As we all know, social media has become the latest challenge any successful business has to face, but with experience, you'll find that it does have its benefits. For example, I truly believe that microblogging has made me a better writer and a better listener.
As a small copywriting agency, we have made our mark. We have a brand, from our excellent service to our creative thinking, which ultimately is passed on to the client.
It is a constant process, though; we have to move, change and adapt to our clients needs. Without the wonderful team I have, I am confident I would not have come to this realization. With that said, here is my opinion on how and what is needed for any business to succeed.
You obviously need a brand. That in itself breaks down to several components: a vision, motivation, then the strategy. In order to come to this realization, you will need to use your vision. Once you have the vision, it can motivate you and your company, becoming the driving force for the next step the strategy. This is where the fun begins; you have to be creative.
Use your creative thinking skills: how you approach the individual project is the vision (in this case it's how to brand yourself). How do you describe the business, as you want it to be? The answer involves seeing the optimal future for your business, and then describing that vision with your motivation.
Once you have grasped your motivation, then your desire to solve and exploit an opportunity are forthcoming. This, of course, will fall in the right place and is part of the process when "creating" your brand. Lastly the strategy, which we call your expertise: knowledge and understanding (technical, procedural, and intellectual) of what you do.
When you can break it down to easy terms and go as far as writing these components out on a sheet of paper, clarity becomes a beautiful thing.
What is a brand?
If you come from the old school of thinking, a brand takes a lot of money and time to create.
Take, for example, using SEO/SEM/SM as part of your online marketing. I would venture to say that anyone with a solid plan could create his or her brand. Branding yourself and standing out from your competitors is one of the easiest, yet most time consuming, exercise I advise my clients to focus on. Keep in mind that a brand is not built through effective communications or appealing logos only - that's the expensive way; look at all the TV ads, magazines and newspaper fees. No, a brand is built through the total experience that it offers.
You are probably saying (rightly so) that different people have different perceptions of a product or service... so how is that information going to help me? Well, that gives you a nice place to find out about the different points on the loyalty ladder. Not all good strategies rely on super tactics, a huge budget and star power. The basis of a good strategy is to win your audience without having to rely on a tactical brilliance team with bloated salaries that will regurgitate what every social media guru tells them to.
When approached correctly, strategy becomes a long-term response to the changing environment. This involves making a fundamental decision about how to match resources to the ever-changing environment. "Doing the right thing is far more important than doing things right." Although I can't remember who said this, it's oh so true when it comes to branding strategies.
Your online marketing becomes a dialogue. This dialogue is developed over time with specific groups of customers whose needs you understand, and for whom you develop an offer. It has to give and create a different advantage and perception over the offer your competitors give.
A strong brand is valuable because it ultimately changes the behavior of your market. This, as we all know, will lead them to buy more frequently, be willing to pay more and in some cases your clients and users will recommend the brand (you) to friends.
I always motivate my copywriters by recommending they go against the grain; don't copy what the competitor is doing. In the marketing world, it's called contrarian thinking. Granted, contrarian thinking is used more in the financial sector, but it serves as an integral part of the process.
Webster's dictionary describes "a person who takes a contrary position or attitude; specifically: an investor who buys shares of stock when most others are selling and sells when others are buying." The way I see it, you have to make your own path. Once you can engage in contrarian thinking it will create the opportunity for brands.
Anyone who knows me is well versed on my approach. I always do the opposite of what I am told as the acceptable way of doing things. Sure, many times I fall flat on my face, but once I dust myself off I realize and am struck by how malleable I have become when it comes to thinking out of the box.
No brand is going to achieve success by copying the rest of the pack. In fact, why would you want to? Yes, it's lonely, and sometimes you won't get the results you expect. However, patience is a virtue - even more true when it comes to branding yourself and online marketing.