Build your brand with marketing or focus on lead gen? Why you must do both, and you can do both.
Marketing is not a pillar of your business, or a department, or a function, or the ‘marketing person’s’ job. Marketing IS your business. Lead generation activity is vital, but if you ONLY do lead generation activity, you will ALWAYS have to do it. That means you will always be working on generating leads and pushing yourself out to them, instead of people being pulled to you because they already know your name and what your business can do for them. Imagine what it would be like to have customers come to you, instead of you reaching out to find them all the time. Would that be just a little bit awesome?
If you want to realise that vision, then building your brand over the long-term is just as important as generating leads in the short-term. That means you need to focus on activity that is driving awareness of your business with your target client all the time, whilst also doing direct lead generation work to generate sales in the immediate term.
Marketing and sales go hand-in-hand, more so now than ever in the world of digital marketing. But just because the lines have been blurred, doesn’t mean we should merge the two disciplines and only go for the ‘instant gratification’. A recognisable, standout, unique brand is something really worth waiting for.
Just look at Canva. And Uber. And Air bnb.
But those are consumer brands, not B2B brands, I hear you cry!
Yes, you’re right. So…. Xero. Zoom. Mailchimp.
All of these companies started within the last 10 years as one person's dream. They have achieved huge scale and growth in a relatively short timeframe AND everybody has heard of them and knows what they do.
So, let’s go a little deeper. What do I mean by ‘activity that is driving awareness’. Some marketing tactics are designed to drive reach to a large audience and put your business name in front of an audience of people who are hopefully your direct target customers. This kind of activity is intended to continuously put your brand ‘top of mind’ with that target so that when the day comes that they need the kind of service you offer, they will recall your name and be able to contact you. This type of activity is also useful for previous or lapsed customers because it reminds them about your services so that they can return to you in future. Examples include; paid ads, social posts, blogs, e-newsletters, press ads, flyers etc.
If you are running awareness driving activity, you should not expect an immediate ‘result’ as far as a sale. Many times I hear a story along the lines of; I paid for a press ad in our local community magazine and it didn’t work. I ask what they mean by ‘it didn’t work’. They tell me they didn’t get any sales. So, here’s the bad news. That type of advertising is not intended to necessarily garner you direct sales in the here and now. It is about driving awareness of your brand name and message with your target audience and reaching a large number of them.
If you run that press ad just the once, I would be very surprised if you did get any sales from it. Does that mean it’s a waste of money? Possibly. Imagine, though, if you had run that ad in every issue of the publication for 12 months. Would the people who regularly read the publication remember your business? Would they recognise your brand and your message because they saw it frequently and consistently? Yes! Would those same people be more likely to recall your business next time they needed the type of service you offer? Yes, they would. Is it a waste of money now? No way!
Now, let’s talk about lead generation activity. Some tactics are designed to generate immediate leads for your business so that you can convert those leads into paying customers. This kind of activity is usually direct to an individual or company and aims to engage them and educate them directly about your services. Or, being in the place your target customer is likely to be at the time they are likely to need you. Like Google. Examples include; reaching out to an individual directly via email, phone or online; sending a sales rep door knocking; doing SEO activities or adwords to ensure your name comes up when they are actively searching for your type of service.
DIGITAL MARKETING CLOSES THE GAP
Digital marketing has enabled us to reduce the gap between marketing and sales and in some cases to effectively merge the two functions into one seamless process in which the prospective customer becomes aware of a business, engages with its offer, and purchases all in one go. This is what we refer to as a seamless customer journey, or marketing funnel.
Many digital marketers would argue that in this age of technology, all marketing should be conducted in this way. However, my personal view is that whilst this kind of marketing works perfectly for some kinds of products and for certain personality of buyer; it is not appropriate for every circumstance. It depends on the business, the nature of what’s being sold, the audience you want to attract and the value of the offer.
If you’re a coach or consultant, you may be able to sell your knowledge products this way, but very few people buy coaching directly online UNLESS they have already heard of the person they are buying from. Brand building is important – whether your personal or company brand. On the other hand, if you sell products, then this kind of approach works brilliantly.
YOU CAN DO BOTH
You might think you don't have time to do both, but I urge you to consider that you don't have time NOT to do both. Build you brand now for long-term future-proofing AND ensure you have a healthy pipeline of leads coming into your business for right now. But how?
When you re-imagine marketing as the driver of the business, not a function or department within the business, then it's easier to realise your priorities. If you're not focusing on marketing activity each week in your business, you will be constantly living on the edge waiting and hoping your referrals don't dry up. Heed my warning - I meet many small business owners who tell me after 2 years, 5 years, 10 years, even once I had one that after 25 years had suddenly go NO MORE REFERRALS!
If you are focused on marketing activity every day, if you make it part of your lifestyle, calendar or working week. If you make it an absolute priority, then I can tell you with absolute certainty that you will have an endless line of customers knocking on your door.
Brand/awareness building activity is a good thing for you to be doing on a continuous and consistent basis as it builds a brand in the long-term that people will remember
You should not expect an immediate ‘result’ as far as a sale from awareness building activity
Lead generation activity is for creating immediate sales results
Both activities can be combined with the use of digital marketing technologies to create customer funnels that take the prospect from awareness of your brand through to purchase
The activities that will be most effective for your business depends on the type and nature of your offer, audience and price.
If you have ever thought that your marketing ‘didn’t work’, it’s helpful to re-visit the expectations you have as far as objectives for the activity. Was it intended to create awareness of your brand (less measurable) or sales (highly measurable)?
Implementing a balance of both brand building and lead generation activity is an important part of growing an effective business
All small businesses should see marketing as the driver of the business, not a function or department within the business so that they can experience an endless line of customers.
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