2020 Vision vs. Brand Blindness.

They say “familiarity breeds contempt.” But in marketing, familiarity breeds blindness — brand blindness. You’re simply too close to see your unique position clearly. And you can’t share what you can’t see.

Think about it. You know your company inside and out. Your products. Your services. Your people. Your customers. Your competitors. Your industry.

But knowing it all so well can make it almost impossible to see it with the fresh eyes that building a brand requires. And that can make planning for 2020 and beyond pretty tricky.

This exact scenario played out at a recent Storybrand workshop. Attendees struggled to answer some of the questions that could help them shape a unique position. 

Then something funny happened. When they were paired up with the person next to them, each was able to see the other person’s position much more easily than they could see their own.

If you or your team struggle to pin down the unique ways you help customers on their journey, maybe a little outside perspective can help. And the best place to start may be your customers — especially new ones.

Ask them what problems you solve for them. How you make their lives easier. What you do for them that others didn’t or couldn’t or wouldn’t. This moves you past products and services to real benefits.

Their answers will shed light on why they chose you — and why others should, too. They’ll give you some clear direction for your marketing messages. And if you’re following the Storybrand path to clarifying your marketing, they’ll fill in a lot of the blanks for you.

There are a couple of bonus benefits, too. You’ll end up with some new testimonials for your website, social media, etc. And your relationships with those customers will probably be even stronger.

Interview those customers one at a time or as a group, whichever makes them more comfortable and relaxed. And consider having an outside party interview them, so your own brand familiarity doesn’t blind you to key insights you could otherwise miss.

As you plan your marketing for the new year, take this opportunity to sidestep your own brand myopia and gain true 2020 vision for your brand.

The Five Ingredients of Great Copy.

Whether for a print ad, a website, a radio spot, a brochure, a TV spot, a digital ad, an email, a video or something else, there are five factors that mark great copy.

Brevity
Our brains have been retrained. Texts and tweets and TV have shortened our attention spans. So short copy gets read Long copy doesn’t. Trim ruthlessly. Short words. Short sentences. Short paragraphs. Get in. Get out.

Empathy
Great copy takes the customer’s point of view. Show me you understand my problems. Feel my pain. Share my joy. But make it about me.

Surprise
Nothing sticks in your brain like the unexpected. That’s why surprise works so well in copy. And humor is the best surprise — real humor that makes you smile or chuckle. That kind of copy doesn’t just get a reaction. It gets shared.

Emotion
Too much copy uses logic to persuade. But forget the head for awhile. Aim for the heart. Conjure up the emotions you want the customer to feel. Contentment. Frustration. Joy. Longing. Nostalgia. Engage the heart, and the head will follow. (And yes, this includes B2B copy. Because business owners are people, too.)

Clarity
Lose the jargon. Seriously. How simply and clearly can you say what you do and how you help? Look over every sentence that takes your message into the world. Is it clear? Is it helpful? Is it necessary?

If you can inject those five ingredients into all of the copy you’re using to reach prospects and customers, you’ll reach a lot more, and they’ll retain a lot more. And that means you’ll sell a lot more.

Cute and Clever, or Clear?

There are two billboards within a mile or so of one another. Both advertise eye care. Sort of.

One company’s billboard uses the headline, “We focus on you.” Cute? Not really.

The other company has the word “First” in its name. So their headline? “We put your eye care first.” Get it?

Neither headline is very memorable. And neither tells you why they’re the right choice. In fact, they’re both trying, in somewhat lame fashion, to say exactly the same thing.

Clever — or what passes for clever — is often the enemy of clarity. When a company lacks a strong, unique position, they often fall back on cute.

There are a couple of problems with this. First and most obvious, those “clever” headlines don’t give consumers a reason to choose one over the other.

Prospects need a reason to choose you. A hook. Something to remember you by. Something different. A benefit only you can offer. A thing they can only get from you.

Being cute without being clear about why you’re the best choice just makes you forgettable. You’re not distinctive. You’re one of many.

That brings us to the second problem. Neither of those headlines above is actually clever. They’re certainly not funny enough to make either provider stand out.

And there’s the problem. A really, truly clever campaign can help you overcome the lack of a strong position. You’re easier to remember because you actually made yourself memorable. Think of Allstate and “Mayhem,” or Progressive and Flo, or Farmers and their “seen a thing or two” and jingle.

Being clear about the “why you” question is hard enough. Being clever in the process is really tricky. But doing both at the same time is where the money is.

So if you or the creative firm you work with are trying to come up with clever or witty messaging, ask yourself a couple of questions. First, is that messaging clear about what you do and why you’re better? Second, is it really, truly clever in a way that sticks — or only mildly so, like a moderately cute play on words?

If you can do both, that’s where marketing moves the needle. But if you can only be one, choose clarity. Because no one ever made money being confusing…or boring.

Pain Relief Sells.

If you want to keep a prospect’s attention long enough to turn them into customers, there are three important things you have to do — three steps that make the whole process easier.

Find Your Prospect’s Pain.
What problem does your prospect have? It could be pain they’re well aware of, or pain they’re oblivious to, because they don’t know any different. It could be pain from not using services like yours, or pain from using a competitor who isn’t delivering on what they promised.

And don’t get too literal about that word “pain.” Think more broadly. What annoys them. What exasperates them? What wears them out? What takes too long? What feels impersonal? What doesn’t work as intended?

As clearly as possible, define all the kinds of pain your prospect has to endure without you.

Agitate Those Pain Points.
Remind your prospect of their pain in vivid ways. If they’re unaware of it, demonstrate it to them. Show them what they’re missing. If they know about it already, amplify it. 

Share details. How is it hurting your prospect when they don’t use you? What are they giving up? What are they putting up with? What sucks? Poke that wound. Agitate that pain.

Offer Your Pain Relief.
Only after you’ve shown the prospect that you understand their pain, and only after you remind them how much it hurts, offer them the relief that only you can provide.

Show them how you eliminate their pain. Let them see how much better — how painless — life can be when they’re using you. Better yet, use testimonials and let your own customers tell them.

Easy As 1,2,3.
Understand your prospects’ pain and remind them of it. Agitate and amplify it. Then show them how you spell relief.

If you follow that simple formula — on your website, in your video, in your ad, in your email — you’ll generate more leads and convert more of those to customers.

(And if you could use a hand, Idealogy’s Allen Howie is the Louisville region’s only Storybrand Certified Guide. Call 812-399-1400 or reply to this email to find out how he can help you relieve your prospects’ pain — and your own, too!)

Treat Your Website Like Your Pet

If you gave your pet the same amount of attention most companies give their websites, there’s a good chance you’d have a dead pet.

A lot of businesses go through a website redesign every few years. Then they let the site sit mostly idle until it’s time to do it again a few years later. Rinse and repeat.

But that kind of benign neglect is killing your marketing. Here’s why.
First, the longer a website goes without new content, the farther it drops in search engine rankings. So if you depend on your website for lead generation, you’ll see diminishing returns.

Second, that “every few years” approach means that when you do decide to make a change, you’re probably more focused on redesign than on rethinking what your site could be.

Third, search engine algorithms and technology in general change faster all the time. So what works for your website now probably won’t in a year or two. 

Website development is no longer an event. It’s a continuous process. And that requires a different approach, with four separate but related stages.
The first is strategic. Set goals for the website. What should it do for you? How can it generate leads? Help recruitment? Improve customer service? How can it reinforce your brand?

The second is design and development. This includes structure, content, functionality and code. How will the site look? What will it be able to do? Do you expect more visitors on mobile devices? Then build for a great mobile experience.  

The third stage is ongoing content development. Create a calendar for new content. Develop topics, assign roles and set deadlines. Sync this with your social media calendar (you do have one, don’t you?) so your content and message are consistent across the digital space you occupy.

Finally — and parallel with stage three — is monitoring analytics and changes in everything from SEO to hardware and consumer trends. This lets you adjust content as needed, and also helps you know when the look and flow of your site is out of step with the way people are using the web. Because that is and will remain a moving target.

The more attention and care you show your website, the more it will do for you. And isn’t that the point?

(If you could use a hand with any or all of the four stages of ongoing web development, reply to this email or call 812-399-1400 to see how Idealogy can make your site work harder and make the process easier.)

Seven Ingredients for Powerful Emails

The average professional spends about 13 hours a week reading and responding to email. So if you want to cut through that thicket, watch these seven factors.

Inform and Sell
Alternate emails between those that give the reader valuable information and those that sell what you do. Think about answering the “how to” question in either case — “how to boost your _____ results” or “how to cut your _____ bill in half.”

The 50% Subject Line Rule
Spend half your content creation time perfecting your subject lines. If your email doesn’t get opened, it doesn’t get read. Powerful subject lines get emails opened. Use numbers. Ask questions. Keep it short. Use punchy language.

Content Mix
Try different kinds of content and pay attention to what works for you. Is it a quick video? An article? A chart or infographic? A “how to” pdf? Experiment to see what performs best, but keep mixing it up.

Calls to Action
Think beyond open and click-through rates. What do you want your reader to do? Tell them. Buy now. Get a free sample. Schedule an appointment. Download the free guide. Give your reader something to do.

Trim and Grow
Have a continuous process for building your list and stay on top of it. Prune that list regularly. Get rid of names tied to bounces, or those who go a certain amount of time without ever opening one of your emails.

Involve Prospects and Customers
Ask readers what they want. As a part of your regular conversations, ask what kinds of emails they find themselves opening. What do they need to know more about? How can you help?

Stay Social
Share your email content across your social media platforms. Share your social media links in every email. Share other people’s relevant posts with your connections, but not too often — the best content is always yours.
Email remains a powerful, cost-effective way to drive awareness and sales. And there’s a lot more you can do to amp yours up. Call us today to find out how we can help you max out your email ROI.

Four Social Media Missteps to Avoid.

There are lots of ways to miss the potential of social media for your company. Here are four of the biggest to avoid.

Hiring the Wrong Person.
Just because someone is active on their own personal social media — even if they’re wildly engaging — doesn’t mean they can do the same for your company. If they don’t really understand your business — and more importantly, your customers — it’s unlikely they’ll post the kind of content that will truly resonate with them and move them closer to a purchase.

Here’s the good news. There’s probably somebody who already works for you who knows you and your customers well and who would like the opportunity to start handling your social media. They get an opportunity to do something different and earn a bit more, and you get a much higher chance that your content will hit the mark. If that won’t work, consider hiring an agency or a professional to manage your social media accounts.

Now Hiring. Again.
If you’re constantly posting open positions you’re trying to fill, you’re either saying that you’re short-handed, or that you have a lot of turnover. In either case, it suggests that you’re having some internal challenges, and that the service you’re providing right now may not be great.

Should you use social media for recruiting? Absolutely. But try positioning your postings as signposts of growth. Use testimonials from existing employees to talk about what a great place yours is to work. And post plenty of other kinds of content so it doesn’t seem like you’re always looking for help.

Same Old Same Old.
Take a look at your posts from the last three months. If they’re all pretty much the same kind of content (“congratulations to or team for doing ____”) the chances that your audience is paying attention are getting slim. You need to be helping them, informing them or entertaining them — and ideally all three — every step of the way.

The cure? Take time to build a content calendar that really mixes things up — and stick to it. Schedule lots of different kinds of posts, with a focus on what interests your customers the most.

Always Be Closing. Or Not.
If you’re using social media only to sell what you do and promote how awesome you are, with pictures of your team doing exciting things, it’s pretty unlikely to move the needle for your brand.

Instead, make your customers the star. Ask them questions. Tell their stories. Share their posts. Like their content. Show how their lives or businesses are better because of their connection to you. Check your analytics to see which posts seem to catch on — and create more like them.

Social media is a fantastic tool, but like all tools, you get more out of it when you really know how to use it. Use yours well.

Are Smaller Lists Better?

In marketing, we usually think that the more people we can reach, the better. But when it comes to the lists you’re using, going big may not be the best strategy.

It may seem counterintuitive, but with email or direct mail, you should almost always try to trim your lists. Here’s why.

Especially with direct mail, each prospect you reach costs you money. So it makes sense to focus your list on your best prospects — those who: 

  • Are most likely to have the problem you solve or who want what you provide
  • Are most likely to buy
  • Have the highest potential to generate long-term / lifetime value
  • You can serve cost-effectively and profitably

Think about your best customers or clients — those who meet the above criteria. What do you know about them? 

If they’re individual consumers, what’s their annual income or net worth? Where do they live? How old are they? Are they college educated? Do they have kids? How old? What else?

If they’re businesses, how big are they? What’s their annual revenue? How many employees do they have? What industries are they in? Where are they located? How long have they been around? Who’s your contact?

Now look at building or refining your list around more people or businesses who fit those criteria. These are the prospects you’re more likely to convert.

Keeping your mailing lists more focused means you’re not paying to deliver your message to those who are less likely to buy. Keeping your email list under control means fewer bounces and higher open and click-through rates. In both cases, your response rate goes up and costs go down.

So if you’re using these two powerful marketing tools, amplify their value by tightening up your lists. And be sure to use your website to offer visitors something of value in exchange for their email address.

(And if you could use a hand building those lists or crafting a message that creates engagement and response, call Idealogy at 812-399-1400 or email allen@idealogy.biz to get started.)

Three Hurdles Your Logo Has to Clear.

Your logo is visual shorthand for your brand and a reflection on your company. If it’s outdated or doesn’t create the right impression, it’s working against you. So whether you’re having a new logo designed or refreshing an existing one, here are three tests it needs to pass.

Just Your Type
If a typeface is trendy at the time your logo is created, there’s a good chance it will get dated more quickly. So if you’re thinking about developing a logo or updating the one you have, look at typefaces that have managed to stand the test of time and still look fresh and current. Those timeless faces will still be working hard for you years from now.

Sans serif typefaces may be more suitable for industrial or technical types of companies, while serif typefaces often feel friendlier and may make more sense for human services companies. And there’s almost never an occasion when a script typeface or novelty face makes sense for a logo.

Color By Numbers
Too often, logo colors get chosen for the wrong reason. They may be colors that the decision-maker simply likes personally, or colors that a lot of companies in your industry use, rather than colors that make sense with what you offer and resonate with your audience. Color choices should fit your offerings and your audience, and make you stand out from the competition.

There are practical things to consider as well. Red fades in the sun more quickly than other colors, so if your logo is going to get a lot of outdoor exposure, red may pose some challenges. In addition, if your logo will appear on signs that direct people to you, the colors you choose need to offer a strong contrast and high readability.

Graphic Detail
Most logos have some graphic element or icon. It doesn’t have to be literal. And it doesn’t have to be the coolest thing in the world. But it does have to be different to be memorable. And if it can reinforce your name or what you do, so much the better.

As you consider your choices, ask if your icon is similar to that of a lot of other companies, especially in your industry. Or is it something truly unique? For example, a lot of companies want to show their patriotism by using some variation of the American flag or stars and stripes with red, white and blue. Often, this has nothing to do with the business they’re in or who their audience is. The result? The marketplace is seriously crowded with red, white and blue logos that use elements of the flag. This makes them harder to find and remember.

Consensus Kills
Consensus is often where great logos go to die. A design that gets watered down by a committee and has to be blessed by everyone is a lowest common denominator logo, and unlikely to serve you well. Hire a designer or firm you trust with expertise in identity design, choose the smallest possible number of decision-makers, and push yourselves to allow a logo that lets you stand out.

(Idealogy has been designing awesome, award-winning logos for more than two decades. If yours needs an update, ask how we can make it a logo you’ll love for years.)

The Bare Essentials of Your Brand.

Dieter Rams is the pioneering industrial designer who led the design team at consumer products company, Braun, where he worked from the 1960s through the 1990s. In the wonderful documentary Rams, he shares a fascinating insight into his approach to product design.

“We were trying to eliminate the need for user manuals. We wanted to make it so that the machine could be used without one. Which means the reduction of everything to the bare essentials and removal of anything that could be a distraction.”

This applies to your brand as well. If a brand is the unique position you hold in the minds of your customers, prospects and employees, it needs to be simplified and pared down until only what is essential and obvious remains. Everything else is a distraction.

In fact, let’s go one step further. Anything more than the most simple, clear brand message actually waters down and undermines your position, making it less unique and more interchangeable with your competitors’. That’s the opposite of branding.

The same is true of your website. Think of Rams’ call for “the reduction of everything to the bare essentials and removal of anything that could be a distraction.” If you followed that principle, would your site become more user-friendly? Clearer? More effective? Yes.

In a world where a lot of content is created simply for the sake of having more content, it makes sense to strip away everything that isn’t necessary to help people find you and the solutions you provide. Because if it isn’t needed, it’s getting in the way.

The same is true of presentations and slide decks, collateral and emails. How can you get to the point faster and make it more clearly?

Rams closes out his Ten Principles of Good Design with this: “Good design is the least design possible.” Less is more as long as what’s left is the essence of who you are and how you can help.

Try this today. What’s the least number of words you can use to state the unique way you help people or companies? It’s a great team exercise — or a great competition. Take it for a spin and see what you get. (Hint: it will probably be a stronger brand statement.)