Dialing In Your Marketing: The Levers That Impact Results – Brand Awareness and Content | Episode 62

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Marketing is often described as a complex game with elusive success formulas, challenging marketers to cut through the noise and capture the attention of potential customers. This episode, part of a series exploring 12 essential marketing levers, focuses on two pivotal elements: brand identity and awareness, and content. Understanding and fine-tuning these components can significantly enhance the performance of marketing programs, offering valuable insights for companies striving to optimize their marketing strategies.

Mastering brand identity and awareness, along with creating compelling content, are crucial steps in the journey toward marketing success. These levers, when properly adjusted, can drive impactful results and elevate a company’s market presence.

(00:43) – The importance of brand recognition
(03:19) – Potential brand issues that can hinder your company’s success
(13:31) – Creating a content strategy to align with the buyer’s mindset and buying process
(19:36) – Understanding the buyer’s pain points and tailoring messaging to resonate better
(20:34) – Assessing and categorizing existing content for strengths, gaps, and weaknesses
(24:35) – Creating pillar content strategies and content loops that keeps the audience engaged
(26:30) – The critical role of these marketing levers in driving optimal marketing results

(00:00:01) – Hey everybody, it’s Jenni from GrowthMode Marketing. You’re listening to Demand Gen Fix, the podcast where our team of GrowthModers and our guests discuss the ins and outs of demand generation, and why we believe it’s the key to long-term sustainable growth, especially in the HR tech industry.

(00:00:21) – Hello, Deanna and Greg back for another episode and we are digging back into our six-part series on dialing in your marketing and the 12 levers that impact results. We are on part four of the six-part series today, and we’re going to talk about brand identity and awareness, and content.

(00:00:43) – It’s often said that marketing is a complex game with an elusive success formula; challenges all of us marketers to cut through the noise and capture the attention of potential customers. We’ve been digging into these different levers over the past couple of episodes, and this one, as Deanna said, is going to focus on brand identity and awareness, and content, and understanding how all these things work together is really going to help you get your marketing up to snuff and get some good traction. So, we’re going to offer some insights today where companies striving to optimize their marketing strategies.

(00:01:20) – Understanding and fine-tuning these components, the 12 levers can significantly enhance the performance of marketing programs. So, if you’re finding the marketing programs that you’re running today aren’t producing the results that you need, it may be time to take a step back and look at those 12 different levers, and see where you can fine tune things. Like we said, we’re going to cover brand identity and awareness, and content today. Previously, in episode 57, we covered audience and positioning. In episode 58, we covered strategy and budget, and in episode 61 we covered scale and contact database. So, aside from brand identity and awareness, the other, and content, the other four levers that we’ll talk about in future episodes are the marketing tactics, marketing and sales alignment, sales processes, and of course, measurement. So with that, let’s dig in and talk about brand identity and awareness. I think this is a big one that a lot of companies are not just talking about.

(00:02:27) – You need to have really good logos and polished looking marketing assets out there. It’s really about how well-known are you out in the world, specifically with your ideal customer profile, right? And in the HR tech space, there are a lot of competitors out there, not just in the category that your product may be in, but in the broader HR, tech and work tech sense. There’s a lot of options for HR teams to choose from. And so really, when we’re talking about brand identity and awareness, I think there’s a lot of things that we should be looking at. Greg, let’s talk about some of the potential issues or indicators that if this is something that’s happening at your organization, is probably a time to take a step back and look at this particular level.

(00:03:19) – Yeah, definitely. One of the, one of the main things is brand recognition, right? Do people know who you are? Like they need; your prospects need to know who you are. So, if your brand recognition is limited or even nonexistent, right, like, maybe a new product, so you don’t have any brand recognition yet. So, that’s an issue, right? If nobody knows who you are.

(00:03:40) – Yeah, that’s definitely an issue. If they don’t know who you are, they’re definitely not going to buy from you. And I think that this is a misstep that a lot of smaller HR tech companies make when they’re not investing in marketing, it’s a lot harder to go out and sell to companies that have never heard of you, that you’re reaching out to cold, right? And if you look at the way prospects in the B2B space by the day, they’re making up to 80% of that purchase decision before they’re willing to engage with the sales rep, which means that brand awareness has become even more critical than it has been in the past, because if they’re making up to 80% of their purchase decision before they’re willing to talk to your team and you don’t have any brand activities going on, they can’t find you, you’re not gonna get the opportunity to have that conversation with them and to be considered as part of their shortlist.

(00:04:41) – And it’s especially tough if you’re a new company or a new product, right, because then you’re starting from ground zero; you have nothing. So, if you’re new, you obviously need to get; start working on the branding, awareness and identity.

(00:04:53) – You know, another thing that can happen is a negative brand perception. And hopefully nobody that’s listening to this show has to deal with that, but it does happen from time to time, not intentionally, but a company goes out in the market, and a misstep or two can create this negative image for prospects out there. And so, if you have that going on, you definitely need to take a step back and figure out how do we rebrand our brand in a positive light to build back the trust in the market?

(00:05:27) – Yeah, another thing that could be an indicator or a reason that you need to work on the brand identity is you want to sort of position yourself as a leader, right? Instead of just a provider, right, or a vendor. You want to be a leader. So, then you need to do some more work on your identity and creating awareness around that leadership position that you want to have.

(00:05:48) – Yeah, absolutely. And I think something that I see a lot of younger companies fall into the trap of is not being sure what your brand stand for. And I can say when I talk to companies, nobody says we don’t know what our brand stands for. It’s more of like this underlying silent thing. Like they don’t realize that they don’t know what their brand stands for. And typically when that happens, it’s because as a startup, a lot of companies don’t do formal message positioning exercises. They come up with the messaging kind of organically, and it evolves over time. But what happens is it tends to be a more generic type of messaging. There’s not anything specifically that someone can point to and say, this is our elevator pitch. This is our value proposition. This is how we frame this all up. And I think when that happens with companies, sometimes you need to take a step back and you need to look at how you’re comparing to the competition, because I think that’s another thing that companies experience is they’re not really sure how their brand compares to the competition.

(00:07:00) – They’re looking at it as products and features, but I can tell you, like, Greg, we’ve done a lot of brand audits or messaging audits; positioning audit for companies where we take a step back and we’ll look at 2 to 3 of their competitors against them, and we can pull like phrases out from their website and put them on there, and we’re like, okay, which one is you? Who is who on here? And they’re like, wow, they all kind of sound alike. When you pull those things out of the context of that website, where it’s more of a blind thing, it starts to become more apparent, I think, to companies that, you know what? We really don’t have a way to sound clearly different from the others. Maybe we need to do something about it, right?

(00:07:48) – Yeah, absolutely. And when you were talking about newer companies starting out and not really developing it organically as it kind of goes along, reminded me of that one client that we helped where they were; they were working on their product while we were working on the messaging, and their product changed. So later on, the messaging didn’t really work anymore because they changed the focus as they were working on it. And so it was like the two things were working at the same time, but they kind of went in different directions because we originally started with a product that did one thing, and then they shifted the product to something else at the same time. So that makes it tough, right? When you’re starting out as a, as a newer company or a new product.

(00:08:27) – When it comes to branding, and we talk about brand awareness, I think a lot of people, immediately, they think like the visuals of a brand, but brand is so much more how you’re perceived in the market. How well known are you in the market? And so, while things like your logo, and the look of your content, and your website and all those pieces are really important, and quite frankly, if it doesn’t look polished, it’s probably not matching the vision that you have for your company of being this innovator in the HR tech space.

(00:09:02) – You probably need to take a step back and do it right, but when we talk about brand, we’re looking at it as so much bigger than that. And it’s really important to build your marketing around building brand awareness and positive brand awareness right in the market. Because ultimately what you want to do is, you want to build that brand awareness that leads to credibility in the eyes of the prospect and ultimately trust, which in turn, over time, as you’re building that trust is what builds the demand for your particular brand, for your particular technology versus the other options out there. And so, I think that requires people to maybe reframe what they think of when they think brand, because it’s not just the visual. It’s so much more than that.

(00:09:55) – I think if you’re trying to figure out what okay; so maybe these are some of the issues that we’re seeing now. What do we do, right? So, obviously like you’re saying with the look and the feel of it, you obviously have to have some sort of guidelines around your brand and development of the brand look and feel, but then you also need to start thinking about how am I going to get that awareness? What’s the brand awareness campaign? How am I going to improve that? So, what are the things you want to do for that, right? And then start working on your digital footprint. And getting everything out so that people can see it. That we always say, right, that your best sales tool; your best salesperson is the omnichannel campaign that’s out there in the digital world, right? Because as we always say too, 80% of the purchasing decision is made before they even talked to somebody, so you got to have that really good digital footprint.

(00:10:46) – Right, and I think when it comes to thinking about brand and how do you build a brand out in the market, a lot of times people think, oh, we’ve got to go do PR; we’ve got to go do sponsorship within the industry circles. We’ve got to show up at the trade show. All of those pieces, yes, that is part of the mix, but Greg, when you talk about turning your digital footprint into your best sales tool, or your best sales rep per se, what we mean by that is how do you show up in all the places where your ideal customer profile is showing up from a business sense? And so, it goes beyond, like, just doing PR campaign, and social media, and things like that.

(00:11:29) – It’s really, like, your whole marketing approach should be about how do we build brand awareness in the market; how do we build that credibility; how do we build that trust? And so, it really does come down to looking at omnichannel campaign. But maybe, it starts with a brand anthem campaign, or some kind of brand awareness campaign to just put your name out there, so they get used to seeing your logo; they get used to seeing your name, but then all the other content and marketing programs that you’re doing really need to kind of follow suit with that, but build upon a story for them, because ultimately, like, the true reality of brand awareness, or the true measurement of whether you have brand awareness is not just have they heard your name before, but do they have context around that name? Do they know what you solve for? Do they understand what it looks like after you solve for it, so that it’s building that story in their mind like, hey, I’ve got XYZ problem. Here’s how that problem goes away.

(00:12:43) – And it happens to be ABC brand, right? So, it’s really about helping prospects understand, like, not only when you exist, but you’ve got these problems, we solve them for you. Here’s what that end game looks like that you’re trying to accomplish and how we’re going to get you there. So, it’s not necessarily going out and saying, here’s all the features and functionalities in our brand, right; in our technology. It’s building that story in the mind that bridges the gap between the pain point or the problem that the prospect has and how they get to the end state, or the ideal situation of solving for that challenge.

(00:13:27) – And that leads to content, right?

(00:13:31) – It absolutely does. So, content is the core of marketing. We talk a lot about how content is the foundation to building a demand generation engine. Any marketing that you’re doing, you need to think about the content. There’s a lot of potential issues or indicators that will tell you it needs to be addressed. We see this all the time, especially in smaller companies, but surprisingly, even in the fortune 500 companies in this space, every once in a while, we’re surprised because we think like, oh, this huge, high tech tech brand has tons of content because they have huge marketing teams and huge marketing budgets. And then you get into a particular group and they’re like, oh, we actually don’t have a lot of content. So, this isn’t a problem that is isolated to the smaller organizations that haven’t invested as much in marketing. The content can be an issue no matter the size of the organization. So, I feel like we see it all the time. Little to no content built out is a common challenge for organizations.

(00:14:37) – Absolutely, or what you have is old, right? It’s outdated and not really up to the snuff anymore. You could have a piece of content that has research in it, but the research is six years old. So, is that really valuable anymore? It’s almost a detriment to put that on; put that out there if it’s too old; should probably be revamped.

(00:14:56) – I totally agree, and I think that also indicates, like, your existing content is weak. Whether, you used as an example, Greg, the research is outdated, and so now it looks like you guys haven’t kept up with the trends in the industry, or the content is maybe not on brand; the messaging is maybe irrelevant; differentiators are weak or even in the tech space, your product is likely evolving all the time. Your content needs to evolve with that to continue to tell that story. And so, it should never be a let’s go create this content. Great, we have this library, we don’t need to deal with this right now. The content needs to be an ongoing thing, and organizations need to make an investment in it. And yes, content can be a heavy lift. I think there are ways to slice and dice good pieces of content and actually get more mileage out of them, so it’s not quite as heavy a lift as creating individual, unique pieces for every single topic that you come up with, but it’s really important that from a content perspective, you’ve got a plan and you’re thinking through it.

(00:16:13) – Another thing we see sometimes is we start to shift and go for a different audience, right? Like your product has an application someplace else where you haven’t tried to try to get traction before. So, you need to go back and look at the content based on that new audience that you’re trying to attract. So, and that could be a slice and dice thing to maybe some of the stuff that you already have works, you just have to adjust it, so that we see that sometimes as an indicator that the content needs to be addressed.

(00:16:41) – Right and I think, like, examples of where that happens, let’s take AI and HR tech. The CSO is getting involved in these decisions now, whereas in the past they maybe weren’t as involved on the HR team, and the finance team really got to take the lead on that. Well, you’re in a talk to a CSO and they’re going to read different content; different approach than you would to the HR leader, because the CSO is looking at it from the technology standpoint, like how does this work from an ethical AI perspective? What do we need to think about? How do we build this technology out? Whereas, now the HR buyer is looking at it from the perspective of we have this problem. We need to gain more efficiencies within our organization to better support our employees. So in that sense, you maybe can’t repurpose the content that you have today for the CSO, you may have to create all new content. But on the flip side, if the new audience happens to be like, we’re going into a new vertical, we’ve been selling into manufacturing companies, but now we’re going to go after finance companies. You don’t want to use the same content. You don’t want to use general content. I mean, if you’re really going to resonate with an audience, you want to be able to speak to their specific pain point. So, a lot of times in those instances, you can take the existing content that you have, if it’s well done; if it’s on the mark, and look at how do we repurpose this, but work it for this new audience. So, in this case a finance audience, and going in and working in their pain point, let’s just change the title and say we’re experts in this. People can usually spot that when they see it, or it’s like, oh, they say they’re experts in the finance industry, but then they read everything and it reads like any vendor out there that’s selling to everybody, right? Like, that’s not necessarily going to resonate. You’ve got to go deeper and get into that content and their pain points so that you can get some traction with them.

(00:18:52) – You can’t just change the pictures and change the title.

(00:18:55) – Which a lot of companies, quite frankly, that’s what they do because they’re trying to save time and money to do it, but it’s not a best practice to do it that way. If you’re going to put the effort in, you want your marketing to work well for you. You’ve got to go all the way with content. And I think that leads to another thing. Like, you need a content strategy that is aligned to the buyer mindset, their pain point, they’re buying process. So like I said, if you’re going from marketing to manufacturing companies to now you’re going after finance companies, take a step. Understand how that buyer is different from the previous buyer. What is their buying process? What are their pain points? There’s likely going to be some overlap between the audiences, but there’s also, likely, going to be some differences that you can hone in on the civic to that vertical to really fine tune your messaging so that it resonates better.

(00:19:57) – Having a good content strategy is very important. Sometimes we run into a client who has a ton of content, but they don’t really use it very well in their demand gen efforts, or they don’t know how to use it. We’re talking about, maybe, in the beginning of this, right, we’re talking about not having enough content, but at the same time, having too much and not knowing how to use it isn’t helpful to you either. So, you need to go back and figure out how to turn this best content into things that can actually help to keep moving down; moving people through the process of understanding who you are, and eventually reaching out for sales.

(00:20:34) – I think when an organization has a ton of content, but they’re not sure how to use it, or they’re just not leveraging it to be able to get their money’s worth out of it. Quite frankly, one of the things that we’ll help an organization do here at GrowthMode is we’ll, actually, do a content audit for them, where we will assess all of the content to determine, like, okay, you’ve got a ton of content. Let’s see if the content is there and we just need to go build the campaign, or if there’s some work to do yet on the content, because I think it’s a mistake to think just because we have a lot of content, we’re all set on that. A lot of times what we find is the content is maybe not written for the right audience, or some of it’s really old and shouldn’t be used anymore, or there are gaps. So, it’s like we have a lot of content about this, but we have nothing about this. So, by doing that audit, what we’re doing is helping them identify, like, here’s the strengths of our content, and here’s the gaps and the weaknesses that we need to work on. So, we know now going forward, as we develop a content strategy where the focus needs to be to help round out that content and build it out, and then it makes it that much easier to start to build out campaigns because you got the content categorized, you flagged what needs to maybe be reworked or repurposed, what needs to be retired, what’s ready to hit the ground running. And you can start to develop out some really good campaigns around that content.

(00:22:15) – Yeah, that helps to solve that; the problem we’ve seen to creating content for content sake, right. Like, oh, this is a really hot topic. We need to talk about this, but if you go back to your content strategy in your content plan, then you can say, well, this might be a hot topic right now, but it doesn’t serve our purpose, or what we’re trying to accomplish with the content and our demand gen program, so it gives you some guardrails of what you should be developing. Like, just because it’s a hot topic doesn’t necessarily mean you need to go out and create a paper on it, and it helps with that too.

(00:22:48) – Yeah, that’s a really good point. I think a lot of times when we see a big content library, but we find there are a lot of gaps and maybe misfires on content that it was because they didn’t have a formal content marketing strategy in place, that they were mapping out the content and determining, like, here’s the intent of those pieces.

(00:23:09) – It tends to be random acts of marketing, where an organization and a marketing team that knows, like, we need content, so they go about creating a lot of content, but because it’s not aligned to a strategy, it’s kind of all over the place, right? And some of it’s really solid. Some of it it’s like, okay, I get why you covered this topic, but how does it tie back to building that credibility and, and trust in the market to ultimately get them to want to purchase your product, right? Like, it’s got to be tied back to your organization. Otherwise, you’re just putting content out for the sake of putting content out. And that is a lot of work and very expensive to do. Again, if you’re going to make the investment in content, which I think everybody should be, you want to make sure that you’re getting a return on it and creating the right content to help move the needle out in the market.

(00:24:07) – Yeah, so, I think, definitely if you don’t have a plan or a strategy for your content, that’s really a place to start, right? Like, you were talking about, you need a good audit of everything you have, and then see what’s missing, what needs tweaking, and how does that map back to creating that credibility and trust leading into sales?

(00:24:28) – And if you don’t have enough content, then obviously you need to work on content development. That can be easier said than done, especially in smaller marketing teams. To do that heavy lift. That’s where partners like GrowthMode Marketing can come in. We have the ability to create content, and to really focus on that for you, so that your team can go focus on building out the strategy and executing the campaigns and things like that. Also, I think something you may need to work on is pillar content and content loops. So, you don’t want the disjointed content, but you want it all to be tied together, right? And I think when you have pillar content strategies, and you’re looking at how do we create content loop that helps you solve for that problem? What we mean by pillar content is when you pick these themes. So, a lot of times when we work with clients, we’ll pick three basic themes that we call pillars, that all of the messaging is built around and all of the content is built around. So, you’ve got like these three tracks, if you will, of like, here’s different pain points that we’re going down, and we’re really digging deep in and all of the content support that content loops.

(00:25:47) – If you think about when you go to a website off of a Google search, you land on an article, a content loop built into your website would be like, here’s some other articles you might find interesting that are related to that topic, with the goal that if we create content loops on our website, a person isn’t going to look at the first article or whatever piece they came in on and jump and go back to Google and find something else. They’re going to keep clicking on the links within your own content to continue to go deeper and deeper on that topic, to learn about it, because you have the content there and you’re offering it up to them and you’re answering the questions for them.

(00:26:30) – I think it’s pretty evident that mastering brand identity and awareness, along with creating compelling content, are critical when on your marketing journey, right? I mean, these levers, when properly adjusted, will help drive impactful results and elevate the company’s market presence.

(00:26:47) – Yeah, and at GrowthMode Marketing, we believe in a holistic approach, ensuring all aspects of marketing are aligned and optimized, so stay tuned for our next episodes where we will continue to explore the remaining levers, including our next topic on marketing tactics, and marketing and sales alignment. And I’ll just sign off saying, remember, effective marketing is a comprehensive effort, and we’re here to guide you every step of the way.

(00:27:16) – Thanks for joining us on The Demand Gen Fix, a podcast for HR tech marketers brought to you by GrowthMode Marketing. I sure hope you enjoyed it. Don’t forget to subscribe for more perspectives on demand generation and B2B marketing strategies. Plus, give us a like, tell your friends. We’ll see you next time.

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