Building your brand: Execution Strategy
Updated: Jun 19, 2018
Part 10 in our series on building your small business brand.
Ok, this is it, this is where we put everything you’ve learned into action. This is where we outline how and where your brand will communicate and market itself, its values and its most important messages to your targets. Basically, how you plan to execute your brand across different channels and formats.
This section, more than any other, really deserves its own series, so this is just an overview. And to do the actual execution, you’ll definitely want to work with different specialists, such as a brand consultant or brand strategist, concept developer, copywriter, graphic designer and online marketing specialist to make sure everything is as good as it can be.
Why it’s essential
To draw attention to itself and deliver its message to its audience, your brand needs a systematic and consistent execution plan, otherwise it’s just random noise with no measurable purpose.
What it covers
Your execution plan should include your goals and strategy for achieving those goals, the communications channels you’ll use, your customer acquisition strategy, your content strategy and your advertising campaign strategy.
We’ll also look at some of the many execution channels you have available and talk about them a bit.
How you’ll use it
Your execution strategy is your roadmap for all marketing, advertising and promotional efforts. It sets out how you’ll reach your audience, what channels you’ll use, what messages you’ll deliver and what format you’ll use to deliver them.
How you’ll create it
Goals & Strategy
Before creating any strategy, you need to know what you want to achieve.
Start by mapping out your long-term goals and work backwards from there. For guidance, look at your customer objections from your core offer. Dig into your target research, particularly the problems your targets face that your brand can solve. Look at your strengths and weaknesses compared to your competition. Return to your positioning and the strategy you outlined there. These should give you a good list of both long- and short-term goals.
Next, organize them so that your short-term goals lead logically to your long-term goals, which themselves lead to your ultimate long-term goal: attracting and retaining loyal customers.
Now, create a plan for how you can achieve each step of the way.
Here you’ll want to consider the communication channels you’ll use, how you’ll acquire customers, what content you’ll need and what advertising campaigns will benefit you.
Once you’re done, you’ll have a clear picture of what you need to do. You’ll also have an actionable roadmap for getting from here to there.
Now, let’s look at some specific elements to consider when creating your strategy.
You have four very general types of communication channels to work with, all with their pluses and minuses. First up, we have the channel you’ll use most: digital.
Digital includes websites, landing pages, online advertising, social media, podcasts, webinars, YouTube videos, mobile apps, email and much more. For most small businesses and startups, digital is where you’ll do most of your marketing.
The plusses are:
+ You have endless possibilities + You have a huge global audience + It’s highly targeted + It’s cost-effective + It’s highly flexible
On the other hand:
- There’s lots of competition online - Working with digital requires constant education in order to stay current - There’s an overload of available information - It’s easy to waste money with your digital marketing as little expenses mount up
But despite the downsides to digital, digital is where we’re at these days, so you ignore it at your own peril.
Next, we have old school print media. This includes catalogues, brochures, pamphlets, fliers, posters, print advertising, direct mail, billboards, flags, signage and more.
For certain types of businesses, print offers an essential benefit. It lends gravity to a brand, and people love holding something solid in their hand that isn’t their smart phone, particularly if it’s made of high quality material.
The pros of print media include:
+ A lot of “curb” appeal + It feels more substantial and lasting + It’s more likely to be read + It adds a more personal touch, especially in this day and age
On the downside:
- It’s expensive compared to digital - It has limited reach - It’s not targeted - And it’s not very flexible
Still, for most businesses, even fully online businesses, you’ll at some point need to invest in print media, whether it’s material you give away at a conference or material you leave behind after a sales meeting.
Next up, we have broadcasting. This includes TV and radio.
You might be rolling your eyes at this one. TV and radio? Really? But for certain local businesses, radio, and even local TV, can still be a worthwhile option. Don’t discount it out of hand.
The plusses are obvious:
+ You’ve got a huge audience + You’ve got vast reach + It makes strong impression
But the minuses are also obvious:
- It’s highly expensive (esp. TV) - It’s not remotely targeted - And it’s not flexible
I’m not going to spend more time than this on TV and radio, but I wanted to throw it out there for those of you with brick-and-mortar or local service companies.
Last, we have in-person This includes events, experiential events, in-person promotions, conferences and more.
The pros are that:
+ It’s very personal. You’ve literally got a person physically there. + It’s highly targeted + It makes very strong impression + It’s a great opportunity to know your targets + And of all the channels, it’s the most likely to delight customers
On the downside:
- It’s expensive - Your audience is small - You have very limited reach - It’s difficult to repeat - And it’s not very flexible
But the power of a great in-person promotion can’t be quantified, particularly if it’s creative and linked with a digital campaign that can get the event to a larger audience and expand your reach.
In choosing the channels you want to use, and within them the sub-channels, you want to select those that will:
a) meet your budget b) connect you to your target, and c) communicate your offer effectively
Then, for each channel, outline how it will achieve your goals.
Next, do the same for each sub-channel so that when you, for example, go to build your website, you know exactly why you’re building it and what it’s supposed to do, not just look pretty.
What I haven’t included in this part is media, PR and sales since these are their own separate areas that do overlap with marketing.
Customer Acquisition Strategy
Now that you understand a bit about the channels available to you and which ones you want to use, you want to think about how you’re going to move your potential customers down the pipeline from their first contact with your brand to their final purchase. The way to do this is with an acquisition strategy.
Your acquisition strategy sets out the process by which you’ll attracts, qualify and close leads, moving your targets down the awareness funnel. Without a systematic acquisition strategy, your customers are basically coming to you randomly.
How you plan to acquire your customers also determines such things as your website and mobile app design, your content marketing strategy and content creation, your online ad campaigns and landing page design, and your email and mobile marketing campaigns.
To create your acquisition funnel, consider each step you need to take to help your targets along their customer journey.
What information do you need to provide?
What offers will entice them?
What call to actions will motivate them?
How can you keep them coming back once they’ve made their purchase?
Refer back to your awareness funnel to understand at what stage of awareness your customers are making contact with your brand. Then, select channels and messaging that are geared to that stage.
Now, integrate this information with your communication channels so you have a detailed roadmap to achieving all your goals.
Here’s an example of how an acquisition funnel may look.
Any business can benefit from a properly prepared content strategy. But the operative phrase here is “properly prepared”, i.e. not ad hoc, haphazard, intermittent blogging.
Compared to traditional marketing, content marketing lets you attract predictable, scalable and cost-effective traffic and leads and increase your search rankings. But you need a strategy to systematically guide the creation of content that serves to attract, retain and convert your target audience.
Te truth is, it’s a long game. It takes time for its effectiveness to kick in and its demands are merciless. You need to be creating content on a regular basis, according to your content plan. There’s no slacking off when it comes to content marketing.
On the other hand, if you like to write or to shoot videos of yourself talking, then content marketing is next to free and one of the best ways a small business has of attracting customers and creating authority. Authority both in the minds of potential customers and on Google, which is what helps you with your search rankings.
A proper content strategy includes:
Content goals – because every piece of content needs a purpose
Competition content analysis, which you should’ve already done in your general competition analysis
Keyword analysis, to see what you’re competing against and what you need to rank for
Content channels and formats – these will be similar to what I’ve already discussed here, but will be matched to your topics
Editorial plan that lays out the topics and themes you want to cover, when you want to cover it, why, in which format and how you’ll deliver it.
Publication schedule that lets you know when to publish what and ensures you meet your deadlines.
But if that’s too much for you, one of the simplest ways to create a limited, but still purposeful, content strategy is to write down all the challenges your brand faces in convincing your targets to buy your product or service.
Next, return to your target research and write down all the challenges your targets face that you can help them with.
From there, turn to demographics. Where are your targets located? What industries do they work in? How old are they?
If your product or service is unique or esoteric, you may need to educate your targets. Write down every part of your product or service that customers would want to know about.
This long list is a good starting point for mapping out your content, selecting the appropriate format and choosing delivery channels. But you’ll definitely want to flesh this out with keyword research to make sure your content is reaching your target. You’ll also need to choose proper delivery channels and a set publication schedule to keep you on track.
Paid digital campaigns draw more traffic and visibility than any other form of online marketing. These can take the form of Google AdWords, banner ads, sponsored Facebook or Instagram posts, LinkedIn ads or InMail campaigns.
But whatever the channel, the purpose is the same –to target a specific audience and drive traffic to a landing page with the aim of converting users all while allowing for precise campaign targeting, analysis and optimization.
Beyond the digital realm, paid campaigns include traditional TV and radio spots, but those aren’t our focus here. Even in the digital world, some paid channels will be more appropriate to your audience, budget and product or service than others, so start by deciding which channels will work best for you.
From there, create a campaign strategy for each channel that will maximize your budget and give you a solid, but also realistic, ROI.
Combined with your acquisition strategy and content strategy, this is your plan of attack.
Ok, now that you have everything in place, you’re ready to launch your brand execution strategy. This is where you:
Build your website and landing pages
Print your brochures
Write your blogs, e-books and whitepapers
Shoot your videos
Record your podcasts and webinars
Plan, write and launch your ad and email campaigns
Organize and host your events, attend or host conferences
And everything else that you’ve outlined in your strategy
It’s here where your brand will shine through over the long term, where it will make its mark and leave its impression on customers’ minds.
In the next post, I'll give you a brief overview of some of the many tools at your disposal for executing your brand. I’ll also list some of the things involved in creating each execution.