Brand can be summed up by the following equation: Brand = Reputation x Visibility.
So, growing your brand really means strengthening your reputation and increasing your visibility—preferably through techniques that accomplish both simultaneously. These techniques comprise your branding toolkit. They highlight your firm’s authority and educate your audience. After all, you can’t just go around telling everyone how great you are. That sounds disingenuous at best and is likely to undermine the standing you have in your industry. Luckily, it’s become easier in the past decade to present digital narratives that inform and engage a wide (as well as very targeted) audience. Offer quality content, present yourself consistently and professionally, and buyers who are in need of your services will emerge and connect with your firm.
There should be a wide range of tools in your branding toolkit. Here are just a few that will work to grow your reputation and your visibility:
A must-read blog. An engaging blog incorporating SEO techniques will provide your audience an insider’s look into your industry, as well as give them a taste of your firm’s personality—what matters to you and your own take on the issues facing your field. A quality blog is often the backbone of a powerful content marketing strategy, as it provides a platform for sharing that connects directly back to your firm.
Visible Experts. Imagine having your own personal Steve Jobs. The star power and idiosyncratic expertise that some individuals bring to a project or partnership can make your firm the first choice of many buyers. These can be hired or cultivated internally. As their status grows, so does your firm’s—and vice versa.
Social media. Share and share alike. Present your own unique content to followers. Link to your blog and company website, and generate industry and cross-industry goodwill by sharing relevant content generated by partners, colleagues, and experts. Show that you’re engaged in your field and your reputation will flourish.
These tools and the brand they build together increase lead generation by putting your firm’s expertise in front of potential clients, and the trust you develop by educating your customers makes it easier to maintain relationships and close deals.
The Right Tool for the Right Job at the Right Time
Your toolkit should be tailored to the prospects you’re best suited to connect with—firms who are connected to (or potentially in need) your industry’s services. But it should also contain tools geared towards prospects at different stages of the sales cycle.
For example, different pieces of content marketing should be available with different levels of access:
Early stage prospects: Have open access content that doesn’t require visitors to provide personal information or register for anything. Examples of early stage content include blog posts, articles, whitepapers, and videos. These materials begin to educate your prospects on your industry, highlighting your standing and expertise without engaging in a hard sell.
Late stage prospects: For these prospects further along in the sales funnel, offer content that requires registration and offers deeper interaction. Save your webinars, speaking engagements, and consultations for these buyers. Again, your marketing toolkit isn’t about a sales pitch, so much as it’s a presentation of issues your prospects are likely faced with. As they realize that you’re engaged with their challenges, they’ll realize you’re qualified to help them.
Current clients: After closing the deal, keep your clients in the loop. Tailor email marketing to address their status, provide them access to content relevant to their needs and prior purchases, and design special offers for VIPs and returning customers. Staying engaged with clients will encourage them to refer your firm and potentially expand on your relationship when another need for your services arises.
There are e-mail marketing tools and platforms that can help you manage the stages your prospects are in, easily customizing offers with dynamic content.
There are two basic types of dynamic content. Variable substitution allows you to substitute generic copy with specific information (like customer name or location) and content insertion lets you switch out larger segments of content. Sections of text and images can be tailored to fit your relationship with the customer, letting you easily share special offers or relevant news with specific customers.
This is the tip of the iceberg, of course. There are other techniques, as well as analytics and measurement tools that are crucial for getting the most out of your online marketing efforts. The takeaway here is that your toolkit must be varied and the tools must be used properly. Reach out to prospects in the right ways and at the appropriate times—strengthening your reputation and your visibility—and watch your brand grow.
Chris Ourand is an Account Director at Hinge, a marketing and branding firm for professional services. Chris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 703-391-8870.