By Marion Crawford
President and CEO, Crawford Strategy
As businesses grow, they face the question of how to begin investing in marketing to support their progress and build their brand. For many businesses, paid advertising is a good first answer. It offers the opportunity to reach a targeted audience quickly and with your preferred messaging. But advertising is just one piece of a strategy that will help your brand strengthen over time.
Long-term brand awareness must be approached holistically. Thinking strategically and thoughtfully about how you’d like to be perceived will help to not only grow your business but zero in on the core values that will define your company. By creating a strategy around elevating your profile, you create a long-lasting identity for your company that will resonate with your target audience.
The essential first step is to identify and understand your audience. Who is your current audience? Are you reaching the audience you want, and if not, who do you want to reach? Try to be as specific as possible as you narrow this down. Once you’ve identified who you are trying to reach, you can start to think about how to engage.
The second, and equally as crucial step, is to identify your key messages. You may find this difficult to narrow at first, but like the first step, the more specific you can be, the more you can differentiate yourself. What truly defines your company? What are the main ideas that you hope your customers, partners, and competitors associate with you? Once you’ve nailed down these key messages, it’s important that all members of the company internalize them and are prepared to share them when appropriate.
After you define your key messages, you will want to seek out third-party endorsements of those same themes. It’s one thing for you to say your team is talented, but an award in your industry confirms this notion. If you want to communicate your success and rapid growth, apply for consideration in a fastest-growing-companies competition. If you are looking to elevate your profile within the geographic area, focus on honors that are specific to your community. Think about where your audience lives.
Choosing to sponsor or support events that align with your company and audiences serves many purposes. You not only earn goodwill in the community, but you are able to give back to the community that supports you and your team. By being thoughtful about which events or groups you get involved with, you can participate in causes that are aligned with your key messages. Community involvement is also a great way to build team camaraderie through group volunteering or attending community events. While you are giving back and developing your team, you are also making a statement to potential customers and partners that these things are important to you as a business.
Share Your Message
Finally, you want to share those carefully curated key messages where your target audience will see or hear them. When you narrow down your key audiences, you can potentially also identify where those audiences receive information or spend time. This can take many forms. For some, demonstrating industry expertise is best done by speaking at a conference or industry event. If you are seeking regional awareness, publishing in your local paper or serving as a subject matter expert will generate recognition among your local business community. And don’t forget the digital world – use this platform to develop a consistent social media or blog content strategy where you can share your key messages frequently.
Being thoughtful about elevating your company profile can provide long-term benefits to your company. A truly successful strategy integrates paid, earned, shared, and owned media. Through the identification of your audience, key messages, and the best ways to connect one to the other, you will ensure that your brand voice is consistent as your company grows and succeeds.