Operating a small business is a bold and creative adventure. Choosing to offer your ideas, your efforts, and your products to others in the marketplace is, in itself, an exercise in courage.
It would be so much easier if your company was the sole provider of your select goods or services. In reality, your business is one of over 28 million operating in the United States today- and one of about 130,000 existing in New Mexico (circa 2005). You are in good company- which means that you also face good competition for your customers.
How then, do you win the marketing battle? A little mindful marketing can go a long way.
What is Mindful Marketing?
The purpose of any marketing activity is to win familiarity with and to create positive impressions about your business in the minds of present and potential clients.
Marketing planning and marketing management are not just for big-budgeted national corporations. Mindful marketing by even the single-owner business can attract killer customers and create cherished relationships.
Mindful marketing approaches marketing management from an inside-out perspective.
Mindful marketing activities are defined by, and are built upon, the core interests of a business. Mindful marketing decision are always checked against the core concerns of a company, and extend out from its core interests. The core concerns of a company are:
- Its mission
- Its motivations
- Its methods
- Its mores
The mission of any business is a brief statement of its purpose for existing.
The motivations of any business describe the reasons for its founding.
The methods of any business describe how that business operates to achieve its mission.
The mores of any business describe the values that the business uphods in striving to achieve its mission.
By aligning each marketing activity idea with a company's core concerns, the business insures that it is coordinating its communications with its character.
Businesses are remembered as much for their character as for their communications.
An inside-out marketing perspective views marketing activities as complementary to brand development and an extension of internal company communications.
Brand development is a significant stage in the life of a growing business because it helps ithat business to link its mission with its marketing. Through the development of brand marks and slogans and their appropriation onto documentation distributed across a business, employees are regularly reminded of the identity, character and purpose of the company.
Mindful marketers operate from the perspective that they must accomplish three goals in their marketing efforts. Mindful marketers focus on:
- Differentiating their business from competitors
- Broadcasting their brand across every level of their business
- Cultivating relationships with customers
Mindful marketing involves working through the Mindful Marketing Process, through which a company identifies its core concerns, clarifies its character, and then formulates its communications to facilitate relationships with customers that share common concerns and character
A business that is familiar with, and constantly aware of, its core concerns has a greater potential to differentiate itself from its competitors.
A business that defines and disseminates its character across its organization has greater potential to convey professionalism, to improve its culture, and to improve its perceived value among customers.
A business that knows its core concerns and that understands its character is better positioned to communicate with its clients about opportunities and interests.
The Mindful Marketing Process
The Mindful Marketing Process involves three stages of focus, each of which relate to the two others. In the Mindful Marketing Process, the Mindful Marketer strives to manage their company's identity, its image, and its interactions.
Once a firm clarifies its identity, establishes its image, and initiates interactions with clients, the Mindful Marketer returns to revisit each one of these areas of focus to ensure that identity, image and interactions harmonize in the business' marketing effort.
Discovering Your Difference: Uncovering Identity
Identity is a powerful thing. People that know who they are and what they exist to do are generally people of power. Businesses follow a similar principle.
Many businesses begin as a good idea, but get sidetracked along the way. Corralling clients and wrestling with work has a way of distracting many firms from following their vision. And usually this happens because the company's mission has not been recorded, or has been put aside as an exercise completed. A company's mission has to be recorded, and revisited frequently.
The identity of your company lies in the original reasons for its creation. Thoughtfully answering three questions can help you to understand your business‚€™ core concerns, and identity.
- What was the primary purpose for starting my business?
- What are the primary practices that govern my business?
- What are the primary principles guiding my business?
These questions are necessarily answered when a company develops a business plan, and for a good reason. Like the North Star to ancient mariners, recording and revisiting the reasons for having a business help provide direction for your company, and help keep your eyes on pursuing long-term goals.
The key to performance in any pursuit lies in discipline: in setting goals, and then staying after them until they are realized.
Brainstorming Your Brand: Establishing Your Image
Once a business has uncovered its identity- once it has identified the core concerns that serve as the foundation for its existence- it is ready to reflect on its character, which is of inestimable value in developing the company's image. Reflection on a business' character, and the shaping of its image, is also known as brand development.
To a business, brand development is essentially the explicit expression of the company's character through visual and verbal mediums. To a customer, a brand is the sum impression, or the gut evaluation, they possess related to a business.
The Mindful Marketer is aware of the possible distance between a company's brand development efforts and the perceptions of the company's clients, and strives to help the two perceptions merge.
For a client to develop a positive gut evaluation of your business, your company should possess three important branding dimensions: visibility, recognizability, and reputation.
- Visibility comes as a result of broadcasting your image.
- Recognizability comes as a result of connecting your image with your offerings.
- Reputation comes from connecting your offerings with your service.
A company can possess two of the three branding qualities, and still have an ineffective brand. A firm may possess visibility and recognizability and still face branding issues if it fails to provide a quality of service- a quality of relationship between the company and customers- that give it a bad reputation.
Brand definition is important because it allows customers to quickly assess their, and others' experiences with a company, and assign it value.
Your business' brand is everything that your customers think and feel whenever they think about your company.
How then does a company go about establishing its image, and conveying its character?
Brand definition is formed first by a company's ideas about its mission, is fostered by its employee's attitudes and actions, is formalized in its offered products and services, and is finalized by the perception customers develop of the business' products and people. Successful business people don't simply focus on building products, but they also strive to build their employees and their brands.
By revisiting your company's core concerns, what qualities and activities and interests best typify the character of your company? What values are most important to it? What service qualities set it apart? List these qualities, activities, and interests, and order them by importance.
Once a simple understanding of the business' character is gained, the development of branding elements based on that character will enable your business to broadcast its competencies through specific words and images. Branding elements fundamentally include a primary logo, a brand tagline, and font and color specifications.
Logos and taglines are important elements in the branding process.
A logo provides customers and employees with a visual focal point to identify with your company's image.
A tagline provides customers and employees with a verbal focal point to identify with your company's image.
Once a business has established the image it wants to convey through the development of its branding elements, it is then ready to, and benefited by, broadcasting its brand.
A company's brand fails when its expression, and the character it is intended to convey, does not correspond with the image and perceptions that customers hold of the company. Thus, establishing a brand is about more than crafting a logo and finding a fantastic tagline. A business'brand develops in value when the character it is intended to convey matches the image and perceptions that customers possess of it.
Broadcasting Your Brand: Improving Interactions
Since Mindful Marketing is built on the idea that marketing efforts extend out of a company communicating from its core concerns and its character, marketing activities in a ny business are brand broadcasting activities- even if they are expressed as public relation events, newspaper circulars, television commercials, or customer survey calls. Each of these marketing activities should be pursued in a manner that reflects the company's intended identity and image.
The two goals of every marketing effort are: to attract potential new customers, and to improve relationships with existing ones.
Brand broadcasting involves the incorporation of a company's branding elements into every piece of communication that circulates within and outside of the business. From invoices to emails, from packaging to promotional materials, by imprinting each communication with branding elements, the three branding qualities required to market a business- visibility, recognizability, and reputation- can be further developed.
Brand broadcasting can occur in many ways, through many marketing mediums, but five rules should govern brand broadcasting, which includes internal communication and external marketing efforts. These are the Five ''B's'' of Brand Broadcasting.
The Five ''B's'' of Brand Broadcasting
1. Be creative.There is a distinction between communicating and connecting with people. Companies that connect with people express their offerings and capabilities through unique, engaging, and involving ways. Since the goal of marketing is to differentiate your business and its offerings from your competitors in the mind of potential clients, creativity can give your marketing notes, concepts, and activities distinction, and separate them in the customer minds from other businesses in your industry. And creativity requires thoughtfulness, and not necessarily a big budget. Again, your goal is simply to connect with clients.
2. Be clear. Clarity involves stating specifically what needs to be stated in any communication that connects or informs your clients about the activities and offerings of your business. Clouding either your communication's purpose and what you want the receiver to do in response, or the message of your brand can only dilute the meaning of the image you are trying to develop around your company, or can result in lost sales and client connections.
3. Be comprehensive. Many businesses half-heartedly deploy their carefully-crafted brand elements across the business organization, underestimating the effect this has on the perception of the company. Businesses that are not thorough in the implementation of a brand, but that place brand elements on sporadic communication pieces that flow in and out of the company demonstrate that the company is both disorganized and lacking in integration. If you take the time to develop a brand, complete with logo, tagline, and other branding elements, make sure that they are used in a similar manner, in similar locations, on documents and marketing pieces that are used in departments across the company. Since the goal of developing a brand is to help the customer to always be reminded of your business and its proficiencies, comprehensive use of branding elements within every organizational communication is a tremendous way to express that your company is organized, professional, and integrated.
4. Be consistent. One of the best ways a company can develop equity in its brand is to guarantee that the quality of its products and services are consistent from experience to experience. This rule applies no less to a company's brand messaging. Firms that understand their core concerns and the character of their company will only help themselves by being consistent in the messages that they send to customer about their priorities, their purposes, their products, and the promises that they make. Firms that perpetually change their marketing strategies and marketing messages, as well as even some of their branding elements like font and color selections, can confuse the customer and undercut the company's image. In business, as in life, consistency suggests stability, dependability, and competency.
5. Be constant. While a single flashy commercial or magazine ad may win a company attention in the short run, those businesses that persistently broadcast their brand- that strive to communicate and to connect with their target customers through repeated contacts via any marketing method- eventually take the more prominent places in the minds of customers. Marketing requires repetition in contacting and in communicating of the firm's identity and image. Those businesses that may lack design savvy but that tenaciously strive to connect with potential customers through simple but repeated ads, notes or phone calls often take the day.
Cultivating Customers: The Mindful Marketer's Mission
Once a company has worked through the Mindful Marketing Process for the first time- once it has established the company's identity, clarified its image, and broadcast its brand- its work is not done. The Mindful Marketer understands that the Mindful Marketing method is not merely a process, but also a cycle, and that a company's brand- its identity, its image, and its interactions- need to be revisited and re-evaluated to ensure that consistency and resonance lie between the three.
Ultimately, the goal of the Mindful Marketer is to ensure that the promises presented between the company (and its brand) and customers are kept.
By creating harmony between a company's identity (its core concerns), its image (character), and its interactions (communications) with its customers and stakeholders, Mindful Marketers help their businesses to identify, verbalize, and keep the promises that make customers happy, the company profitable, and the products consistent with the business' core concerns and character.
Companies that are able to make and to keep profitable promises about their offerings will be successful and grow. Companies that cannot make profitable promises to both their clients and their stakeholders will ultimately fail.
© Bruce Welton, October 27, 2006.