Friday, June 11, 2010

Marketing = Building Relationships

Before we leave this section, let me offer one more perspective, perhaps the bird's eye view of brand strategy.

Broken down to its most basic components, marketing is really nothing more than relationship-building. Think about it. If we seek to build a long-term relationship, there are four factors that must be present if the relationship is to be successful over the long-term.

First of all, there must be a sincere desire for a mutually satisfying relationship. You must want to have this relationship even though you know the investment required.

Second, you must possess something of value to offer the other party. You have something that they might want and you are willing to offer this to them.

Third, you have a willingness to trust that the other will also provide value in the exchange. You assume that the other party is going to be fair as they enter into the relationship.

Fourth, you both make a commitment to communicate when the exchange is not mutually satisfying. You promise to let them know if things are not turning out as you planned and to give them a chance to correct the problem.

Does this sound like your marriage? Or your business partnership? Yeah, probably! And it is just this approach that every business must take as the seek to win customers and build their businesses.

Way too much marketing these days is about creating some facade around a product/service instead of accurately communicating how that product/service fits into the customer's life... telling truthfully what that product or service will and will not do for the prospective customer. And at the same time that the organization is having their ad agency create the facade, they are structuring their Customer Service department so that it will be nearly impossible for a customer to tell them when they are unhappy and don't find the relationship mutually satisfying. Then, they are shocked that there is so much churn in their customer base! That is why so many businesses are hurting right now. They did not take care of there customers' needs because they never really thought about marketing being about relationship-building.

Brand marketing (so that we build long-term relationships with our customers) is really simple, just like building any relationship that is important to us. Remember:
Sincere Desire/Offer Value/Trust Other/Communication Commitment
And if you forget any of these, ask your spouse what are the cardinal rules of making your marriage work. They'll tell you.

Thanks for reading. More to come!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Another Test for Brand Strategy (2/6)

Roy Spence has written an insightful book -- It's Not What You Sell, It's What You Stand For -- that every organizational leader should read. It is probably the best business book I have read in the last five years and I read a lot. In this book, Spence discusses why every organization must articulate their purpose clearly if they are to achieve extraordinary success. Spence explains purpose as "a definitive statement about the difference you are trying to make in the world."

Purpose should drive every strategic and tactical decision. In fact, decision-making actually becomes much easier when the organizational purpose is clearly articulated and understood by management and employees. Spence's company, GSD&M Idea City, has helped build some of the world's most successful brands including Wal-Mart, Southwest Airlines, BMW, AARP, Charles Schwab, and John Deere to name a few. What the book does is tell you how GSD&M helped each of these organizations (and many others) determine their purpose.
Purpose: a definitive statement about the difference you are trying to make in the world.
There is a lot in this book beyond marketing. I enthusiastically recommend every leader (or those who want to lead) read this book because truly it is a book about leadership, first and foremost. But what Spence has to say about the value of being purpose-driven when it comes to building the brand and enhancing the brand experience is critical to where we are in our discussion and it will help you evaluate your brand strategy by considering Spence's steps to bringing your purpose to life in the marketplace.

1. Articulate your purpose so that you provide a clear and compelling statement about the difference your organization makes in the world.
2. Answer the question, What do we have that people want that the competition can't deliver? This is a key part of your positioning.
3. Get your employees to buy in so that your brand-building is inside-out and, thus, authentic.
4. Take another look at how your customers experience your brand. Can they understand your purpose when  they interact with your brand? You can't fix everything at once so prioritize and get the most important areas addressed first.
5. When time permits, have a good look at every customer experience. Is everything you are doing consistent with your purpose?

There is so much more to this book and I recommend you pick up a copy and dig in as soon as you can. For the purposes of our discussion on brand strategy, think about this: how is your organization changing your part of the world for the better?

If you can answer this question, you will have a brand strategy that can take your organization places that no ordinary business plan ever could.

More to come. Thanks for reading.