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What’s going on guys. Jeff here.
I asked Brian Lenney to write a guest post for me to post here because (a) he knows branding and gets relational marketing and (b) we have the same last name. I think what he has to say about branding and building relationships is invaluable if you are doing any type of online (or offline) marketing at all.
So, here ya go:
I’m super excited (like, Jesse from Saved by the Bell excited) about writing this post for Jeff. I usually don’t get to guest post for people in Jeff’s niche too much so the fact that he asked me to write about branding and relationship building says a lot. It says that he cares about relationships, has integrity (as evidenced by this post and others like it: “How to Get Rich Overnight”), and more importantly, cares about helping and teaching others.
So Jeff asked me to talk a bit about why you need to develop and maintain real relationships with the people on your email list(s) and to have a presence that resonates with your potential and actual customers even when you’re not around.
This is called “branding.” Now Jeff knows a lot more about building lists than I do- but I’ve been around the block a few times when it comes to relationship building, branding, and online marketing. I’ve worked in the corporate world, non-profit world, and of course, the online world.
With the help of several folks along the way I eventually made the leap to full-time entrepreneurship and started my own copywriting business. It’s pretty cool to get to work from home, make my own schedule, and craft my own marketing strategy.
But it’s not easy.
It takes work to get business.
Contrary to bullshit promises that online gurus spit out- I’ve learned that people won’t give you their money if they don’t know you exist and aren’t confident in your ability to deliver.
Full-time online entrepreneurship isn’t a 20 hour work week in your pajamas.
You have to hustle.
When you’re your own boss and life gives you lemons, you don’t make lemonade; you throw them against the wall and go drink a craft beer. So with that said I want to give you some actionable (my favorite word) and useful tips that will help you establish your presence in the ridiculously vast online marketing world and build a brand that sticks.
What’s a Brand Anyways?
You’ve probably heard the term “brand” if you’ve been around the marketing world for more than 30 seconds. A brand is (as Seth Godin puts it):
“The set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another. If the consumer (whether it’s a business, a buyer, a voter or a donor) doesn’t pay a premium, make a selection or spread the word, then no brand value exists for that consumer.”
When you think of a company (or person), that companies brand is what you think of when you think of them. For example, when people think of TOMS, they usually think of a business with a conscience. When people think of Apple, they usually think of one word: cool.
A brand isn’t a logo or product.
It’s the feeling that logo or product creates within the people who encounter it.
So with that said, every person or company has a brand whether they like iit or not. It can be good, bad, and of course, ugly. As a result of their mistreatment of a pizza delivery guy that went viral online, the new brand at F&R Auto Sales is in one word: scumbags.
They didn’t build that brand on purpose. It’s the result of the feelings their business creates in people’s minds when they think F&R Auto Sales. Scumbags. Needless to say that things are not going well for them.
So that’s lesson #1– everyone has a brand and marketing that brand is more important than marketing your product because when people identify with your brand- they’ll buy your product.
How to Build a Great Brand Presence
The best brands in the world don’t have to “sell,” they just do their thing and people follow them. You see this all the time. If a company or person speaks to you, you trust them. If you trust them you follow their advice and buy from them. Apple has mastered this. Do you think people stand in line for days to buy the new iPhone every time it comes out because they really like the apps?
They stand in line because they really like Apple and the feeling they get when they have an new iPhone in their pocket (i.e. “I’m cool”).
So likewise, when you focus on the who and why of your business instead of the what and how, clients will become brand ambassadors without even prompting them to. People identify with brands that are making a difference, not businesses that spit out platitudes.
For example, which of the following sounds more appealing to you?
1. I’m a copywriter who writes web content, sales pages, and email campaigns for my customers.
2. My name is Brian Lenney. I’m a creative copywriter who writes words for entrepreneurs, professional services hot shots, and business coaches to help them tell their story, connect with clients & position themselves as thought leaders in their industry.
The first one focuses on what I do, the second one focuses on who I am and why I do it.
This is how you have to approach your marketing efforts. People don’t identify with “boring.” People don’t care about your cliches. They want to know who you are and why you do what you do. This is how you build a brand that people will follow.
How do You Sell Bacon? You Just Cook it
So we’ve touched on what a brand is (a presence in the marketplace) and the importance of intentionally branding yourself (a.k.a. brand positioning). People want to know YOU, not your product.
Jeff didn’t build such a large email list by pimping products to people and spamming everyone. He built it by “courting” his list.
He has conversations.
He answers questions.
He shows that he actually cares about your success.
But there’s an inherent challenge in this whole branding thing-
Our culture teaches us to be boring and follow the status quo.
Most marketers and online entrepreneurs are boring. They just are. They do what everyone else is doing, they follow the same rules, and churn out the same products that look like all the other ones.
To set yourself apart as a stand out forward thinking brand, you have to be:
The brands that do this well are the ones you and I notice, remember, and follow. Think about it. Who hasn’t heard of Apple, REI, GEICO, Red Bull, TOMS, IKEA, and Zappos? I just spit those out right now off the top of my head.
Those are a few of the brands that are doing business, marketing, and crafting an attractive company culture effectively because they brand themselves as different and unique intentionally.
Apple doesn’t beg people to stand in line for iPhones. People just do it. They want to. TOMS doesn’t try really hard to sell their shoes, they just tell their story and people flock to them. This is the result of being a “bacon brand.”
Brand Strategist, Justin Foster wrote a small book on this called, “Oatmeal v. Bacon” (go get it) where he says the following:
“Bacon is interesting and oatmeal is boring. This book is not about being less boring; it’s about being more interesting. It’s about establishing the case for being different, being an outlaw, and being a non-conformist. And, that being interesting is an effective business model…the opposite of oatmeal is bacon. If this is true in food, it is true in brands.”
Bacon brands don’t have to try- they just do their thing. They don’t have to dress themselves up in cliches, fancy packaging, or empty promises. They just are. Think about it.
How do you sell oatmeal?
You have to add to it, dress it up, make it tasty, and even then, it’s still boring and uninteresting.
How do sell bacon?
You simply cook it. End of story. You don’t have to try to get people to eat it, they just do it.
So the question then becomes: How do you become (or discover) your brand? How do you cook bacon instead of serving up oatmeal? How do you leverage your skills, uniqueness, story, and culture to create a brand that people flock to and keep coming back for?
10 Questions to Help You Discover Your Brand
I don’t want to leave you without handles to put on this branding thing. I want you to walk away from this with actual tangible action items that will help you think through what makes you awesome and unique, and how to wrap it up with a bow and give it to the marketplace.
Here are ten questions you can ask yourself right now, to help you get on the right track, and start building your brand. When you have the answers down- come up with a Brand Manifesto, and use it as a filter you run everything through (i.e. your messages, emails, website, content, marketing collateral, social media presence, meetings, training, workshops...everything).
- Who are you and what’s your story?
- What problem(s) are you solving for people? Why do you do what you do?
- What are you awesome at that you do better than any of your competitors?
- Who needs what you have to offer?
- What are you doing to get people to notice you, talk about you, share your stuff?
- What do customers think of when they think about you (i.e. your brand)?
- How will you get stories from your customers and broadcast them to the world?
- Why should ANYONE do business with YOU instead of your competitor?
- What are you doing to create a culture that makes people want to stick around and hang out with you (online and/or offline)?
- How are you being disruptive, intrusive, and different? What are you doing to upset the status quo and get noticed?
Notice that none of those questions deal with your “product” or “pricing.” When you and your team (if you have one) start thinking through those questions together, you’ll start to realize what’s awesome about you and your brand will start to take shape.
I beg you: don’t ever go back to boring.
Boring isn’t a strategy- it’s a culture killer.
Brian Lenney is a copywriter and full-time online entrepreneur who specializes in helping industry professionals tell their brand story. Get his FREE e-book, “Six Storytelling Techniques Every Brand Marketer Should Know” by clicking here.