We shared with First 5000 our top 10 brand and marketing priorities and practical recommendations for medium business.
Full Blog Here:
Looking at medium business with a strategic brand and marketing lens, Rachel Bevans of the Healthy Brand Company offers priorities and practical recommendations for the mid market.
We define marketing as the means by which employees develop, market and deliver your brand and offerings to your target customers to achieve commercial objectives. This includes your brand and core value proposition, identity and experience – product, packaging and service, people and process, website and store, distribution footprint, channels and environments, pricing and profitability, communications and CSR – understanding the customer journey and decision-making process to influence trial, purchase and repurchase, on-going engagement and advocacy.
Here are 10 considerations for medium businesses to set your business up for growth:
1. Link corporate strategy to customer and employee strategy
Many medium businesses have strong corporate strategy foundations, with vision, values, strategic priorities and performance targets, designed for the key stakeholder/shareholder audience.
However this needs to be clearly linked with customer and employee strategy and translated to customers and employees – what does that mean to me? – in order to deliver the corporate strategy.
We often see these three strategies heading in different directions. Gallup research also indicates that alignment is low, yet when these strategies are aligned, performance increases 240 per cent.1
2. Invest in strategy
Much marketing effort we see is executional without clear strategic direction and links to performance.
A little bit of strategy goes a long way. It ensures everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet and leads to consistency of execution across all touch-points. It enables objective feedback on briefs, fewer rounds of changes and more effective campaigns. It facilitates a longer-term view and enables consistency over time, which is both more cost effective and serves to build a more authentic and trusted business.
3. Invest in planning
Planning tends more focussed on budgeting than brand and marketing planning and investment.
Planning provides the link between strategy and activation. It’s the realisation phase, critical to ensure your activities are on strategy. It facilitates the prioritisation and phasing of investment and activities over periods of time.
Longer term plans help the business understand when the brand strategy will be fully implemented across all touch-points. Annual plans drive the commercial objectives. Project and campaign plans will be specific to driving the execution of that one activity.
As part of the planning process, comes the development of simple frameworks that help other parts of the business understand and implement against the strategy to meet objectives – whether that’s different audiences, different markets or different areas of the business.
4. KPIS linked from strategy to action
Proof that KPIS have not been linked from strategy to action is an unrealistic KPI – one that is greater than the size of the actual market; one that doesn’t consider conversion rates less than 100 per cent; one that seeks a share of market much higher than the share of voice your investment can achieve; one that doesn’t allow for missing links in the customer journey; one that forgoes one KPI for another (eg volume over price).
Set realistic KPIS (stretch targets are OK!); establish the link between strategy and action; set up a process for monitoring; put the measurement method and process in place; monitor, analyse, report and recommend to evolve activities before strategies.
5. Set ideas up for success
Medium businesses are more flexible and agile because they’re not servants to years of structure, process and red tape. This allows for entrepreneurialism and innovation to flourish, and many ideas to be generated.
However in many cases we see ideas are tried and not tested – they’re not given the time, attention, environment and performance monitoring structure to evolve and succeed. And then when those ideas come up again, the response is ‘it didn’t work last time’.
Establish criteria for ideas and a process or funnel to take them to market, provide the ‘real’ environment in which they are set up for success and monitor their performance against objectives.
6. Keep instinct alive whilst you gather more data
People in medium businesses tend to be closer to the consumer, less reliant on data and more on a real life connection with their customers that nurtures instinct.
We all know how beneficial data can be to the business. However, whilst you’re collecting more data on your customers and building your database of knowledge, do everything you can to keep the instinct alive – because its that instinct that will enable you to emotionally connect with consumers, making the links between data points and making smarter decisions with or without data at your fingertips.
7. Integrate marketing within the business
Medium businesses can be more product and sales oriented than they are marketing oriented. In this case, marketing is focussed on communications with sales objectives – meaning they primarily support sales – and a marketing budget not brand equity and P&L accountability.
Build your marketing capabilities so your team has P&L accountability and develops marketing plans that are driven by customer goals to reach commercial objectives; and that work to bring the brand to life across every experience along the customer journey.
This means that brand and marketing needs to be integrated with customer experience, customer service, sales, HR/People & Culture, production, IT, product, NPD, R&D, legal, finance, store network, PR, corporate, stakeholder and community communications etc – and all employees understand how the brand and marketing strategy and plans influence their business area, team and individual roles and behaviours.
8. Recalibrate your brand
Most medium businesses know what they stand for – they have a brand and brand identity. However, growth attracts new customers and employees, expands the range of products and services, extends the number of touch-points and increases the distance between employee/customer and original founder’s intent.
Businesses that have grown or are planning to grow need to review their brand, or will find that the brand has lost relevance, its not executed consistently across the brand-customer experience and in many cases, have forgotten where they’ve come from and lose their authentic core.
9. Empower your people
As a medium business, you’ll have between 200 and 5000 employees, each prospective advocates and each delivering 100s of experiences that affect directly or indirectly the overall brand and business objectives.
Investing in people who are aligned to the brand, engaged with the brand and empowered to deliver the brand through everything they say and do makes sense for personal, brand and commercial fulfilment.
10. Prepare to Deliver
Do you have the capability and capacity to deliver your current rate of growth, let alone more growth?
A growth-weary team, broken or missing links in the customer journey, systems failures – there is no sense in filling the pipeline with more customers if the pipe is leaking.
This might be the time to pause and celebrate your successes, revisit your authentic core, reconsider who your customers and employees are now, align corporate, employer and customer strategies, recalibrate your brand, establish realistic KPIS, integrate marketing within the business, invest in strategy and plans that drive the brand across the business, make sure your systems, processes and training support the growth, and empower your people to deliver.
1 Gallup, Business Journal, Getting the most out of the Employee Customer Encounter, Susan Sorenson and Keri Garman, June 25, 2013