Steven turned seven years old. He celebrated as he sat in a lavishly decorated living room with twirled streamers, blue and red balloons, plates with printed webs and a large plastic caricature of Spider Man as the center piece on a table. A gathering of children encircled the youngster, craning their necks to see what Steven would wish for as he blew out the candles of his cake. It was as if, for a moment, they expected he would break tradition and say aloud what he wished for. And, while he did not do the unthinkable and wish aloud for his most desired gift, it was clear from much earlier on in his childhood, at least to his closest friends and family, what his wishes were. Steven wanted only one thing, to create the most important brand in the world. It would be the brand that saved the world.
The story is entirely made up—but the reasons for it are not. It serves to illustrate the importance of perspective when marketing your business and its brand. It would be unusual for a child to grow up wanting to be a marketer, but many adults end up marketing or branding their own businesses. Whether it is selling tires, decorating homes, providing make-up, pizza or websites, business owners and their staff take on the role of making their own brand, and trying their hardest to create the most important brand in the world. Anything less and the business could potentially wink out of existence in a couple years or less. But why are things that way? Why do adults, who dream of flying into space as children, take up the responsibility of marketing their own businesses when it’s the furthest thing from their minds, and likely their skillset?
The answer is simple. It’s out of necessity.
Owners get trapped by their own doings. They know their business so they figure they should be able to market it best. But the allure of such a strategy can be damaging. No matter how innocent or well-intended the attempt.
Marketing correctly can be complex in practical application and subtle in execution, and therefore less studied, deliberate and experienced plans that owners might implement can create subpar and damaging results. Sometimes those results are seen by the business owner immediately. Often, though, it’s on the downward trend that owners even pick up on the indicators of poor marketing and branding they’ve unleashed on themselves.
Let’s take a look at a few indicators that allow you to identify underperforming brands or marketing.
1. Revenues drop. To provide strong, reliable and trusted marketing, and thus pull in new customers should your others leave, marketing always has to be in acquisition mode.
2. Your capacity is not where it needs to be. Performance with customers requires actual customers to serve as described above. But your business also needs the capacity to handle the customer flow.
3. Your product or service has become commoditized. The enemy of value is price. That is to say, your brand is diminished when the conversation with a prospect focuses only about pricing.
4. You don’t know what your brand is after years of being in business. If your brand is lost on the consumer, it’s not necessarily because it’s a bad idea—it’s possible you need the tools to see how others see your business, and respond to it in order to follow a prospect down the consumer funnel.
It’s obviously okay for kids to grow up wanting to be astronauts instead of marketers. And, it’s even okay for adults, out of necessity, to become their own business’s marketer. Is it the best scenario? It likely depends on how that particular business understands its consumer, the metrics and how they should be applied in context for the best business decisions. Creating an effective marketing plan with reliable, effective results, culminating in the most important brand in the world may not be the stuff birthday wishes are made of, but they do make for strong market position and a more powerful business.