The Unseen Lessons Our Teachers Taught Us

When first exploring the power of buyer personas, it’s natural to worry about the extra work and effort needed to complete the process. Fortunately, these fears are not unjustified. While it’s true you’ll need to have an intimate understanding of potential customers and what they seek from brands like yours, the investment is completely worth it and can lead to tremendous growth for your company. Here’s why…

Consider for a moment your high school history teacher. In schools across the country, history teachers teach multiple classes with students at all different levels. One class might be filled with students who are ready to break down the information at a very high level. These students are capable of exploring difficult themes. Learning about the American Revolutionary War requires covering more than dates and names, and they will dive into motivations and outside influences.

Another class might be at a more introductory level of history. Rather than covering motivations, they might need to learn more about the major people who influenced the events of the day and focus on learning the timeline.

Both classes are covering the same topic, but if the teacher is going to effectively teach both groups, he or she will have to develop separate lesson plans for each class. If the teacher tried to create a common lesson plan for each group of students, neither group would receive the instruction they needed to succeed. It does require more work for the teacher to create separate lesson plans, but the teacher knows it’s worth the effort. A teacher who keeps their eyes on the end goal — to ensure that both classes walk away feeling challenged and with new knowledge about the founding of the United States — will know their extra work helped them reach their students effectively.

The Takeaway for Marketers

The same concept applies to marketers. It does take a little more work to create separate content for each of your buyer personas, but if you want to effectively reach your potential customers, you have to be willing to go that extra mile.

Each of your customers comes to your site looking for different information. One customer might be concerned about finding an affordable solution to their problem. They feel as though they’ve spent too much money in the past, and their primary concern is budget. Another customer might focus primarily on utility. They trust that when they find a well-created solution to their problem, their return on investment will justify their cost. Each of these customers will respond better to different types of content and offers. Creating just one type of content will make it harder for you to reach all of your intended target audiences. It may have been less work upfront, but it will end up costing you more when you fail to bring in the profits and returns you had desired.

In a world where time is money, it makes sense to avoid spending unnecessary time and money whenever possible. What you need to remember, though, is that while efficiency is important, it cannot replace doing something correctly. Sit down with your team, outline your buyer personas, and draft a plan for reaching each one. You’ll be amazed at what these additional steps can do to help you close more business.

If you’re ready to start building a new marketing strategy, reach out and speak with us today. We’d be happy to help you get started.

The Four Key Steps to Successful Branding Today, Tomorrow, and Beyond

Here’s a marketing truth that bears repeating: Your brand is one of the most powerful weapons you have in your quest not only to attract the widest possible audience, but to differentiate yourself from the competition in a meaningful way. While the type of brand you’re trying to build may vary as your company grows and evolves, the steps you’ll use to create and cultivate that brand won’t. Here are four key steps to successful branding that are just as useful today as they will be tomorrow, a year from now, and beyond.

1. Make Marketing Decisions with Your Customers in Mind

Just as you wouldn’t attempt to offer a service or release a product your target audience wouldn’t want, try to keep this same thought in mind when planning your marketing campaigns and branding strategy. Do your target customers respond well to direct mail materials? Are they the type of people who like “larger than life” materials like print billboards? These are all questions you’ll need to continually address and re-address moving forward.

2. Simple, Simple, Simple

One of the keys to building a successful brand is the ability to communicate the company’s core values clearly and concisely. Keep it simple. Never use ten words when five will do. If you can communicate the idea behind what your brand stands for in an image, you may not even need to use words at all. Communicate your branding message in the simplest possible way for the best results.

3. Your Brand is Your Brand is Your Brand

Though your brand may naturally evolve as your business changes, it’s important to take things slowly. If all of your marketing materials reflect one version of your brand in Quarter 1 and a completely different version in Quarter 4, you’re going to develop a bit of a schizophrenic reputation among the people you’re trying to reach. If you make changes that are too drastic too quickly, you run the risk of confusing your brand with itself and creating the image that you’re actually two different companies. For an example of this idea in action, consider the mess Netflix went through when it attempted to split off its DVD-by-mail and Internet streaming components into two separate entities in 2011.

4. Consistency in Language and Intention

Every piece of marketing you put out into the world needs to feel like it’s coming from the same company. Start by developing a “style guide” that you’ll use moving forward. For example, if you write your direct mail materials at a specific reading level, include that in your style guide. Provide a list of acceptable fonts, color palettes, and guidelines for proper logo usage. Consistency is a key way to show people your brand knows what it’s doing without actually saying those words.

As your company ages, it’s naturally going to change and evolve over time. The products and services you’re releasing today will scarcely resemble the ones you offer ten years down the line. One thing, however, will never change, and that’s the power of your brand. No matter what the future holds, the four key steps to successful branding outlined above will never go out of style.

Mastering Business Strategy at the Chess Board

The game of chess has a long and storied history. Early versions were played from about the 6th century, while the modern game has been played since the mid 15th century. Even as technology advances, chess remains one of the most challenging and educational games around. It’s been used to teach military strategy and to improve critical thinking skills.

While most people are familiar with the intense challenge chess provides the brain, you might not realize how much it can teach you about marketing and running a business. Two key lessons involve pragmatism and playing the “long game.”

Pragmatism

To be successful at chess, you must be pragmatic. You need to be able to think on your feet. While most successful chess players have concrete strategies they enjoy using, no player can completely predict the moves their opponent will make. That means they must be able to make decisions on the spot.

A good chess player also has the skills needed to read their opponent. Through experience, they can often anticipate an opponent’s next move and will devise strategies based on what those moves might be. This gives them the insight they need to succeed with the next skill: playing the long game.

Playing the long game

A chess player knows that one must be willing to sacrifice a pawn or two for the long-term goal of winning the match. A good player will never get so caught up in an individual “battle” that they lose sight of their end goals. Chess players are continuously looking to the finish and developing their strategies based on their desired outcome.

How these lessons relate to marketing

Pragmatism

To be successful in marketing and business, you must realize you’re not going to be able to completely control every factor in your industry — or even in your company. You can’t control the response of your audience, what your competition does, developments in the industry, and other factors. Instead, you must be able to adapt your business and marketing strategy to whatever’s going on around you.

That said, a successful marketer will be able to “read” their intended audience and anticipate the type of marketing that is most likely to solicit a response. They’ll also be able to change their strategies based on customer actions and industry trends.

Playing the “long game”

When you’re successfully managing a business, you must always have your end game in mind. You can’t allow small upsets to disrupt your goals and strategies. You must have the presence of mind to know what you’d like to accomplish and what you need to do to get there. That might mean making a few sacrifices here and there to reach the end point. You don’t want to get so caught up in the small battles that you lose sight of where you want your company to be in the long term.

Chess has been used for centuries to teach strategy and improve critical thinking skills. As you sit down to play your next game of chess, think about how the strategies you learn on the chessboard can be applied to making your business a success.