Those of you who followed the 1980s police drama, Hill Street Blues, will remember Sergeant Esterhaus—the man who always admonished his officers to “be careful out there” as they set off to patrol the inner city.
For marketing executives seeking to build their brand in today's frenzied, message-cluttered jungle, the warning should be the same. Watch your back, start to hustle and trumpet the added value you bring to the table—or your stellar professional reputation and your brand will quickly lose their luster.
It wasn't long ago that resting on your laurels seemed to be enough—especially if you were meeting your goals, seamlessly executing ambitious programs, and keeping staff members happy enough to ward off corporate raiders. This year, conditions are vastly different. To prove your worth as a marketer and brand builder, you need to tap into your entrepreneurial side.
Seven commandments for marketing and brand building are being chiseled onto new stone tablets—with every commandment based on a fundamental for entrepreneurial success. Following them religiously is now essential for compelling customers to embrace your brand.
Commandment #1: Embrace 3-D marketing. Entrepreneurs are obsessed with building lasting, face-to-face relationships, a principle that only 3-D marketers can leverage to full advantage. 3-D marketing—encompassing events, exhibits, displays, merchandising, premiums, target market research, prospect follow-up and much more—enables marketers to truly “touch” their customers in ways that traditional mass marketing does not. It's the most powerful tool in the marketing arsenal for creating customer relationships and building brand image on a face-to-face basis. If you're not fully exploiting 3-D marketing in today's cutthroat marketing environment, you are missing the boat.
#2: Thou shalt make ROI your mantra. Entrepreneurs are notoriously impatient to maximize the return on every investment they make. Amazingly, in the world of three-dimensional marketing, executives often forgo measuring ROI until called to the carpet—and by then, they have no assurance that they are looking at meaningful indicators of brand participation or brand loyalty.
We recently surveyed marketing leaders across industries and found that, while 80 percent were accountable for million-dollar 3-D programs, the majority had no system for measuring the return on their most significant marketing investments.
#3: Thou shalt dive into your industry. Stellar entrepreneurs study their target industries in minute detail, zero in on the marketplace needs they're uniquely positioned to fill, and develop brands that showcase their added value.
As a marketer, you should be following their lead; especially as change and convergence continually threaten the brand positioning you thought was secure. First ask: Is your brand considered run-of-the mill in a marketplace that used to deem it innovative? Do you know what your brand is, what it isn't, and what it needs to be? How should you be promoting your brand so that it resonates with a changing marketplace of prospects and buyers?
#4: Thou shalt focus resources through end-to-end planning. An entrepreneur without strategic plans is a hot potato to a venture capitalist. A marketing executive without end-to-end 3-D marketing program plans should be a hot potato to his/her CEO or COO. Too often, marketing executives view three-dimensional tactics as low priority—slapping exhibits or displays together almost as an afterthought. In the new world of 3-D marketing, you must champion end-to-end planning processes—beginning with market research and message development, graduating to creative conceptualization and implementation, and ending with customer follow-up and results measurement. As part of your marketing effort, you should be spearheading an end-to-end planning approach for each one.
#5: Thou shalt remember thy vision. Entrepreneurs are “big idea” people with a compelling vision and the drive to see it through. Too often, marketing executives lose their dedication to understanding their corporation's vision and strategy—and advancing them through several integrated tactics with a common set of underlying messages.
#6: Thou shalt seek new paradigms for achieving teamwork and synergy. The teambuilding spirit typical of entrepreneurs is a requirement for marketers, who should be taking it to the next level. Do you, for instance, organize on-site “pep-rally briefings” of your sales team just before major events—reinforcing the brand messages most likely to draw customers in? While sales would normally lead these meetings, your intimate branding knowledge should be compelling you to initiate this out-of-the-box approach.
#7: Thou shalt honor thy team members. Like entrepreneurs, you depend on your team to help you shine. Learn to nurture and empower the people who work with you every day—encouraging them to take your ideas further, to continually focus on overall returns, and to develop new approaches. As the rules for brand-building success take a dramatic turn, you'll need their talents to help you capitalize on future opportunities—and to maintain the luster of your brand.
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