Brand Strategy Planning Tips for a New Year

3 Fundamental Underpinnings for Successful Brand Planning

The year of our Lord Vader 2016 is nearly upon us. As marketers, we’ve begun to wrap up our expense forecasting, industry audits, departmental expansion plans, and our Star Wars marathons in preparation for Episode 7: The Force Awakens.

What? That’s NOT how you’re utilizing your time? Well then…you must not work for a Portland-based web and mobile development shop full of life-size cardboard cutouts from the Holy Trilogy (now truly the Holy Septology). Don’t judge.

With every new year comes a new set of trends that good marketers chose to heed or ignore. A good first step here by blocking out some time on your calendar in order to audit your brand, your product/service, and your department. Identify areas where do you’ve fallen short and others where are you hacked apart the competition with lightsabers. Being honest with yourself is key and, before starting all that, get back to basics with these three fundamentals.

 

Look into your organization’s biggest needs. 

Upon my arrival at Metal Toad, I inherited a blog full of rich, relevant content. The struggle wasn’t content creation, it was in content syndication. Setting up funnels, engagement KPIs, and revisionist edits could wait because, for the time being, the content was being hidden behind a wall of unawareness. 

Confession: I’m fully aware that this strategy is often looked down upon by data-driven marketers. In fairness, it hurt my soul a little to syndicate without measurability in place. But I knew that Metal Toad’s adoring fans needed the content more than I need the metrics. With the blank slate offered by a new year, ask yourself what your audience (and company) needs and weigh that against your long-term brand building goals before simply choosing an out-of-the-box, vanilla strategy that the “experts” believe is the only way for your brand to grow.

If Q1 requires an abnormally large influx of revenue in order to accomplish some big initiatives, then hop on that lead generation bandwagon. Start networking. Maybe even cold calling! Gasp! But if your executives are in long-term brand mode and stability is ensured, then start (or keep) listening to your target customers and writing authentic narratives that solve their business needs. And then dance a little…

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Align your new actions with your leadership team’s goals. 

Aligning your strategy with your leadership’s goals takes a deft touch. Are your executives solely quantitatively focused? Is marketing’s success based purely on lead numbers and funnel metrics? Or is value placed on qualitative, longer-term brand building practices such as non-conversion-focused social posts, press releases, or content creation?

I’ve found value in forwarding articles (or even snippets or screenshots) to my executives in order for them to better understand the lead generation vs. demand generation argument. I’m blessed to have an ambitious company built around consistent learning (especially in leadership) so, more often than not, my approaches are met with tenacious curiosity. To many outside the world of sales and marketing (and even a few of those within), the results look somewhat the same. 

Set your strategy up for Death Star-shattering success by making sure that the next time you’re in an elevator with your exec, you know that they know that you know what the corporate objectives are and that they know that you know that know that you know that you’re following through on them. Or else….

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Plan meticulously for execution…with the right tools. 

Consider your customers. What channels do they swim in? What types of content to they engage with most regularly? And what content do they find the most relevant or motivational to purchase? Once you and your team makes some tough decisions in this arena (while weighing team bandwidth and budgets), then look at your current toolset and take a deep breath.

Are new tools needed to pull off your new plans? Thousands of new tools available to marketers with every passing year. Most are fads, some of true staying power, and even fewer radically transform the landscape. How do we know which will be which? 

When taking stock of all your organization’s current toolset, be honest with your current ROI, your current personnel, and your team’s current bandwidth to take on additional (or more complicated) tools. Additionally, weigh the more tacit costs to your organization as well. Adoption cost, team agility, and leadership buy-in often have more of an affect on the long-term performance of enterprise tools than does the actual output. 

Audit, evaluate, persuade, and execute. Go! The new year approaches! Use these tips to arm your team with a successful brand strategy planning session!

 

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