Direct response marketers are obsessed with generating leads and making the sale. So much so in fact that they often discount the value of investing in online branding. But even for marketers who live and die by their performance, neglecting to invest in brands is a mistake. Let’s take a look at why.
Understanding the value
Contrary to what some direct response marketers might think, investing in your brand online is not just about spending money on the brand. Instead, it’s about building an entity that will resonate with your customers and keep them coming back again and again—even when there’s no deal or promotion to entice them. Not only will building your brand online go a long way to boost awareness and build your reputation, but the more people are invested in your brand, the greater the chances are that they will actively seek it out and remain loyal. Given that, direct response marketers need to recognize that online branding should be a priority as it can help you achieve your goals by driving incremental revenue for your business. In short, if you want to grow your business online, you first need to grow your brand.
Recently, I witnessed a new direct response player stumble in the online marketplace. The company spent a year building up its business, developing its product mix, adding staff, growing relationships with key partners in the industry and investing in a website to attract its target audience. But when the company launched its site, nothing happened. It netted zero leads. In fact, the only traffic to its site was coming from internal IP addresses. Three weeks later things weren’t much better—the site had generated fewer than 10 leads.
So what went wrong? While this company had taken the time to build its business before launching its site, it didn’t invest in building its brand online. Instead, the company figured that because it was a direct response entity, driving leads was the priority, and brand building efforts could come later. Unfortunately, they were wrong. Without a brand, there was no concrete way of driving leads. Sure, anyone can find a way to get out in front of an audience, but without a reputation, strong online presence or an effective media strategy behind it, consistently driving business leads will be challenging.
The company was able to turn the situation around, but it took a carefully crafted online brand building campaign, including a creative strategy, media plan and an online reputation building effort. But the value speaks for itself. Not only did the campaign help grow brand equity with strong awareness for the company, it also produced real business leads. Today the site generates more than 200 qualified leads per month.
Here are five key strategies to consider before launching your online branding efforts.
Research your audience. To build your brand online, you must first have a clear understanding of your audience, especially before you begin creating content strategies and communication plans. Fortunately, there are plenty of tools out there that can help you identify your target audience, including products from comScore, Nielsen, Google and Compete. Tools such as these allow you to learn more about your audience, including gender, age, marital status, household income, and locale.
Give your brand a voice. Based on your research, determine what your audience wants to hear and what message you want to put forward. This will form the foundation for your brand’s voice. But in doing so, keep the following in mind:
- Have an open mind and consider all ideas (imagine Geico‘s reaction when its creative team first suggested using a lizard as their brand voice).
- When creating content, speak with your audience—not at them—as people respond better to a conversation that relates to them and engages them.
- Be consistent in your messaging as people look for consistency in a brand.
Balance your online media mix. Work to build your brand through multiple channels. Use display and content networks to build your brand through repetition, and get your ads out in front of your target audience using behavioral targeting, site specific targeting and re-messaging. From an organic search perspective, make sure that your brand name and messaging is consistent in your title tags and in your meta descriptions. In addition, be sure that your messaging is consistent with your brand voice throughout your various channels, including paid search. By creating consistent messaging throughout the buying cycle, you allow consumers to continually recognize and recall your brand. This will make you the clear choice when customers are ready to make a purchase.
Plan your social media integration. What do you want your brand to say or do online? What types of interactions do you want your consumers to have with your business? Is Facebook right for you? Twitter? You may not have all of the answers at this point, but a little research should help you understand where your audience is and how to interact with them. Start by listening and seeing who is talking about your brand. If no one is, then start the conversation. But remember, it’s a conversation leading to interaction, not a means to force a message on consumers. Your brand will be on the path to grow in popularity online in no time if you remember to treat social media as a conversation.
Build up your reputation online. Building your reputation online is similar to a networking breakfast, but it’s not as easy and it takes more time. First, it’s important to have a clearly defined strategy for reaching your audience. Next, you need to identify the tactics you’ll use in the process. For instance, be sure to leverage any existing offline partnerships you have in order to grow your reputation online. Doing so will not only help build links pointing back to your website, but it can also enhance your organic search presence. Overall, the more prevalent your brand becomes in the mind of your reputable peers, the stronger your reputation will grow online.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.