Brand is a Management Tool, Not Just a Marketing Tool

In the past I’ve described the Three Simple Circles approach to content strategy that includes asking and answering the following questions:

  1. What is/are the competitive advantage(s) of my organization?
  2. What are the higher-order needs of my clients and market?
  3. What are the themes/topics that address those higher-order needs that also reinforce the competitive advantage?

The first question about competitive advantage could easily be re-phrased to ask, “what’s my brand?”, and knowing the answer to this question will not just help you develop an effective content strategy but it could also lead to a more effectively run company.

The reason is that once you’ve identified those key characteristics that define your brand/competitive advantage, you have also implicitly defined the guard rails within which your organization should be managed. In other words, you’ve created a plan that you can use to align your entire company, based on those key characteristics. Your brand has become a management tool, not just a marketing tool, which is how most view it.

For example, if your brand stands for premiere customer service, then you know that every aspect of your organization should be focused on creating that experience – you need that alignment throughout the company to be successful. That knowledge has tremendous impact on how every aspect of your organization is led and managed:

  • For HR, it means you need to hire people with core competencies and skills that will result in excellent client service; it also means your rewards and incentives need to be aligned to motivate behaviour leading to that experience
  • For Marketing, Sales, and Client Service it means that every message sent and platform used needs to focus on and reinforce a value proposition and positioning of excellent client service. One specific application could relate to Twitter – if you’re on it, you better have someone closely monitoring it because clients are using it to voice issues that need to be resolved quickly and efficiently in order to be considered a premiere client service brand
  • For IT, it may mean using a top notch CRM system so you can track and anticipate the needs of your best clients
  • For Product Development, it means that any new products developed need to further the experience of premiere client service

The list could go on but I think you get the idea.

By using your brand as a management tool, you’ll be better able to ensure alignment throughout your organization around a shared idea or goal, resulting in a more effective and profitable company.

And you thought brand was just for marketingl…

Planning to Use Content to Grow Your Business with The Three Simple Circles

Stains

If you’re a small business that wants to use content marketing to grow your business but don’t know where to start, I’m here to help. And as usual, I start by developing a plan.

There are a lot of people that dive into great detail about creating and executing content strategy/planning, and that stuff is all great – if you have the time to read it, I recommend you do so. But, if you’re time-crunched – and who isn’t these days – here’s a quick and dirty plan you can use to get started with content marketing.  As with any good plan, this one is made up of questions that should be asked and answered in order to guide your actions.

That said, here are three key questions you need to ask and answer in order to use content marketing to grow your business. If you picture each question representing a circle that overlaps the others like a venn diagram, then the common area of this Three Simple Circles approach is where you want to be:

  1. What’s my competitive advantage or my “BIG Diff“? Why would someone choose to buy from me vs. anyone else? What are the things about my company/product/ service that would influence someone to choose them? For example, I LOVE The Keg, and the thing about The Keg for me is that it’s great value for the money, it’s a good atmosphere with good service, and it’s very consistent experience – those things are very rare (no pun intended), if not unique, for steak houses.
  2. What are the key challenges or higher-order needs of the people/organizations I want to sell to? The answer doesn’t have to be limited to the problems your product/service solves – it could (and arguably should) be anything related to it. For example, if I run a dry cleaner, my clients have a variety of problems they need solved that go beyond having their clothes cleaned. They may need to find time to drop their clothes off, or may be having trouble keeping up with the latest fashion trends given the wardrobe they’ve got. Neither problem is directly related to having their clothes cleaned, but nonetheless, they’re still problems those clients face.
  3. Given your competitive advantage, and the problems that your clients have, what are the topics you can comment on that address your clients’ problems AND that reinforce your competitive advantage, without discussing your products or services directly?

To tie this all together, let’s go back to the dry cleaning example, and assume that you’re known for getting stains out that others can’t – that’s your competitive advantage.  Further, let’s also say that you recognize that your clients (like most people) have problems with stains on a variety of surfaces, not just clothes, including table tops, cutlery, and carpets. Putting these two pieces of insight together could lead you to develop content (e.g., advice, perspective, news) focused on anything having to do with stain removal.  Not only does it reinforce your brand/competitive advantage and speak to problems your clients have, but in this case, it also opens up a whole new world of topics you could educate your clients about that go beyond clothing stains, keeping you more top of mind than if you were just focused on clothing.

For a quick and dirty (this time, pun intended) plan to get you up and running using content marketing to grow your business, asking and answering these three questions in the Three Simple Circles approach is a great place to start.