Part II: Activating creative assets for lasting impressions
One of the main challenges most small B2B companies face is not being known and getting very little traction on the market.
You have a product or service you’ve spent hours building and modifying. You know it’s a decent fit for the market. Yet, you can’t seem to turn in a sustainable profit.
On top of that, it’s getting harder and harder to convert more customers who are actively shopping in your category.
This situation applies to many companies.
No matter your size, stage, or business model, if you’ve experienced flat growth over the past year or two, something’s wrong with your strategy –whether we’re talking business, marketing, or growth.
Good news is, getting out of neutral and finally starting to increase revenue, margins, and profit, often only* requires two things:
- Distinctive brand assets
- A sound distribution strategy
The first helps you get recognized and leave an impression with your campaigns.
The second helps you get clear about said campaigns, and why and how to run them. More specifically, which media and channels you need to leverage–and how–to be seen and heard by more future buyers.
*If you have a good product-market fit or solve a problem that needs solving, that is.
In this essay, we’ll go over the very first steps you need to take to get better ROI from your brand efforts. We’ll also discuss the main question you need to answer to see more revenue coming your way. Finally, we’ll wrap it up by reminding you what Brand can do for you.
But first, let’s start with why you might be leaving money on the table.
After all, this is How Brands Become Money, Part II.
We said it before, we’re saying it now, and we’ll probably say it again in the future:
Most B2B companies focus on the bottom of their funnel, a.k.a. the part of your market that is somewhat ready to make a decision now.
Yet, most people aren’t actually ready to hear about your product features and its capacity to solve their issues –typical bottom-funnel tactics and communications.
In fact, The B2B Institute at Linkedin estimates that 95% of people are not ready to buy right now.
Heck, most aren’t even really looking for anything remotely close to your stuff.
People are going to be people.
They just want to dip their toes. They’re getting to know your industry, and how it’s important for them to consider your type of services (notice we’re saying “your type of services”, not “your services”–now’s not the time to tell them all about you and only you).
They need good vibes, a lot of education, and a little bit of guidance before being ready to hear the words, “Buy now!”.
When you only focus on bottom-of-the-funnel communications, you miss a golden opportunity to tap into the huge portion of the market that is not ready to buy yet.
This is called performance marketing. And it’s important.
But, what you also need is performance branding.
In other words, you need to focus on turning what you know about your product, service, and what makes them better, into assets to engage more future buyers.
Engaging more future buyers in the right way is your ticket to saying buh-bye to that nagging flat growth and to speed up your sales and conversion cycles.
Let’s take a closer look at how you can do just that.
The First Step to Better ROI
Before we go any further, let’s remember how important it is to have a solid strategy and foundation for your business to rely on.
Otherwise, how can you know if you’re creating assets that are aligned with the perception you want to create?
And how can you know if your distribution will get you on the map at the right place and the right time?
Don’t worry, we got you covered with How Brands Become Money, Part I.
Still, here’s a brief reminder:
In said first installment, we established how your brand can become an asset by following this four-step method:
- Knowing your audience
- Working on your positioning
- Designing your brand dimensions
- Creating brand assets and distributing them
Prior to that, we also discussed the place of Brand in the organizational pecking order–always a fun topic to bring up among peers and marketing folks.
Of course, we had to expand on our illustration, if only to show how complicated marketing, branding, and growing can get (and believe us, we already simplified it a bit).
So, here it is with the added parts in red. Notice how your Brand MO and creative guidelines should guide your efforts in creating distinctive assets and where you can distribute them.
The Activation of Brand through Assets and Channels, S. Egger. 2022 (SHFT Agency)
As you can see, we’re about to dive deeper into step four of our method for growth: creating brand assets and distributing them.
Why? Because a good plan can only do so much.
At some point, you need to activate said strategy with tangible results. All so people see the brand in action and actually start paying attention.
By creative brand assets, we mean campaigns, touch points, stories, characters, narratives, visuals, voice, etc.
And just remember, you have to deliver brand assets and meaning through a multitude of media and channels to engage more people than your existing pool of buyers.
This is the way to turn your brand into a money-making machine.
Got it? Onwards!
How Brand Becomes Money, Part II
Imagine how much money you could make down the line if people instantly thought of you as the only choice once they’re ready to buy in your category.
And how easy your sales team’s job becomes if people trickling down your pipeline are already pre-qualified and enthusiastic about working with you?
Enter: your creative brand assets and your distribution plan.
What those two do for you is answer the following question:
How can we engage more customers over the long term and have them consider us, and only us?
We can split the question in two if we want:
- How do we engage more customers over the long term?
This part looks at your distribution plan, your mix of media and channels, for an answer.
We’ll get back to it, but a good rule of thumb here is to always aim to reach more people than you currently have in your existing audience.
- How do we engage them so they only consider us?
This is the part where your assets become vehicles to help you leave a lasting impression.
The rule of thumb here is to measure the impact your assets have on awareness and recognition. In other words: do people recognize your stuff and do they remember it?
But, more on that later.
So, one more time…
How can we engage more customers over the long term and have them consider us, and only us?
Here’s the step-by-step in a more detailed manner:
Step 1: put creative first
To grow sustainably and profitably, any company needs to expand their influence or increase their reach.
But before we’re clear on how to expand our reach, we need something very important: a creative distinctiveness, or uniqueness.
Simply put, we’re talking here about something that sets us apart from the rest, and creates a memory and lasting impression when we do eventually reach people (whether organically or not).
After all, what good is it to have more reach if it’s just to scream in the void like everyone else: “Buy more! Get a Discount on your first order! Check out our cool features!”
In the words of Jurassic Park’s Dennis Nedry…
What you need before expanding your influence, is to go back to your positioning and strategy, and use it to create distinctive brand assets that will get you remembered.
How you do it is you incorporate a lot of top-of-the-funnel content, media, and channels in your communication and content strategy; not only “buy now!”, product-centric stuff.
- Stories and narratives
- Voice and messaging
- Logo and design (yes, they finally come into play)
Together, they all should help people differentiate your company from others.
Eventually, they’ll leave a lasting impression for people to instantly think about you when the time comes to drop some Benjamins.
The thumb test
One way you can make sure your assets are memorable enough is the thumb test.
Block your logo and name from your touchpoint or product packaging.
Are people recognizing your stuff? Is it distinguishable from other brands? Is it consistent enough across formats?
Try it with any big brand. BMW, Apple, Dunkin’ Donuts, Geico, State Farm, they all have consistency and memorability across channels.
If you don’t have those two things, you need to address them first.
Step 2: expand your reach
You have your creative brand assets. They’re unique, distinctive, and recognizable.
Now, you need to deploy them.
Your goal here is pretty straight forward:
When all is said and done, you need to reach more people than what sits in your current audience. And by current audience, we also mean market shares.
If you have 1% market share, you need your message to be heard and seen by more than 1% of the market.
If it’s not, it basically means you’re not talking to more people, and you won’t grow –unless you only need 5 clients that keep coming back for more, you lucky bastard.
(Side-note: this is how we imagine them, because we can be petty like that at times)
So what do you do to reach more and more people?
You create a mix of channels, media, and formats.
Need inspiration? Go back to our illustration above and check out some of our examples under the traditional and digital media & channels columns.
Then, hit publish, share, and repurpose so you can expand your influence.
A new touchpoint
One of the best ways to do it is actually to create a new touchpoint–or leverage a new channel.
Not only will it open new conversations with people that consume only the type of content you’ll be broadcasting (say, podcasts over blogs), but it also allows you to repurpose and generate more content.
And more content equals more impressions, views and good things for you–but also more work so make sure you have the manpower and capacities to do it properly, before you overextend.
Merging Short and Long-Term Interests
At the end of the day, what this is all about really is putting your money where your mouth is, and not investing more of it in bottom-funnel, not-so-cheap tactics.
For strategic brand-building to actually work, you need to think it through.
But, and maybe most importantly, eventually you’ll have to initiate contact with more people.
You’ll need to be seen and heard with a distinctive approach.
You first need to create campaigns and touchpoints that generate a feeling, memories, emotions, meaning.
Then, you need to generate results with appropriate tactics and measurable actions to move the financial needle.
And if you only want to remember one thing, let it be the outcome of great branding:
Engaging more customers to buy more things at a higher price for a longer period of time with less intention to buy from the competition.
The best part? You don’t even have to compromise between short-term and long-term gains. A well-distributed, well-crafted brand asset works for both.
Unlike focusing solely on “buy now!” tactics and collateral that just screams product features and only serves the here and now, which will never produce exponential, compound results over the long run.
Follow the steps we’ve laid out for you here and in Part I,
Activate your brand via campaigns, touchpoints. Distribute stories and meaning through a multitude of channels. Engage more people than your existing pool of buyers. And you’ll eventually win.