According to Seth Godin: “People do not buy goods and services. They buy relations, stories and magic.”
This is as good of a definition of Brand Strategy as I’ve heard, because when it comes right down to it, relations will occur with your clients based on the stories you decide to tell about your business and the magic that occurs will be a direct result of them both.
Orchestrating all of this is the job of your Brand Strategy, creating the foundation of your marketing plan, and all that your business seeks to accomplish.
This makes your first job deciding what your unique Brand Strategy will entail.
Understanding this is as easy as examining a few well known brands and the strategies that have created their own magic.
Nordstrom’s Customer Centric Model
When you think about Nordstrom’s it’s easy to identify the story they tell. It’s a story about elevating customer service to ridiculous heights. They aren’t the only department store carrying upscale brands, so while they definitely want to be known for the quality of their goods that’s not enough. They want their clientele to know that they can exchange or refund a purchase without even supplying a receipt. They will replace damaged goods just as easily, and are happy to credit your account for an item you got last week that just went on sale.
Nordstrom’s goes the extra mile to create not just a marketing plan, but a business climate that is consistent with these policies. They do all of this without any chest thumping. Their story is told by their “Reinvent Yourself” slogan. They make the customer the star in all they do. How successful are they at using this to make magic? Google Nordstrom’s slogans and you will find no lack of publications writing them up and singing praises about the relations created with the public.
The Social Conscience of Chik-Fil-A
This one is a bit different. Due to the religious convictions of Chik-Fil-A’s founder everybody knows they won’t be open on Sunday. Even in shopping malls where that means they pay a rent penalty for staying closed while the rest of the mall is open.
This doesn’t end with observing the sabbath in line with their beliefs. It also extends into social and political stances that are ultra conservative, and not the least bit what some call politically correct. This aspect of their corporate culture has cost them some business, which is apparently okay by them.
Make no mistake, quality chicken products at acceptable fast food prices is at the heart of their business model too. Their food is center stage, and their staff is unfailingly prompt and courteous. If you doubt that they can be successful while offending a large segment of the population just try making a quick run through the drive through during lunch hour.
They get a lot of media attention, and not all of it positive. They are true to a Brand Strategy that works, not just because it is controversial but in some ways because of that.
Creating the Relations, Stories, and Magic of YOUR Brand Strategy
If asked who your business is, how would you answer? How would your ten most recent clients answer? The key to a successful Brand Strategy is getting these to align.
Initially you may say “We are Plumbers/Florists/Carpet Retailers”
Those don’t inspire stories. They don’t describe the relations with clientele. They lack magic.
If this seems difficult, take a moment and think about your favorite stories from your business, and what made them special. Sit down and write out what made the relations between your business and that client/customer stand out.
Let’s examine each of these for a minute…
Plumbers tend to be thought of as expensive, dirty, and unwelcome intrusions into our lives mostly because they get called in bad situations that make people upset.
So if your story is going to be about plumbers that are happy, friendly, and helpful then you have to create not just that story, but that actuality within your staff.
Then your brand strategy gets born out by the stories those happy homeowners share with their friends/family/social media connections.
Florist: For many people a florist is just someone on the end of a phone line. They really don’t even know how often they speak to the same person. Here in Tampa there is a florist whose story is that they are My Florist. I guarantee that other people think this too. The shop’s name is Mona’s Floral Creations, and within seconds of calling they know who I am without mentioning my name.
To call them a Florist doesn’t come close. They are specialists in creating memories. They are co-conspirators. They are MY Florist.
I like sending flowers. I like to send something with some meaning behind it as well. When I share an idea with them, they will either get involved with bringing it about in a special way or steer me elsewhere for inspiration. Perhaps the sunflowers aren’t in too good shape that day. Maybe they have some particularly nice irises in a unique shade, or some spectacular roses. Their suggestions are never random, and always thoughtful.
Carpet Retailers are in a high competition business. It’s not uncommon for several such stores to be clustered together in a neighborhood. Trying to undercut each other’s prices consistently is what Seth Godin calls a race to the bottom.
Creating a uniquely pleasant shopping experience might be how this Brand Strategy is centered. To accomplish this would have to start with a standout showroom, and staff that don’t just understand what you wish to accomplish, but want to be a part of something different.
Flooring is one of those industries that people spend their careers in. Like car salespeople, they might work for six or more different companies over the years, but they stay in the business. This may mean you have to be looking for more than just experience when hiring, but you may find your employees helpful in finding and retaining the right sort of people.
This is also an industry that is very affected by reviews, both positive and negative. Staff that takes pride in creating a unique and pleasant shopping experience can help you create the magic you want.
Creating Your Brand Strategy
Start a brainstorming sheet making lists of all that makes your business stand out. Then another list of the things you want your business to excel at.
The combination of these lists should start to make your thoughts gel as to how you want to be relating to the public, what sort of magic that can create in the form of stories. Stories that you tell, and stories that get shared out in the world.
This is the foundation of every bit of marketing you will do from that point forward. You may find that this means an overhaul of how your business is perceived by you, your staff, and in time your clientele. This can and should be exciting for all involved.
As this coalesces you will no doubt start thinking differently about the individuals working for you. Retraining, switching roles, and in some cases replacing people may be necessary. It won’t be the last time as some people will flourish and rise in your ranks, while others choose to leave. All of this is good.
Creating your Brand Strategy is even more than the foundation of your marketing plan going forward. It will help you in creating a business that you are proud of, and can enjoy telling your story. Creating magic!
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