers’ needs evolve, so must your messaging strategy. Every touchpoint must deliver on those needs and stay consistently true to your brand.

Have a clear purpose

Why does your brand exist? What big problem are you aiming to solve in the world?

These questions will help you attract customers who believe what you believe; they are the people who will become customers and advocates for life.

At a startup, this can be as simple as defining why the founder started the company in the first place. For established companies, a rebranding effort could involve discovering elements like the values your customers live by and what your leadership team believes in.

For example, let’s say you’re building a new tool for content marketers. It helps them audit existing content portfolios (blog posts, landing pages, etc.) and identify ways they can optimize them for better results.

Sure, a mission or UVP such as “improve the results from your existing content” might suffice. But what if your true mission is to “reduce the amount of boring content on the internet”? This would be a far more compelling position, and one that your own content strategy and brand marketing efforts should follow.

CXL’s founder, Peep Laja, has a specific “reason why” his company Wynter exists. Wynter allows marketers to test their messaging with a group of panelists who provide objective and critical feedback.

That’s a simple way of communicating the offering. In reality, Wynter exists because Peep saw a better way of doing things:

wynter article screenshot make messaging a measurable part of marketing

Peep’s real mission is to “make messaging a measurable part of marketing.” Where marketing teams rely on heatmaps and C-suite opinions, Wynter aims to change how marketers write copy based on the feedback of target audiences.

Let’s compare what Wynter does with why they exist.

  1. What: Wynter helps marketers to improve their copy with a panel of engaged B2B professionals.
  2. Why: We’re on a mission to make an opinion-driven part of marketing data-driven.

Now try and create blog post ideas around both of the above. There’s only so much you can say about B2B panels in a way that nobody else has. But only Wynter can talk about data-driven messaging in a way that frames opinionatedness as the enemy.

Use competitive research to find gaps in the market

While it’s best not to obsess over competitors, they do affect how you’re perceived in the market.

For example, if you offer an affordable solution in a notoriously expensive software category, you may be perceived as an entry-level platform for startups or small teams with smaller budgets.

Everyone else? They’re going after the enterprise. This is fine if you want to compete on price, but it’s a weakness if you’re building a premium solution.

Use competitive research to uncover what you’re positioning yourself against. Are there industry truths that can be challenged? Does your methodology fix inefficiencies in the “way things are done”?

Answer these questions by observing what your competitors are up to.

  1. Positioning: How are competitors perceived in the market? Are they premium or affordable? Do they hold a common belief that you can challenge?
  2. Messaging: What language do they use? Which character are they performing as and how does this come across to customers?
  3. Marketing: Which channels are they active on? Which are they neglecting? Can you capture more brand equity by executing marketing tactics in new or better ways?

Performing an analysis of these three buckets will help you identify gaps in the market. This will help inform your brand mission and the brand marketing approaches that you employ.

Modern brand marketing methods to build an audience

Building a movement with content

For content to resonate and stick, it should deliver on a need. Business storytelling is an art, helping you educate your audience while deepening your connection with them. 

It also employs a more chemical component: emotion. 

To illustrate, take outerwear brand Vollebak. Here, they built storytelling into their jacket listing. 

vollebak storytelling into their jacket listing screenshot

Calling the jacket a “100 Year Jacket” insinuates that it’s the only one you’ll need. Further down the page, they paint customers a picture, using visceral language to help customers imagine the scenarios this jacket guards them against.

Here’s some copy from their product page:

Water is strong enough to carve rock over time, so it’s certainly strong enough to get through most jackets. Downpours that last for days or a heavy bag on your shoulders pressing the water through the fabric, all help water find a way in. That’s why the 100 Year Jacket uses a material that was originally built to handle torrential rain while racing a motorbike – where the water hits you at high speed and with high pressure.”

Every word of copy is selected to activate customers’ emotions and nudge them into consideration.

Here we see the relationship between brand marketing and product marketing. Vollebak are on a mission to build a brand around products that last, and their 100 Year Jacket is proof of that.

But not all content is story-worthy. Some types are utilitarian, while others exist to build your brand’s personality (i.e. speaking to something your audience cares about). 

This is why user research is so powerful. It helps you understand your customer base as real people, and gives you fuel to create content around their pain points and passion points.

Beverage cooler brand BruMate deviated from its typical Instagram content to post a meme using an image from the wildly popular Netflix series “Squid Game.” It received more than twice as much engagement as a typical post.

screenshot brumate meme using an image from netflix movie squid game

Borrowing references from pop culture can make your brand appear more human and relevant.

If your goal is to create a movement behind your brand, then all your content marketing efforts and brand marketing campaigns should be behind that purpose. 

Conduct qualitative research to understand what motivates your customers, and then work to make that a consistent message across your marketing. When it’s appropriate to connect emotionally, use it to your advantage with evocative copy and creative.

Infuse your workplace culture with your brand

Focus on creating a culture that makes your employees proud to be stewards of your brand. Build systems and processes that enable your team to create and distribute content seamlessly. 

Harnessing employee advocacy helps to build up the authority and awareness of your brand, while also building your employees’ personal brands.

Take search-oriented creative agency Rise at Seven. Most of their video content is behind-the-scenes footage of their people in their office environment.

screenshot rise at seven video footage of their employee and office environment

They’re a great example of employee advocacy because their content is often shared and retweeted by their colleagues, like their Digital PR Lead.

screenshot rise at seven employee advocacy tweet

Companies and their founders should lead the charge in creating customer-centric content that educates their audience while demonstrating their expertise. 

Then they can encourage employees to create and share similar, customer-centric content (and build their personal brand in the process).

Help them to do it by your company’s standards by setting up employee advocate guidelines. 

Include what they should and shouldn’t share. For example, tell them if it’s OK to share behind-the-scenes footage of your workplace. Let them know if they can spill pre-release product updates, or if you’ll let them know on specific occasions when this is allowed.

If your employees are creating their own content, make sure your brand guidelines are referenced. You don’t want any overeager staff members inverting your brand colors or mixing up your company tagline.

In terms of the type of content they should share, you can encourage them to use Hootsuite’s 20-30-50 rule

  • 20% Product-level messaging. Share content that promotes the product, such as upcoming launches, updates, new features, etc.
  • 30% Culture-level messaging. Share content exploring what it’s like to work at your organization, such as remote working, away days, professional development programs, etc.
  • 50% Market-level messaging. Share interesting content about your industry, such as the latest data, trends, and related influencer content.

Being explicit about the types of content to share is good for two reasons: it stops employees from cluttering their feeds with the same types of posts (which seem unnatural and can annoy their followers), and it keeps your brand consistent across employee social media, too.

Employee advocate programs are powerful, but they should always be optional.

Kelly Wolske, Senior trainer at Zappos, told Hootsuite: 

“The messaging should always be ‘this is something here for you to participate with, but it’s not mandatory.’ Employees need to be able to choose and retain their autonomy.”

Personal brand and company brand work together 

70% of consumers feel more connected to a brand when its CEO is active on social media. Of those consumers, almost two-thirds (65%) say it feels like real people run the business.

Take Elon Musk and his 68.3 million Twitter followers. Compare that to Space X’s 18.7 million followers and Tesla’s 11.6 million followers.

elon musk twitter account screenshot
spacex twitter account screenshot

Shouldn’t company accounts strive for higher engagement than their leaders’ personal accounts? Quite the opposite, in fact. When CEOs leverage personal branding to engage audiences, it effectively compounds brand awareness. 

Musk engages on a personal level one day: 

elon musk personal level tweet screenshot

And boosts his brands the next:

elon musk spacex tweet screenshot

By sharing his personal perspective, he builds authenticity and speaks to shared experiences. When he hypes SpaceX, his followers feel like they’re supporting both the company and the man behind it—it’s personal, not corporate.  

This personal brand rule of thumb applies to LinkedIn also. Dave Gerhardt has 110K followers on LinkedIn, whereas the company he works for, Drift, has 61K followers.

dave gerhardt linkedin account screenshot
drift linkedin account screenshot

Build your personal brand alongside your business brand by consistently demonstrating your expertise. Create a steady stream of sharing between your personal and business audiences. 

Most brands get this wrong because they limit their content to sharing company news and updates. These kinds of posts are boring for your followers and rarely do well.

To stand out in a sea of people spouting their stats and asking customers to attend their webinars, be authentic. Do this by:

  • Telling personal stories;
  • Documenting your journey;
  • Sharing your expert insights;
  • Being real and honest, and;
  • Taking a stand.

Peep Laja has built a following of more than 35K on LinkedIn by honestly documenting his journey and sharing his expertise.

peep laja linkedin post screenshot documenting journey and sharing expertise

Peep’s following is nearly three times CXL’s on LinkedIn. Your founders and the leadership team represent your brand offline, so why not do the same thing online?

To grow a brand’s social media following, follow the advice above and carefully create content for each platform. Understand why your audience is spending time on that platform. 

Chances are you’ll discover two needs: sometimes they engage with educational content and sometimes they want to be entertained. 

Be sure to address both when you form your strategy. Your brand’s tone of voice should be authoritative, so people know they can learn from you, and punctual, so people know your content is relevant right now.

As we mentioned above, find opportunities to propel your top people into the public discord. This creates a foundation of authoritative people working in and advocating for your organization.

Build yourself a brand moat like these 3 brands 

A few successful brands differentiate themselves with a brand moat. 

A brand moat is a culmination of a deep understanding of the customer, living out brand values, and creating a culture that deepens the connection with the brand.

Let’s look at three organizations that have done a great job of standing out in a boring landscape.

Gong

When you think about revenue intelligence platforms, you absolutely expect their content to be full of ignorable charts, graphs, and stats delivered in corporate pseudo-speak that makes your eyes glaze over.

Like this:

Then you have Gong that shares memes like this:

They stand out head and shoulders above the competition because their content is different, making them memorable.

Because of their relatable content, they can boast 106K followers on LinkedIn.

Gong is another brand that embodies employee advocacy. Their LinkedIn video content consists of staff members sharing their expertise, like in this “Create raving fans” video featuring various employees.

gong linkedin create raving fans video screenshot

Gong does two things really well with their content. They show original sales intelligence data and they post relatable memes. 

Their followers remember them as the funny revenue data company that knows what they’re talking about, and then recalls them when they’re in a buying position.

The memes in particular attract engagement through reactions, comments, and shares, putting their brand in front of more people.

gong twitter tweet screenshot brand strategy

The takeaways from Gong are to stand out in your market with your brand strategy and post content in your social media marketing that your audience wants to share.

This helps to stick your brand in their minds and get your brand in front of more people.

Drift

Drift is a conversational marketing platform with the mission: “to use conversations to make business buying frictionless, more enjoyable, and more human.” 

They’re active on multiple channels, with followers on LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and several podcasts covering different themes.

drift team members screenshot

Part of their content strategy is to include members of the team in sharing their expertise and reiterating that Drift is a “great place to work”.

screenshot drift team member sharing expertise

Drift is good at sharing their own expertise but also sharing the expertise of other influencers in the space. They’re also great at shouting about their people to, again, develop employee advocates.

They also make a point to take a stand on issues like diversity and leadership. They make this plain and clear on their website.

From their website, it’s easy to see that Drift is people-focused. Many of their pages feature people in their hero section.

After checking out their social media, their resources, or their website, potential customers will take away that Drift is a people-centric company full of experts in their field.

Yeti

Here’s another great B2C example from consumer goods brand YETI. They launched selling coolers, but now they sell a wide range of items for the outdoors, from clothing to gear. 

Since its 2006 foundation, YETI has built over 90K LinkedIn followers and 125.7K Twitter followers.

A quick browse of their social media immediately gives the reader a snapshot of their outdoorsy brand.

YETI tells a consistent story across all channels. It’s clear from the outset who they are and who they’re here for.

Their brand content focuses on themes like durability, dependability, humility, and nature conservation. They show this by sharing stories in harsh environments (featuring their products, of course) and taking a stand on environmental issues. 

They even have a page dedicated to brand ambassadors “living a wild life”.

yeti website brand ambassadors page

YETI also partners with influencers and other brands, borrowing their audience to boost their brand awareness. From their social media, we can see that they’ve partnered with brands from soccer clubs to rodeo events to conservation non-profits.

From YETI, we can learn to tell a consistent story across all brand touchpoints. Everything ties back to brand: from their social media, to the influencers and ambassadors they choose. 

Conclusion

Brand marketing determines your company’s success or failure. When you build trust with customers through your brand, it can work for you around the clock.

For that to happen, your brand needs to be memorable, speak to your customers, and be reflected everywhere (your touchpoints, your people, your workplace culture, etc.).


To become great at brand marketing, check out CXL’s Brand Marketing Minidegree. The course is designed to help you create and define a strategic brand identity, so you can build a successful brand.

The post How to Radically Stand Out with Brand Marketing appeared first on CXL.

A Guide to Reputation Management: Build an Audience of Superfans

79% of consumers trust an online review as much as they would a recommendation from a friend. And 94% of shoppers state that just one bad review has convinced them not to buy from a company. Reputation management is the practice of actively influencing what people think of your brand and what they see others […]

The post A Guide to Reputation Management: Build an Audience of Superfans appeared first on CXL.

79% of consumers trust an online review as much as they would a recommendation from a friend.

And 94% of shoppers state that just one bad review has convinced them not to buy from a company.

Reputation management is the practice of actively influencing what people think of your brand and what they see others saying about your company when they look online.

In this guide, we’ll discuss how to implement a brand reputation management strategy, use personal branding to develop a good reputation, and protect your company from developing a negative one.

Start with an aggressive reputation management strategy for personal and business growth

Reputation management is often viewed from the perspective of fighting or reducing the harm of negative content.

Though this is an important element, it’s more helpful to view business reputation management through the lens of building a positive reputation

You can’t avoid negative reviews, opinions, and comments altogether. This is a part of doing online business. But you can overwhelm negative sentiment with positive content from others, creating a net positive effect.

A positive reputation also contributes to business goals (such as growth, leveraging social proof, and network development). 

Achieving this growth starts with identifying and connecting with your audience of superfans.

Find your audience of superfans

Creating a brand that is appealing to everyone is improbable and a waste of time.

Focus on finding a network of diehard fans, and cater your content to their needs. This is the basis of an effective differentiation strategy.

This network isn’t mutually exclusive with building an audience of customers. Not every person that buys from you will be a superfan.

Rather, you’re building an audience of people who don’t just buy what you do, but why you do it, to paraphrase Simon Sinek.

Consider category leaders such as Apple and Salesforce.

These brands have a well-defined messaging strategy rooted in their company’s missions and prominent individuals that people relate to.

For Apple, Senior VP of Worldwide Marketing, Greg “Joz” Joswiak, connects with his audience by sharing content that reflects the brand’s Why (innovation, challenging the status quo, “Think Different”).

Salesforce holds as its guiding value “to make sure Salesforce is a platform for change,” delivering on initiatives such as renewable energy, carbon-neutral cloud computing, and green building certification.

CEO Mark Benioff’s online presence ties directly back to this vision.

These examples demonstrate that the most effective way to find and grow an audience is to build and leverage your personal brand.

Using SparkToro to discover existing audiences

SparkToro is an audience research platform that helps marketers find their prospective customers’ main sources of influence. It’s also used to discover existing captive audiences.

If we’re a B2B company selling into brick-and-mortar retail environments, and we’re looking to find an audience of retail executives, we’ll start with a simple Google search.

Screenshot of SERPs showing results for retail CEOs

We’re looking for resources and publications that are directly relevant to our target audience (not broad business publications).

Retail Dive is highly relevant and also has a promising presence on networks such as LinkedIn and Facebook.

We’ll use this publication as a starting point for our research in SparkToro.

SparkToro account search overview

The audience size identified is encouragingly large, and the frequently used phrases and words (brick mortar, retail, founder) align directly with our target audience.

We can scroll down further to identify other publications and sources of interest.

The results are encouraging in that there is a lot of overlap in the sources of influence (47% engage with the National Retail Federation), and the sources appear to be highly relevant.

SparkToro audience interests

Next, we’ll hit the Text Insights tab, which details what Retail Dive’s audience likes to talk about, share, use as hashtags, and say in their social bios.

SparkToro audience hashtags and topics

Drilling down on these terms can then serve as a jumping-off point for further research in SparkToro.

SparkToro search

An audience search with the parameters “Frequently uses the hashtag” and “#retailtech” pulls up many frequently listened-to podcasts.

SparkToro retail interests

This process helps you to build an audience by identifying opportunities to:

  • Leverage relevant hashtags;
  • Attend popular trade shows;
  • Make appearances on or sponsor well-liked podcasts;
  • Run social media ads against audiences who follow specific accounts;
  • Team up with large publications (press releases, guest posts).

Developing a social media following

Your strategy for communication on social networks will look different for your personal profiles than for your brand’s social pages.

Take SparkToro’s Co-founder, Rand Fishkin.

Though Rand is actively growing the SparkToro brand, the content on his personal profiles is more broadly related to marketing, branding, and entrepreneurship.

He also actively shares relevant tweets to reach a wider audience.

Rand also grows his personal brand on Twitter by making a concerted effort to engage directly with his followers.

His profile is filled with videos like this one, where he directly answers questions from his audience.

Compare that to SparkToro’s account, which is more mostly product-focused.

They also purposefully look for others who are sharing a similar message online and use this content to demonstrate the need for SparkToro’s offering.

The takeaway? Differentiate the messaging between your brand and personal profiles. 

Posting only about your product on your personal profile is unlikely to garner a large audience. Think more broadly about your audience’s interests and post content that relates.

Building a community

Another approach is to create your own captive audience by building an engaging Facebook community.

Take Semrush, a platform for SEO, PPC, and content-related research.

Their private group, Semrush All-Stars, provides users with a way to find help using the product and interpreting results.

Setting up this group has several benefits for Semrush.

  • Improving user engagement;
  • Collecting product improvement feedback;
  • Developing an audience of superfans.

Growing a community of this size is a long-term play. Consider supplementing this with activity in existing communities.

Tapping into an existing community

Reddit can be a powerful platform for identifying and engaging with existing audiences.

One approach is to identify relevant subreddits (communities), bookmark them, and set some time aside each day to engage. You can comment on others’ posts, answer questions, or even start your own threads.

Take Elon Musk, for example, who set up an AMA (Ask Me Anything) in the subreddit r/space.

Another approach would be to use a keyword monitoring tool like Hootsuite’s Reddit app to monitor mentions of specific phrases on Reddit.

When people use those specific phrases, you’ll be notified and triggered to engage.

Position yourself as an expert to grow connections 

You can build meaningful connections by positioning yourself as an expert.

Most businesses have the option of doing so via social media platforms or on their own website.

Social’s obvious drawcard is its reach, with 3.6 billion people already using social media worldwide. There are likely to be relevant communities already established that you can start engaging with right away.

Your own website has far fewer visitors, and you’ll need to put in the hard yards to build a community from scratch.

The upshot for focusing on your own site is that your audience is your audience

Facebook can shut down a group at any moment. If you build a significant presence on your website, you’ve created your own network. When you communicate with your audience via email, you own the email list.

Many brands are concerned that they won’t be able to get personal on the company website. They don’t see it as a platform to develop meaningful connections by being genuine human beings.

This isn’t true. Take SparkToro’s website.

“Lost and Founder,” a book by SparkToro’s founder, Rand Fishkin, is readily displayed on the SparkToro site.

Lost and Founder book on SparkToro website

Why?

Because Rand’s personal brand is directly associated with SparkToro’s brand.

This expertise is leveraged further by the inclusion of some social proof in the form of testimonials.

Book testimonials

Notice that the reviews are about Rand, not about SparkToro. This page cleverly supplements his personal brand efforts, positioning both him and his company as an expert and an authority.

Winning in a pull economy

You need to position yourself as an expert and use your own website because we’re living in a “pull economy.” People now prefer to find you by searching rather than you knocking on their door.

Michael Fertik, the founder of Reputation.com, said in an interview:

“People, employers, and customers find you because of the internet. Let’s say that you are a landscape architect. If you’re talking about landscape architecture and you’re identified with it in social media, you have a plausible résumé. But if someone looks you up, and finds someone else [with the same name] whose interest is kite surfing, that doesn’t do you any good. On the other hand, if all they can find is that you’re interested in cooking, that’s not necessarily good, either.”

Post authentic content that your audience connects with, learns from, and loves engaging with. 

Take Gary Vaynerchuk (aka GaryVee), CEO of VaynerMedia, a global creative and media agency.

Fans of Vaynerchuk know he’s big on:

  • Empathy;
  • Wine;
  • The New York Jets;
  • NFTs;
  • Underpriced attention.

Vaynerchuk regularly talks about the business connections he’s formed by positioning himself as an expert in these fields.

That’s exactly what you’ll see from him on LinkedIn.

Example of LinkedIn post from Gary Vaynerchuk

And on Twitter.

Gary Vee tweet example

Build your reputation through personal branding 

Successful companies with strong reputations undertake personal branding efforts.

Here’s how you can replicate their success.

Create authentic content that represents you 

Growing your personal brand does not mean simply discussing your product’s features and benefits using your personal profiles.

Instead, focus on producing content that reflects your personal values, passions, and beliefs—ideally, these overlap with your company’s mission.

Recall GaryVee’s interests discussed above.

  • Empathy;
  • Wine;
  • The New York Jets;
  • NFTs;
  • Underpriced attention.

Vaynerchuk is relentlessly consistent on these themes on every platform.

He talks about both empathy and wine in this blog post.

Gary Vee personal brand blog post

On Instagram, a clip of Vaynerchuk discussing his passion for NFTs, while wearing a Jets hat and jersey.

Gary Vee Instagram post example

And you’ll find hundreds of videos of him talking about “underpriced attention” on his YouTube channel.

GaryVee YouTube channel and video content

Personal branding efforts require consistency and authenticity.

One area where Vaynerchuk excels and where smaller businesses perhaps can’t is volume. He has an entire content production team behind him, publishing hundreds of pieces of content in various forms each day.

Small businesses would do better to compete on quality rather than quantity.

Consider Rand, who posts at most once a day on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Rand focuses on producing high-quality content. Instead of posting throwaway one-liners, he creates deeply valuable videos that are immediately actionable and often answer direct questions from his following.

Use social media as a networking tool

To effectively develop a positive online reputation, collaboration with other high-profile individuals or brands is key.

Having identified an existing audience (e.g., people who frequently use the #retailtech), we can use SparkToro’s insights to find podcasts and YouTube channels this audience already engages with.

Trying to get a spot as a guest on one of these podcasts would be a good start, but we can dig further to identify influential individuals to network with.

For example, National Retail Federation’s YouTube channel hosts several videos featuring high-profile retail executives.

NRF's YouTube video collection

We can use engagement on these videos as a starting point to determine individuals with significant influence.

The interview with Laura Alber appears to be quite popular at 58K views (compared with 10K views or less for others), so this may be a person we can connect with on social media.

A great example of how industry professionals cooperate to expand their influence is the collaboration between SparkToro and Ross Simmonds.

Amanda Natividad, Marketing Architect at SparkToro (and frequent collaborator with Rand Fishkin), has a similar following.

Amanda Natividad Twitter profile

By teaming up for this special event, both individuals can reach an audience twice the size of their own. And, they can leverage each other’s influence to further position themselves as an authority and industry expert.

Protecting your business and personal reputation 

The best way to protect your business and personal reputation is to continue growing positive sentiment.

There will be negative reviews (especially on review sites like Yelp). It’s a matter of statistics. 

By following the steps above, you should be able to effectively drown those out.

However, there may be times where individuals purposefully seek to tear down your online image or specifically hurt your brand.

There are a few ways you can manage this.

Online reputation management (ORM) software, such as Brand24 or Repuso, monitor mentions of your brand across various media. They usually include tools to help you enhance your brand reputation, such as review monitoring and collecting new customer reviews.

Screenshot of Brand24

For smaller brands (like local businesses or personal reputation management), it may suffice to set up a Google alert to receive real-time notifications when new commentary emerges.

If your brand is under serious attack, it’s worth hiring a dedicated reputation management company.

These agencies can provide advice on handling negative customer feedback, develop positive public relations, and optimize search engine results to improve your brand image when people search for you.

It’s best not to get too involved in review management. Unless they can be clearly identified as spam, illegal, or derogatory, avoid removing negative comments or reviews. 

Having a less-than-perfect rating may actually be beneficial.

A survey from Bizrate Insights identified that 52% of shoppers are more likely to trust a company with a mix of negative and positive reviews than one with a perfect record.

Conclusion 

Reputation management is an ongoing process; you’ll need to regularly monitor negative changes and work consistently to grow your audience of superfans.

Ideally, you’ll invest heavily in developing social proof, position yourself as an expert by collaborating with other influential individuals in your industry. You’ll also want to cultivate a following of devout customers who believe in your product as well as your brand.

Learn more about audience building in our online course.

The post A Guide to Reputation Management: Build an Audience of Superfans appeared first on CXL.

A Content-Driven Framework for Personal Brand Building

Your relationships and reputation are intangible assets.  Foster your personal brand, and you’ll build perceived value, trustworthiness, credibility, and reliability—ingredients that contribute to audience building and revenue.  But to showcase your expertise and stand out, you need to have something interesting to say. And you need to say it consistently. In this article, we’ll share […]

The post A Content-Driven Framework for Personal Brand Building appeared first on CXL.

Your relationships and reputation are intangible assets. 

Foster your personal brand, and you’ll build perceived value, trustworthiness, credibility, and reliability—ingredients that contribute to audience building and revenue. 

But to showcase your expertise and stand out, you need to have something interesting to say. And you need to say it consistently.

In this article, we’ll share tips for how to build your personal brand, grow your audience, and expand your online presence.

Position yourself as an authority in your area of expertise with content 

To position yourself authentically, you need to showcase what makes you unique. 

Don’t regurgitate what everyone else is saying—that may read as inauthentic. It always won’t help you differentiate yourself (thus your brand), so your audience won’t know why they should listen to you instead of others. 

What do you bring to the table? Why should your audience care about what you have to say? 

The more you read, the more you’ll have to say. Immerse yourself in industry trends, read the news, read books no one is talking about. Inspiration can come from anywhere. The more you learn, the more interesting and unique your ideas will become.

Done right, creating and sharing content can help you position yourself as an authority worth paying attention to within your area of expertise.

Create engaging thought leadership content on social media 

LinkedIn is the top network for B2B content marketers—96% use the platform. This is closely followed by Twitter (82% of B2B marketers use it). 

This is for good reason—LinkedIn and Twitter allow you to build a following on social media by sharing your expertise and building through leadership.

There is an art to posting on LinkedIn. 

Long-form posts (those with 1,900 to 2,000 words) perform the best in terms of views and engagement. And skimmable posts with multiple headlines perform well too.

Kevan Lee, VP of Marketing at Oyster, leans into the skimmable method when sharing his thoughts and relevant insights about YouTube ads:

LinkedIn post example from Kevan Lee

He promotes his expertise and encourages engagement with a call to action.

He also shares his personal newsletter on LinkedIn, expanding his potential audience of subscribers within his LinkedIn audience.

LinkedIn post example from Kevan Lee (sharing a story)

This post hits on a few personal branding tactics:

  • Sharing a personal newsletter in a social post, which shows his broad range of expertise outside of his role at Oyster. It’s still industry-relevant, allowing him to share unique insights that his target audience will be interested in.
  • Tagging another creator to expose the post to their audience, working to broaden his reach.
  • Including relevant hashtags to get his post in front of new potential audiences.
  • Sharing an instance of being featured as a contributor on another creator’s platform, which builds social proof.

LinkedIn posts with images get twice as much engagement as those without. A mix of content formats keeps your posts fresh, and you can conduct your own analysis to understand what types of posts your audience engages with the most. 

Business leaders can also tap into their employees’ audiences by sharing regular, interesting content on the company page. 

A company’s employees are 14x more likely to share content from the company page compared to other content types. This helps your employees build their personal brand while expanding your brand’s reach in tandem. 

On Twitter, Hootsuite research recommends implementing a rule of thirds when it comes to planning your content strategy:

⅓ of tweets promote your business

⅓ share personal stories

⅓ are informative insights from experts or influencers

Experiment with different formats on Twitter, too. 

Greg Bernhardt, an SEO lead at Shopify, maintains a balanced content mix on his Twitter account

Example of sharing content on Twitter

He shares his own blogs, tags collaborators to expand his reach, and utilizes the pinned tweet function to control what his followers first see when reaching his page.

He also promotes his workplace as part of his personal brand:

Twitter workplace culture post

And retweets other influencers’ content:

Example of a retweet from Greg Berhardt

A mix of content formats on your Twitter page keeps it from appearing self-serving and one-tracked.

Video can also be an engaging format to use on Twitter. Views on Twitter increased 62% from 2019 to 2020. Keep videos at or under 15 seconds to maximize branding impact.

Twitter topics are also growing in popularity, with an increase of 40% from Q2 to Q3 2020. With more than 5,100 topics available to follow, you can build your reputation by regularly tweeting about the topics most relevant to your followers

As we said above, post daily. Hootsuite research found that on Twitter, marketers should post between 1 and 5 Tweets a day. The same goes for LinkedIn. 

But quality trumps quantity every time. Lain Beable, social media strategist at Hootsuite makes this clear:

“I personally have always found the topic of how many times per day should I post a little over-thought and definitely secondary to the quality of the content one is publishing.” 

Experiment until you find your sweet spot, and keep in mind that building a successful personal brand across social networks is a long-term activity. 

Building a blog

To grow your sphere of influence, produce long-form content at least once a week. Companies with a blog have on average 55% more site visitors than those without.

Buffer helps its internal experts build their own personal brands through its blog. Posts include a name, photo, and title of the author, allowing the employee to receive public credit for their expertise.

Blog post from Buffer

This recognition shows contributors that their work is valued and inspires them to share it. (More on leveraging employee advocacy in the next section.) 

Play with a mix of formats. Build thought leadership by exploring trends in your industry. Write guides that allow you to teach your readers something new, or to think about it from a unique angle. 

As CXL’s founder Peep Leja says:

“This content can’t be what’s already been overdone, you need a new angle/lens/format to stand out.” 

Producing content that analyzes current or emerging trends is a valuable way to contribute to a growing conversation.

Trend-driven blog post example

Timely posts can push your blog in front of a captivated audience ready to learn from experts. Evergreen content is also valuable, so make sure to mix up your formats.

Brian Dean does this well; positioning himself as a trusted industry expert as well as the person to turn to for timely takeaways.

Blog post example from Backlinko

Become a contributor to other publications (the power of guest blogging)

Guest post for every relevant blog that will have you. By contributing to established blogs, you open yourself and your ideas up to a new audience and bolster your personal brand.

When writing a guest blog, link back to your own blog as much as possible. This drives traffic to your personal website while inviting readers to explore more of your content. Include internal links as well to improve SEO and increase search engine traffic.

Pitch yourself within your own network as a starting point, as these people likely already know and respect your work. 

Introduce yourself in the context of the blog you’re pitching to, and highlight your “why.” Be specific about why you want to write for that publication and what value you bring. Share a few previous pieces of content you’re proud of to underscore your credibility.

Give the editor a few ideas of what you’d like to write about, and be specific. How will you add value to the conversation around those topics? Show you’ve done your research and personalize everything in the context of their niche.

Once approved as a blogger, set deadlines and expectations with the editor. The writing process can vary from brand to brand, but generally, share an outline to make sure you’re on the right path and meeting the tone and guidelines.

Building authority with a new audience via guest blogging can convert those readers into followers. 

Start an email newsletter 

Newsletters afford you intimacy and attention that’s difficult to foster through other content marketing channels.

Email marketing has a huge ROI ($42 for every $1 spent). It’s a direct, unobstructed line to your subscribers. This explains why 4 out of 5 marketers say they’d rather erase social media than email marketing from their content strategy.

Like other content channels, building a subscriber base for your newsletter is about sharing consistent, valuable insights.

Tools like Substack make this process easier. Take Jason Bradwell’s The B2B Bite, for example. 

Email newsletter example from Jason Bradwell

He leveraged Substack to build a successful subscriber base and recently was able to move his newsletter onto his own platform

“When I first started sending a weekly essay on how to build and scale modern-day B2B marketing strategies all the way back in November 2020, I needed a platform that allowed me to just get writing and not worry about all the design/hosting/payment malarky that comes with “running a blog” … And Substack gave that to me.”

Leveraging a platform like Substack can cut down on the nerves of getting started. Sometimes the lowest barrier to entry when building your brand can be the most effective. 

Networking with your peers and building connections through social media 

Dedicate time to responding to comments, threads, and DMs, where appropriate. These interactions can help you virtually network, build your following, and find opportunities to collaborate.

On Twitter, build a culture of respect and admiration by sharing others’ content, retweeting their ideas, and responding to give kudos to particularly insightful tweets. 

Writer and thought leader Julian Shapiro regularly shares on Twitter and makes sure to nurture the ensuing conversations.

Example of a Twitter conversation

This helps him to be seen as approachable, authentic, and willing to take the time to engage.

On LinkedIn, topics, groups, and messages are all essential to building your brand. Follow relevant topics via hashtags and participate in conversations. Do the same in groups, where you can have more intimate, focused conversations with other industry experts. 

When making connections on LinkedIn, personalize your message to make it clear what you hope to get out of the interaction. Lead with what you can offer them to ensure a mutually beneficial conversation.

Deepen your connections offline by attending industry events, conferences, and meetups in your area. Build in facetime to foster more meaningful relationships, build trust, and cement your status as a valued expert.

How to empower employees to build their brand and spread your message 

Your people are your company’s greatest asset. 72% of consumers report feeling a bond with brands when employees share information about the business online.

That translates into real business results—a highly engaged workforce leads to 20% higher sales and 21% higher profitability.

To capitalize on an engaged workforce, managers and entrepreneurs should create a culture of employee advocacy (a mutually beneficial relationship between employees and their company).

Empowering your employees to be your ambassadors allows them to build their own brands while bolstering yours.

Employee advocacy can—and should—start on day one. But building a culture of employee advocacy takes work, just like any culture-building activity. Despite its benefits, only 17% of businesses have implemented a formal, comprehensive program.

Successful employee advocacy programs begin with employees feeling supported at work. Unhappy employees will certainly not make good advocates.

But happy employees won’t necessarily share proactively, either. According to research from Long—Dash, 86% of employees feel proud to work for their organizations, but less than half are willing to share about their companies on social media.

​​Tugce Menguc, Director of Strategy, Long—Dash notes:

Happy employees don’t necessarily let people know that they are happy. While creating a positive work environment is foundational, savvy brands must now connect what motivates people with new structures that complement that motivation.”

That’s why your employee advocacy strategy should be intentional, with goals, KPIs, and guidelines. Then, you can begin seeking out potential leaders. 

Introduce the benefits—from building a strong personal brand, to becoming a thought leader, and any potential opportunities for incentives around their commitment to employee advocacy.

Almost 86% of advocates in a formal program said that their involvement in social media had a positive impact on their career.

To show this kind of support, call out your employees as thought leaders on Twitter by tagging them in your posts and retweeting theirs. 

Creative consultancy Long–Dash does this often. 

Influencer relationship building tweet

When sharing employee-written content on social media, make sure to tag the author. This reinforces your employees’ expertise, gives them public credit for their work, and can open them up to opportunities and interactions with other thought leaders in the space.

Long—Dash also retweets its employees regularly.

Retweet example from Long-Dash

To set your program up for success, create social media guidelines that help your employees understand your goals and guidelines for posting about the company. Provide them with a library of assets and resources to use in their posts. 

Note that authenticity should underscore everything about your employee advocacy strategy. Otherwise, employee posts could come off as robotic or scripted.

Conclusion

A personal branding strategy helps you cement yourself as an expert and trusted source of information.

Get yourself in front of as many audiences as you can. Share valuable insights consistently and practice relationship building to boost reach and engagement. Audience growth will follow in short order.

The post A Content-Driven Framework for Personal Brand Building appeared first on CXL.