Fit to Build Enterprises, but Missing to Start Building Brand Equities
Some claim that branding mistakes are typical of start-up companies, but in my experience branding errors happen to companies of any sizes at any life stages. I claim they are predominantly side products of the fact that there is a common lack of Future Environment, Vision, Mission and Values exercise before entering the market, or general lack of strategic approach and guidance directed at building sustainable brands and enterprises.
Starting out every individual has the best interest of the company in mind. Founders and executives tend to be passionate, driven, and results oriented. Developers, programmers are highly motivated, meticulous and work great in time constraint. But, they all have little or zero knowledge on branding and marketing or might have had some bad experience with marketing along their professional career, or most probably believe that all they need is a culture fit in the sales department and support team.
But, it is the marketing which plays an important role in the company’s early days, it is the marketing that needs to teach the organization that there is no Vision without setting one, there is poor understanding of why we set on this course internally let alone externally without defining the Mission and moreover there is a thick fog for the future of this enterprise without at least mentally visiting the Future Environment.
Ideally, the VP Marketing is to educate the founders on:
- the importance of defining brand identity against all The Five Capitals Model (natural, human, social, manufactured and financial)
- draft brand architecture to be able to grow or reduce strategically and swiftly
- the importance of building brand equity with an array of stakeholders.
But even more importantly the marketer will:
- focus on aligning to the goals and objectives of the company
- recognise and resist getting sucked into merely reacting to tactical directives and requests that result from a lack of a plan or the execution of a plan that will fail.
Entry Top-Down Errors & Simple Math
Many start-ups, entrepreneurs or young companies encounter immense pressure to employ go-to-market strategy as soon as possible, acquire customers and generate revenue. In this go-to-market frenzy marketing is often the last function to be engaged, thus smart people are prone to make bad decisions or taking shortcuts.
There are several elemental marketing mistakes that can end badly before the enterprise is even fully operational. The failures are seldom fatal but they may seriously damage or deter the go-to-market process and its final results.
Elemental Marketing Mistakes – Sizing the Market
One of the first challenges that a start-up has to overcome is sizing the market. Is the target market on a global, international or local level large enough to support the businesses revenue projections that will keep your business afloat, attract the investors, bring sustainable growth, build business and brand value and entrepreneurial longevity?
Some organisations tend to find the most optimistic market metrics and calculate 1% of that total number as revenue and start the celebrations. Not a shabby start, but the addressable market has to then be reduced to the served market and then penetrated over time based on a technology adoption curve. Execution is a b***, too.
The company’s ability to execute is dependant upon various factors, but most importantly upon the company’s ability to:
- plan well and accurately (from Potential Market Opportunity to Expected Share of Addressable Market)
- produce and distribute efficiently
- strategically invest in marketing and branding
- intelligently support and enthuse the sales team
- deliver top quality product or service, and … sustain the momentum.
Elemental Marketing Mistakes – Hiring New Sales People
Another top-down mistake is to divide the projected targets by the individual sales representative projections to determine the number of sales representatives needed to make plan. The approach is just flat out wrong and will definitely make sales representatives cry.
First, there is not a single sales representative or business development manager that is capable of bringing in the 100% of his / her projected sales numbers. So, a well thought out go-to-market plan is step one. The decision to expand the sales team is a strategic one and that by definition requires planning and analysis. Is there a sales methodology, a unique selling proposition, an on-boarding program, sales engineering support, marketing support to generate awareness and build a pipeline, budget, a formal recruiting process, territory plans appropriate for the size of the org…,? No? Well, you better get started.
Elemental Marketing Mistakes – Rushing to Close Qualified Leads
It takes some time to understand marketing theories and principles and implement them for optimum results. Not every CEO nor VP Sales has a profound understanding of early branding and marketing exercises and the purpose and value of a well-defined, integrated marketing mix. This is after all the VP Marketing’s job. Too often marketers get to kill programs (no matter how extensive or focused they are) and are instructed to focus on generating qualified opportunities that will close in the next 90 days. Advertising, stakeholder outreach plan, social media, … the majority of lead generation programs are dismissed and all resources are focused on supporting outbound calling initiatives.
This may bring some success in the short-term, but it is not sustainable, it is expensive and each quarter you will be falling behind the projections. A balanced marketing attack that includes awareness and interest generating programs should be used in addition to outbound initiatives and both combined are going to pay off in the long-term.
Elemental Marketing Mistakes – Applying Go-To-Market Strategy Before Defining Brand Identity
You have searched the designers’ scene, found great talents, done some initial brand design, you all really like the brand logo and you let your colleagues express their creative geniuses on the forthcoming set of promotional ideas. You are all set to burst out with your new promotional campaign, right?
Well, brands are a funny breed. Despite the fact that they are virtual constructs, they need to be consistent in their (virtual) identity and predictable in their (true) interaction with their customers. Brand consistency paves the way to solid memory encoding (branding, marketing communications) and decoding (recall). Frequent changes in identity or inconsistent presentation of identity disorganises this memory encoding/decoding process that is crucial to brand awareness and brand association. Well encoded brand behavior, product quality and service/experience delivery leads to trust, a vital brand quality.
“Variable product quality or service/experience delivery causes them to doubt or mistrust the brand. Do not get me wrong, there is plenty of room for brands to be complex and nuanced in their personalities, unexpected in their behaviors (as long as they act in a delightful manner) and surprising in educational or entertaining ways. Often complex people are the most interesting people. In the same way, complex brands can be some of the most interesting brands,” wrote Brad VanAuken in Brand Aid.
Despite this complexity, the brand still needs to stand for a set of values, have a clear message and maintain its identity consistency to be capable of growing or contracting when needed.
“Brands are complex multidimensional constructs with varying degrees of meaning, independence, co-creation and scope. They are semiotic marketing systems that generate value for direct and indirect participants, society, and the broader environment, through the exchange of co-created meaning.“
In times when the world has become increasingly complex, when Francisco Conejo and Ben Wooliscroft finally opened the discussion on Brands Defined as Semiotic Marketing Systems, one should by no means shy away from the strategic reflection on brand identity, growth, management and evaluation in the existing ecosystem and its future lifecycle. It is going to be a laborious path, but most rewarding and enjoyable.