Once you’ve defined your brand, it’s time to design a strategy that communicates your brand to your audience -- be they within your company, your industry or the outside world at large. Developing an overall blueprint for your brand is a four-step process.
1. Understand the tactical landscape
I regularly meet with executives and entrepreneurs whose heads are spinning from all the possible ways they can brand themselves and their businesses. Putting together a plan begins with getting the lay of the land, so you can begin to weed out the strategies that aren’t a good fit and identify those that are. Here are the major tactical categories to help you make an educated evaluation.
Traditional public relations
Effectively implementing this tactic usually requires hiring a professional PR or marketing firm that knows whom to contact in and how to pitch to, the media. The tactics associated with traditional PR center on you being interviewed in the following places.
- Mainstream TV
- Newspapers and magazines
- Blogs and online publications
In my experience, one of the most effective tactics for building brand and buzz is publishing. One advantage to this strategy is that for online pieces, you can include searchable keywords and get links back to your site. Here are four tactics to explore in this category:
- Writing a book
- Writing articles
The powerful thing about speaking as a tactic is that it puts you in front of a large audience where you’re already positioned as the expert. There’s nothing like talking about your topic to a room full of potential clients to elevate your credibility. While I still believe that “live” speaking has an edge over online, both are popular ways to build your brand. These four speaking tactics help you get the word out to a variety of size audiences:
- Presenting at conferences
- Conducting live workshops or seminars
- Webinars and videocasting
Despite the highly touted benefits of online connection, I still believe in the power of face-to-face networking. As someone I know once said, “Deals are made over meals.” Tactics include:
- Referral marketing
- Affiliate marketing
- Strategic alliances
- Networking groups
- Conferences and professional development workshops
The key with social media is to focus on one channel (two or three at most) that caters to the audience that’s best for you and then work that vertical consistently -- and deeply. The 11 most popular are:
2. Determine your best tactical approach
The next step is to determine which of these tactics (and in what combination) will work best for building your brand.
For most entrepreneurs, executives and small businesses, even if a particular tactic has a high return on investment, it still may not be a good choice for them. The degree to which you enjoy, appreciate or like a tactic impacts its inclusion (or not) in your overall brand-building strategy. Bottom line: If you love a tactic, you’re more likely to put in the time and effort to make it happen. Here are some of the most important factors to consider in choosing which of the above tactics you want to employ:
- Do you love it or loathe it?
- Does it offer a sufficient ROI?
- Do you have the talent, skills or ability to pursue this tactic, or can you hire someone who does?
- Do you have the money required to pursue this tactic?
- Do you have the time required to pursue this tactic?
3. Create your implementation strategy
Once you’ve chosen the core tactics of your Brand Mapping Strategy, the next step is to determine your plan for putting them into action. For each specific tactic, consider which of the following methods you’ll use for execution:
- Hire someone full time.
- Hire someone part time.
- Hire a consultant, expert or other professional provider.
- Use an intern.
- Do it yourself.
- Delegate it to a current employee.
- Use a combination of DIY and outsourcing.
4. Measure success and pivot as needed
There are as many ways to measure the success of your Brand Mapping Strategy as there are tactics. To start, you need to know what criteria you’re using for evaluation. What are the primary purposes of your strategy? These can include but aren’t limited to:
- Attracting new prospects
- Expanding general awareness of your business/brand
- Increasing credibility and social proof of your brand
- Encouraging people to take action and buy
- Becoming more top of mind in your market
- Expanding your online presence
- Increasing your share of search
- Building a mailing list
- Generating repeat and/or longer website visits
- Converting visitors to your website
- Filling your marketing pipeline
- Attracting potential investors, partners or affiliates
- Reaching reporters looking for experts
- Establishing thought leadership
Once you know what you want to measure, the next step is keeping your fingers on the pulse of your progress. This means periodically checking in to see what tangible outcomes are resulting from your Brand Mapping Strategy in these three general areas:
1. Customers. This is any result that involves closing new business, generating new leads, improving audience outreach and increasing the flow into your marketing pipeline.
2. Credibility. This is any result that involves advancement in your social proof, such as positioning as a thought leader, increase in perceived authority or standing, improved online presence and media coverage.
3. Cash. This is any numerically measurable financial result that brings the bucks to your bottom line -- or reduces your spending.
Remember that when it comes to branding, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t expect that today’s branding efforts will see immediate results. What you want to keep your eye on is the change over time in the number, quality and degree of increase in customers, credibility and cash your Brand Mapping Strategy is producing.