When it comes to effective marketing and brand growth, many business owners get caught up in long-term vs. short-term tactics, focusing all of their efforts on one or the other.
So, how about a little pop quiz?
If you were asked which one of the two scenarios below was most important to your business, which one would you choose?
- Short-term sales spikes OR
- Long-term brand building
If you chose #1, you are wrong. If you chose #2…well, sadly, you are also wrong.
We admit this was somewhat of a trick question, but the truth is that one is not more important than the other. Both are critical to building a business, now and in the long term. But, if you focus on one more than the other at the wrong time, it can tip the scales toward business trouble.
The Thrill of Sales (and Why This Can Hurt You)
We know how thrilling it can be to see those sales come in and watch your bank account grow. It’s a well-deserved reward for the hard work and time you invested in getting your business off the ground and running.
And we salute you for your persistence and tenacity!
But, the drive to increase revenue in the short term can get addicting. It’s not uncommon in the excitement to obsess over incoming sales and revenue and, consequently, forget about the longer-term strategy of building your brand because the rewards are not immediately evident.
Brand building is not exactly easy to sell. Like many business owners, you’d probably rather get some quick sales instead of spending money on brand growth that can take a while to catch on. So, it’s not hard to see why a lot of businesses forgo it.
There are repercussions to forgoing brand growth, however, and they may not be clear early on.
If you focus too heavily on sales and disregard building your brand (including digitally), you are at risk of fizzling out once something unexpected hits. We saw this when the COVID-19 pandemic started. Businesses that relied on sales from trade shows and physical events had to pivot their marketing just to survive. The companies that built a strong brand digitally had a greater chance of survival because consumers turned to digital shopping once the nation shut down.
This rise in digital consumers will likely not back down either. According to a COVID-19 CMO survey, marketers believe that consumers will continue to value digital experiences and the landscape will not return to its pre-pandemic state. Also, 29.3% of marketers (compared to 19.9% in 2009) say customers will likely place a higher value on trusting relationships. Brand building focuses on establishing trust and relationships.
Now, I know we have been going back and forth between short-term sales and long-term brand building, but brand growth creates sales too, even if the effects aren’t immediate. Brand awareness helps you increase base sales and coast through the slow times, weathering typical business growth’s ups and downs.
There’s another side to this, though. While it’s often preferable to favor performance over brand growth, some businesses favor brand growth over short-term sales because they consider direct selling a negative marketing aspect. They focus mostly on building a brand over time and hope that the sales start magically pouring in because of their branding prowess. They almost wear their strong brands as a badge of honor.
Make no mistake—this perception is just as dangerous as the former. You need both for effective marketing.
You Don’t Have to Forgo Performance to Grow Your Brand—Do Both
We agree that the two are tough to balance, and it takes some serious marketing chops to strike it just right.
If you are just starting out, your sales-to-brand-growth ratio may lean toward sales because you need incoming cash to get your business off the ground and acquire customers. And without early sales, you won’t even have a business in the long term. But, don’t forget about brand growth, even in the beginning. Your branding will help shape your marketing strategy and detail what you do with your customers after the sale. It will help you build an army of customers that love your brand so much they can’t help but share it.
Once you focus more on brand growth, your short-term sales may decrease, but over time, your base sales will rise, strengthening your short-term sales cycles. So, the initial sacrifice sets you up for more significant returns.
As you can see in the example above, short-term sales are low as you shift to brand growth. But, as time lapses, base sales increase, and the short-term spikes increase as well.
As you grow, time investment may shift to favor one over the other. And you may notice yourself relying more on short-term sales for a while, pulling back when you see your base sales decreasing. It’s a constant balancing act.
However, if you build your brand right, your business can enjoy sustained growth. Effective marketing and brand growth result in high customer retention (repeat sales) and the automatic creation of brand ambassadors who will promote your brand without anything in return—just because they love who you are and what you stand for. This is only possible with effective marketing and branding.
Reality: The Odds Are Not in Your Favor
We also realize that the industry sets you up to fall into the performance trap. There’s no shortage of advertising platforms ready and willing to take your money in exchange for some quick traffic. The industry is also overflowing with advertising experts and marketing geniuses who will shine the carrot of fast revenue in front of you without giving you the full picture of what effective marketing entails.
Effective marketing is an all-encompassing strategy that includes current and long-term business goals/KPIs that set you up for short-term and long-term success. Your marketing strategy should never focus on unproven quick-hit growth hacks or random tactics with no rationale tied to them. Too many marketers spend their resources throwing a bunch of tactics against a wall and calling whatever sticks a “strategy.” This risky approach may result in a few quick sales, but it will waste time and money. If you had created an effective marketing strategy, you would have already known which tactics would have flopped before trying them.
Here at Viral Solutions, we HATE wasted resources, and we know you do too. That’s why we start by creating effective marketing strategies that only encompass tactics designed to win. We look at data to tell us how to execute our strategy, we and spend time and resources on proven tactics designed to bring you optimum growth.
What Is Brand Growth? Why Is It Necessary?
We could just tell you that you need to focus on brand building without telling you why, but that’s not our style. So, here’s a small lesson on why brand growth is so important and why effective marketing is empty without it.
When we talk about “brand growth,” we refer to how your audience perceives your company and how they differentiate you from your competition. When a consumer considers Nike vs. Reebok, what attributes do they think about when they consider Nike? They may think about athletes and performance since that is how Nike brands itself. When they consider Reebok, they may think of workout shoes or retro designs from the 80s and 90s.
What would your audience say about you? What is the unique story you are telling your target market? How do they perceive you in your industry?
People fall in love with brands, not companies. Brands have unique stories they tell consumers that attract them to their cause and what they stand for. Consider the brand PuraVida, which became popular because of its origin story.
On vacation in Costa Rica, the founders stumbled upon local artisans creating bracelets to make a measly wage to support their families. The vacationers bought 400 bracelets and began selling them back in the U.S. The brand took off, and PuraVida now employs more than 800 artisans in developing locations and creates opportunities for them to earn a good living.
PuraVida now sells millions of bracelets yearly and has brand ambassadors doing their marketing work for them.
You don’t necessarily need to be charitable to build your brand. You just need a unique story and know whom you are targeting.
Building a brand also focuses on creating products your target audience wants instead of just selling the products you have. When you focus on your brand, you remove sales blindness and see your customers through their eyes, building something more significant than your products that they can connect with your brand.
Effective Marketing and Brand Growth: What You Need to Know
In this article, we just scratched the surface of effective marketing. But our goal was to help you understand the foundational components of marketing strategy and learn the delicate balance of brand growth and short-term sales. Both are powerful and will complement each other if you get the balance right.
Here is a summary of what we discussed:
- Why focusing on short-term sales too much can set you up for failure
- The performance/brand growth ratio and striking the perfect balance
- Why the industry sets you up to focus too much on the wrong thing
- What brand growth is and why it is so important
Of course, we understand this can be tough to manage. So, if you need help creating an effective marketing strategy that will propel your business forward, reach out to us for a free consultation. We’d be happy to help!