Brand Alchemy: An Integrated Approach to Storytelling & Revenue Generation
Every successful business begins with a great story. For as true as this statement is, it’s equally understood every business is founded with one common goal – to turn a profit. You're probably thinking, “Storytelling is nice, but does it impact the bottom line?" The answer lies in an integrated approach, or a form of marketing I now like to call "brand alchemy," since it can magically invigorate business growth.
The real-world advice I’m about to share is colored by decades of experience in professional services marketing, more specifically, consulting. That said, there are many ways in which brand alchemy for both B2B and B2C businesses is similar. First things first: Your audience needs to trust your story.
From a B2B perspective, revenue generation typically relies upon strong relationships. Enticing a prospect to make a large investment in an intangible offering, such as a service, requires trust in you to get the job done. This is unlikely to happen without a referral, recommendation or existing relationship. A brand is the “feeling” evoked when a prospect or client thinks of or interacts with your business. It’s highly emotional and, in my experience, a bit intuitive, but rational factors, such as available information about your business online, published reviews and social media presence, also play a role in clients' decision-making process. Without the combination of an existing relationship and "professional evidence" in place, it becomes more difficult for potential clients to engage.
When you develop a consistent brand narrative and cascade it through many channels, you are working to build trust with your intended audience. From your website to social media to event presentations to one-to-one interactions through relationship building efforts, your story helps to instill a sense of credibility and demonstrate expertise.
There are 5 key ingredients to brand alchemy, an integrated go-to-market strategy:
1. Tell a Story and Stick to It
At one point, a business was just a dream. That dream often forms the basis for a unique narrative. While some stories are more inspirational than others, business owners take risks to create something about which they are passionate. Sharing your story with the world is an important way to not only set your business apart, but also build trust and credibility. The key is to identify how others can benefit from your offering and demonstrate it early and often. Define the handful of things you want your business to be known for and tie those elements to problems potential clients face right now. Then, disseminate that message through your website, collateral, social media, multimedia, interactions with press and employer branding, and be sure to train those who speak with potential clients on behalf of your business. A compelling interaction with the brand leads the audience to become more emotionally invested and more likely to believe they will have a positive experience.
2. Know Your Audience
It’s incredibly important to understand the profile of your audience and what they care about most. Decision-making in corporate environments, for example, often includes many stakeholders – each with a different perspective. In telling your brand story, it’s important to also craft the nuanced ways in which that message should be told to different prospective clients. A one size fits all approach is typically not effective. Ensure your overall marketing plan accounts for audience-focused efforts; determine where your audience is seeking information; and leverage those channels to reach them. For more personal interactions, it’s important to begin with the elements of your brand that matter most to the person in front of you and then explain how the wider story ties in. In early interactions, skip the sales pitch and focus on getting to know the individual as a human. Once you have a better sense of the potential client and their challenges, you can then offer some thoughts on how you might help.
3. Listen More than You Speak “We have two ears and one mouth, so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” – Epictetus This is, of course, most applicable in relationship building efforts. Many B2B professionals are under the impression they need “collateral” to host productive business meetings. It may sound strange, but the most successful revenue generators I’ve met over the course of my career never solely rely on marketing materials in their process. Strong relationships are critical when it comes to generating revenue. And, to build relationships, you must put yourself in the shoes of the potential client and focus the interaction on their needs. When you receive unsolicited advances from someone looking to “sell” something, how do you respond? Do you further engage? I’m guessing the answer is no, particularly if the pitch isn’t tailored or relevant. Focus more on getting to know the potential client, their role and their business. Do not share collateral unless it’s specifically requested and, even in that case, keep it brief. The best value you can provide is in listening and understanding versus “selling.”
4. Consistency is Key While it’s entirely likely your story will evolve over time, it’s important not to stray far from core values. Identify what you’re good at – consider: what do you want the brand to be known for? – and build a narrative around those concepts. Business growth presents many challenges, but a common pitfall is trying to be all things to all potential clients. When the list expands too quickly, the audience must work too hard to identify your offering or why they should look to you for help. Additionally, it’s generally accepted that at least five-to-seven marketing impressions are required before a prospect will “recognize” your brand. So, it's imperative to repeat the brand story over and over, through various marketing channels, for it to resonate. Any thought leadership, event presentations, multimedia and social media content, for instance, should echo the main themes of the brand story as well.
5. Build Upon Your Successes
Once your brand narrative is out there and you’re interacting with potential clients, create a feedback loop. Which parts of the brand story resonate with clients and contacts? Which topic is the audience engaging with most on social media? Which pages of the website are visited most often? Leveraging this data, in the form of both traditional analytics, such as website, email marketing and social media metrics, as well as anecdotal input, can help to not only improve how you tell your story, but also drive the success of revenue generation efforts. Use these insights to make better strategic decisions around key priorities and revisit them on a quarterly basis to get the most from your brand alchemy, er, integrated approach.
What are your thoughts on storytelling and brand alchemy? Share your feedback in the comments.