Let me tell you a story about a woman named Maggie.
About six months after I moved to a neighborhood just north of Pasadena, I signed up for a boot camp. On the first day, I got paired in an exercise with a woman named Maggie. As we were rowing a band back and forth, I decided to make small talk to distract myself from the pain my out-of-shape body was feeling.
“So, what do you do?” I asked.
“I’m a Landscape Designer,” she said.
“How serendipitous!” I yelped. “I just bought a home that needs a LOT of landscaping work. Can I get your card?”
We set up a time for her to come to my house and take a look at what we were hoping to do. One morning, after another treacherous boot camp, she came by and I began explaining to her my vision for the yard.
“I want artificial turf in the front, so everything looks clean…”
“No, I wouldn’t recommend that.” She said. She went on to explain how her work is about using all-natural plants and grass with a strong emphasis on drought-tolerant species. It was clear that she was BRILLIANT when it came to this stuff. She knew every plant, how they would survive in my front and back yards, and had a million suggestions for other plants, flowers, and sod I had never heard of, Kurapia. Kurapia took less water and would give me everything I wanted.
I left the meeting deciding two things were true:
Maggie was great at her job and there was a reason why she is one of the highest-reviewed landscape designers in my area.
I was not going to be her customer.
Maggie has an incredible point-of-view. She’s a green thumb. She knows how to get the best plants to grow in the toughest places at the cheapest prices. She cares so much about her customers and her work. That is her priority.
My priority, however, was completely different. I work at a Creative Agency and I am obsessed with clean and sophisticated design. I think Kurapia and other plants look wild and out-of-whack. They are not at all a part of my vision. I wanted my Pinterest boards full of turf, rocks, and floating decks to come to life.
I love this example because it perfectly illustrates how to be a great business person through the lens of losing a customer. Maggie knows who she is, stands for something, and resonates with our neighborhood. As a result, she has a successful business. However, we don’t have the same priorities or shared beliefs, which means I’m drawn more to a competitor. And that’s okay, we see this with big brands all the time.
Starbucks is for yuppies. Dunkin Donuts is for the blue-collar worker. Yetis are an eco-friendly product for people who want their beer cold at a NASCAR race and their coffee warm while hunting in the winter. Patagonia makes eco-friendly clothing for people that share their love of nature and land conservation.
Having a point-of-view that resonates with a target market is not new in the B2C space. However, B2B has been a little slow to play catchup. A lot of this can be attributed to the number of niche industries we see in B2B, usually with a smaller pool of market share available.
But with competition consistently on the rise, businesses need to find a way to stand out in a crowd. The answer is to have the courage to have a point-of-view and identify Great Customers who share it.
Now let’s be clear what a point-of-view is and what a point-of-view is not.
A point-of-view in this prism simply means the brand has prioritized non-business factors that can be shared with an audience. Seth Godin uses this concept in his 2019 book, This is Marketing,using the phrase “people like us, think like this.” So this doesn’t mean your business should engage in some “MSNBC vs. Fox News” political battle. It just means that outside of business, your brand should cling to something that matters.
Let’s use a couple of examples in the B2B space to give you a better idea of the concept.
I have a client, YouBar, which is a leading contract manufacturer of protein bars. Companies come to them and YouBar formulates, develops, and packages the delicious protein bars you see on the shelves in Whole Foods, Trader Joes, and your local grocery store. They’re an industry leader and are consistently approached by leading breakfast brands of the past about creating a new bar for them.
Unfortunately for the old guard, YouBar is not interested in them.
YouBar is interested in innovation. As new food diets and trends emerge, they want to help their customers, the brands selling the Protein Bars in the stores, by supplying them with the most cutting-edge options available. They see the space as a frontier for innovators. They don’t believe that the consumer is looking for a new bar from a General Mills or a Kellogg’s, but rather, gets excited by the new. So they partner with these emerging brands and showcase to them the opportunities at hand. They have seen these startups grab market share for the past decade and don’t see things changing anytime soon.
They value innovation and the new, and so they work with companies trying to create the Protein Bar of the future as a result.
On the other hand, my agency, ATAK Interactive, has zero interest in working with startups, even when VC funded with a healthy budget. Startups utilize the old cliché “work fast and break stuff” and we’ve seen the amazing technological advances that have resulted with that mentality.
However, it’s not how we want to help companies market their products and services. We believe in laying a foundational strategy and helping companies pragmatically grow. We don’t want to break anything and we’re not in a hurry to have companies spend away a lot of money without knowing why they’re doing it.
Startups prioritize and value speed. We prioritize and value purpose. Neither of us is wrong, and that’s okay.
In the aforementioned This is Marketing by Seth Godin,he lays out the idea of the Customer Promise:
Part one of our “Great Customers” exercise is challenging businesses to fill this out honestly. I emphasize honestly because this is a much harder exercise for businesses to grasp. They constantly are looking for outs. If I gave the CFO the option to fill out this chart, here’s what it would look like:
And that’s why they’re the CFO and they should count all of our numbers and leave the storytelling and brand resonating to those of us that utilize the left side of our brain.
Taking a shortcut on this exercise is easy, but it doesn’t help businesses get where they need to get, which is admitting that there are certain types of customers that are GREAT customers, however, they are not your great customer.
Let’s repeat for all the business owners reading out there who are trying to skim over this part because they don’t want to believe it – “there are GREAT customers out there who are NOT your great customer.”
Before we make these stunned and saddened business owners identify who this person is, let’s really hone–in on what makes our Great Customer using the lens of the Customer Promise.
1: Our product/service is for people who believe…
For most brands, this does not need to be anything political or controversial. But we need to put a priority on something. What is it?
An IT company I did this exercise with decided their answer to this question was “people who believe that technology is an essential component to their business development.”
That makes sense. IT companies sell automation, efficiency, and security tools. If you think these are important, you’d align with them.
2: I will focus on people who want…
This takes “belief” one step ahead and brings in “ambition.” What does our target customer want? And again, avoid the easy cliché answer here. All businesses can say they want “to grow the company.” That’s a given. But why does this company exist in the first place? And what’s its grand purpose? Where is it headed?
3: I promise that engaging with what I make will help my customers…
This is a key component of this exercise. Part of running a great business is identifying where your product or service is the best solution. Ask yourself “who can we REALLY help better than our competition? And why is that?” Nobody likes admitting they aren’t the best answer to this question, especially when their company has the capability to fulfill the order.
But if you go to the “Mom Lens,” that is, pretend that the customer is your mother who you love deeply and only want to pair her with the best solution for her problem. Looking through that lens, where are you the answer? How will you help these types of customers?
When we add these all up, it becomes clear: we can identify the psychographics that makes up our GREAT customer. Regardless of Persona type, which focuses more on demographics, ALL customers we go after should share these three attributes.
Now comes the hard part: Identifying the GREAT Customer that is not yours.
For this, we flip the Customer Promise on its head:
Uh oh. Now it gets hard. Let’s go back to our old friend, the CFO, to identify the “cop-out” way of answering this:
What’s the big problem with these answers? These characteristics don’t make a Great Customer. They make a very, very bad customer. They’re rude and don’t want to pay full price.
But there’s plenty of customers out there that are great that are not yours. Before we dissect the questions, let’s be clear on the purpose of this exercise: understanding how to build a stronger brand by identifying who does and who does not resonate with your beliefs. This does not mean that any successful company with strong relationships should fire a great customer that doesn’t fit this exercise to a T. It means that we will move forward trying to connect with our Great Customer and not waste time chasing someone else’s Great Customer. Is that clear? Good, let’s start the breakup process…
1: Our product/service is NOT for people who prioritize…
Thinking of your shared beliefs from the first part of the exercise, you can see that there’s a thread between your beliefs and your priorities. What is the opposite of that?
Using our IT company as an example, if they resonate with people who believe in the role of technology with business development, then it’s fair to say that the Great Customer who is not theirs prioritizes efforts other than operational efficiency for their growth. Or maybe they just prioritize everything above technology until their computer stops working and they need to be bailed out.
When you dig deep, you realize that the priority of the Great Customer who is theirs is proactive with their technology needs where the Great Customer who is not theirs is more reactive. Reactive clients pay bills on time, they have computers that break down, and they can be perfectly nice when troubleshooting a problem. But for this IT company that believes so deeply in the opportunity of using technology as a biz dev tool, they recognize that the reactive client takes a lot of the time to troubleshoot the kind of problems they are proactively avoiding with their Great Customer.
2: I will AVOID people who want…
Are our ambitions aligned? Do we both see the Promised Land as the same place?
This is a good opportunity to go back to the idea of the customer as the hero and you as the guide. If Luke Skywalker’s ambition is to go somewhere Yoda can’t guide him to, then there’s probably a better guide for Luke, right?
Think about where a Great Customer may want to go that isn’t the Promised Land you can help guide him or her. Again, no cop-outs. Different directions don’t mean one direction is bad, it just means it’s different.
3: I can’t help customers that are hoping to…
You’re not as good for this customer as one of your competitors. Admit it. It will set you free and help you run a more honest and effective operation. I’ll give you an example.
I’ve recently explored the idea of building a sales team. I sat down with a sales consultant whose company prides itself on being able to build out effective sales teams. He asked me a bunch of questions about my operation before politely telling me his company could not help.
They were more geared for SaaS sales, not services, typically coming in when a team had at least three reps and needed additional support and structure.
How did I react to that? It made me love the guy. We spoke for another hour or two and he led me to resources and vendors much more in line with what I need. If I ever get the chance to send him business, I’ll do it in a heartbeat.
And that’s the magic here. By identifying the Great Customers that are yours and those that are theirs, you’re creating an authentic business that makes you 1000x more likable. You are being realistic about who you can help and setting your company up to have success when you do get the customer. You’re building trust with your team and your prospects by being clear about your capabilities and strengths.
Trust, authenticity and a point-of-view that resonates will give you the bump you need against the rising competition. You’ve got the opportunity, now you need the courage to go through this exercise and break up with a Prospect Archetype you’ve long known you needed to walk away from. Be bold, be brave, and most importantly, be honest with your company and who you can help.
True story. Many moons ago, I was working at a startup. A new CMO had been hired and he wasn’t really sure what to do with me yet. I wasn’t the model employee, championing the “let’s all get out of the office and each lunch for an hour and a half” cause, and generally uninterested in the mission of the company and false bravado of the CEO. The CMO, we’ll call him Brad, thought that if I built the brand for the company a little bit deeper, maybe I would take ownership over what the company was doing.
He sent me on a mission to execute a series of “branding” exercises he must have found on TheCheesiestAndMostPointlessBrandingExercises.com that had me identifying things like “if this brand were a car, what kind of car would it be? If it were a dog…” You get the point. It’s the same branding BS agencies use to try and bring upon the illusion of deep thought, when really it’s just billable hours and wasted time.
So what is well worth your time when figuring out your brand? Good question. Depending on your industry, it can vary. If you’re in fashion or food, you need to spend the extra cash on the luxurious design, sexy messaging, and build an identity that your target audience will resonate with. But for most companies, you really need to make decisions in the following areas:
The Why, How, and What of how we conduct business
How we communicate our offering to our hero (the customer) in 7 words or less
The most valuable aspects about us and how they bring value
Does our collateral match our brand promise?
Do we have a cohesive style?
What is the leading message we are expressing to our hero on how we can guide them differently than the competition?
How do we walk our hero through what his or her success journey would look like with us?
As you’ll see, we have a series of exercises that help companies make the decisions laid out above. They are all a part of what we call “Brand Day,” the day where companies focus on how to build brand messaging and get on the path towards visual cohesiveness. The day also develops two sets of creative campaigns at different parts of the Customer Lifecyle.
We pack a lot into Brand Day, because we believe most branding hurdles can be solved in a day. But making the decisions for how the brand is going to communicate both through visuals and messages is the easy part. Implementing the newfound focus and getting every employee to understand why you do what you do and the three factors that make you unique, this is a greater challenge. That’s why on Brand Day we not only help companies decide on the factors above, but we also create a path to make integrating the new discoveries into the company vernacular a seamless process.
What Goes on During Brand Day
When I work with a company on their brand, one of the first things I say to them is “this is the easy part.” Essentially, we are brainstorming and building our version of Camelot for 8 hours. It’s easy to get swept away in ideas, creative collaboration, and possibilities. That’s why it’s always important to keep our work as pragmatic as possible.
The goal of Brand Day is to walk away with solidified brand messaging, a unified visual direction, and the foundation for our creative campaigns. We have simplified the process into four components that we knock out in just one day:
Why-How-What Positioning Statement – The paragraph that sells our business
7 Words-or-Less Tagline – How we communicate our business in 7 words or less
Visual Identity Audit – Review current collateral and identify needs
Style Discovery Tool – An interactive survey to define your style
Leadership Message – How will we build thought leadership to attract new prospects
The Vision Pitch– How do we visualize the hero’s journey for our customers so they can see what success looks like
Current Collateral – How will we incorporate this messaging into current collateral
Obstacle List – How we begin removing the barriers we’ve identified
I typically find that Brand Day is met with a lot of enthusiasm because it’s solidifying a lot of the messaging a company has been using informally in an elevator pitch, a tagline, and sections for the home page of a website to showcase the company’s benefits.
When it comes to the visual part of Brand Day, things can be a little more contentious. Groups of 3 to 5 people typically have different opinions and aesthetics, so we dig deep to get leadership teams on the same page and find common ground. This is why we begin with the communication. With your Communication Strategy, you are creating a promise for what your brand will be. The visuals serve as your opportunity to fulfill that promise.
Typically, if there’s dissention within a group, we bring it back to the messages we built in the Communication Strategy. “We said that our value proposition was that we accrued 11 certifications that illustrate our quality. When we look at the current website, is this commitment to quality expressed in the design? If not, what changes do we need to make?” This is just a small example of how we get everything aligned. By starting with the messaging, we understand the company’s intent and we make them challenge their current designs to determine if they are backing up that intent.
We end with two creative campaigns that typically jumpstart companies to take action. Sure, it’s nice to hone in on your elevator pitch, have a new tagline to put on your website, and identify “what makes us different?!?!” But when companies create a leadership message to attract prospects and formalize a vision pitch to systemize how they close clients, they begin to gain traction on building out marketing materials they can actually utilize in their marketing-to-sales process.
Lastly, we go over our next Implementation Steps. Often times, we see a common obstacle in the design of marketing collateral. So we build a plan, create deadlines, make sure we understand budget + priorities, and begin tackling any and all design issues we see. Next, we begin building out plans for how we illustrate and disseminate our creative campaigns. At the end of the day, we don’t just have ideas, we have a clear path towards how we will adopt and apply those ideas.
My biggest goal leaving Brand Day is for companies to feel solidified and unified with “who we are.” If we can strip down all of the ideas and concentrate the best of them into these areas, we can build a clear and focused brand in just one day. Sure, other elements may be needed down the road, especially on the design side, but we’ve overcome our biggest hurdles: defining why people should care about us and understanding how we implement this new identity into a system that will help us market and grow the business.
One of the funny quirks about writing teachers – creative types that constantly preach to students the value of being original – is that they all use the same adages. Whether in a college setting or a screenwriting course in Hollywood, I’ve been in countless rooms where the lecturer in the front of the class preached to his or her adoring listeners lines like “I didn’t have time to write you a short letter so I wrote you a long one” and “I hate writing. I love having written.” But the winner of the “Most-Overused Writing Cliché by Any and All Professors” is the lovely William Faulkner line “in writing, you must kill your darlings.”
The humorous (at least by 19th century standards) metaphor is a nice way of saying “you have a million ideas, but you need to edit and integrate them into your work cohesively.” For creative people, staying focused is difficult. Creative people want to create…all of the time, sometimes to their detriment.
(Full disclosure: I’m one of these people! My long-lost book would be titled 975 Brilliant Ideas I Never Followed Through On.)
One of the biggest problems I see with business leaders is staying focused on a singular message or plan. In the book, Rocket Fuel, by Gino Wickman and Mark C. Winters, they tackle the relationship between two executive archetypes: the visionary and the integrator. The simplest way to describe the connection is visionaries are the big-picture thinkers consistently architecting where the company should go, and integrator is the dirt-on-the-hands builder of the plan who ensures the engine is running day in and day out.
For visionaries, their work revolves a lot around ideas. Wickman and Winters write:
The Idea Generator
As a Visionary, you have lots of ideas. You typically have 10 new ideas a week. Many of them may not be so good, or at least not a fit with the company’s primary focus. Some may even be dangerous. However, a few are absolutely brilliant. And those few great ideas keep the organization growing. Those great ideas can take companies to the moon. For this reason, you are invaluable.
The hard part with visionaries, however, is getting them to work within the right system. Visionaries can often feel trapped in systems. “System” is not a bad word, per se, but rather, something the rest of the company needs to build to scale. Visionaries understand the importance of systems but adapting to them is not easy.
That’s why the Purposeful Marketing Method is built to be flexible. It’s constructed to harness the brilliance of the visionary and implement it into a framework that can keep the visionary – and the company – on a singular track.
For visionaries, great ideas never end. And they shouldn’t! But you need to know where these ideas should live, when they can come to fruition, and how they fit into the overarching plan.
How the Purposeful Marketing Method Sets Companies Up to Focus
The first part of the Purposeful Marketing Method is about getting universal clarity for a company on its brand, audience, data, and marketing-to-sales operation. Some companies have elements in place – they track data granularly or perhaps have a tagline/message or style they’re committed to – but they need to bring everything into a single path that becomes “the way”.
This is why we have three PMM strategy days to help companies build this plan for themselves. Together, we sit with the 3-5 vision-builders on the client-side and facilitate clarity on those four elements: brand, audience, data, and marketing-to-sales operation.
The end result of the strategy days is to leave them knowing exactly how the company will:
Develop a marketing budget focused on what will provide a return
Invest effectively in marketing efforts at each step of the customer lifecycle
Eliminate the noise and focus on the things that really help you grow
Organize, execute, and track your marketing system
Some companies charge millions of dollars to help businesses with just 2 of those 5. But the truth is that it’s not that hard to create a focus. Creating a focus is fun. Staying focused and committed to what we’ve built is difficult.
It’s important to keep this in mind when building out your vision. As you’ll see later on, our Marketing-to-Sales Maps force businesses to stick to a budget, assign responsibility, and build proper expectations for their plans.
How Focus Elements are Built
“First of all, you’ve got to have a vision of ‘What kind of program do I want to have?’ Then you’ve got to have a plan to implement it. Then you’ve got to set the example that you want, develop the principles and values that are important, and get people to buy into it.”
– Nick Saban, 6 Time National Championship College Football Head Coach
The Purposeful Marketing Method is taught to businesses by B2B Marketing guides.
The guides each are trained to use the toolbox of B2B marketing tools that are needed for business to obtain the alignment between brand, audience, data, and M2S operation.
Guides host full-day strategy sessions where they help businesses integrate these tools into their operation. The guides segment the work into three full-day sessions: Brand Day, Audience + Data Day, and Marketing-to-Sales Day. These workshops are generally spaced out one month apart.
Within each day are a series of decisions. Leading requires making the right decisions, even when it may be difficult. We challenge companies investing in Purposeful Marketing to make the following series of decisions to build the focus and vision of their growth efforts.
The Why, How, and What of how we conduct business
The paragraph that sells our business
How we communicate our offering to our hero (the customer) in 7 words or less
The most valuable aspects about us and how they bring value
Our top collateral needs
A cohesive style direction we can agree on
How will we create a Leadership Messages to Attract new Customers?
How do we develop + integrate our proven process into our sales cycle?
How do we take this work and put it into our current collateral?
What SMART Goals can we add to Obstacle List?
Audience + Data Day
Identify our 3 Target Personas to market to and their:
The Customer Promise:
Identify who we will do business with, the values we share with them, and the help we can give to them
Identify the Great Customer who is not our customer
Most Important Metrics (MIM):
The most important metrics that contribute to your growth.
Identify the supporting metrics that feed into each MIM and the numbers you have to hit to get the desired end results.
Audit the current marketing budget and resources. Determine what we think we need to spend to hit our goals.
How do we begin simplifying and tracking our data each week?
What SMART Goals can we add to Obstacle List?
Determine the three sales funnels you will market to and how will you market at each step of the Customer Lifecycle.
The 90 Day Obstacle Sprint:
Before we begin executing the M2S Maps, what needs to be developed beforehand and how much will it all cost?
How will we track our Obstacle Sprint progress on a weekly basis to stay on track?
As you can see, the implementation is just as big of “focus” as the ideas. We can’t create a vision without tangible S.M.A.R.T. goals to get us moving down the road, one mile at a time.
Company Culture: The Secret Benefit of Having the Right Focus
The key to implanting your newfound focus is getting your leaders to buy-in first, and bring everyone along with them. One question I often ask companies is, “if I go out and ask every employee why [your company] does what it does, would they all give me the same answer?”
Spoiler alert: I rarely get a “yes.”
One of the hidden components to having a strong focus is its role in having a strong culture. When people think about great company culture, they see ping-pong tables, iced coffee on tap, and dogs roaming throughout the office. But culture is a lot more than toys and perks.
Companies get this wrong all the time. They believe stereotypes about millennials needing to be coddled to be happy and try to “buy” their way to employee joy.
But the truth is that a fun environment with happy hours and Kombucha Mondays can make employees happy, but not fulfilled. The best company cultures take it way beyond the fun and create meaning. They develop the central mission that tells their team “this is where we’re going and if you want to be a part of the ride, we need you to get here!”
When companies go through three strategy days of Purposeful Marketing, they create that path. Creating a focus for the company has to include both where the businesses are headed, but also, how the employees can be a part of that journey.
Let’s create the path together! In the next few chapters, we will outline the exercises we go through during Purposeful Marketing strategy days. We will identify how you can make the right decisions for your brand, audience, data, and sales operations to get aligned so you can start marketing with purpose.
The Purposeful Marketing Method is a three-part framework. It is an easy-to-adopt system that small to mid-enterprise businesses can use for pragmatic growth. It is built on 11 principles that guide customers through exercises and processes that increase efficiency and profitability.
As you will read below, the idea of businesses and customers having shared beliefs is one of the most important parts of any fruitful relationship. After seeing what’s been successful in my decade-plus experience in marketing for SMBs, these are the beliefs that I hold about marketing in 2019. They touch on the brand, audience, data, and marketing-to-sales operations of a company and are based on real experience and real results.
Without further ado, here are the 11 Principles of Purposeful Marketing:
1) Your Brand, Data, Audience, and Marketing-to-Sales Operation must be aligned.
What does it mean to be aligned? Let’s go to the basic definition:
a·lign·ment /əˈlīnmənt/ noun a position of agreement or alliance.
If your brand is projecting messages and visuals that have a distinct point of view, you are simplifying your data by focusing only on the most important metrics, you are segmenting your messaging to the right audience, and you’re executing actions specific to your marketing-to-sales operation, you have alignment.
Most businesses do not have that alignment, unfortunately. Brands lack clarity in messaging, have their data spread all over the place, they try to speak to everyone and be everything they can be to them, and market for awareness and impressions more than they do lead generation, sales, and growth.
This isn’t because they wish to have things all over the place. There’s a ton of noise out there and people get distracted by the “latest and greatest.” That’s why establishing a foundation of alignment is so important.
Here’s an overview of what alignment looks like:
Everyone in the company knows why you do what you do, how you do it, and what it is you do.
They understand the three differentiators that make you unique and how those provide value to your customers.
All of your visuals have this clarity as well and represent the why-how-what you defined previously.
There’s a visualization of your proven process that showcases your ability, credibility, and flexibility.
You have a message to attract your customers that makes them the hero and creates a leading message in your industry.
You can calculate your current data as it relates to budget, goals, and results.
The Most Important Metrics (MIMs) to your company’s growth are identified and tracked.
The S.M.A.R.T. goals needed for each of those MIMs to hit their targets is clear.
The current budget and resources are allocated clearly and concisely in a way where the whole organization knows why you’re spending money on each initiative and what you expect in return for that investment.
You know what your shared beliefs are with your customer. You’re not afraid to ignore those who do not share these beliefs.
You have fully defined the different segments which you will market as your Target Personas and identified the desires, challenges, and tendencies for each.
You know specifically how you can help each Persona and can avoid any prospect you cannot help.
Your marketing initiatives are tied directly to each step of the customer lifecycle:
Attract the prospect
Connecting with the prospect
Closing the prospect into a customer
Delighting the customer
Each of your target personas are being specifically marketed to
2) Every action taken and every dollar spent must have a purpose within the Customer Lifecycle
If there’s one thing we often see in marketing, it’s that the creatives involved can rarely agree on terminology. Even entities like HubSpot, which frequently make up terms like “The Buyer’s Journey,” consistently change how they define each step.
In the Purposeful Marketing Method, we aim to simplify things. We identify the Customer Lifecycle as:
Everything we recommend a business invest in feeds one of those four stages of the Lifecycle. If a company is doing something just to do it without any reason or purpose, we take it away. If you’re chasing BS data like impressions so you can show something big and shiny to your boss, we tell you why it’s not important.
This is what marketing should look like – a never-ending continuum of work that supports these four functions. Within each, specific measurables get defined, a single person becomes responsible for the outcome, and the appropriate budget goes towards each.
3) Quality is 360 Degrees
In Phil M. Jones’ “How to Persuade and Get Paid” Sales Workshop, he talks about the importance of creating a good representation of yourself and your company. He uses a vivid example from his life before sales when he almost made a bad purchase from a company that couldn’t fulfill its promise and how he sniffed it out because of the pen he was about to use to sign a contract.
Here he was, ready to give this salesperson their deal, and as he took the pen, he realized something – it had been chewed. He began looking over the salesman a little further – dissecting his clothes and manners before deciding he wanted a little more time to think it over.
The salesperson lost the deal because it was clear that his pitch was a mirage. He wasn’t what he said he was.
We see something similar a lot in marketing. A company boasts of its commitment to quality, even outlines the features that make their product or service the best, but they do so with a poor design that gets translated to an outdated website or flimsy marketing material.
If you are asking a customer to invest in quality, you need to make it clear that you do, too. Every aspect of your marketing needs to be as pristine as your promise. If you’re an industry leader, you better dress like, talk like it, and look like it. Otherwise, you’re going to be looked at like a chewed pen.
4) Your Customer is Luke Skywalker, you are Yoda
Nancy Duarte is the first to use this analogy for marketing. An expert in the presentations space, Duarte teaches her students the concept that as the presenter, you are being looked at as Yoda. Everyone in the audience thinks they are the hero, Luke. Your job is to show them how all of their dreams can come true with your guidance.
Author Donald Miller took this concept to the next level with his book, “StoryBrand,” drawing an even more distinct parallel between the analogy of the hero/guide and tying it into a traditional film narrative.
“Here is nearly every story you see or hear in a nutshell: A CHARACTER who wants something encounters a PROBLEM before they can get it. At the peak of their despair, a GUIDE steps into their lives, gives them a PLAN, and CALLS THEM TO ACTION. That action helps them avoid FAILURE and ends in SUCCESS.”
Purposeful Marketing shares these viewpoints. We believe that taglines particularly should make it clear how a company as a guide helps take the hero to the Promised Land.
Through other marketing materials, we look at the stakes, the vision for success, and showcases the transformation this hero would have if he/she were to let us guide them.
To steal one more quote from Miller, “In every line of copy we write, we’re either serving the customer’s story or descending into confusion; we’re either making music or making noise.”
5) Lead. Always Lead.
“The Future of Marketing is Leadership.” – Seth Godin
In early 2019, Edelman, the global PR firm, released their B2B Thought Leadership Impact Study. Among the eye-popping stats that came from the report was that “58% of B2B decision-makers made buying decisions based on thought leadership.”
There’s currently a deficiency in the marketplace because B2B marketers and sales teams are underrating its impact
Decision-makers will spend more to work with leaders
Decision-makers are hungry and interested in more thought leadership
You need to put in the elbow grease to make sure your leading message is actually unique, knowledgeable, and persuasive
It’s clear that thought leadership is a great way for companies to stand out.
With trends like influencer marketing showing its warts, it’s important for businesses to understand that real purchasing influence, particularly in the B2B space, comes from prospects feeling comfortable being led into a new direction by someone they trust.Remember, as their guide, they are looking at you to lead them.
Showcasing thought leadership in the Attract phase is a great way to illustrate your ability to be a prospect’s guide from your initial interaction. Businesses just meeting prospects for the first time have to get over a credibility hump. By illustrating a unique perspective, proving your knowledge in the field, and persuading your prospect to take action, you can ease a customer’s hesitations rather quickly.
6) If somebody doesn’t hate you, nobody will love you
One of the major transitions we’re going to see in the 2020s is a shift away from the lantern and towards the laser. The job of a lantern is to emit as much light as possible. The job of the laser is to pinpoint exactly where the light needs to go.
Marketing strategies for decades have focused on the mass market. Whether its commercials/billboards or simply social media following, the idea of thinking big was always applauded.
But with the evaporation of the monoculture, mass markets are far less effective. The world has been taken over by the Long Tail. Over 75 million people watched the Seinfeld series finale in 1998. 21 years later, the most popular series of its decade,Game of Thrones, had just 19.3 million viewers. We are not all tuned in to the same TV, music, or cultures because so many exciting avenues now exist.
This shift into a Mass Long Tail of Subcultures challenges businesses to build brands that resonate with smaller viable audiences. Companies need to market more like a laser and less like a lantern.
To achieve this connection with the less populated subcultures, brands are going to have to start building tension with their messaging. This doesn’t mean taking any drastic political stance or purposely alienating good paying customers. Rather, it’s looking through the lens of “people like us, do this” to talk to our prospects and customers.
Many companies are terrified of this. The idea that they can’t be everything for everybody seems so…limiting. But this is a sliding doors moment for companies. They can do the status quo in Door #1 and continue to play it safe and they will absolutely avoid the haters. Unfortunately, no one will love them because they’re not speaking with enough substance to elicit that passion. Behind Door #2, they will find the courage to adopt the laser and begin narrowing their message to that smaller viable audience. They will find more people turned off than ever before, but they will earn true evangelists who will recruit others to join their cause.
This takes courage, but now is the time to step up. For instance, at my company, ATAK Interactive, we’ve adopted a little motto for ourselves: we’re the marketing agency that hates marketing. We know every trick in the book that agencies use to project their value, the metrics they fall back on when the work isn’t meeting the goals, and the ready-made excuses in their back pocket when things fail. We want our work to support growth, support sales, support the company leaders. And we’re not afraid to say things like “much of inbound marketing is a well-intended mirage.” If 200 other HubSpot agency partners hate us, that’s fantastic. It just means all the companies they couldn’t land an ROI for will love us a little more for speaking out against idealism posed as a marketing strategy.
7) There’s a lot of great customers that are not YOUR customer.
One of the hardest concepts of Purposeful Marketing for business owners to grasp is the idea of “breaking up” with a customer type. Just like messaging has been focused more towards the lantern in the past, defining a target market has as well.
There’s a big difference between “breaking up” in the prospecting stage vs. the client stage. It would be foolish for any company to break a long-standing relationship with a top client because they read some hotshot marketer talking about it. But much like companies need to hone-in on a message that resonates with a smaller target market, they need to accept that this means there will be a LOT of great customers that are not OUR great customer. And that’s okay.
We can recognize that varying industries, psychographics, and business practices can make a great customer a competitor’s great customer. We can admit that companies that specialize in certain areas may be better than us.
Let’s use a contractor as an example.
This contractor, we’ll call him Hank (strong contractor name, btw!), has 20 years of experience working effectivelyon Craftsman-style homes. His mother, Alberta, needs a kitchen remodel in her Spanish Colonials. Obviously, Hank has the experience to complete the job, but probably not as well as someone who has specialized in the Spanish style. So if money isn’t an issue, and Hank just wants his mother to get the best service possible, there’s no doubt he’d recommend the right contractor for her, right?
Additionally, if he did Mr. “I Specialize in Spanish Colonials” a favor, there’s a good chance that would be repaid down the road when the shoe was on the other foot.
The best barometer you can use is “who can I help better than almost everybody else?” This is your great customer. “Who can I help, but not as good as (insert competitor)? That’s the great customer who is not yours. Make sure to know the difference.
8) All metrics that matter feed some sort of conversion
Take a look at the chart below:
As you can see, we segment the different brand-focused metrics that companies track vs. the conversion-based metrics.
A lot of the brand-focused metrics make companies feel good. When their PR team lands a story on the news and they see a bloated $3.1 million in publicity value data point, they feel like the media relations ROI is strong. When they get 1,000 comments on an Instagram post, they feel even better. People are ENGAGING with us!
But what do those numbers mean if they can’t be traced to the conversion metrics? Sure, not every lead and/or deal will be able to be tracked to each event in a marketing campaign. But businesses need to know how these brand metrics affect the conversion metrics.
For every _____ amount of site visitors, we get ______ amount of form fills. For every _____ amount of form fills, we get ______ amount of Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs). And for every ______ amount of MQLs, we get ______ amount of customers.
Because in a vacuum, site traffic doesn’t matter. I can buy you a couple of thousand visitors from a third world country tomorrow if you want to feel good about your volume. But traffic does matter when you understand where it fits into the formula. Building, measuring, and optimizing that formula is the only way you can keep your brand metrics accountable and have them feed directly to your conversion metrics.
Making data work for your company goes beyond tracking it. Anyone can track numbers. You must track the purpose of each activity, and identify how it affects the overall success of a campaign.
9) Data must be tracked in a simple way to drive behavioral change.
In over 10 years managing clients, one of the most surprising discoveries I’ve had is just how many of them hate looking through reports. My project managers would send them, ask to review, and get no response. After a while, I started diving deeper to find out why.
Every client who dismissed reports had a similar reason that can be summed up as “there are too many numbers, things I don’t care about, and it’s so long I don’t care to spend the time looking through to figure out what actually matters.”
Of course, these were generally exported, summarized, and analyzed for context. We always wanted to show how “thorough” and “robust” we could be that we were feeding our own desires and not the customer’s needs.
So we flipped it around and made two big changes:
Instead of a monthly report, we started looking at the numbers every week.
We narrowed it down to 7-13 interesting numbers that went well beyond what a Google Analytics export could pump out.
Instead of focusing on things like “bounce rate” and “average page session,” we put a spotlight on “B+ Leads” and “(Persona Type) Leads” to make things more relevant to the client.
What did we find?
The days of pumping out reports that nobody read or reacted to were gone. Now, we were having data-driven conversations about these metrics that mattered and making weekly decisions on how we could execute differently to achieve great results.
This is the spirit of data with Purposeful Marketing. It doesn’t mean that the robust analytics don’t matter, but rather, how we track them, review them, and most importantly, REACT to them starts from a place of simplicity.
10) Systems can be scaled, people cannot be cloned
In almost every B2B sales team I have ever worked with, there’s an archetype I refer to as the Superstar Sales Person. This ace, we’ll call he or she the SSP, is such an asset to a company, at least on paper.
The SSP has the best relationships, the happiest customers, and consistently brings in new business. Often times though, the Superstar Sales Person can lead to SSPS – Superstar Sales Person Syndrome.
When you’re the rainmaker of the sales team, and you have all the leverage, oftentimes, you play by your own set of rules. I’ve seen plenty of great salespeople who rarely touch CRM, use talking points/presentations others don’t have access to, and use their successful relationships to threaten management in negotiations. Most of the time, the SSPS is not that extreme, but it gets in the way of the company structure because the top sales performer is not the top sales LEADER.
This is why it’s so important for companies to have growth systems they can build, train, and scale, regardless of human capital. Many times, the SSP is the perfect person to help create the system (even if he or she is NOT the right person to lead the company in adopting it).
The elements of Purposeful Marketing aim to create the initial roadmap for companies to build this system, while keeping it flexible for sales teams and their superstars to adopt seamlessly.
11) All Projects Must Be Broken Down into S.M.A.R.T. Goals
SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.
SMART Goals make everything manageable. Let’s say you’re planning a road trip from Jacksonville, FL to New York City. Google tells you that you’ve got 14 long hours ahead and with stops and traffic factored in, you’re probably looking more at 16 hours. You leave Florida at 5am with the hope to get to the boroughs before midnight.
As you begin the drive up I-95 you don’t see signs for New York (900 miles away!), but rather Savannah, then Fayetteville, then Richmond, then Washington DC, and so forth. You make small strides and incrementally hit checkpoints along the way.
Achieving a goal is no different. We all want to get to NYC, but there are all sorts of Richmond, Virginias we have to pass through to get there.
This is where SMART goals come into play. They help us breakdown the long road to success into necessary checkpoints we need to hit our destination.
Throughout the Purposeful Marketing Method, in each stage of the process, we MUST work with SMART goals to get from one point to the next. They keep us accountable and they keep us on the right track.
So, those are the Principles…
The principles above are the backbone of Purposeful Marketing. They are the beliefs that drive our method. They should be shared beliefs. If you read through these and recognize this approach is the guide you’ve been looking for, dive in. I’ve built this method for people like you. And for everybody else, you may just be a great customer who is not my customer. And that’s okay, too.
I’m here to help small to mid-size B2B companies grow pragmatically. If you’re ready to see how, let’s start getting focused.
Ensuring that every marketing dollar a business spends, every action it takes, and every plan it lays out serves the purpose of growing.
This is where all the “whys” you have built turns into “how.” This is the game plan before the Super Bowl. The blueprint before breaking ground. The map before the hitting the trail.
We draw Marketing to Sales Maps to tie in all of the work that has been done to this point and all the work that will come after.
Before you get to Drawing the M2S Maps in the Purposeful Marketing Method, a lot have decisions have been made. As a company, you have decided:
How to communicate the paragraph that sells your business
How to communicate your business in 7 words or less
The most valuable aspects of your company and how they bring value
Your top collateral needs
Your company’s cohesive style direction
Your Leadership Message to attract
Your connect-to-close process, the Vision Pitch
Your 3 Target Personas to market to
The 5 (or less) ways you acquire customers
The 5 (or less) revenue streams you have
The Most Important Metrics to your growth
What your current data is telling you
What you think we need to hit our goals, in resources and in money
What resources you need to fill
It’s time to take all of these decisions we’ve made and put them into a true plan of action.
What is an M2S Map?
Our M2S Maps simply take the Customer Lifecycle and build granular “Plans of Action” for each step in the process. We create one map per Target Persona and identify how we will Attract, Connect, Close, and Delight the persona. Additionally, we identify who will be responsible, how much we will spend on the action, and the success metrics each action feeds into.
Take a look at the sample below and download it here:
The Rules of Drawing M2S Maps
Before we break each section down and provide an example for one of our Target Persona examples we’ve used in the past, let’s go over a few ground rules for drawing maps:
Be as specific as possible. As you will see in the upcoming breakdown, this needs to be considered at each step.
Be as realistic as possible. While we encourage businesses to be ambitious and start with a wide net, let’s not dream beyond what’s possible.
Make sure you can manage this process. Remember that you’re drawing three of these and keep your “capacity” top of mind.
Consider all of the work you’ve put in thus far. Insert your Vision Pitch into the process. Review your Budget and Resources Audit and your Visual Identity Assessment. This is meant to be the culmination of all of your work within the Method thus far.
The Customer Lifecycle
The first part of drawing the map is to identify how we will Attract, Connect, Close, and Delight this persona. There are multiple opportunities at each stage of the Lifecycle – both outbound and inbound – for your company to engage in. I doubt you need another reminder at this point, but in case you need one more pep talk, remember, nobody knows your business and industry as well as you do! Don’t get lost in chasing new shiny technologies and communication platforms if they don’t work for your operation. For instance, if you sell machines, chances are, you’re not going to attract new prospects using social media, especially platforms like Instagram and Snapchat. That’s not to say you shouldn’t delight your current customers by posting great content on LinkedIn, it’s just setting a realistic expectation for WHY you are using the tool.
Okay, you know your business. You’ve put the groundwork in. Now let’s make a map!
Attract: How we make our target audience aware of our existence
Businesses can’t hide and grow. If you want to fish, you need to go where the fish are.
How you get “out there” needs to be strategic, cost-effective, and needs to provide you with the best chance to get your prospect to take action towards connecting. Keep this in mind, as companies waste millions of dollars each year chasing “brand awareness.” Marketers love brand awareness because it’s an ambiguous term and easy to manipulate. Your boss or client will only buy your “successful brand awareness campaign” for so long before the conversions need to back up the story you’re telling, so attract wisely.
When it comes to the types of Attraction tactics a company can utilize, a good way to start is to delineate between inbound and outbound activities.
Note that the actions above are simply starting points to get your mind started thinking the right way. When drawing your maps, you need to get far more specific.
One important element for the Attraction phase, is the creative that’s used to Attract.
For instance, we indicate above that this specific company wants to do Direct Advertising by “running 1 ad every month in our 3 largest industry publications.” This is probably a great way to attract Target Personas, but inside of this desire is a barrier – we must first have an ad campaign, creative for the campaign, etc. Some of this work was done during Brand Day, so you are at least on the right path, but ideas are only as good as their execution, and you will need to get the new creative direction implemented before hitting the ground running.
This is where Obstacles come back into play. We will explore these further in a section below, but it’s important to think about when you’re creating these maps. If you try to build Camelot but it takes you 2 years to get there, it defeats the purpose of the Method. As you go through and decide how you want to Attract, Connect, Close, and Delight your prospects and customers, be realistic about what Obstacles exist and how difficult and timely they may or may not be to overcome.
Connect: How we convert strangers to prospects
As we alluded to above, anyone can just build awareness if they have a budget. But the point of attraction in the customer lifecycle is to get to the point of connection. Throwing your logo and tagline on a billboard is easy. But it means nothing if that attraction isn’t enticing your prospects to take action to connect.
This is where we work hard to get our first conversion – from stranger to opportunity – and we need to do everything we can to increase our chances of convincing our target to “take the leap” and see what we are all about.
One of the key factors here is to provide educational content and follow the “teach, don’t sell” mindset. Sales will be a byproduct of good teaching and providing true value to the prospect, whether they choose to go with you or not.
So what tactics can be deployed in the “Connect” phase? These vary, and unlike the “Attract” phase where a delineation between inbound and outbound was needed, the connect phase is more unified on that front.
Whether you send a cold email, meet someone at a trade show, or earn a click-through a Google search, you still need to have consistent content and messaging built to persuade them to take the next action. Think of the “Connect” phase as your opportunity to provide value through education. It can be interactive, it can be printed, it can be explained verbally, it can be downloaded. Doesn’t matter.
However, there is a delineation that does need to be considered: collateral vs. offers. Collateral is passive. Anyone can see it without providing an email address or other information. These informative pieces are generally considered more basic than offers. Offers are where companies pull out all of the stops and provide prospects with their most enticing pieces and put a gated entry (usually the submission of contact information) to obtain the valuable content.
Content in the collateral section is valuable, but not so rich that a potential prospect would want to give anything up to obtain it. On the flip side, the offers are so valuable that a prospect will take the extra effort to obtain what you’re providing.
Balancing the two is an important part of the Connect phase. You don’t want every item out there to be gated, that would turn off all of your prospects. However, you don’t want prospects all over your site without capturing any data on them, either. You need to develop both types of content for the Connect phase and delineate how often you use them.
Close: How we convert prospects to customers.
Back during Brand Day, we introduced the concept of the Vision Pitch. Remember, the Vision Pitch is the next big step ONCE you have actually connected with the prospect. It is included in the “Close” phase because the absolute intention of the Vision Pitch is to move the prospect down the funnel, all the way to the point of close if possible.
Here’s a reminder on when the Vision Pitch comes into play and why it is so important:
Most B2B companies have a multi-layered process from connect to close. There’s an initial point of contact, a call, or email where the business qualifies the prospect. If they determine the prospect to be a good fit, something further is scheduled. Maybe it’s an in-person “pitch meeting,” maybe a conference call, maybe it’s a demo over screenshare. Regardless of the medium, it’s an invitation to be sold and you want to show up to the party prepared.
That’s why you need the Vision Pitch. The Vision Pitch is an organized visual representation of your company’s proven process. If you’re in software, the VP is usually your demo. If you run on EOS (the Entrepreneurial Operating System), your VP is a sheet of paper with your process laid out concisely. If you work on Madison Avenue, your VP is your Don Draper-esque ad pitch.
We went on to add that systemizing this process is very important.
The Vision Pitch is going to be one of your visual focal points in communicating your process and value. For many companies, this is systemizing a concept that’s currently being used informally. You know what you do, you can explain through the lens of a customer how your products/services improve their business, but you’re not organized. Let’s get everything in order so you and your team know exactly how to present your offerings to your target market.
Then, we gave you The Vision Pitch Formula:
Credibility Builder + Questions for the Customer + Success Steps
Finally, we challenged you to decide HOW you wanted to move forward with your Vision Pitch.
So you’re probably asking yourself, ‘Is the Close stage just about The Vision Pitch?’
And the answer is absolutely not.
Giving yourself the opportunity to present and showcase your products/services is always a treat. But if you think you’re going to create a fancy presentation, pitch it, and get the answer you want every time around, you’re either crazy or in an industry I want to sign up for.
Before we get into some of the work you should invest in AFTER you showcase the Vision Pitch, it’s important to mention a very time-saving part of the Connect-to-Close process: qualifying.
To even get a meeting where you’re showing off your fancy new Vision Pitch, you better know that it’s not a waste of time before heading into the pitch. Qualify the prospect by being clear what you do, who you work with, and what they can expect. Don’t come off like a jerk and ask them straight up what their budget is, but get the information you need ahead of time to understand if they are a good fit for your business. If you’re not the type of person who feels comfortable having that conversation, a great way to get some of those answers is to send over a short customer survey (I recommend TypeForm) to get an idea of where they stand so you can make the best decision to move forward.
With the qualifying stage out of the way, let’s tackle this question: if you have presented your Vision Pitch and an immediate deal is not in place, what can you do other than sit on your hands with your fingers crossed?
First, attack the customer hesitations. Many prospects will give a group of different companies the opportunity to present them with a plan and based on what they hear, they will only begin doing their research after that. You have to recognize that any prospect shopping for business is going to begin shopping with a list of hesitations in his or her head. There’s a reason he or she doubts you.
Hopefully when you showcase your Vision Pitch, you alleviate some of those hesitations. But if you’re open and honest with your prospect, you will probably get an understanding of where they still may be unsure if you’re the right solution for them.
There are some common themes you’ll see in customer hesitations. Many times, decisions come down to price, expertise, industry-specific knowledge, timeline, communication patterns, or the confidence in providing an ROI. The way to prepare for these is to have real-life examples that negate the customer hesitations.
They may think you cost too much and you’re not worth the spend. Show them an example of someone who invested with you, got a solid ROI, and you prove that notion wrong. If they aren’t sure you have the experience or expertise to handle what they’re looking for, teach them something through content that illustrates your knowledge and point-of-view. For every possible hesitation, you need to have a passive retort that tells the prospect “this isn’t something you need to be worried about.”
Beyond customer hesitations, a lot of things get in the way of going from Connect to Close. Meetings need to happen that you have no control over. Decisions linger. In the Close phase, you need to have a plan on how you will stay persistent without being annoying, how you will stay top of mind without being bothersome, and how you can continue to put yourself in the best position to get the deal.
A great answer for this is workflows. Setting up workflows (we recommend HubSpot), gives you the chance to ease those customer hesitations in a soft way that keeps you relevant in their eyes, while also not making you come off as pushy. You can set up “if, then” statements to accommodate their interest and activity. If they keep reading your content, you want to keep sending new material to them. If they begin to fade, you can recognize they are no longer a good option for you. Regardless, setting up workflows tailored to your sales process is vital for keeping prospects interested without requiring a ton of work on your end.
The Close phase is the key to your growth. All the money you’re spending is with the intent of getting as many prospects through this phase as possible. You need to have a process that sets you up for the best success possible. If you can qualify your prospect, showcase your Vision Pitch to them, and keep them interested through workflow automation that eases their customer hesitations, then you are putting yourself in the best position possible to get the deal.
Delighting Your Customers
Bill Belichick, the five-time Super Bowl winning head coach of the New England Patriots, is famous for constantly telling his players to: “do your job.”
If you get the sale and your product or service are now being used by the prospect-turned-customer, the first thing you must do to “delight” them is simply to “do your job.”
Following through on everything you promised is absolutely Step 1 in Delighting the Customer. You can take them to their favorite restaurant or entertain them at the Masters, but none of it will matter if you simply can’t do what you have pitched them.
Before we dive into the ways you can put the exclamation point on the Delight phase, let’s review how you set the foundation, to begin with.
The 5 Rules Towards Doing a Great Job for Your Customer:
Follow-through on everything you say you’re going to do.
Overcommunicate the expectation and overcommunicate the progress.
Have measurable figures that you track, review, and optimize for and look at them monthly if not weekly.
Never mislead with your data. Customers can handle obstacles, but they can’t handle feeling lied to.
Be responsive and available. If something’s wrong, make sure they can get ahold of someone quickly who can make it right.
I suspect you may be thinking “thanks for the customer service lecture, bud, but I’m here for marketing tips.” And while I appreciate your thirst and curiosity, let me be clear that quality service is imperative to marketing to your customers in the delight phase.
You can only be heard if you’ve earned trust and you can’t earn trust if you’re not doing a great job for your customer. Before you pay someone to post content on your company blog and social media profiles that will provide additional value, make sure you’re giving your team a chance for that content to be considered by doing the simplest of things…your job.
[Steps off soapbox.]
“Smart Companies understand the new world and build a buying process around the realities of independent research. Instead of generic information dreamed up by an advertising agency, they tell authentic stories that interest their customers. Instead of selling, they educate through content. Instead of ignoring those who have already made a purchase, they deliver information at precisely the moment customers need it.”
– David Meerman Scott, The New Rules of Sales and Service
Beyond delighting your customers through the five rules mentioned above, there are two paths you should take to bring things to the next level: the education path and the experience path.
The Education Path
The best way to attack how you delight customers through education is by identifying what they want.
While industries and people will certainly vary, there are initiatives that almost all business owners and executives are interested in:
How to save money
How to save time
How to grow their business
How to maximize the tools they’ve invested in
How to integrate systems together
What new technology exists
How to automate operations
How to make people more efficient
If anything about your company can help answer any of these questions, this is the type of content your customers will want to know more about. You only got the sale because you solved a problem for them. What other problems can be solved?
This should be the focus of your content strategy for your prospect and customers. How can you help solve problems? How you can influence the right kind of thinking on behalf of the clients?
“Our research shows you can make more sales by abandoning the sales-y behaviors buyers resist and replacing them with leadership behaviors buyers desire.”
It’s starts with the mindset that content is your portal to leadership. If you build content that is new, that’s different from the same listicles you find everywhere else, and that has a point of view that others can get behind, then you have the opportunity to lead, and therefore the opportunity to persuade. We will get into HOW you build the content that delights in a minute, but let’s start with WHY.
You’re building content to help; to be a credible voice that your target and current customers can turn to for inspiration, ideas, and guidance. There’s going to be fruitful byproducts of creating this work if you do it right. You will gain search traffic, social media followers, and new leads if what you are putting up is actually valuable. But it MUST be valuable. There is no reason to go through the hard work and effort if you aren’t providing value.
The number one thing I see with companies that create content but do not find successful results with it is a lack of value to the customer. The work becomes a checkmark or a to-do for someone and not thought of as the portal to lead and persuade. So as we dive into HOW you can create the type of content that will delight your customers, again and again, remember that it doesn’t mean a damn thing if you can’t provide value.
How you articulate these thoughts and points of view, well, the opportunities are endless. Here’s a quick list of ways companies use content to educate their customers:
Industry News Roundups
Book + Resource Recommendations
Social Media Tips
These are just a handful of ways you can disseminate the industry insights you have that your target personas will find valuable. A simple “Different Types of Content Marketing” Google Search can help you brainstorm another 100-200 of these.
The Experience Path
“Improving your experience 10x is much easier than improving your product 10x.” – Dharmesh Shah, Co-Founder, HubSpot
After you have taught your customers a thing or two, it’s time to make sure they feel appreciated. Putting customer appreciation into your process is vital, but make sure it’s not just the grand gestures. Sure, everyone likes a fruit basket on their birthday or a tin of popcorn during the holiday season, but what about the moments in-between? Here are a few quick ideas of how you can enhance your customer’s experience:
Send an Email of Gratitude
Nothing fancy, nothing over-the-top. Just a few sentences that have nothing to do with business showcasing why you value the relationship. You can identify things you’ve learned from them, attributes you admire, ways a situation was handled, or a simple message that says “our relationship matters to me.” Again, don’t overdo it, but every couple of months, send each customer one of these without being prompted.
Use the “bouquet of flowers as a gift” to guide you. Flowers (as a gift) are cliché on Valentine’s Day and look like a cheap attempt to win good graces when you’re in the doghouse. But if once a quarter, your significant other comes home and sees that “just cause” bloom in the vase, it means a lot more. The same goes with a letter of gratitude. And remember, while an email will suffice, major bonus points will be given if you go the handwritten card route!
Highlight Them in Your Content
This one is easy as pie. When something good happens to your customer, share it with the world. Put it on your social media and congratulate them. Add it to your email newsletter or company blog.
If your customer has something that matters to them – a trade show, seminar, or even a party – get there and bring a huge smile and a gift. Don’t get in their way, don’t hog their attention, and don’t bring up work issues, but get there on time and show you care. This is such an easy opportunity and one that companies constantly miss out on.
It’s not always possible, but if you can help refer them business, it will strengthen the bond and can help prompt them to refer others to you.
The way to delight is a dual attack of education and appreciation. If you can teach your customer ways to be more successful and show them how much you value the business relationship in the process, you’ve probably got a winning relationship, and you’re probably getting an A+ in the Delight Phase.
Finish Filling Out Your Map
Now that we understand the different ways we will Attract, Connect, Close, and Delight our Customers, let’s tackle the next column in the M2S Map: The Purpose/Role/Function.
The reason we have this is that if we understand WHY we are doing an action, it will help us evaluate that action through a better lens.
Let’s say we have decided the best way to “Attract” a prospect is through social media advertising. The prospect is in beauty and we begin the project by showcasing ads on Facebook and Instagram. The Purpose/Role/Function is to “place our ads in the social media feeds of our target audience.” Well after a few months, we evaluate how things are going and we realize that our audience has now completely ditched Facebook all-together, then we need to adjust our map and only put the ads on Instagram.
This is our simple way to make sure that our “what” and “why” are aligning and giving us the result that we want. It helps us bookmark the intention behind our actions and provides us with the most accurate way to measure if our work is following through on the promise of what we want it to do.
Success Metrics + Monthly Goal
We can’t properly manage what we can’t measure. That’s why each action that we identify should have a SMART goal attached to it. To do this, we have to identify both what the measurable success metric we are evaluating is as well as the monthly goal.
Chances are, we will have already identified some of these metrics during Data Day. If we are sending social media ads to our target personas for a beauty product we want prospects to purchase, then our ads need to be measured in the Attract phase by impressions, in the Connect phase by clicks, and in the Close phase by sales. All of these are SMART measurables that should be easy to set goals for and track.
For every action and initiative we perform, someone needs to be responsible for it. That doesn’t mean that this individual or vendor must do each part of it, but they are accountable to oversee the process for which it is done.
Many actions at the different stages of the customer lifecycle should have the same name on it. That’s completely fine and keeps the funnel running smoothly. One thing that can be helpful is to add more than one name to an initiative. The only recommendation here is that if more than one name is considered the “Responsible Party,” it is clear that the first name mentioned is ultimately the Responsible Party, even if additional people are involved in this part of the project.
Identify the Obstacles
As we build our M2S Maps, we undoubtedly find ourselves with the obstacles we call Obstacles standing in our way. Make a note of all of these. The culmination of the Obstacles on your maps will become the “to-do” list for your upcoming 90 Day Sprint.
When identifying the Obstacles, it’s okay to discuss the broader project. For instance, it’s okay to write in “New Website” as an Obstacle and not break the project down into SMART goals just yet. When you build out the 90 Day Sprint later in the M2S Day, you will map out the Obstacles in greater specifics. For now, we just need to identify all of these obstacles.
This is the one part of the map where macro is preferred to micro.
Finalize the Costs
This is the part of the M2S Map where you essentially build your budget. With each action, you need to know what you’re aiming to do, who is in charge, and how much it costs.
M2S Maps CANNOT BE BUILT if the budget is not correct. The reason we want you to leave Audience + Data Day with a grasp on your budget total is for this very reason. If you know what you need to spend and what you need to win to hit your goals, then this is where you slice and dice that budget sum and put your money to work for you.
This portion needs to be thought out carefully and with ROI in mind. In a perfect world, we would spend millions attracting, connecting, closing, and delighting. We would create multi-channel campaigns across print, broadcast, and digital. But we have to live within our means, which means we have to prioritize what we want to do based on what we think will give us the best results.
If you find yourself at a loss at where to invest dollars, take a look at where you’re currently weakest. If you have a lot of people inquire about your products or services that do not turn into customers, then you’re going to want to invest in the Connect-to-Close part of the funnel. If you feel the phones aren’t ringing enough, you’re going to want to put more emphasis in the Attract-to-Connect stages.
By going through the full method, you should have an idea of where changes in your process need to occur. Sometimes it can be hard to accept, but you may need to walk before you can run based on circumstance.
Take a look at the M2S Map below.
This was put together by an IT company that had successfully worked with a lot of clients in the sign industry and wanted to target more sign industry companies to work with.
Their Target Persona was called Sign Industry Sam, and they created the following process of using Inbound Marketing to attract, connect, close, and delight more Sams.
By seeing how the company divided up responsibility, budget, and understood the barriers in the way of marketing, they could create a simple, one-sheet marketing plan for this persona.
They can take the map, turn the Obstacles list into a 90 Day sprint, and then get to work.
The process is simple, but it is thorough. And at the end of the exercise and the three strategy days, you have three sheets just like Sign Industry Sam that serve as your:
90 Day Focus
Defined Marketing-to-Sales process
Plan of Action moving forward
When you’re building a strategy with real purpose, each activity should feed into the others. If you’ve gone through this process, you now have the plan to take your marketing to the next phase: the 90 Day Sprint.
Remember, planning and getting organized is the easy part. Focus is easier than follow-through. Everyone should feel good coming out of the three strategy days because the operation is more clearly defined for the entire company. But it’s important to take this enthusiasm and turn it into a routine.
Many companies get lost with data and for good reason. First, there are thousands of metrics a company can track and only a few of them actually matter, despite what vendors with outside interests may believe. For companies trying to get a grasp of their data setup, the Customer List is the gateway into beginning to understand their current data landscape. Through reviewing key variables from past efforts, we create a baseline for our upcoming activity.
Step One: Build the List
The list is easy-to-build, but depending on the number of customers you have, it can be a little tedious. To begin, go to QuickBooks or your bookkeeping software. Export your paying customers from the past 12 months and sort from the highest revenue generator to the lowest.
Add a row above and create the following headings:
Column A – Customer Name
Sort by the highest paying customer
Column B – Gross Revenue
The amount each customer has paid the past twelve months
Column C – Persona Type
Not all customers may apply to this. Only put the label on customers you would consider “ideal” if they were not already.
Column D – Acquisition Channel
Where did the customer come from?
Column E – Revenue Streams
Which stream did they pay you for? Only identify one stream per customer, and if there are more than one, choose which one they paid the most for.
Column F – New Customer?
Identify if this customer was a first-time customer within the 12-month period of the export.
Thanks to the bookkeeping export, you should have columns A and B already filled out. Before going in and filling out the rest, add a row at the very top of the document. In Column A, type in “Marketing Spend”. Merge Columns B-F into one. Type in your marketing spend from the last 12 months. If this is not something you’re currently tracking, listing a ballpark figure is alright, but make sure you include EVERYTHING – human capital, systems, events, advertising dollars, etc.
Your sheet should look like the example below:
Now go through and fill out each column for every customer.
Note that if you want to work with a PMM implementor or an outside consultant, but you do not want to advertise your customer list to this person (or go through the NDA process with them), you can simply copy and paste column A from the example below and rename each customer “A,” “B,” and so forth. Who they are will not matter during the data exercises ahead, and the implementor does not need to know the actual company name to help you complete the work.
Before we move to step two, let’s use an example to help us illustrate what we’re trying to do. A young software company, we’ll call them “Young Software”, works with professional service companies to streamline their project management, invoicing, and customer service.
We will fill out their Customer List based on the following criteria of Young Software:
12 Month Marketing Spend: $400,000
Customers – 26, which we will name each letter of the alphabet
Gross Revenue – $2 million
Direct Mail Campaigns
Software Development Kits
Enterprise Custom Solution
Here’s what their hypothetical customer list looks like:
Step Two: The Calculations
Alright, we’ve done the tedious part – we got all of the information into the right places. Now comes the fun part – putting these numbers together and learning what they mean.
Here’s the list of calculations we’re looking to fill in:
Annual Value of a Customer***
Average New Customer Value
Customer Value Per Revenue Stream
Customer Value Per Acquisition Channel
Customer Value Per Persona
***Note: A more popular metric among marketers is the “Lifetime Value of a Customer.” However, this is one of the easiest pieces of data to manipulate, so we strip it down to something more concrete, the annual value.
Here’s how we calculate each:
Sum of all customers’ revenue
Average Customer Value
Gross Revenue divided by the number of total customers
Sum of all customers marked as “new”
Average New Customer Value
New customer total divided by the gross revenue from all new accounts
Total Marketing Spend divided by new customers
Customer Value Per Revenue Stream
For each stream, take the sum of each account that came from that stream and divide it by the total amount of accounts within the stream.
Customer Value Per Acquisition Channel
For each channel, take the sum of each account that came from that channel and divide it by the total amount of accounts from that channel.
Customer Value Per Persona
For each persona, take the sum of each account that you identify as that persona and divide it by the total amount of accounts listed as each persona.
Using “Young Software” as our example, below is what we’ve calculated for their company. Notice we highlight in green where we see a positive outlier and in red where we see a negative outlier:
Step Three: What are we Looking For with These Calculations?
When going through the Customer List, you’re identifying the starting point for your upward trajectory. You want more clients, at higher pricepoints and to get them, you need to understand where you are today.
One of the most impactful elements of the exercise is identifying outliers. Outliers can be good, and when they are, we highlight them in green. When they are bad, we go with red.
Looking back at Young Software, we see that they have one revenue stream that significantly brings in larger accounts, their Enterprise Custom Solutions. Yet, ECS accounts are only about 20% of their total amount of customers. What’s happening within the company between the numbers? How much money is being spent on getting these types of customers versus the monthly subscriptions? How many people does it take to staff one of these accounts? Is the profit margin higher for ECS accounts as well? Knowing these accounts are significantly higher in value, how will we take this to our upcoming marketing efforts?
On the flip side, we recognize that we have a Persona, Ellie Insurance, that makes up almost half of the clientele and yet, is about a 20% lower account size on average than the other personas. Why is this? How is this impacted by the marketplace? Are there just more insurance agents that need the software than lawyers?
The answers to these questions can only come from getting everyone together to look at what the numbers are. When you go through the entire customer list and put labels on your current clientele based on the work you put in during Brand Day, you’re gathering intelligence on how you will move forward once you draw out your Marketing-to-Sales Maps. You see how your current Revenue Streams stack up, where you’re having success acquiring customers, and which Personas carry the most value to you. You start seeing numbers that you never considered before.
You’ve calculated the important numbers. You know the variables specific to your business. Now close this exercise by discussing the 7 questions below. Answer in no more than 2 sentences for each question and take no more than 30 minutes to complete. Put the answers away somewhere you can access them because they’re going to come in handy later in the Method.
1. We are spending $________ to acquire one customer. Knowing this, are we spending this $_________ the most effective way?
2. What do we think would be more effective – spending more money on marketing or throwing out the things that are not working and lowering our cost-per-acquisition?
3. How can we increase our Annual Value of a Customer?
4. Based on the data we have reviewed, what do we need to consider regarding our revenue streams?
5. Based on the data we have reviewed, what do we need to consider regarding our acquisition channels?
6. Based on the data we have reviewed, what do we need to consider regarding our personas?
7. Given our business, what other columns could be added to this sheet that may help us better understand our customers?
Any business can pay to attract consumers. If you want 1 million eyeballs on your website tomorrow, you can pay a nice offshore company to make that happen. Sure, your site probably wouldn’t be able to handle the volume of users and crash, but you get the point. Attracting is easy because attracting can be purchased.
Getting real traction, converting someone driving down the highway who sees your billboard or is interrupting your social media feed to take an action, well that’s a little more difficult.
People pay all sorts of money in hopes of attracting and converting. They pay writers to publish content. They pay PR companies for media attention. They pay SEO agencies for more organic traffic to their website. They pay media buyers to place ads in front of their target audience. They pay salespeople to call, email, and knock on doors of prospects they have never met to tell them about their service and product.
And yet, the outcome many desire from these purchases does not come to fruition. And I can tell you why…
In other words, there’s a leadership void in the message and nothing you are saying is unique, interesting, or persuasive.
Let’s use an Accounting Firm as an example. We’ll call them, The Smith Company. It’s September and they want to build some marketing campaigns for the next 6-8 months leading up to Tax Day. They take out the checkbook and start writing checks to:
• A writing service that produces content
• An SEO agency
• A local PR agency
• 2 new salespeople
Alright, The Smith Company is ready to invest in its growth.
Now comes the moment of truth.
Each of these people, whether an agency or an in-house hire, is going to have a preliminary meeting where they ask the accountants in some way, shape, or form: “Tell us about yourself and what makes you different.”
Going back to the old Sinek Golden Circle video, we can assume their answer will touch upon the what and the how of what they do. If they’re like many of the accountants I’ve run into over the years, they will plug the same type of “value propositions” that aren’t really value propositions.
“Our people are the best! We put service first! We are super experienced and have seen it all! We listen to our customer! We are nice and fair and please, pretty please, come with us!”
So let’s now put ourselves in the shoes of the new people on the project. We’ve got 3 new agencies on board and 2 new employees and all they have to work with is customer service and experience? They are doomed to fail.
The content company will inevitably write the same educational resources anyone can find on Wikipedia and content farms. The PR company will pitch them for pay-to-play “awards” that don’t really mean anything and hope they don’t notice the lack of media placements. The SEO team will optimize for the same keywords as the other accounting firms in town with no tools to get an advantage. And the Sales Team is going to knock on doors hoping some sweet old lad or lass is lonely and needs someone to talk to.
Now let’s say this wasn’t the case. Let’s say The Smith Company’s, CEO, Roy Smith, took his 20+ years of professional experience, considered the new tax laws, thought about the problems his customers were facing and expressed something completely unique, intelligent, and valuable.
In this hypothetical, our pal Roy takes his time and works with each of the new vendors and their employees and explains to each of them that there are “7 Opportunities the 2019 Tax Laws Present for Homeowners.” He goes into detail about each.
Now we have new resources that can perform:
The content company has something unique to put together. They can create flexible content across blogs, videos, infographics, and more.
The PR team has something they can pitch to media outlets with more of a readership as an editorial placement. Additionally, there’s an opportunity to get local media gigs around tax season with the new message.
The SEO team can get more backlinks because the content is compelling and unique enough to be shared.
And the Sales Team has helpful information for prospects that they will be able to use when evaluating if it’s time for them to make a change.
Marketing + Sales run much more effectively when a company has a valuable and unique message. But how do you craft that message? What factors need to be considered?
Let me show you 😉
How to Craft the Perfect Leadership Message for Your Organization
Step 1: Identify the Problems Your Customers Face
The best way you can show value to someone is to put yourself in their shoes. By showing empathy towards your target market, it’s easier to connect the dots in how the products or services you offer can help them.
Step 2: Identify the Emotion That Will Create Change
Dr. Paul Ekman categorizes the “Atlas of Emotions” in human beings as such:
If those sound familiar to you, perhaps this is where I should note that Ekman was a key advisor on the hit Pixar film, “Inside Out,” where all five of these emotions lived inside the mind of a little girl.
Now there’s a lot of derivatives of these emotions, even by Ekman himself. In the 90s, he expanded his work to include the following as our “basic emotions”:
Amusement, Contempt, Contentment, Embarrassment, Excitement, Guilt, Pride in Achievement, Relief, Satisfaction, Sensory Pleasure, and Shame.
From a marketing perspective, the complete range of emotions is a better group to work from, but we still need to trim it down a bit:
Pride in Achievement
What emotions above do you want your message to invoke in your target audience? In the end, you most certainly want some form of joy. But how do you get there?
In the example above with The Smith Company’s “7 Opportunities the 2019 Tax Laws Present for Homeowners,” they are eliciting a feeling of excitement. There’s a possibility on the horizon. There’s a new path that makes it possible to save money. Who’s not excited by that?
Conversely, a terrible computer virus may be going around that infects users of a popular software program. An IT company may want to step in with a fear-based approach, “4 Must-Have Security Features to Protect Your Computer from the Y Virus”. Obviously, the end result of their work would be “relief,” but to provoke change, the company needs to instill a sense of fear in the customer so they know just how serious the cost of inaction may be.
Now it’s your team’s turn. Take the list of emotions above and pull out the top five best possibilities. Put them aside for a minute. We will be coming back to these.
Step 3: Misconceptions + Differentiators
To lead, you must say and do something new. Leading is for the creatives. The explorers. The risk takers.
To create a leadership message, you have to put yourself out there. You no longer need to try to appeal to anyone and everyone. You’re going to appeal to a target customer that needs what you offer the way you offer it.
You can’t say something new, however, without identifying a) what is currently considered the status quo and b) how you or your company break through and do things differently. See the chart below:
On the left-hand side, identify the different ways your competitors and industry are commonly attacking the problems you outlined in step 1. For each of these problems, consider how you will do it differently.
Note that you can’t take this part of the exercise in a completely black and white fashion. If you’re a plumber, there are only a few ways to get a clogged toilet working again. However, you can recognize that most of your competitors believe in “being there when you need it”. They focus a lot of marketing efforts in search, where their target market goes when something has gone wrong. From there, the plumber could say that the Status Quo solves the problem of a clogged toilet once the toilet is clogged. However, you could constantly be marketing the proactive ways in which you will avoid needing a plumber to come out for a clogged toilet.
What?!?! But wouldn’t you lose business if everyone knew not to throw 45 sheets of teepee down the toilet at once? Sure, you’d lose some of that money if people got themselves into shape. However, when the time came for you to install a new bathroom in the house, who would you go to? The guy who came out and fixed your toilet 4 times or the person who taught you how to not clog the toilet? You’re going with the person that has shown they have your best interest at heart.
All this potty talk aside, you get the point. If everyone’s zigging, you either need to zag or learn how to zig better than everyone else.
Start by bringing up the things that drive you crazy about your competitors. What are they doing that you believe is either wrong or not as effective as your way? This should get you going in the right direction to fill out each side of the chart.
Remember, for every little thing that “grinds your gears,” needs to be an avenue where you can do it better/differently.
Step 4: Bring it All Together
Okay, you’ve now identified a lot of different elements we need to thread together:
The Problems Your Customers Face
The Emotion(s) You Believe with Create Change
What the Status Quo is Doing
What You are Doing Differently
How do these come together into a clear message?
Start with value. You’ve identified the problems. What would be the most valuable thing you could give to a prospect to assist with that problem and earn yourself trust and credibility?
Next, consider the emotions you narrowed down in Step 2. To get your target to actually pay attention and receive this value you’re hoping to provide, how do you need to make them feel?
With the value and emotions considered, how do you say something completely unique and different to them? Where do you bring in this unique point-of-view you’ve outlined?
How do you put all of these elements together and draw in your target customer through enticing communication related to the emotion you are hoping to elicit?
If you answered these questions and haven’t been able to put together your message, try this simple formula:
(#) + (Adjective) + (Nouns) That (Can Solve a Common Problem)
7 Profitable Opportunities the 2019 Tax Laws Present for Homeowners
4 Must-Have Security Features to Avoid the Y Virus
One last caveat. If you use this formula, you BETTER back up the promise of your title with original, interesting, and VALUABLE content. Do not put together the same old listicle that everyone else has pumped out. This formula often leads to a catchy title with no substance added thereafter. Whatever route you take, make sure you fulfill the promise of your premise. Otherwise, this piece of content you’ve built to attract your target audience will have the opposite impact. To showcase leadership, you must lead. Say something new, or risk being looked at as an “also-ran.”
How to Disseminate Your Leadership Message
Alright, you’ve got your message together. It provides original ideas and educational value to your target market. Now comes the last part – how do you disseminate the message?
Like many parts of the PMM, you are going to need to rely on your understanding of the target audience to some extent. If your dream customer only shows up to certain industry events, then perhaps your Leadership Message should be displayed as an interactive keynote that you would present at an event. If your ideal customer is going to search google to solve this problem, a blog post or video might be the route.
This illuminates one of the great aspects of the Leadership Message: it allows you to make flexible, consistent content. Once you have the central message you want to use to attract your audience, it can be created as a video, presentation, blog post, editorial on another site, speech, infographic, cold call, or anything else that’s applicable.
By creating the message first, you create content that feeds into those initiatives we outlined above. Start with your unique perspective, and let the SEO, PR, and Sales efforts amplify it thereafter.
Last month, the International Sign Association (ISA) hosted the Sign Expo 2019. This year’s annual event had record-breaking attendance with over 20,000 attendees and almost 600 vendors. Our client, Nova Polymers, attended and sponsored the annual event, where we were happy to design an array of materials for the show.
Starting with the booth, we visualized Nova Polymers commitment to innovation as a leading voice in ADA signage by producing an elegant, accessible black and white backdrop. We continued with this theme in the development of their promotional materials, such as brochures, banner ads, and videos.
Moreover, as sponsors of the event, Nova Polymers collaborated with ISA for the Sign Expo 2019 app and wayfinding kiosk. Our team took the lead on designing these projects, implementing the vision of each organization into a sleek and easy-to-navigate design.
Aside from the design work we created, we also strategized a social media campaign to promote Nova Polymers’ attendance at the event. This campaign centered on a contest to win a $250 gift card, which aided ISA hitting its new attendance record for the Sign Expo 2019.
Overall, it was a pleasure to see our work at such a well-organized and impactful industry show. We look forward to doing this again for next year.
One of the biggest challenges marketers face is targeting the right people at the right time with the right message. Failure to do so can lead to severe consequences for a business. So, how can you find you your ideal audience and personalize your marketing messages to attract those buyers?
Enter buyer personas.
Hubspotdeserves credit for the widespread practice of businesses adopting buyer personas in their marketing efforts,so let’s use their most concrete definition to explain the concept:
A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.When creating your buyer persona(s), consider including customer demographics, behavior patterns, motivations, and goals.
Put more simply, you segment your ideal customers into different categories and call them goofy names like Sign Industry Steve, trying to get into their mindset and understand their pain points, goals, etc. so that you can begin marketing more poignantly to that customer type.
Why do we create Buyer Personas?
When done purposefully, the buyer persona exercises can be illuminating in helping you understand your prospects on a deeper level.
Developing personas allows you to create content and messaging that appeals to your target audience. It also enables you to target or personalize your marketing for different segments of your audience. For example, instead of sending the same lead nurturing emails to everyone in your database, you can segment by buyer persona and tailor your messaging according to what you know about those different personas.
A politician’s buyer personas include voters, supporters, and contributors;
Universities’ buyer personas include prospective students who might apply, their parents who will foot the bill, and alumni who might donate;
A golf club’s buyer personas are potential members;
A nonprofit’s buyer personas include corporate and individual donors.
One key thing to keep in mind – marketers can get a little out-of-hand with “personas.” There are negative personas for prospects you wish to avoid, referral personas for the people who recommend you to new customers, and user personas for websites trying to collect your data.
If you strip everything away, “personas” are just the people you are targeting to help you grow your business. So throw “negative personas” in the trash and bundle your buyer personas, user personas, and referral personas into one clean name: Target Personas.
Okay, so we’re calling these “Target Personas” now?
And they are exactly like buyer personas but with the flexibility to loop in referral sources and other users?
Great! Anything else we should know about our target personas before moving on?
As much as we praise our pals at Hubspot above, this particular approach from one of their bloggers to persona building desperately needs a shot of “settle down” juice. Creating 100 answers to a fictionalized version of your ideal customer may be well intended, but so far beyond what’s necessary that it actually gets in the way.
Examples of pointless questions in the article above to avoid in this exercise:
(Note that the persona is identified as a male in the original article)
Did he grow up in a rural, suburban, or urban area?
Did he get in trouble at [elementary] school?
Where does he fall in the birth order?
What kind of house did he live in growing up?What type of housing does he currently live in?
Did he enjoy his college experience?
Does he enjoy traveling?
Does he make an effort to stay fit and healthy?
What is his favorite TV show?
Does he cook at home or eat out?
Does he experiment with recreational substances?
Alright, now that we’ve had some good-natured fun identifying that living as a childin a Craftsman style home instead of a Spanish colonial makes no difference at all, let’s cut to the core of what DOES matter.
How the Purposeful Marketing Method builds Target Personas
Like every other exercise in the Purposeful Marketing Method, we want to go laser, not lantern, with our focus. Our target personas can be flushed out on a single page (download the template here) and consist of five sections:
I. Core Information
V. (How We) Approach
Let’s breakdown each section and identify how you can best create target personas that will help you segment your upcoming marketing efforts.
I. Core Information
Here’s your opportunity to have some fun with a personified name that’s easy to remember. Don’t go overboard with the “fun,” but make sure the name is memorable.
Be as specific as you can.
Titles don’t matter. Responsibilities do. What is he/she responsible for?
Stay simple. Sex, age, geography, etc. Don’t overdo/think this part.
This will tie in closely to his/her job role.
Next, let’s explore what your target persona wants.
What is their primary objective?
What change needs to happen first?
What change needs to happen second?
What does this person believe in? When they read the opening line of your Why-How-What Positioning Statement, how does it resonate with them?
Now, let’s dive into the things that are holding your target persona back.
Pain Point 1:
What is the biggest problem they need to be solved?
Pain Point 2:
What is the second biggest problem they need to be solved?
Buying Hesitation 1:
Why would they NOT go with you?
Buying Hesitation 2:
Is there another reason for their caution in pulling the trigger?
Who Else is Involved in the Decision? How do they factor in?
Next, you’ll want to take a look at the professional behavior practices your target persona tends to sway towards….
Software + Apps:
What type of software and applications do they use (strictly for business purposes)?
Events + Industry Involvement:
What events do they attend? How do they connect within their industry – digitally and in person?
What is the best way to correspond with them?
From start to finish, how would they make a purchasing decision like this?
V. How Do We Approach
How do we speak to them?
Services/Products to Offer:
Which of your services or products do they need?
Services/Products to Avoid:
Which of your services or products are not wanted/needed?
Target Personas Example
One of our dearest clients is We Rock the Spectrum (WRTS), a kids gym franchise that caters to special needs children. When we began working with the company, they had five locations across Southern California. By the end of 2018, they had 70 locations in over five countries.
As they grew their franchise across the globe, We Rock the Spectrum learned a lot about their target personas. One of these personas, we’ll call her “Stay-At-Home Sandy,” was a former business professional who now found herself a stay-at-home mom to a special needs child.
With so many gyms open and access to such an abundance of data, it became clear after a few years that not only were there so many “Sandy’s” interested in opening up a franchise in their respective communities, but once these Sandys came on board and opened their doors, they tended to be more profitable than the gyms without any ties to the special needs community.
Therefore, we decided to help We Rock the Spectrum break down this persona even further.
Here’s what Stay-At-Home Sandy looks like in action.
Industry:Stay-At-Home Moms who had previous professional experience
Job Role: Sandy is responsible for the health and well-being of her child(ren)
Company Size:Most Sandy’s have a partner in the house (husband or wife), but many are younger, single moms witha financial partnership tied to her parents.
Goal 1:Bring a profitable sensory gym to her community. Sandy’s always value community over their singular situation. Sandy’s must be leaders.
Goal 2:Re-enter the workforce in a way that benefits her child. Sandy misses the hustle and bustle but can only return if she knows her child is okay.
Priority 1:Understanding the feasibility of opening the gym from a costs perspective.
Priority 2: Understanding the feasibility of opening the gym from an operations/entrepreneur perspective.
Personal Values: Family first. Sandy always cares about her family and other family units above all else. She is compassionate, inclusive, and flexible in solving problems.
Pain Point 1: Sandy feels trapped at home but doesn’t see a lot of ways to get back to work or bring her child into community playgrounds/spaces.
Pain Point 2: Her child is getting older. She is getting older. Time is ticking.
Buying Hesitation 1:It is a very big “leap.” It’s a big financial leap, it’s a big life change. Is the timing right? Is the timing ever right? Can she handle the giant learning curve?
Buying Hesitation 2:Because of how the boundaries are drawn, there’s only one WRTS gym allowed in a given geographic area. That means the local community does not have a concrete pioneer to pave the way and make the purchase feel as safe. What if they open their doors and nobody shows up?
The Others: The financial partner, usually a husband, but many times a parent.
Software + Apps: Sandy is a little green on the technology side of the business. She is good with parts of social media – particularly Facebook and Instagram. She uses her Gmail regularly but has little experience with platforms like QuickBooks, MailChimp, and other popular tech that has been around for at least a decade.
Events + Industry Involvement: She’s incredibly active in the local special needs community. Many times, she organizes events like Autism walks. She’s friendly and inviting to other special needs parents in her child’s classes. She is quick to tell others about great resources in the community and help newer special needs moms by providing advice she wishes she had when she began her journey. She is VERY active in the local Facebook Groups for moms, especially special needs moms.
Communication Preferences: She is always on her phone. So text, call, or FB messenger.
Purchase SOP: Sandy is thorough. Upon finding out about We Rock the Spectrum, she will inquire about more information and start researching every little bit that she can. She will need to feel comfortable over a 1-2 month period of having her questions answered before feeling ready to make a decision.
How Do We Approach Them
Tone: This is very important – we must be incredibly compassionate about Sandy’s life situation and spend a lot of time listening to her. Let her talk about all of the obstacles mentioned above and use as many specific examples of current gym owners who had similar situations/struggles and tell their success stories. Because of this big life change, we need to act with patience as we educate her on all aspects of the business.
Services/Products to Offer: As long as Sandy is financially secure, we should sell her on opening up a brick and mortar gym. If she may be a little questionable on the financial side, we should inquire on if the mobile bus concept would be a better fit for her.
Services/Products to Avoid: Many owners will either add a mobile bus concept along the way or open up a second gym. Gauge an initial interest but if it’s not met with enthusiasm, do not mention it again.
Start Building Your Personas!
Alright, it’s time to build out your Target Personas.
A few more guidelines before you get started:
Start with 3 Target Personas. In the exercises ahead, we will be outlining exactly how your company should Attract, Connect with, Close, and Delight each persona. A lot of work is involved in managing three different persona campaigns. If you go after four or more, the chances of you following through on your campaigns decrease tremendously. Start small and if you get the hang of it, you can build out from there.
You’ll notice we have suggested two goals, two priorities, two pain points, and two hesitations. Make sure you understand with each of these which is the primary and which is secondary. There are layers to everyone’s desires and obstacles but this should help you keep things focused on the most important elements.
Compare and contrast some of your current customers that fit into these personas. Think of your favorite/most-profitable buyer. Do you want to clone him/her? What would that look like?
After going through the exercise, challenge your team to come up with two situational questions to ask of your persona. Remember, every industry is different. For instance, if you are an accountant creating a persona for entrepreneurs you want to work with and a major tax cut has happened recently, consider the question “How does Ernie Entrepreneur feel about the new corporate tax cuts?” Another example would be if you were a retail clothing store, you may want to consider something like “What time of day does Fashionable Fran usually buy her clothes?”
With the guide in hand, you get the intention here – what are the details you need to understand about your customer to properly market to them? Figure them out, and jot their answers down.
Alright, get out there and start building your personas!
Stick to what matters, and get to know your customer!
Before we jump into your vision pitch, we need to start by re-visiting the customer lifecycle:
Attract the Prospect
Connect with the Prospect
Convert them into a Customer
Delight the Customer
When a prospect is attracted to you and indicates they want to begin the conversation, a new door opens, and you better make it count.
The irony of the “connect” phase is it sounds so innocent. “Let’s just connect, explain what we do, see if there’s a fit.” But after you get there, you often find yourself with a make-or-break opportunity to move the prospect down the sales funnel – if, and this is a big “if,” you can earn their trust.
Most companies have a multi-layered process from connect to close. There’s an initial point of contact, a call, or email where the business qualifies the prospect. If they determine the prospect to be a good fit, something further is scheduled. Maybe it’s an in-person “pitch meeting,” maybe a conference call, maybe it’s a demo over screen share. Regardless of the medium, it’s an invitation to be sold and you want to show up to the party prepared.
That’s why you need the Vision Pitch. The Vision Pitch is an organized visual representation of your company’s proven process that showcases what working with you would look like. If you’re in software, the Vision Pitch is usually your demo. If you run on EOS (the Entrepreneurial Operating System), your Vision Pitch is a sheet of paper with your process laid out concisely (don’t worry, we’ll show you how to do a little better than a one-sheet). If you work on Madison Avenue, your Vision Pitch is literally your pitch. And if you’re like the younger, naïve version of myself, you think the only Vision Pitch you need is you. No visuals, no process, just you.
Let’s go ahead and dispel that notion right now…
You Alone are NOT the Vision Pitch
When I was starting out in business, I hated the idea of systems and processes. I was always terrified to put my clients in a box. I love critical thought and problem-solving, and therefore decided every customer is unique, and solving their problems required a tailored approach. So, I would show up to a meeting, sit down, ask questions as they came to me, and let the prospect talk. I didn’t take notes, I used the “Yes, and…” improv technique to raise the enthusiasm, and I would leave most meetings with everyone happy, especially me, because I had just “won them over.”
Over time, many problems arose from this approach. Among them:
Overpromising and under-delivering. This is a symptom of one person trying to play Superman and saying “yes” to everything. Once it came time to pass off what I had sold the client on to my team of Project Managers, many times it was hard to fulfill the requests at the time and budget that had been contracted.
Making everybody love you is a terrible sales trait. Here’s why – when you’re solely trying to win people over, you make concessions to steal their hearts. You go down in price. You’re afraid to speak in specifics for fear that you may say something to jeopardize your position. You become focused on the wrong sale – winning them over as people as opposed to winning them as clients.
Systems fuel growth. When I was trying to be the Vision Pitch myself, everything was on my shoulders. I loved that pressure. I thrived (for the most part) with those stakes. Unfortunately, I only have so much time in the day and if I want to scale my business beyond where I am, I need a blueprint that others can follow. Letting go of being the “only one” who can do everything will provide a much better foundation for growth.
Organization + preparedness is more impressive than improvisation. When you show up to a meeting, make pleasantries, ask questions, and react based on the answers, you’re essentially improvising. If you’re at a comedy or jazz show, that’s great. When you’re trying to win over a customer, you can come off unorganized and unsure of what you do. Sales come from confidence, and you need to be confident in a process more so than yourself. An organized process with proven examples of success will showcase your value. You will also find your “pitch” for the process is stronger than when you’re improvising because…
You’re not getting in the right reps. You know how comics go to small clubs in New York or LA and try out a bunch of different jokes for weeks on end to see what lands before they film their Netflix special? Sales people do the same thing. They constantly refine their approach based on how the market is reacting to what they’re offering. Practice makes you better. So, if every room you walk into, there’s a different conversation going on that’s reactive based on the first few questions that have been asked, you’re missing an opportunity to control your message and make it more effective over time. Work on repetition, and optimize accordingly.
One thing to keep in mind about the “I alone am the Vision” approach – we need to identify its strength: listening to the customer is incredibly important.
Providing the forum and flexibility to take what a prospect is saying and putting it into your Vision Pitch is an absolute must. We will get into how to do that the RIGHT way in a minute, but let’s make sure we take a second and identify that listening will be a significant aspect of the Vision Pitch.
What Goes into The Vision Pitch
The Vision Pitch is going to be one of your visual focal points in communicating your process and value. For many companies, this is systemizing a concept that’s currently being used informally. You know what you do, you can explain through the lens of a customer how your products/services improve their business, but you’re not organized. Let’s get everything in order so you and your team know exactly how to present your offerings to your target market.
The Vision Pitch Formula:
Credibility Builders → Questions for the Customer → Success Steps
Start by establishing credibility to your target market. Using customer success stories, testimonials, positive statistics, and/or a connection to their industry, introduce your company while giving your prospect reasons to feel comfortable.
Here’s an example of how an Invoicing Automation software company may lay out their credibility builders.
In-Voicing is the first invoicing software to integrate with QuickBooks, FreshBooks, and NewBooks.
We have over 2,100 companies using the platform and experienced a 92% renewal rate last year.
One of our early customers, a Personal Injury Law Group similar to yours called “The Smith Firm,” reported that in 2 years using our software, they have saved over 200 admin hours that is now being used to bill clients.
You see, each of these makes you feel a little more comfortable with “In-voicing” if you’re a prospect.
Point 1 lets me know they are innovative and capable.
Point 2 makes me know I’m not part of their “proof of concept” phase.
And point 3 points to a real-life example that illustrates how the system provided a massive ROI for a company like mine.
They’ve got my attention. I’m officially interested.
Your Turn: Write out three aspects of your business/products/services that establish your credibility.
Questions for the Customer
While using the Vision Pitch keeps you in control of the message, it should not be one-sided. If we want to earn trust, we can’t just talk for an extended period of time, finish up and say “any questions?” We have to open our ear to the customer early in the process.
Everybody needs to feel heard. You should be asking questions, you just need to be asking the RIGHT questions, and not go back and forth trying to solve problems as they are presented. You should get at the core of what their problems are, what’s not working, and sniff out any important information needed. Listen, and take notes.
Using our fake invoicing automation company “In-Voicing” as an example, here are five questions they may use in their Vision Pitch presentation.
How do you currently do invoicing?
How much time and manpower do your invoices take?
What does your “collections” process look like when customers get behind?
In a perfect world, how would your invoicing operation work if time, money, and technology were not barriers?
What was the tipping point in why you decided to explore a new direction?
These questions aim to get the customers to speak further about what they do not like about their current solutions. What the team at “In-Voicing” is listening for are problems that their software will solve because, in the next part of the Vision Pitch, they are going to hypothetically solve these problems for the prospect using their platform. You’re making them describe a dark world and focus on what’s wrong so you can paint the picture for them of what “right” would look like.
Your Turn: Write out five questions you want every prospect to answer so that you can take them through your “success steps” using their business as your example.
The Success Steps outline what a customer’s complete journey with you looks like. It should be no more than 10 steps and illustrate what being in business with your company looks like, from the moment of connection to the point of ROI.
Success Steps is where you begin to visualize the “perfect experience” for a prospect. Lay out a clear expectation of how things work, where the process is flexible, how long each step can/will take, and destroy the customer hesitations before they can even be brought up.
For each step, you may want to have an example on-hand to use as a go-to when additional questions are brought up. You are presenting a process and in an ideal world, you will walk the customer through their role in that process and they will just be amazed. But in the real world, they will be asking questions about how other companies have fared in a similar position. If you have an example off the top of your head at each step and can answer without hesitation, your confidence in the process will shine even brighter.
Going back to our fake friends at “In-Voicing,” their Success Steps may look as follows:
Step 1: A 60 Minute Demo that showcases how our system works, the meeting you are in today.
Step 2: A technical specialist will come in for an intensive week and either integrate or transfer your current accounting software into our platform.
Step 3: Our business development team conducts goal setting where we outline the amount of time we want to save and the percentage of collections we want to recover.
Step 4: Our training team hosts a weekly training session with an open Q&A for 90 Days.
Step 5: Our biz dev team comes in quarterly to review progress as it pertains to the goals.
Step 6: The one-year look back. We go through our goals, where we were when we started, and identify how much money has been saved in the year we’ve been working together. If it’s not more than 20%, we will give you three free months on the software and increase your business development meetings to a monthly schedule.
It’s important to note that presenting the Success Steps should not be a one-way street. You want the prospect putting themselves in the process, so make sure you keep your forum open to them to work out any specifics that may need to be clarified.
Try It: Write out the 10 (or less!) steps a customer has with you to find success. Additionally, add a Real-Life Example to each step in case it’s needed to be used as you present everything.
Start Making Decisions
No formula, book, or consultant knows your customers better than you. Never forget that and don’t be wishy-washy about it. You are the highest educated person/people in the world when it comes to knowing the people your business serves.
So, let’s start with them.
Knowing your customers as well as you do, assume you were starting over and approaching them for the first time. Consider their time, their location, their problems, and their goals.
Taking all of this into consideration, make some important decisions.
Decision 1: The Medium
Which of these forms of communication would be strongest given the factors above?
An in-person meeting
A conference call accompanied by a screen share
A video conference with screen share capabilities
A passive document/webpage with information they can read on their own time
Note that options 1-3 require may be more oral in their presentation, but all need to be accompanied by a visual. Everything needs to be laid out.
Decision 2: Timing
How long is this meeting going to last?
When you present a time for the meeting, you set an expectation. The EOS 90-Minute Meeting is very on-brand for their system, as it is very specific. It starts on time, it ends on time, and due to the 90-minute expectation, you know it covers a substantial amount of ground.
While that works well for EOS, what works for your customer? Do they need 30 minutes and for you to be quick and to the point? Is an hour enough time? Should you go for 2 hours?
Remember, you’re trying to earn trust, not necessarily complete the sale. Give yourself enough time, but don’t go so long that you turn off your target customer.
And whatever you decide, include the length while scheduling the meeting to set the expectation. A good follow-up after a meeting is scheduled might read:
“Great. Our next step is a 30-minute screen share that will start at exactly 8:00am and end right at 8:30. Please be on time and I will present everything you need in just 30 minutes.”
Also note, if you decide to take a passive approach with your Vision Pitch and provide literature or collateral for a prospect to dig into on their own time, outline the timing of your process.
“Thank you for connecting with us. Attached you will find a layout of the process we have used to help over 200 businesses increase their revenue. Please take a look over the next seven business days and if you’re ready to begin, click here to get started. If you have any additional questions, a representative will reach out after seven business days to help answer any follow-ups.”
Decision 3: The Visuals
Are you ready to bring it all home with a beautiful presentation? Great, let’s get to it!
Knowing your medium means knowing your setting. Think of the factors of “where” that need to be in play. When you’re presenting in front of a screen, you don’t want to put a giant amount of text on your presentation or every person in the room will tune you out and try to read what’s behind you. If your visual is drawn throughout the course of the meeting, make sure you have a whiteboard or large paper on the wall at your meeting space. If your presentation requires technology, cover your bases before the meeting starts.
Knowing your timing means knowing your Vision Pitch’s length. If you feel you need 90 full minutes, you need 90 minutes worth of a visual. That doesn’t mean you need to build a 100-page keynote, it just means to stay consistent with the expectation that you have set.
The big rule of thumb is less is more. Clear, concise words and images. As little text as you can enter. See a few design concepts below that do a good job of keeping everything in the presentation tight.
This is an Obstacle that’s a little larger than you probably realize. The best process for getting this built is to start with your presentation in its barest form and fill things out from there. You’re only at the beginning of conceptualization, so hone your pitch, practice on your trusted friends and partners. Get it to a place where you feel comfortable with every word that comes out of your mouth, and THEN throw it on your Obstacles List. This will make your final Vision Pitch more impactful, allowing the design to support the concept and not vice versa.
Create the outline for your Vision Pitch
Three Credibility Builders
Ten (Or Less) Success Steps
Your medium for the presentation
The timing of your presentation
The desired visuals for your presentation
Put it all together. Practice in the mirror and on friends. Once it’s perfect, perform in front of your creative team and put together the necessary design support to amplify your message.
Everybody has their idea of what “cool” looks like. And because cool is subjective, defining your company’s visual identity can be tough. That’s why ATAK Interactive created the Style Discovery Tool in the fall of 2018.
The simple-to-follow application helps businesses understand their aesthetic by showcasing multiple examples of creative direction. Teams go through and pick their favorites (sometimes it’s just one example, other times multiple selections) and when they’re complete, the creative agency walks the customer through the results and helps them comprehend what their overall sense of style is.
(Full Disclosure: your author is one of the owners in ATAK and helped create the tool).
The tool is free and it gets the visual identity session of the Purposeful Marketing Method off to a fun and creative start. Coming off the Communication Strategy, teams can be a little fried after exerting so much mental energy into the first part of the day. The Style Discovery Tool is a little less challenging and certainly more entertaining.
The whole thing would take one person under 15 minutes to complete, but with teams, that time frame tends to become lengthier. Anticipating this, we recommend choosing a person on the team who can be the “tiebreaker.” Undoubtedly, productive disagreements among the team will ensue throughout the exercise, but if you set a time limit on how much each question can be debated (our recommendation is less than 3 minutes per question) and identify the “tiebreaker” who makes the final decision, you can get through the exercise a little quicker.
Before you get started, review the decisions you made during the Communication Strategy part of the method. The style you’re about to discover should align with your answers in the Style Discovery Tool.
One of the purposes of the tool is to help identify any conflicts between your written and visual identity. If you have built something completely unique but don’t wish to pursue explanatory design, then you’re not using your style to amplify your message. And that’s the real goal here – using style to support and elevate your new brand direction.
The Style Discovery Tool Question Breakdown
Here’s a quick overview of the questionnaire and how it breaks down to give you a better idea of what to expect.
Questions will revolve around:
Colors are presented both by themselves and as palettes.
Fonts for branding items such as logos and taglines are explored as well as subsidiary fonts for a website and other copy.
A selection of logos is showcased first, followed by the different intentions the logo is looking to fulfill.
Different imagery is reviewed. What type of photos and imagery appeal to the team?
For the website section, a question kicks off the process asking “Do you sell online?” Depending on the answer, users will see different options to the questions. E-commerce stores have different goals than companies who do not sell directly online so the tool covers these.
Then the tool asks the user to add some examples of sites they wish to emulate and sites whose look and feel they wish to avoid, while trying to get a little context into the “why”.
What are three websites whose style you wish to emulate?
What You Like About Site 1:
What You Like About Site 2:
What You Like About Site 3:
What are three websites whose style you wish to avoid?
What You Dislike About Site 1:
What You Dislike About Site 2:
What You Dislike About Site 3:
Moving along, the tool goes through examples of collateral to help businesses flush out what they like when it comes to the brand reinforcers.
The tool finishes with some miscellaneous examples that should only be answered if they’re applicable to the company.
Trade Show Booths
Once you’re complete, the application will email you your results to keep on file. If you’re working with a PMM implementor, they will be able to go through and explain what your results mean. If you’re doing it on your own, you may need to wait up to 24 business hours for an ATAK representative to reach out and walk you through everything.
With the results in hand, go back one last time and review the three elements you built in your Communication Strategy:
Why-How-What Positioning Statement
“Dual” Value Propositions
Does your sense of style match the words you’ve used to describe yourself? If you feel everything is aligned, it’s time to move forward to the Visual Identity Audit.
If something is off, identify the dissonance. What is conflicting? If you need to make a change, it will probably be more seamless to adjust your company’s style profile than your Communication Strategy. See where you can find compromise and unify your style and communication.
In the first part of the Purposeful Marketing Method’s Brand Day, teams work on their messaging when developing a Communication Strategy. Naturally, the next step is to answer the question “does your current visual identity align with the new brand positioning in your Communication Strategy?”
Let’s take a look at the assessment below and find out!
We segment the visuals by General, Digital, Print, and leave space for. Additionally, we leave two spaces in each segment for you to place collateral that’s specific to your business. If you have more than this, by all means, do what you need to do to customize the assessment to your needs. Cross things out, add rows, whatever you need to do. Here’s a digital version that’s easy to adjust.
Once you customize your “A” column to fit your needs, the next thing to consider is the why behind each element. Remember, we need to examine the WHY of everything we’re doing. If we know why we’re doing it, it will direct what and how we do it accordingly. So once the variables on the left are decided upon, you need to explain their purpose, goal, or function. If you can’t really identify it, then that’s going to be a problem.
Before you begin grading each piece, one thing to emphasize is pragmaticism. If you want to grade your current creative on a strict scale and give your collateral a lot of 1s and 2s, you’re saying these items need to be reconfigured to fit your new identity. On the flip side, if you throw a bunch of 4s and 5s around because you like your current style, make sure the style is matching the purpose.
With that in mind, go through and grade your current look and feel as a team. If everyone submits an individual assessment, chances are, consensus will take hours for the entire team to find if they ever get there. Understand that there will probably be differences and choose one of two options to get through the disagreements:
1) put someone in charge of being the deciding voice when those differences come to fruition.
2) Go around the room and have everyone say their number and take the average, rounding up and down as needed.
We Just Finished the Assessment – Now What?
Chances are, your results can be summarized in one of three ways:
We love our visual branding, it looks great! Fantastic news! If you’re on solid footing with your visual identity and it reflects the communication strategy we built before, you’re ahead of the game!
There’s elements we really like, but some things need work. Fear not, you are just like 80% of businesses that take this assessment. Knowing that you have an aspect of your visual communications you think is effective and represents the image you are trying to convey gives you a great starting point.
Your next step is to identify your 1s and 2s. What are the next steps with each? What needs to be updated? What needs to simply be eliminated from your collateral altogether? For everything that needs to be reconfigured, put the tasks on your Obstacles list.
Now go through your 3s. What stays? What needs to go? Just like before, if you need to have one person make the call or take a vote to come to a decision, go for it. Put the 3s you want to re-work on the Obstacles list.
Um, our creative is awful and everything needs to be overhauled. Take a deep breath, it’s going to be alright. You took the assessment to get everything aligned and defined and you’re going to leave this exercise knowing what to do and in what order it needs to be done.
If we’re starting from scratch, we need to move on to the Style Discovery Guide. Go back start with the basics: Colors, Fonts, Logos. We will build the brand identity with those elements first. From there, digital and print collateral will be added based on need, which we will figure out once we have identified all of the upcoming Obstacles list.
The Visual Identity Assessment is where the culmination of the mental breakthroughs you’ve experienced to this point turn to action. The VIA is where the decisions are made. The team should feel confident that these are the right decisions since their Communication Strategy is freshly defined. If you can say what you are, you can start showing it too.
“Value proposition” is typically one of the first marketing vocabulary words that the “fake it til you make it” professionals intertwine in their vocabulary. And look, I get it. It sounds cool and it’s easy to grasp the concept from the name alone. It was my first marketing vocabulary phrase and it felt damn good to say out loud. Consider me a huge fan of the value prop (and if you say it just like that, kids, you’ll look as cool as Joe Namath in 1965).
One of the rather annoying aspects of value props, however, is that every marketer interprets their structure and role differently.
Like the Positioning Statement, many take an internal approach with a formula like this one from Winer and Moore in their 1999 book, Marketing Management:
For (target customer) who (need statement), the (product/brand name) is a (product category) that (key benefit statement/compelling reason to buy). Unlike (primary competitor alternatives), (product/brand name)(primary differentiation statement).
To everyone who made it through that, congratulations. For the rest of the crowd, I agree, it’s way too boring and you would never use this in external communication. So let’s rule out this model.
One of the all-time worst Google searches a company can type in is:
“Best business taglines of all time”
You’ll see all the self-congratulatory ad campaigns from years past: Just Do It, Think Different, A Diamond Lasts Forever, and my personal favorite – Betcha Can’t Eat Just One.
We celebrate these taglines because they are engrained in our minds as commercials from the past. They are forever a part of our nostalgia, reminding us of a time when communication was different when a slower pace allowed advertising to fester in our minds, eventually capturing us after enough touch points.
Things are different today. You don’t have that many attempts to grab someone’s attention and your customers are a lot more educated, so they need the facts, not the fluff.
Perhaps if you have the brand recognition of a company like Apple, you can Think Different. But for the majority of businesses, you have to Explain Concisely.
Now I don’t want to be a Negative Nate here, but I do have some bad news: your tagline is going to be a difficult puzzle to solve. You’ve got very little space to work with. You will become frustrated that what you’re putting out there is not as clever as the Madison Avenue pitches. Someone in your group will undoubtedly say the clearest choice is “not sexy enough”. You will bounce it off your friends and they will tell you that it’s a little sterile.
You are not marketing to your friends. You are not marketing to who you were 20 years ago. You are marketing to target prospects and if you want to explain to them what you do and why you do it, you’ve only got a few words to attract the buyer. So make them count.
Editor’s note: This is the first of many posts introducing the Purposeful Marketing Method. For more on the PMM, click here.
Even if you’ve done so multiple times, give yourself 6 minutes and watch Simon Sinek’s 2009 TED Talk, “The Golden Circle.”
Good, let’s get started.
The Golden Circle concept comes from Sinek’s book, Start with Why. In it, Sinek repeats over and over “people don’t care what you do, they care why you do it.” He illustrates the communication pattern that businesses need to inspire their prospects and customers: start with why, then how, then what.
But how do you apply this concept to your business? Is it in your tagline? Where does this message get disseminated? We’ll get there.
But before we do, we need to have a quick chat about positioning statements.
Traditionally, positioning statements are stale, internal documents to help organizations understand what they do and where they sit in the marketplace. Branding agencies can eat up a lot of billable hours helping you with the perfect positioning statement (that will never see the light of day and only exists for internal use).
Here’s a simple rundown from Cult Branding on How to Create a Brand Positioning Statement.
In my 10-plus years leading a marketing agency, I have seen a lot of smoke and mirrors.
I’ve learned about data points built on fantasy like “publicity value.” I have met a con-artist who uses an alias and a P.O. Box to sell his software. I have watched companies pay “influencers” whose followers are 90% fake. It’s marketing. There’s a lot of BS out there.
On the flip side, I’ve watched companies scale and grow exponentially by marketing “the right way.” With authentic messages, promotions that provide real value, and creativity that inspires. That is the work that I am so humbled and excited to be a part of each and every week. After asking myself over and over, “why doesn’t everybody market this way?” I decided I would create a path to make it easier for companies to follow.
I spent 2018 becoming a student again. I studied my clients’ success. I studied my clients’ failures. I listened to a million biz dev books while stuck in LA traffic. I adopted methodologies I believed in and customizing them to be effective for my clients.
Our team has worked on perfecting this product for the past 8 months. We’ve walked through the strategies with many of our clients and tested the exercises on companies across different industries. The method is proven, flexible, and can easily integrate into current initiatives.
Thank you to everyone who worked hard to make this a reality and for the superstars out there that inspired us to follow their unintentional lead. We hope our work reflects everything you’ve taught us.
You’ve heard a lot of talk about GDPR, but what exactly is it and how is it going to affect you and your business? First, let’s do a quick throwback to the 90s (why hello dial-up internet access!) when the Data Protection Directive (DPD) was released. Back when the internet was essentially the wild west, the DPD was the first set of rules ever written for the internet. Since then, the internet has completely transformed in ways we never could have predicted. This meant that a new set of regulations had to be made.
On May 25th, 2018, a new set of rules AKA the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), went into effect. The new regulations spell out specific rights that individuals have in regards to whether or not they’d like to relinquish the rights to their data. Because some of these changes directly affect aspects of digital marketing compliance, we want to make sure you’re up to date on how to become GDPR compliant. If your business holds, collects, or uses customer data, we highly recommend doing an audit of your processes. In order to stay on the right side of the law and avoid some hefty fines, check out our steps to ensure that your website is GDPR compliant.
1. Forms Must Be Active Opt-In
Previously, having a pre-checked form wasn’t considered bad practice. Under the GDPR, forms that ask users to subscribe to newsletters or indicate their contact preference now have to default to being un-checked, otherwise it’s considered implied consent.
There are many ways to bring traffic into your website when you’re working with a digital marketing agency. Within marketing, we call these channels. To clients, they look more like services. The primary channels for bringing in digital marketing traffic are:
3rd Party Links (i.e. – press coverage, interviews)
It’s very uncommon that any of these channels will perform on its own. This is almost always a blend of tactics, integrated into one campaign. The better your campaign target and messaging, the more likely it is to resonate with prospects. This is where a data solutions department can be particularly useful.
“People don’t care what you do, they care why you do it.” – Simon Sinek
To have a compelling brand identity, you must first understand and articulate why you do what you do. What drives you to get out of bed every morning and tackle what’s ahead? When you wake up in the middle of the night with the next great idea to push your vision forward, why do you become so excited you can’t go back to sleep? Your “why” is the core around which all the elements of your brand identity should revolve and relate back to.
Defining Elements of a Brand Identity Kit
Let’s start with defining Brand Identity. And like the title of Sinek’s book, let’s “start with Why.”
Mission. Your mission statement is an exposition of why your company exists, why you do what you do. What drives you to do what you do? Is it a need to push boundaries in the industry? Is it to inspire change in the world? Is it to continuously rise above the expectations of your target market through constant innovation?
Your mission statement is your “why.” Without it, your brand identity will never be one that appeals to customers time and time again.Continue reading →
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