No matter how hard anyone tries to convince themselves, the same people who look at their computer screens or smart phones today are the same people who would have spent that same time watching TV or listening to the radio, a few years back. They react the same way and internalize information the same way.
So the base a brand is targeting today is pretty much the same it used to target ten years ago. Except the channels for delivering the message have evolved.
Building a solid brand has always required the application of fundamental building blocks. Thinking, strategies and activities that have stood the test of time and remain central to this day.
The challenges of building a powerful brand like Coca Cola, BMW and other mega brands include the relative shortage of marketing professionals with the background and experience that can only be cultivated around the offices and boardroom tables of marketing giants like these and the multi-national advertising agencies that service them.
Knowledge imparted throughout these organizations represents many, many decades of experience, trial, error and learning. You just don’t weave your way around this kind of experience coming out of university with a marketing degree. Or a diploma that may be taught by individuals who do not have the depth of a proven brand builder who spent decades building mega brands around the world.
Today’s PPC (Pay Per Click) driven thinking, combined with widespread lack of deep marketing experience, compounded by an instant gratification generation and mentality are making it extremely hard to build true brands and brand equity.
PPL (Pay Per Lead) has now gained serious traction too. A click through is no longer enough as a measure of campaign ROI. Marketers are calculating and evaluating an advertising medium based on cost per lead, or even conversion. If I don’t sell this many tools, then your medium doesn’t work!
The worst part is that as marketers we tend to forget that the concepts we create and the ideas we generate are critical to advertising and marketing results. Click throughs, lead capture and conversion.
At ListedBy.com, a growing online real estate auctions marketplace, we constantly remind ourselves of these basic fundamentals as we work to build the next mega real estate venue on the Web.
A new age marketer, reporting to a superior who relies on the young professional’s ‘knowledge’ of new Web technologies and trends, may find it easy to default to blaming the advertising medium or channel, before they look internally at their own work. Like their landing pages, lead capture incentives or their lead incubation and conversion systems.
This spells trouble for the brand and the organization over the long haul.
Unless we put a stop to promotion driven PPC / PPL advertising and focus on messages that build brands, we will continue to drive our brands and sales primarily based on price and events. That is a recipe for failure. And often, disaster.
Price and promotion driven marketing is the antithesis to building a brand that stands for value – and the test of time.
Everyone would like to have a powerful and effective Unique Value Proposition. This article offers steps to guide you through the process.
Getting a clear understanding of what a “Unique Value Proposition” is can be very helpful, but pinning yours down can be quite the task.
Typically, an advertising agency is the best route to get such work done. In reality though, most REALTORS® may not have, or wish to commit the resources to undertake such an exercise.
This article is a relatively simple step by step guide to help you pin down an advertising promise that makes your brand stand out through an effective benefit oriented promise.
In the first article of this series, we described the term “Unique Value Proposition” as your market edge. Technically, that it is a sentence or paragraph that captures and describes the unique benefit your solution offers to a target audience and that ideally addresses an opportunity or pain point they face. The ultimate value proposition will not elaborate on the pain but rather focus entirely on the benefit you bring to the table. People buy benefits, not problems.
Step #1 – Identify a group of 10 – 20 people willing to give you unbiased, genuine feedback. Current and former clients are what you need (not friends or family members). Give this audience a good incentive to provide you with their genuine and real feedback. Gift cards or a drawing to win an iPad or camera may do the trick.
Let them know that:
- You need their input for an important branding exercise for your business
- That their candid and genuine input is crucial
- That there are no right or wrong answers. That all answers are critical to the exercise, and that what think may be bad input can be the best input they have, and the other way around. This is key.
Step #2 – Create a list of one or two-word attributes that describe a great REALTOR® or their services. Then email, fax, or drop off the forms to just half of your research group and ask them to rank the attributes.
Here is an example:
Please rank, in order, the most important attributes you look for in choosing a REALTOR®.
Note that you should not include more than ten attributes. Following are some suggestions but by no means yoou don’t have to use those. You know best what should go on the list. Just make sure the suggested attributes are not biased or self-serving. You want a solid, true exercise you can learn from and use to effectively reposition your business.
2) Neighborhood knowledge
3) Efficiency and productivity
4) Speed of service/responsiveness
5) Negotiation skills
6) Etc. etc. etc.
Step #3 – Ask your research base, in the same document, to write your name next to any three of the attributes they believe you genuinely represent.
Once you’ve collected and analyzed the responses, you will have a list that highlights the attributes your market values most in a REALTOR®, and, from this first group, which of the top ranked attributes they think you represent. You may be surprised by the findings, but this is what the exercise is all about.
Armed with a clean sheet and new information, hand the top attributes ranked by the first group, from most important to least important, to the second half of your research audience and ask them to put your name next to three of any of the descriptors. The objective is to further validate the findings that came out of the first group exercise.
While there will still be more work to do following the discovery phase, you will have reached a point where your advertising and messaging can begin to tackle criteria you know will hit a cord in your marketplace and that genuinely position you as a stand out advisor.
Use the findings intelligently to craft highly focused advertising and listing presentations. And, do NOT do what most marketers do. Resist the temptation to change things after a few months have passed. And, resist the equally destructive temptation of merging more than a single attribute into your promise.
Consistency, over time, is what creates equity and association around a brand. Repeat your message until home owners and prospective buyers in your area start to automatically suggest your name when asked for a REALTOR® who is ‘responsive’ or ‘is a very strong negotiator.’
The fun part is knowing that as you build towards this kind of strategic awareness, many of your competitors will be spinning their wheels trying to be everything to everyone.
As a final note, being associated with a #3 ranked attribute and playing up on that association in your positioning is far more powerful than trying to associate yourself with the #1 attribute that you are not that strong in. Effective market positioning is all about a relevant promise you can deliver on better than anyone else.
Not about promising something everyone else can deliver on, or worse, that others can deliver on better than you.
If you’re asking yourself this question, you’re not alone. In fact, you would be pleased to know that some ‘professional’ marketers often don’t know what it really means. Some, including a few veterans I know, give up on the concept entirely at some point in their career and pull back to focus on product or service attributes. Big mistake.
A Unique Value Proposition is your market edge. It’s a sentence or paragraph that captures and describes the unique benefit your solution offers to a specific target audience and that ideally addresses a pain point or opportunity they face.
A proposition that includes a competitive bite stands to be more successful in the marketplace than one that does not. Meaning, a solution that delivers something better than other solutions (you need to be able to prove that), is more powerful than one that does not benchmark against anything. While we’re on this aspect of a value proposition, the benchmark you compare against in your communication may even be your own ‘older’ solution that is now being replaced, if yours is the leading solution in the market or, if you cannot actually compete with others’ solutions.
Let’s also not confuse a Unique Value Proposition with a selling proposition or, selling line. We’ll make that a separate discussion in the future.
You might want to start thinking about your value proposition and write it down. That will be the first step towards more powerful communication as you focus your pitch around this promise. Don’t give up on the exercise if you find that once you start writing things down, that the process does not work out as easily as you hoped. Over time, the idea will crystallize and a strong, effective Unique Value Proposition will emerge.
Do yourself a favour though. Don’t try to pin a proposition without consulting with those who know it best – your current and former customers. This is the most important part of the process. In talking to a few of them specifically about this exercise, you should quickly realize there is a common theme that keeps emerging, and it will likely be very different than what you thought it would be. That’s what you should go for and build on. It’s what makes you or your service unique and with that, no one will be able to easily claim the same promise. For one, they’ll be looked at as a ‘me too’ pretty quickly and lose their credibility while you build brand equity around your promise.
The last point to take note of is to maintain your message consistently once you’ve established the value proposition, and resist the urge to change it whenever you introduce a new marketing campaign. Focus on it in the long run, and re-evaluate it as you go to ensure it remains competitive. It’s the repetition of the same message that will make you stand for something unique in your market. It will take time and effort. At some point, no one will be able to touch you on that particular promise, but only if you maintain your competitiveness in that specific area.