A surprising number of executives attain a C-suite title without having a firm grasp of fundamental brand strategy principles. CFOs and COOs, in particular, tend to be fairly far removed from the basics of brand strategy. This is largely because of the way modern businesses are structured. People in these roles are often more focused on operations. They are more concerned with objective measurements. They’re worried about the balance sheet. That said, when they think of brand KPIs, they’re usually thinking of metrics that directly drive revenue. The problem though is that those KPIs focus mostly on the bottom of the funnel.
What executives should be doing
Executives underestimate their own myopia when it comes to allocating budgets. They acknowledge the value of brand awareness. They also demand good products and services. Yet they assume that spending should be concentrated almost completely on the bottom-funnel tactics they believe drive sales. But the data suggests otherwise.
Consumers undoubtedly spend most of their time in the top-of-funnel stage. According to Adweek, 81 percent of shoppers research a product or service online before making a purchase. Pardot tells us that 72 percent rely on Google to research and learn before they buy. A brand strategy that ignores the beginning of the consumer journey will lead to significantly fewer sales in the end.
Playing the long game
So many executives feel wary of investing in top-of-funnel tactics. This is because the ROI of those tactics can be harder to calculate and pin down. The impact of digital marketing efforts, for example, is residual in nature. You don’t see the payoff from upper-funnel investments right away. You are also unable to realize the impact of neglecting these tactics until it’s too late.
Sales may be good for one, two, or even three months. But when they eventually plateau and then decline, you suddenly find yourself facing a critical lack of demand. This is a situation no company wants to be in.
Being aware of the risks
Depending on the nature of the market for your products or services, the quality of your offering, your competitors, and a number of other factors, it may be harder than you think to start creating awareness again after sales begin to slow. Because of this, it’s key to continually invest in marketing tactics that don’t always provide immediate ROI. If you don’t, you risk becoming irrelevant.
Imagine a world in which Coca-Cola didn’t advertise—no billboards in Times Square, no polar bear ads over the holidays. Consumers have short attention spans when it comes to brands. They would eventually forget about Coke if it weren’t for the company’s hard work to remain top of mind. Sure, they would see the brand on store shelves. But that would happen all while they were being inundated with ads from Pepsi and other major competitors. Gradually, they’d lose touch with Coca-Cola altogether. It might not happen right away, but it would happen.
You are what you measure
Branding KPIs encompass a lot, from out-of-home advertising to billboards, experiential marketing, direct mail, TV, terrestrial radio, and more. While there is no direct ROI metric that you can attach to, say, the kind of traffic your retail signage at 7-Eleven drives, simply ignoring its value as a result is not the right way to go.
Today’s executives, often led by the CMO, love to say they adopt digital marketing because it’s trackable. But even then, by only using measurable digital tactics, you fail to capitalize on the full potential of the medium.
In order to market your brand the right way, think about your company’s unique objectives. Create your brand strategy around those, regardless of whether or not you can easily or immediately measure their collective impact.
Creating your holistic brand strategy
To ensure your financial success and capture consumers not only at the bottom of the funnel but also at the top, focus on the following principles:
1. Define branding KPIs at every funnel stage and by source.
Before you can determine the right media mix, you have to be clear about what you want customers to do in each stage of the buyer journey. Then choose sources that will influence those actions.
For every source, you should be able to come up with some KPI. A billboard should have some metric associated with it, such as demographics that indicate who is seeing it and where. Branding KPIs are everywhere: You just have to figure out how to identify them and use them to measure response.
2. Develop an attribution model.
You should have a basic hypothesis about how your customers will respond to your messaging at each stage of the buyer journey. Think of all of the interactions they’ll have with your brand. Be clear about what you want them to do following each interaction. Basically, put forth an effort to understand your consumer and the journey they’re on.
Maybe you’re just driving traffic to your site to collect IP addresses for remarketing. Maybe you’re trying to get a conversion. Perhaps you want site visitors to download a piece of content or complete a form on a sign-up page. Every time a consumer engages with your brand, whether through a traditional medium like television or through a digital ad, he or she should be compelled to take a next step.
3. Understand basic awareness metrics.
If the members of your audience don’t know you exist, they won’t find you. Awareness matters and there are ways to measure it. Start by looking at your social media reach. Track the number of shares your content is getting on major social platforms. Pay close attention to shares from influencers inside and outside of your industry.
Similarly, you can track mentions of your brand in the press or elsewhere on the web. Of course, not all publicity is good publicity. Nevertheless, positive press mentions can help you get a good gauge of your overall market reach.
Do at your own risk
Choosing to ignore top-of-funnel tactics is something you do at your own risk. You may never truly be able to measure how effective your awareness marketing is. However, you’ll certainly be able to measure the outcomes when consumer awareness disappears and sales go away.
Don’t wait until it’s too late. Invest in making your brand strategy more holistic. This is to engage customers in every stage of the funnel. Doing so will be more powerful than you might have imagined.
(Featured image by DepositPhotos)
DISCLAIMER: This article expresses my own ideas and opinions. Any information I have shared are from sources that I believe to be reliable and accurate. I did not receive any financial compensation for writing this post, nor do I own any shares in any company I’ve mentioned. I encourage any reader to do their own diligent research first before making any investment decisions.
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