Is your business doing very well, but you are still wondering whether you should be making changes for continuous improvement? Like for a marketing branding strategy for continuous improvement? We recently received that question from Grace at Fresh Books. It is a frequent question we receive from clients.
First, a word about Freshbooks. They are a cloud-based accounting software service designed for owners of the types of small client-service businesses that send invoices to clients and get paid for their time and expertise. From my research on-line, they appear to be doing incredibly well. And so I would conclude that their brand, branding, and brand marketing must be doing well also.
Brands are verbs. What they do matters much more than what they say.
Let me point out that Freshbooks is not a client of ours. Grace simply asked me to take a look at their on-line presence and answer this question for them in the way of a blog that I post on my consultancy’s website. This is what I agreed to do because I believe it is such a pertinent topic to many businesses. I will do this task by simply studying their on-line presence, with no further discussion with them.
But first, let’s first be sure we share a common understanding of brands and branding. There is a brand, and there is branding. One is a noun, and one is a verb.
But the funny thing is that when it comes to what defines a brand and what defines your branding, the noun and the verb are switched. Branding is defined by things like a logo, look and feel, website copy, and all the visual details that go into managing the brand. It sends out a vibe, and it’s made up of many things.
A brand, on the other hand, is defined by a company’s actions. How do you serve the customer? What interesting service do you offer? How do you approach relationships with business partners and vendors? A brand is also by what you want to stand for.
The most important thing to remember, it’s not about you in the sense that you are in control. You are not. But you can influence.
Your brand represents a collection of your customers’ perceptions of how they see you, how they feel about you, and what they say about you. It communicates and influences every time it touches a customer.
A significant portion of a company’s value is intangible, so a strong brand is a significant competitive advantage. As Philip Kotler wrote:
The art of marketing is the art of brand building. If you are not a brand, you are a commodity. Then the price is everything, and the low-cost producer is the only winner.
Brands, marketing, and communication have long been highly related. From TV ads and press releases to events and endorsements, the way consumers view a brand will influence their decision making, so crafting and reinforcing a brand image has long been a top priority for marketers.
In a world of abundant choice, such influence is crucial for business success. So despite Freshbooks’ brand marketing success, there are always ways to be better. Let’s examine some ideas on this subject:
Marketing branding … purpose
The objective here is to define the company’s existence above and beyond making money. What does Freshbooks stand for beyond being a successful software company? None visible. As they step up their game, now would be a great time to build and market this brand purpose.
What is branding strategy … compelling value proposition
Freshbooks does a very good job of defining several very good value propositions, such as user-friendly interface, ease of use, and award winning support team.
We suggest going deeper with these statements by validating details from customer users. A great way to do this would be to use customer stories to extend the value propositions beyond the products and services. Become defined by what you make happen, focusing on the customer’s end state resulting metrics.
Branding marketing strategy … make a difference
Making a difference builds on your value propositions. Strong value shows the difference that the customers see.
We recommend adding to your list of value propositions and supporting them with details of proof from customer results.
Brand marketing strategy … deliver on promises
Freshbooks uses many great customer testimonials and referrals. However, they could do a better job of pointing back to brand promises.
We believe Freshbooks could make explicit promises in their value propositions. Feature metrics and offer guarantees behind the promises. They should use actual customer experience to find the best metrics.
Great brands drive greater engagement by creating emotional responses. They make learning about their products and services fun.
Freshbooks offers free 30 day trials of their products, which is excellent. They can make this more engaging by offering a customer support team to work with these potential new customers.
Customer trust in this world is everything, isn’t it? Freshbooks must be doing it pretty well.
We suggest Freshbooks take a page from the FedEx brand by becoming synonymous with “reliability.” Define your reliability benefit to customers in the most straightforward terms possible. Offer reliability in everything you do — from your products and services to your website and communications. Make your promise peace of mind for your customers.
Help consumers help themselves
The best brands offer lots of help/advice …giving value in every interaction. You see this very often with on-line brand marketing, and Freshbooks does this well also.
We believe our earlier idea on using customer support heavily in the free trial could be an excellent way to highlight the customer support team.
Highest quality customer service
We don’t have any results to examine here, but we recommend Freshbooks steal a page from the Zappos Brand. There is no secret here. Zappos became Zappos because of the fanatical customer support it offered. That is the company’s brand.
As Tony Hsieh, the Zappos CEO, put it, back in 2003, we thought of ourselves as a shoe company that offered great service. Today, we think of the Zappos brand as about great service, and we just happen to sell shoes. Freshbooks could easily do the same to strengthen its brand marketing
To the best brands, design is more than a shiny wrapper. It is the brand. Freshbooks needs more emphasis in this area with visuals and more professional visual influence.
The bottom line
To be effective in this new era, we as marketers need to see our jobs differently. No more just focusing on metrics like clicks, video views or social media shares. We must successfully integrate our function with other business functions to create entire brand experiences that serve the customer all the way through their experiences throughout the business.
We can do better. Much better. But first, we need to stop seeing ourselves as crafters of clever brand messages and become creators of positive brand experiences.
Related post: 12 Fundamental Laws of Content Marketing
There can never be enough focus on continuous improvement on brand marketing, independent of how well the business is doing. It seems Freshbooks is looking to take their success to a new level. This is an excellent time to make a statement with their brand marketing. Changing before you have to is always a good idea.
Would you like to participate in a free evaluation of your business marketing where our output is published in our blog like Freshbooks? If you are interested, please send us an email to Mike@digitalsparkmarketing.com.
Need some help in capturing more customers from your branding design strategies? Such as creative branding ideas to help the differentiation with potential customers?
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Mike Schoultz is the founder of Digital Spark Marketing, a digital marketing and customer service agency. With 40 years of business experience, he blogs on topics that relate to improving the performance of your business. Find them on G+, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
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