Strategic branding—more specifically, differentiating one brand from other similar brands in the same market—is essential given the current economic climate. The chances of a company successfully navigating through tough times increases exponentially when it follows a well-defined strategy.
Even amid layoffs and belt-tightening, the strategic branding process doesn’t have to be costly. Establishing a disciplined branding and marketing routine now can pay dividends in the near and distant future. Consider these 10 steps for strategic branding:
- Conduct preliminary research. Before engaging in any strategy sessions, interview key decision-makers within the company to understand their goals and direction for the firm. In addition, complete a communications audit, trade publication review and Internet search. These findings will provide a foundation for all of the steps in proper strategic branding.
- Create a corporate “definition of success.” A definition of success illustrates exactly what achievement and accomplishment looks like for the company’s executives and how it will be measured. It serves as ground zero for all decision-making—a sort of strategic bull’s eye for the business—that will guide all efforts, resources and investments within the industry. Without this, the company has no direction or focus.
- Determine and align the client and project mix. Examine the current mix of clients to determine how they align with the company’s goals. Compare current customers by type and industry, and current projects by type and profitability. With established goals in mind, the company should examine the mix of clients and jobs that will help it reach its goals. By comparing the data, the company can identify gaps in the client and project mix.
- Prioritize market contacts. Analyze the primary contacts within each target market. It is imperative to create a profile of target market contacts in terms of demographics (age, education, experience, income); situation (life or work conditions); psychographics (mental and emotional motivators); need for services; and life cycles. Based on this analysis, prioritize the contacts in order of importance.
- Assess communication outlets. With a contact list in place, map out the company’s current communication structure from initial contact to the point of contract—the moment the client agrees to award the job. By examining the main pathway by which the company generates income, and then examining other possible avenues, it can better understand what works, what tools are needed, and what opportunities exist for streamlining, accelerating and delivering more effective communication to target markets.
- Analyze the competition. Examine the other companies that cater to the construction firm’s target market. The firm’s decision-makers should take a hard look at the top five competitors in each arena and their relative positions in the marketplace, their brand promises, their claims of how they differentiate themselves and their main attributes. By understanding the competition, the firm can identify gaps, positions or opportunities that can be leveraged for a competitive advantage.
- Organize brand attributes and dimensions. Hone in on the brand attributes—the most essential characteristics—that are crucial to positioning the company. This involves mapping out the attributes the company already owns, as well as those it needs to acquire. Once all brand attributes have been mapped out, they need to be organized into meaningful categories to display the full dimensions of the brand.
- Develop highly differentiated brand-positioning statements. Update the brand positioning for the entire company and develop new brand positioning for each division, product or service. As the essential part of any marketing communication, the positioning statement guides all other criteria and determines whether a form of media is communicating the market position clearly.
- Generate a marketing communications plan. A marketing communications plan serves as a blueprint for tactical execution based on the definition of success, target market information and brand-positioning statements as developed by the firm’s strategic team. The plan helps key decision-makers quickly and clearly assess investments in various marketing communication elements, as well as the return they can expect from such investment.
- Execute and evaluate the campaign. The new brand marketing campaign is ready to roll out. Actual results compared to projections can provide the basis for adjustments and continual improvements.
Through strategic branding, it is possible to chart a course for recovery while everyone else waits for the economy to turn around.