There may be many reasons why your business is not growing. Still, assuming you are happy with your product or service, your pricing and your people, then one area to examine with a critical eye is your branding and the response it is getting. It could be that your brand strategy is a mismatch with your market or customers and needs revisiting or replacing.
Here are ten reasons why your brand marketing strategy may be failing and requires an urgent re-think.
1. Brand sentiment is poor or non-existent
Your business could be very well-known, but maybe it's for all the wrong reasons. And whilst not every aspect of brand sentiment is controlled by brand strategy, it's still an essential part of brand management and measuring your brand's effectiveness.
How people feel about your brand, company and products or services is a crucial factor in whether they buy from you. So their sentiment – good, bad or neutral – is something you want to monitor. It is affected by many things:
- Customer service - this is a biggie, having lots of unsatisfied customers out there telling their peers how bad you are is a sure way to damage your brand's standing in the market rapidly.
- Ethics – your business ethics, and more importantly, how, and whether or not, you communicate them to your audience is another potential source of low sentiment. Content and particularly case studies can help here by demonstrating how you would act towards customers, how you are helping to save the planet, or how you are helping your customers save the planet – through reducing waste and energy efficiencies.
- Tone of voice – coming across as an aggressive, arrogant, know-it-all or uncaring will all affect how your audience sees you. It would be best if you were educational, engaging, confident-but-humble, and above all, deeply caring about your customer's potential issues and day to day struggles.
- Blandness – if your audience has no strong feelings – known as neutral sentiment – it may be that your retention is the issue. Take a look at the next section.
2. Brand retention is low
Do your customers know who you are? How much impact are you having on the market? It could be that your brand isn't active enough in the market or that it simply isn't memorable enough.
Every market is competitive; it's not enough to produce a product or offer a service and expect that your customers will magically find it – you have to market it. Are you making a big enough noise about your offerings? If you are on a small budget, you will have to be more creative about making a splash – but it can still be done.
If your marketing activity is sufficient, then the next aspect to look at is brand design and personality. Taking the second of these – does your brand have a personality? You may be a serious B2B business, but it is too easy to be too serious and end up just being bland. Find a character, a personality, a tone of voice to make your marketing efforts distinctive. Equally, it may well be that your marketing and content is not attractive enough, is the design memorable? You must establish a distinctive and compelling brand design.
Is your copywriting engaging? Are you telling stories? Make sure you are using relevant stories to engage your prospects.
The best way to find out whether this is an issue is to do some market research, do people know who you are, what you do? Do they remember you and your products or services?
3. The wrong type of prospects
Perhaps you have plenty of leads, but they are all from the wrong market sector, or their budget is too low (or too high), maybe they want high volume you cannot provide or low volume that's not viable for you.
Maybe they are in the wrong geographical area, or from a place where legal restrictions mean you can't do business with them.
This is an issue of qualification, and whilst you can weed out these leads, doing so will cost the business time and resources, and if there aren't any good leads hidden amongst them – then you have a problem.
Attracting the right sort of leads is all about positioning – in this case, the power and might of your brand are not aimed at the right customers.
You need to look at your brand strategy and ensure that every aspect of it, from its core proposition, messaging, personality, tone of voice, design and targeting is suitable for the audience you are trying to convert.
One of the critical areas is your content publishing strategy – is your content laser-focused on the interests, fears and aspirations of the leads you want to acquire?
4. Customers asking for solutions you don't offer
Another element of qualification that may be causing problems is potential prospects or customers asking for products and services you don't provide.
However, before you jump in and revise your brand strategy to correct this, take a breath and consider whether your product or service offerings are the right ones to achieve your business goals. Are you offering products or services for which there is no credible market?
If you are happy that there is a defined need for your products and services, then it's time to revisit your brand strategy and ensure that you are educating your audience about what you do and don't do. Publishing content that educates and guides is the solution.
5. Customers misunderstanding product
If you are finding that your business is having to spend more time and resources on customer support than you would generally expect, it could be that they don't understand the product or service. Maybe they bought it thinking that it would do something for them that it is not designed to do?
Once you have ascertained that there isn't a fundamental issue with your products or services, then you need to look at customer education through your brand strategy. Use your marketing material and content to educate your audience as to what your offerings are all about.
Content that uses real-world examples is a great way to do this, as are top-level overviews and guides that lay out the different solutions on offer and what they are suited for.
6. Competitors always more successful
Do your competitors always seem to be more successful? Do they always seem to gain the big accounts and leave you behind? It could be yet another sign that your brand strategy is falling short.
If you can, a little research into why you are losing out will help. Ask prospects you have failed to convert why they went with another solution. What was it that made the difference? It could be price or the fit of the solution – but it might be their perception of your business or their attitude towards you.
Eliciting prospect's thoughts on their feelings towards your brand is not the easiest thing in the world – but independent research into the market is probably the best approach to take here.
One thing you could look at is how their brand strategy differs to yours: what are they doing differently? What are they doing better? What can you learn from their approach?
7. Sales and Marketing not aligned
If marketing is saying one thing and sales are saying another, that mixed messaging confuses your audience, and they will avoid you. So make sure all parts of the company – not just sales and marketing – are on the same page – ensure they are all aware of the brand strategy and it's messaging.
Your brand strategy may not be addressing sales enablement – providing sales with the information, tools and resources they need to close leads.
Whilst most of the information and data about prospects and customers now flows into marketing from online interactions, it is still sales who have to close the deal. Sales need all the appropriate and timely information to enable them to do their job.
The day-to-day data from multiple customer touchpoints with both sales and marketing, as they traverse the buyer's journey, can be channelled back to the CRM to deliver more targeted prospect interactions and better results.
Aligning sales and marketing will also enable powerful account-based marketing (ABM) – where the two areas work as one to identify major prospect companies. Together they create precisely targeted, unique content, along with strategic real-world interactions, that bring in big accounts that boost the company's revenue. This is where a strong Sales Enablement strategy and implementation can pay off – proving the sum is more than the parts.
8. Not understanding your customers
If everything else is working fine, but you are still not getting a response from your audience, it could be that you are not creating brand content that interests them.
In business, almost everyone's time is at a premium. To engage with your content and spend time on it; your audience needs to believe that there is some benefit in it – that it's worth the investment in time to read and digest it.
So at the heart of all your brand messaging there needs to be a benefit statement front and centre and the content you create must be relevant and helpful to your intended audience.
It means that you have to understand what they would find useful, what content they would value. Also, your content needs to be timely, so you also have to know where in the buyer's journey, your target readers are.
Here is where buyer personas are invaluable. Developing a good solid set of reliable and realistic buyer profiles will enable you to get under the skin of your prospects, understand what makes them tick and identify real-world, day-to-day issues they need to address.
Once you find out their pain points and their "jobs to be done" you can write brand content that directly speaks to their issues, ensuring your brand is relevant and invaluable.
9. No repeat business
A clear sign that something is wrong is if customers buy once and then never again. Of course, this could be unrelated to your brand strategy – it could be their situation, the nature of the product or service, a change in circumstances, market or technology, or some other perfectly reasonable factor.
It could also be something more troubling – low quality of product or service, poor customer support, late delivery or other issues with the product or service.
But there are elements of your brand strategy and marketing that can also be a factor – are you publishing enough educational and support content?
Have you published content that upsells or demonstrates how they can upgrade or add to their purchase? Have you shown how they can develop and expand the use of the product or service?
Finally, is one of the other factors we've discussed putting repeat customer's off, now they have got to know you better? Is it your brand's personality, tone of voice, ethics or green credentials?
10. Growth stalled / Disappointing sales
Ultimately, one of the most telling signs of a failing brand strategy is that growth has stalled or that sales figures are not where you would like them to be. Any shortcomings here should be a wake-up call to re-examine your brand strategy and ensure it is adequate and fit for purpose.