Creating Brand Strategy for Online Marketing
By Lida Citroën
Principal of LIDA360
By itself, a brand promise—the expectation you set with consumers, customers, and clients about your company, product, or service—is only a set of words until it comes to life through intentional and focused marketing. When a company lives, breathes, and expresses the values it sets forth in its promise, the marketplace typically responds with loyalty and sales.
The online marketplace creates tremendous opportunity—as well as risk—for companies looking to market their brands. Companies oftentimes jump into social media marketing without enough thought to strategy, goals, resources, or expectations. Or the thought of overexposure, loss of control, and the unknown paralyzes them, and they avoid social media marketing all together. Neither is the right approach.
Recently, a prominent financial services firm came to me, asking for help with taking its message and voice online. First, I carefully examined the brand. It was a highly successful firm with a broad regional appeal and client base. It was recognized for its values and had won numerous awards for the consistency of its work, commitment to client service, and client loyalty.
But the firm's leadership team was intimidated by the online space, primarily because:
- They feared they would lose control over messaging.
- They were concerned that competitive audiences might negatively influence their loyal clients.
- There was a risk they could overexpose the "boutique" feel of the firm.
These fears were real and valid to them. So during our brand marketing exercises, I worked with the team to identify multiple online audiences who were poised for this firm's message. We also developed a set of objectives for the social media marketing strategy:
- Social media would allow them to engage current and potential audiences in a new type of dialogue (meeting the firm's goal of eventually broadening the marketplace beyond regional).
- Client engagement with the brand would be extended with permission-based marketing programs only available online.
- They could deploy engagement marketing in a forward-thinking way, thus supporting the value proposition as a "cutting edge financial firm."
- Current clients would feel enhanced loyalty to the firm and would rally to the defense of the firm if any negative influencers appeared online.
The social media marketing strategy needed to resolve the team's concerns and address each objective in a cost-effective way. The robust strategy we created allowed for expansion (as they got more comfortable with the online space, and the results proved valuable) and launched their online marketing activities:
- Working closely with the Director of Marketing, we wrote protocol and guidelines to address the benefits of social media marketing, as well as the risks. These were presented in team meetings to ensure that everyone in the firm understood what was expected of them, where the boundaries were, and how online champions—as long as they followed established guidelines—got everyone on staff involved in the rollout of the online strategy.
- Metrics and tools were established to measure quality and quantity of results against goals, such as identifying key target audiences and measuring their level of engagement online with the firm's brand.
- A nine-month editorial calendar of content was created. From tweets to posts to blog entries to important updates, we identified and assigned content to stakeholders to prevent any dry spells. We also identified key representatives of the firm for each tool (e.g., Facebook vs. blogs) and lined up their content markers in advance.
- We continually updated senior management on the results, findings, and feedback from the online marketplace.
Since launching its online strategy, the firm has blossomed into a vibrant and sought-after thought leader in its field. Company leaders are repurposing content across social media outlets, measuring feedback and responding in a timely manner, and fielding inquiries from the marketplace that are traceable back to initial online touchpoints.
While each company's social media strategy may look different, the strategies and programs should stem directly from the brand promise of the organization. Tying to a company's brand gives a social media marketing strategy the highest opportunity to be successful in meeting key marketing goals.