Principle 9: Pick Your Priorities

Book discussion
“Sticky Branding” by Jeremy Miller

In my last blog about Sticky Branding, Principle 8 – “Being Everywhere,” I briefly talked about focus while building and growing your brand community. In this blog we will look more closely at how to do it effectively.  

I like Miller’s analogy for introducing this chapter: “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at time.” (page 136) This analogy gives a realistic picture of what to expect when creating a Sticky Brand. “Growing a Sticky Brand is a process. It takes an enormous amount of time, resources and work to grow your company’s brand, so it stands out above the herd and has a sustainable competitive advantage. You’re not going to do that in 90 or 180 days.” (page 136) It’s a continuous process and to keep it manageable, you need to break your branding activities into topics and focus on one topic at a time. I couldn’t agree more: “There are always hundreds of things you should be doing, but what must you do?” Miller suggests using “The 3 Vs” (page 136): Volume, Velocity, and Value to determine your focus.

  • Volume focuses on increasing customer demand and generating sales leads.
  • Velocity focuses on improving your closing rate.
  • Value focuses on price sensitivity and perceived value.

Volume solely focuses on finding new customers and growing sales. If you’re starting out or have repositioned your business, this will most likely be your focus area. You want your phone to ring. In order to make that happen you need prospective customers to know about you, your brand, and the problem you’re solving. Your ultimate goal is to have customers calling you instead of having to reach out to them. You build your brand community because you want to reach the point where your brand is doing “…the heavy lifting” for you. (page 138)

This means your focus will be on making new connections, building new relationships, and creating brand awareness. Evaluating the effectiveness of your efforts is relatively easy. You can track inquiries per day, per week, or per month. The simpler your tracking system, the better. You want to learn what worked and what didn’t. Which marketing activity brought in new leads and which ones were dead fish in the water. This information helps you adjust your course of action. Keep in mind that most of the time a combination of marketing activities is the driver of increased sales. Don’t fall into the trap of looking at them in isolation. Rather, look at all your activities related to an event, a conference, you name it.

Velocity aims at making the buying process easier, faster, and more efficient for your customer. As a company you focus on this area to optimize your business or brand. According to Miller each customer goes through three phases before buying.

It starts with Awareness. How do your customers realize they have a need of your product or service? What stimuli, situation or event trigger the process of looking for a solution?

In the next phase – Assessment – they consider their options. What products are on the market? Are there new ways to solve their problem? What are the costs? This is when they research your company and reach out to you to get more information. It’s a critical step because they may or may not move forward based on what they learn in this phase. They may find your product or service too expensive or just not right for them.

The actual Purchasephase threebegins after your customers make a commitment and decide to buy. This is when the actual sales process begins: negotiating, discussing, and defining contract terms, etc.

Looking at these three phases there is always room for improvement. What can you do to make it as easy as possible for your customers to move through them? What triggers their need? What information do they need to move from awareness to assessment? What information is important when researching their options? What keywords or key phrases are they searching for online? What concerns should you address in a conversation? How can you simplify the sales process?

In each of these phases you have the opportunity to win or lose your prospective customer. That’s why it is so important to make it as easy as possible for them. You can use customer feedback to gather information that will help you improve and ensure the best possible experience.

Last but not least is Value. Typical examples for perceived value and the willingness to pay a higher price are Apple, Tesla, or even your neighborhood electrician or plumber who charges more but does such excellent work that you don’t even look for alternatives. Miller uses the following analogy to describe the benefit: “It keeps your competition at bay like a moat around a castle,…” (page 142)

Let’s take Apple as an example and dig a little deeper. Apple is famous for its “Genius Bar” and tech support, the beautiful design of their products (and no, I’m not an Apple user), and the community they built. People line up in front of stores the moment a new product is released. Customers have a strong affinity toward Apple, they are loyal customers, and they don’t mind paying a premium price. Despite the fact that there are equally well designed and cheaper products on the market, Apple customers return and buy Apple products. “By prioritizing the value of your brand, you are choosing to grow a recognized brand and become the category leader.” (page 143) This example illustrates clearly what it means to increase the perceived value of your service or product.

For the Value category customer retention and higher profit margins are two relevant data points to measure. But depending on your product or service you may add other data points.

Nowadays, collecting data is simple but not necessarily always helpful. Keep it simple when deciding what data to collect and how to collect it. I love the example Miller mentioned. He had heard it at a conference. Here it goes: ”My dad could spot a budgeting problem or a turn in the economy before our accountants did, based on his daily inspections.” He would walk through his company every afternoon. If there was a truck in every loading bay it meant the business was doing well. Empty loading bays meant “tough times were coming.” (page 145)

It’s time to circle back to the headline of this chapter: Pick your Priorities. We’d all like to grow our business, make it easier for our customers and be the market leader. Since improving any of the three Vs means a lot of work, Miller recommends focusing on one V at a time. Ask the questions “What’s holding your business back at the moment? […] What does your business need to focus on…?” (page 148) What areas of your business are struggling and need your 

attention in order to grow? If you have determined the area that needs fixing, set a goal, make a plan, allocate resources, and focus on this goal for the next half year. Review your progress regularly to make sure you are still on track. If you make an unexpected discovery along the way, adjust your course.

Over to you now. What area of your business needs attention? What do you need to fix or improve to take the next step? Let me know in the comments below.

See you next week,

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