Thoughts on branding, testing and measuring
With marketing budgets tight and markets becoming increasingly competitive, the manner in which we spend our resources is critical. I have found that by consistent branding, careful testing of messaging, and thoughtful measurement of results, one can get the most “bang for the buck” from your marketing budget.
There has been much written about the importance of branding. From my experience there are three key elements one needs to consider with respect to branding:
Connection – Is your branding (messaging and images) directly connected to the value proposition you are seeking to convey to your stakeholders? Obviously, you need to understand your value proposition to each segment of your market, and how it is superior to the alternatives offered by your competitors. Your logo, imaging, messaging and design need to work together to communicate your branding. If any element is not working to reinforce your branding, then it is a distraction.
Quality – Does the quality of your branding reflect well on your company and its product offerings? High quality imaging, a professionally designed logo, well selected typeface, and an appropriate color palette all contribute to the aura of quality. Particularly for companies early in their development, conveying quality through branding will instill confidence in prospective customers.
Consistency – Are you constantly applying your branding in all aspects of your marketing communications? All aspects of marketing communications including advertising, packaging, website, collateral literature and social media need to include your high quality branding. Many companies find it helpful to have a single person ensure consistency in branding. Where this is not possible, a branding manual may be helpful.
It is vitally important to test your messaging and imaging with a sample of your target audience before launching a campaign. In my experience our partners in the trade press were very helpful in allowing us to test various elements of our messaging, layout and call to action before we embarked on a campaign. Generally, testing was accomplished with relatively low cost. We routinely tested several alternative versions of advertisements and direct mail pieces. Testing helped ensure optimum outcome (leads, sales, and brand awareness) from our investments in marketing.
It was William Hesketh Lever, the founder of Lever Brothers, the Victorian era soap company marketing genius, who used to say that half of what was spent on marketing was wasted. The problem he stated was that it was impossible to tell which half was wasted. Pre-campaign testing can effectively help reduce wasting scarce marketing resources.
Testing should not be confined solely to pre-campaign marketing materials. Using surveys on a periodic basis is vital to having a measure of brand awareness and customer retention of key marketing messaging. By repeating surveys on a regular basis, you will get an indication of where you stand in the minds of your customers, and how your presence in the marketplace is evolving. If a particular campaign or tactic was implemented between survey intervals, comparative results can shed considerable insight on the effectiveness of the campaign.
Normally, a marketing program is composed of a variety of tactics, using a variety of media. It is vitally important to track the degree of success afforded by various tactics and media. Obviously the best measure of success are the dollars of revenue (or even margin) generated from a marketing tactic. This allows a direct assessment of cost/benefit. However, often direct ties to revenue are not possible. In this case, a measure of generated interest (such as leads, website visits, likes, etc.) can be helpful.
Not all leads are created equal. A lot depends on the type of media and the purpose of the marketing tactic. In some cases the tactic is designed to generate direct sales interest, in other cases it can be intended to generate general brand awareness. I find it helpful to track lead flow from each source and then compare the results from other similar media. For example, two trade journals aimed at the same audience would be directly comparable if we normalize for cost. Thus a cost per lead metric can be very helpful in determining how effective a particular publication is in soliciting a response from a particular constituency. This can help guide future spending, and can serve as the basis for productive discussions with publishers and other suppliers.
These days, most marketing efforts seek to drive prospective customers to your website. It is very important to monitor web statistics on a regular basis. This can be very helpful in tracking the source of referrals, and spikes in visitors can often be tied to individual public relations efforts.
The above meaningful metrics should be tracked over time to provide insight into the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. Depending on the size and sophistication of your marketing efforts, you can adjust the number and depth of quantitative metrics you employ.
In summary, I have found it helpful to employ branding, testing and metrics to fine tune marketing efforts and to ensure scarce marketing resources are efficiently and effectively spent. In my experience, working with like-minded professional marketing partners greatly helps facilitate the journey.