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The traditional marketing and sales funnel has long been accepted as the optimal method for inbound customer acquisition. Brands look to leverage many tactics to fill the top of their funnel with as many leads as possible and let the sales team filter them out and close the deal. It seems simple enough, right?
But in today’s saturated and complex market, this cookie-cutter approach is not enough to ensure an ideal prospect journey. Simply throwing money at pay per click (PPC), direct mailers or social media ads puts an emphasis on filling the funnel but can leave your sales team out to dry. Many leads will not be nearly ready to engage with your brand or may not be the right fit for your product or service. If you are a new brand, operate in a niche category or are disrupting an industry, this sentiment will be multiplied.
An emphasis needs to be placed on building your brand so that when prospects come in contact with a piece of content, a media placement or a social media post, they are already familiar with who you are and what you do. This is building a funnel above the funnel to develop targeted awareness and appear in the right spot, at the right time, for the right people.
A key driver of this funnel above the funnel idea is brand vision — essentially, the core concepts that inspire your company. This supports your overall business strategy, differentiates your brand in the marketplace, draws in leads and excites your employees. Your brand vision may begin with a list of keywords, a mantra or an image, but soon, this vision should expand to every touchpoint of the company. From your logo and branding to marketing copy and even the verbiage your sales reps use, a brand vision is the starting point for any successful marketing journey.
However, a brand vision is not exclusive to new brands. In our practice, we see many established companies in need of a refresh. Their sales have gone stagnant and they are watching competitors pop out of every corner. As industries change, technology advances and customer needs shift, your brand needs to as well. Not just your operations or offerings, but how you are positioned in the marketplace. Ad dollars are going to waste if your brand’s message is being misconstrued. Your target audience is likely different than it was even five years ago; the same goes for their pain points and needs. A similar effort that goes into evolving your product or service needs to be replicated into developing your brand. Prospects won’t care if you have a superior offering if the look and feel of your brand appear antiquated.
An ideal way to ensure that your brand is aligned with your target audience is simply to ask them. Based on many of our brand vision projects, I’d suggest leveraging market research and focus groups to build detailed customer personas and bounce ideas and strategies directly off of the people who would be interested in your services. This feedback can inform your imagery, tone and marketing tactics to drive meaningful connections with your audience. Listening to your prospects offers your brand a 360-degree view of what your stakeholders care about.
A great example of this concept in action is our own recent brand vision project. As an integrated agency that builds innovative and disruptive brands, we needed our imagery and messaging to reflect this approach. We revamped our logo and website to a sleek, minimalistic view, narrowed our positioning to focus solely on technology companies, and began generating content that echoed these sentiments. We created customer personas to mirror the key tech decision-makers we were looking to work with. This informed everything from the topics of our blogs to our verbiage in social media posts to the types of publications we targeted for thought leadership. All content was crafted keeping in mind the top pain points of growing technology companies. The results were stunning, and we quickly generated record levels of targeted inbound leads. By simply tweaking our brand vision, we were able to carve out a larger part of the market and convert on many of the prospects that came knocking at our door.
The brand vision is how you connect all facets of your business to the key stakeholders who may engage with your brand. The same emotions should be invoked when a prospect looks at your logo, scrolls through your website, reads an ad or stumbles upon a piece of content. This connected approach will grow on your prospects and draw them into your sales funnel when they are ready. Instead of throwing money at PPC and seeing what sticks, brands need to take a holistic approach to marketing. Tactics may work here and there, but they will limit lasting impacts. Investing in your brand and building the funnel above the funnel is the key to unlocking scale and staying power in an ever-shifting business environment.