Each month, we gather around the table with a different group of Springfield business leaders to discuss industry trends, workforce and company operations. Join us as we get a behind-the-scenes look into our business community from the C-suite.
Springfield Business Journal Executive Editor Christine Temple discusses branding and marketing with Nathan Adams, president and CEO of Epic Strategies; Ken Taylor, president of ADsmith Marketing & Advertising; and Brandon Welch, president and chief of strategy for Frank & Maven. Listen to the full conversation for discussion on building trust with consumers, using branding as a recruitment and retention tool, effective advertising platforms and marketing mediums, and changes around cookies and data privacy.
Christine Temple: I want to start talking about branding. All of you offer brand strategy as a service. What are those key questions that you start with when you’re working with clients and developing their brand? Give us a little more insight into what that process looks like.
Nathan Adams: I think it really kind of depends on what part of our business they’re starting with because obviously we do everything from e-commerce websites to digital to traditional advertising. But those processes really are, I think, very different for us and where we start. And it can really depend on who you’re working with. For example, if you have an entrepreneur with a real direction, in that case, you’re more of an order taker. If you’ve got somebody who maybe has a good idea, but you have to take it and put it into a business plan, then you’re starting from scratch and you’re having to take a 500-foot level thesis and get it down into a 50-foot thought process. If you’re starting at the 500-foot level, we give you a bunch of assets from across the company in an effort to bring that in. These days I don’t think branding is just coming up with a good logo and all that stuff fit together in a symbiotic strategy. Even your (search engine optimization) is affected by your branding. There’s got to be some data points and thought processes that are brought through that.
Ken Taylor: We typically get started with really the basic marketing fundamentals. We still need to understand the products, their service offering, what’s their target audience, competitors, which is the basic, but the goal is to get to the story of the client and be able to start building that messaging. And then from there we can discover what they really need. But we need to have a foundation for their story or their branding.
Temple: Do people know what their story is? Or how do you get to that?
Taylor: Some people are really savvy, and they already have that identified. Others, they don’t even think about it.
Brandon Welch: My experience is that certainly the owner/operator gets a million hats put on them. So, the reality of owning a business and operating even at 10 employees all the way up to 1,000 employees, is that they’ve lost touch with that. Maybe even months or a couple of years into the process. One of the most powerful questions I’ve found is, “What got you crazy enough to start this thing?” And you’re going deep and finding that origin story. We take not minutes, not hours but days and multiple engagements to find that origin story and pull that out of them. What you’ll often find is it goes back to something in their childhood, something very, very early. Another question that we ask is, “What was your pissed-off moment? What made you mad enough to go out and do it differently?” It’s not just about differentiation, it’s not just about target market, it’s about a vision and a value and a vow they have that is greater for the world. That would be our three-part process. Vision: What world are you trying to create values? Values: What do you stand for? What do you stand against? What will you do? What will you never do? And then the vows are simply the guarantees and the concrete examples you demonstrate and deliver in your product. We will not take a client on if they don’t go through that depth of process with us. A lot of them over the years have gotten frustrated that we take that much time to do it, and we have learned that that is an indication that we probably won’t be able to do our best work for them.
Temple: What are some of the biggest mistakes that you see small businesses making when it comes to marketing or advertising their companies?
Taylor: Some of the biggest mistakes we see right off the bat is messaging. We’ve even had clients do a significant media buy without thinking about their story and what’s their point of difference, which seems pretty basic but it’s pretty common. The other issue is probably a media mix. A lot of clients will think they have a silver bullet using one tactic to reach a target audience, and today is so different than it was many years ago that you have to have a true media mix to connect with multiple personalities and generations.
Adams: I would say the biggest issue that we face is, especially with small-business clients, is not being able to take where they want to be at the end of the year from a fiscal standpoint and apply that really to within the marketing budget. I would say that they don’t know what they’re getting into. They certainly in some instances got themselves into maybe spending on something that didn’t make sense at the time. So for us, it’s really about understanding the fiscal responsibility that we have to that company, making sure that the fiscal goals of that entrepreneur fit within that marketing budget. For a lot of small businesses, they have put together a business plan but I think for the most part, because I think marketing, certainly from a technological standpoint, is ever changing is that most entrepreneurs I don’t think have a good grasp of what the reality is that they face within the marketing world today. It really I think is prudent of any agency to have to understand the financial outcomes that that entrepreneur is looking for. You have to figure out if you can be successful with that client. If you can hit those goals and it makes sense and there’s a pathway to victory, then I think it makes sense for everybody to move forward.
Welch: I would say overconfidence in targeting, desire for instant gratification and an overanalysis in data that is not in line with the actual buying cycle of a customer. I think what marketing at large does not understand or does not meet strategy with is that buying hamburgers is a five times a week event, buying refrigerators is a once in eight years event, buying an HVAC unit is a once in 23 years event, and we try to treat marketing all as the same. The truth is that the longer your buying cycle is, the more you need to be known, liked and trusted long, long, long before that sale. Because of what a lot of what I would say transactional marketers, which is the shiny object of all business owners, we think dollar and customer out. That equation can always be true, but it’s when is the dollar out and how many dollars are out? We think there are a lot of media entities and a lot of media forces that only require the business owner to think in terms of 30, 60, 90 days and the reason we have customers that are with us well into a decade is because they understand that if you do things a certain way, the results get better and better and better all the time. But it takes time to get to that reality, certainly for longer buying cycle products.
Excerpts by Christine Temple, email@example.com.
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