When Experience Isn’t Enough: Build Your Business Through Marketing and Branding

Since finishing my MBA program in April, I’ve had the…pleasure…of job hunting. While the process is arduous and ego-bruising, I have been able to learn more about the field and what employers want from a marketer, which has helped me create a professional development plan for myself.

I’ve also enjoyed the opportunity to research the different companies I’ve applied to; being able to see their strengths and weaknesses helps me think about what they’re doing right and how I could help them where they struggle.

One business, in particular, stood out to me. When I got called in for an interview with Company, I spent some time researching it beforehand, as I do for all interviews.

What I found, and didn’t find, told me a lot about the Company–but not all of it was correct.

What I could gather from my research was that Company didn’t have a website outside of Facebook (though I found the official website eventually), was unclear with its branding, and wasn’t a real threat in an ultra-competitive local market.

What I found out in my interview was that while Company was officially new, the owners had decades of experience, were very knowledgeable, and had fast growth as a new company.

I would never have known this as a potential customer.

If I had been researching companies in the area to give my business to, I would have gone with a number of other competitors before I even considered Company, and that was all due to Company’s lack of cohesive marketing and branding.

If I were handling the marketing for Company, the following three things would be on the top of my priority list for growing its presence:

Be Ready: Launch with a Marketing Plan in Place Instead of Trying to Build One After You’ve Started

If I could go back in time, I would sit Company’s owners down and work with them on a marketing plan and materials in tandem with the development of its financial, operations, and general business plans. When I sat down with them, they were looking for someone to help with increasing their marketing presence after they had already gained a fair amount of business. But with the market in the area being as competitive as it is–there were at least 10 pages worth of competitors on Yelp, and Company didn’t show up until page 7–I can only imagine what business they missed out on because they didn’t start with a strong marketing plan.

As it was, their overall marketing was a mess. A rough plan would have helped them at least think through the major necessities for their burgeoning business, which leads me to my next point.

Beyond Facebook: Create a Professional Website to Enhance Reputation and Build Trust

Facebook is a great tool for businesses; you can talk directly and easily with customers, respond to their queries quickly, and reach a lot of people since over two-thirds of all Americans have an account. But too many small businesses think that a Facebook account is enough, and that’s the problem I encountered with Company.

Company’s Facebook page was the first company-run site to populate in Google. What I wanted, though, was a real website. At first, I didn’t think the Company had one, and I didn’t find it until I looked at their Yelp page, which had their website linked. However, the website did nothing to bolster the Company’s reputation. The two pages that were built had the same information, a few generic platitudes about the work that they do, and no practical information–like phone number, address, or operating hours. With just a Facebook page and an amateur website, I did not go into my interview feeling like it was a reputable company.

The Company took the right first step in hiring someone to build a website, but it failed to give proper direction as to the content or branding (more on that in a bit), which is such a lost opportunity. They could have more information about the process of their work, video testimonials, a more detailed about/contact page, including biographies about the founders, and even a blog for content marketing if they wanted to stand out among their competitors.

There’s a reason the more successful startups invest in a website, even if they are app-based–a professional website like that increases reputation and trust with a company. Not having a professional website makes the company seem inexperienced while having one that is missing even the most basic of company information makes them seem untrustworthy. I’d spend an afternoon on the website to make the Company seem as experienced and trustworthy as I thought they were after talking with the owner face-to-face.

Branding, Branding, Branding: Consistently Put the Company Name and Logo on EVERYTHING

Though the owner talked proudly of the business the Company had already gained, it was clear that he had not thought out how to brand the Company in a cohesive way. Company had a Facebook page only. The full company name was nowhere on the website–not in the URL, not in the title, not in any paragraph. There was a company logo, but it wasn’t on their Yelp page nor is it displayed in their ads.

Everything was inconsistently branded, and looking at Company from the perspective of a prospective customer, I would have chosen a competitor that had a more professional online presence. The lack of cohesion made Company feel amateurish, which was the exact opposite impression I walked away with after talking with the owner. A strong and cohesive branding strategy is a key component to helping customers and employees connect to the business on an emotional level, which is what leads to trust and loyalty.

While Company demonstrated that they could get business without a clear marketing plan, professional website, or clear branding, with all three, imagine what they could get with all three in place? Even in an uncompetitive market, thinking through your marketing, launching a quality website, and creating at least preliminary branding can make a business stand out as a company people want to do work with rather than one that’s the only option. When customers want to call you, they’ll come back again and again and spread the word that others should, too. That type of customer loyalty will more than pay for itself (and the website, too).    

What do you think are the most important parts in marketing and branding strategies? Leave a comment below!

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