It’s a New Year, all bright and shiny and full of potential. You’re setting goals for your business – sales goals, marketing goals, social media goals. You’re gonna hit that next revenue milestone, boost lead generation, increase conversion, and knock it out of the park with engagement. You’re practically chomping at the bit to get started. You have the vision, the resources, and the plan. You have tactics and technical know-how. This will be a sure thing.
Until it isn’t.
I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer. Not at all. I love the New Year. January is one of my favorite months. Here in New England, we get all Currier & Ives in the snow. It’s pretty. It fills us full of optimism and good intentions. We are sure that this will be the year we (finally!) stick to our resolutions: more sleep and exercise, fewer sweets and cocktails, etc., etc., etc.
We do the same with our businesses. This will be the year we sort out all our systems, cut the dead weight, and get strategic. This will be the year we really make our mark. We can feel it – we’re so close to the tipping point. Everything we’ve been working for is just around the corner, if only we can … if only we can …
And there, whether you’re a solopreneur or a global enterprise, is where it often falls apart. Because although you may think you have everything beautifully planned out, all you really have is a bunch of moving parts. It’s a shot in the dark which (if any) of them will turn out to be the X Factor that puts your business on the map.
You do not need a new tactic, the latest technology, or a celebrity endorsement. You need a BRAND.
Mark Schaeffer posted earlier this week about why content marketing is not a sustainable strategy. Mark’s a super smart guy and he’s not making this up. I’m a writer. I love content. I love content marketing. But (and it’s a BIG but), to stay competitive in content marketing is becoming more and more challenging.
When content marketing was a new pond and there weren’t many fish, it was easy to stand out just by being there. Today, we’re packed in gill-to-gill, making it almost impossible for any one fish to stand out from the school. Companies are trying to be seen by publishing more content more frequently, but (as Mark points out) that’s a losing battle in which only the business with the biggest budget wins.
If you’re not that lucky business, how can you hope to compete?
That’s right. I said LOVE.
I’m not making this up either. Lots of really smart people are constantly talking about the importance of creating emotional connections through branding:
Peter Singline at the fabulous Truly Deeply agency in South Melbourne recently shared his thoughts on Jim Stengel’s idea that the most successful brands are built on “fundamental human values,” things like “eliciting joy” and “inspiring exploration.”
That’s what a brand is – belief. A brand is a reason to believe. It’s something to believe in. It makes people believe in themselves. If you have that you don’t need to have the most content or even the best content. You just have to know what stories to tell and why you’re telling them. You have to know not only who you are, but why you’re here and how you’re making a connection with and a difference for your customers.
Once you’ve done the work to figure out your brand, you’ll know exactly which marketing tactics will hit their mark. You won’t have to waste time (or money) on experiments because you’ll know which types of content and communities are the right fit for your brand. You’ll have a much better sense of not only what to say, but how to say it. You will be able to stop worrying about “capturing eyeballs” or “going viral” and instead start focusing on delivering delight and creating enthusiasm.
THIS should be what your 2014 is about.
THIS is how you will be able to blow past those New Year’s resolutions like they were yesterday’s news.
For more from the Branding Soapbox, check out this series starting with Branding is Not Optional – a Cautionary Tale.