As businesses grow and evolve, they need to regularly revisit their overall business goals to ensure they still align with their branding and marketing strategies. After reviewing the year’s business success, firms should explore and relate these to any concurrent communications strategies. Branding can play a vital part of business success and communication is at the heart of this process. Brands should be a true representation of company values, products, services, and culture in the minds of their target market.
The first step is to evaluate the success of your current strategic business plan and how it relates your brand and its marketing initiatives. To do this, ask the following questions:
- Did we accomplish our goals?
Revisit overarching goals from prior years to see where you are generating the most results. Examining sales and market share can really provide insight into business success. This process should be both quantitative and qualitative, looking across product and service lines.
- Have our branding goals changed?
Re-examining your strategic business plan can often reveal significant changes in direction, which no longer parallel existing communication strategies. Get feedback from your customers and partners to ensure that internal brand perception meets external reality.
- Are we prepared for the future?
Evaluating the changing environment, trends, competition, technology, product and service offerings can help a business stay ahead. Comprehensive competitive market analysis can lead to best practices and help you pinpoint competitive advantages and differentiate your firm.
- Did we accomplish our goals?
The degree you meet your business goals can be a direct result of your marketing and communications efforts. This can stem from miscommunication of company vales, product and services, and culture—both internally with employees and sales people, and externally with customers and strategic partners. If a brand promises more than a company provides, the disappointment will reflect a lack of consumer loyalty. Brands that do not convey their core strengths successfully can fall short of attracting consumers. A healthy brand pinpoints and communicates key strengths from within—this can help with communication efforts and will drive consumer loyalty and trust.
- Have our goals changed?
Businesses are often evolving. Companies must recognize value, product and service, culture, and personality changes, and these must be reflected in brand communication. There can often be a disconnect during periods of product expansion, business expansion, or change in leadership. Brands need to maintain consistent connection with their loyal consumers, while expressing new values, products, services, and cultural changes to customers and partners. If you have changed any aspect of your business model, inform your consumers with regular communication plans. This can build stronger relations with loyal consumers while expanding your target market.
- Are we prepared for the future?
Healthy brands evolve with their company. If your company has directional goals, you need to incorporate a strategy for brand alignment. The goal is to maintain consistent communication throughout growth and transitions. Stay ahead of change by planning effective communication strategies to keep key customers and partners involved in your business and branding evolution.
After performing the Brand Check-Up, the next step is to examine the tactical marketing communication of brand identity with the target market and partners. In building on the strategic brand analysis, this step involves getting more micro and specifically analyzing company communication efforts within its Marketing Plan.
THE TACTICAL MARKETING PLAN
Like the brand itself, a marketing plan is an evolving document that needs attention. Often, we get so involved addressing temperamental fires that sap our immediate resources that we don’t pay attention to how our overarching goals and strategy relate to specific branding, marketing, and PR efforts.
Make sure to define and update your business goals every year and track the evolution of your core message, how it’s communicated, and the effectiveness of your marketing plan. Remember your brand starts from within and communication strategies will be more efficient and effective if you can clearly define the core message of each of your marketing pieces.
Key elements of your marketing plan should address:
- Align functional needs and goals for the brand with key initiatives. Begin internally by listing both long-term and short-term goals from your brand check up and aligning these with marketing initiatives. With this analysis, you can assess the most important initiatives and where to allocate resources.
- Analyze you marketing collateral and communication strategies. Next, review all your materials and initiatives—make sure to consider external factors, such as identifying the needs and wants or your audience. Building on the brand perception from your check up, reach out to key customers and partners and get some feedback on specific marketing collateral and the effectiveness of its delivery.
- Finalizing your plan. Get specific with target dates, roles, and responsibilities as your plan needs to be actionable with goals, timing, and detailed expectations. This will help you execute and measure the success of each initiative relative to both brand and business goals.
The Next Step
Through exploring internal, external, and competitive issues of your strategic and tactical plans, your company will better define and express its key strengths. After a thorough examination, you will be able to assess where your brand is today and where you want it to be in the future. This process can also provide practical and emotional insights for effective communication. Small hurdles in communication methods can be solved by simply re-defining or enhancing the existing brand. This could include new positioning in sales or marketing materials, an innovative way to distribute a message, or a website content refresh. Conversely, significant changes in direction or company growth could require a full company re-brand. This process often includes a new logo, core messaging, marketing materials, press strategies, and web presence. If your company requires refining efforts or a complete re-brand, experts can help develop and execute materials to express more and truly connect with your audience. By effectively defining and leveraging your company’s brand for effective communication you can develop stronger relationships with your audience and drive additional business success.