I had a meeting with a company the other day and I had a discussion with them that I’ve had a hundred times before.
“I don’t understand the point of making a new website when it’s such a big project by the time we’re done it’s already out of style. And I also don’t see why we should be doing content, since you have to keep it up.” In fact, this company couldn’t see the point in marketing at all, really. But they were well invested in sales. That they felt was a wise budget allocation. So the website looked old and outdated. And the blog was sporadic. And the marketing was weak. The brand value was Nil.
“Okay,” I responded. “Who is your biggest competitor?”
We looked at their site. It was relatively well designed and new, it had content and a community that was fresh and constantly updated. It also had the largest portion of market in the industry.
“How much more revenue does this company have?” I asked.
“Much more than ours,” he answered, “They own the market.”
“How much more are they spending on marketing?” I asked.
“Much more than we are,” he answered.
“Do you think their delta of spending versus revenue is more than your profit margin?” I asked.
“Yes,” he answered.
“That’s why you need to invest in marketing,” I replied.
According to Seth Godin there are two types of marketing – direct and brand. Direct are the ads that will bring immediate results and are easy to measure. But what they won’t do is build your brand. They don’t build trust. Brand marketing is harder to measure. It’s how people feel about your company. It’s the community you build, the blog posts that are giving helpful information, the consistent and strong look and feel of all your materials. If you want to lead your industry you need both.
Your product could be significantly better, but just like Betamax to VHS – the one with the best Brand wins.
How do you build a brand?
What’s inside matters
Building a brand means living the company ethos. What you believe in is what you do. If the goal of your company is to give loans to a niche market that is normally ignored due to their lower economic status – your content and company actions should be helping that community. Corporate Social Responsibility actions backs up that you mean what you say, and can bring wonderful PR (as every company action must have a fiscal benefit due to the managements fiduciary duties).
What’s outside matters
Your brand must have a consistent look and feel. All of your materials online and off should be up to date, and if community is part of your company ethos – it should be on your site and active – you should be blogging, and depending on what type of business you have – have a forum. In the case of the 2 companies mentioned in the beginning, the leading company had both an active blog and a community run but company managed forum. Think about it like this, if you are choosing between 2 brands – similar in cost and reputation – which will you go with? The one that gives no information on their site and their site looks like it was done in 2003, or the one that has a well maintained active community and an informative, well designed website? I’m going to trust the maintained brand more, because keeping up a brand sends a signal that this company cares.