By Sylvia S. Montgomery, MBA, CPSM
While brand marketing is far from a new concept, it’s undergone quite the evolution in the last several years. Having a strong brand and building a positive reputation, prior to 1978, relied on word of mouth. Eventually, print ads and sponsorships gained some traction, both with little ability to track their return on investment (ROI). Fast forward to the past decade, when the digital revolution has caused brand marketing to take on a whole new form. Not only is brand marketing multi-faceted, it is also measurable. Today’s consumers are highly sophisticated. They expect answers to their questions with just a few keyboard clicks. They expect much more transparency prior to selecting a services provider. Luckily, digital brand marketing allows firms to not only establish and enhance their brand, but also amplify their value so prospects can experience greater relevance. Here are three tips for using brand marketing to boost your firm’s marketing ROI and visibility in today’s competitive and digital marketplace.
1. Create a Solid Strategy
Having a strong brand-building strategy begins with defining your target audience. When you have a clear understanding of your audience, where they spend their time, and what they’re looking for, you can create messaging that speaks to their needs and positions your firm as the solution to their problems. Typically, most firms think about their target audience in terms of market sectors—such as healthcare, education, or commercial. However, a more impactful approach to identifying audiences is often the role of those audiences targeted. For example, your firm may have strong relationships with the middle management levels of existing clients, yet lack strong connections with C-suite or decision makers. Each of those roles responds to different triggers during the vetting and selection of a services provider. By taking the time to understand your prospects, your firm can build a brand that connects you with the right audience, which helps to ensure the time you’re putting into nurturing leads is well spent. However, creating a solid brand strategy doesn’t stop there—it’s also about setting your firm apart from the competition. Discovering meaningful differentiators has become increasingly more important in the digital age. The shift to online marketing has widened the playing field by minimizing geographical limitations. Buyers of professional services no longer feel the pinch to hire locally, even if the expertise and talent are there. Instead, the primary motivator is to seek out the best provider. The development of this new competitive marketplace has created a demand for firms to stand out and establish their expertise in a particular service or skill. Building your brand strategy around a key differentiator for your firm is a crucial element in maximizing your visibility.
2. Go Beyond Traditional Marketing
Even though online tactics have taken the advertising and marketing worlds by storm, offline tactics still play an important role. In fact, using the two approaches in tandem can allow your firm to reach your target audience even more effectively. For every offline tactic, there is an equal— and often, better—online tactic. While a speaking engagement is still important, combining that face-to-face strategy with hosting an online webinar brings even more visibility to your firm. The same goes for publishing in print publications and publishing online—the two approaches are stronger together. See Figure 1 on the previous page for more examples of how online advertising can give traditional advertising a boost.
Just remember: Different channels work better for connecting with different audiences depending on the goal at hand. The key to successfully going beyond traditional marketing is being able to identify the best channel for the best situation.
3. Build Your Expertise
Buyers want to hire firms that are experts in their fields. One of the most effective ways to build your firm’s expertise—and, in turn, your reputation, visibility, growth, and profit—is by promoting your goto staff as something we at Hinge call Visible ExpertsSM. Visible Experts are those individuals with strong expertise in a particular niche that attain the visibility required to reach critical mass and become widely known for their mastery of a topic. In order to understand the impact of Visible Experts on their firms, we conducted extensive research and interviews with Visible Experts and buyers of professional services. We found that even those expert individuals with the lowest level of visibility had a substantial impact on their firm’s ability to build a strong brand, experience growth, and attract new leads. Perhaps most notable, we discovered that Visible Experts were able to command higher billing rates—with buyers being willing to pay up to 13 times more for the highest level Visible Expert. Building your brand by establishing expertise is one proven-effective way to get results and attract better clients and partners. The bottom line is: Accidental marketing does not work. Instead, intentional marketing that leverages the combined strengths of online and offline strategies is essential to connecting with the right target audiences. Utilizing these brand-building strategies and promotional channels is the best way to boost your marketing ROI and increase the visibility of your firm.