You’ve heard the terms “branding” and “marketing” thrown around in meetings for months. Profitability is down, and you need your team to pull through with more leads and a higher bottom line. Marketing and branding sound good on the surface, but you’re concerned that they’re just buzzwords that won’t lead to real results with proven data.
Branding and marketing aren’t just vague corporate jargon, and they aren’t interchangeable. But if you and your team don’t know exactly what branding and marketing are and how to use them strategically, you’ll never be able to deliver the results of an improved bottom line.
Branding vs. Marketing: What’s the Difference?
Branding is your reputation with your customers. You can influence that reputation by creating brand values that connect with your company’s mission, but “your customers are the ones who ultimately define your brand. Their perception of your brand is what sticks with the people they influence,” according to Kissmetrics.
Marketing, on the other hand, is the strategy you use to promote your company. The American Marketing Association defines marketing as activities or processes that “create, communicate, deliver, and exchange offerings that have value for customers.” That includes everything from paid ad campaigns, to social media marketing, to setting up a booth at a trade show.
Branding and marketing can be the keys to bringing in new leads and strengthening your bottom line. But understanding the difference between the two will allow you to choose the best strategy for your particular situation.
How to Use Branding to Bolster Your Bottom Line
Define your brand values
Brand values are the driving force behind your company’s reputation; they are the virtual foundation on which it is built. Without a purpose fueling your brand, both employees and consumers will lose sight of your overall mission. “A brand’s purpose is hugely influential in attracting an audience and, ultimately, a customer base,” reports NetImperative.
The data doesn’t lie. A Mediacom survey found 63 percent of consumers “believe that brands have a responsibility to give back to society” and 49 percent said they were “willing to pay more for a brand that supports a cause.”
With consumers focusing on supporting purposeful companies, defining your brand values and aligning your company with raison d’etre is an essential step to increasing profitability.
Develop a customer relationship
You can have the most recognizable brand in the world, but it will hardly matter if customers don’t feel connected to your company. Customers expect a personalized experience with brands who understand them, and that expectation is only going to increase. A Walker study predicts that by the year 2020, a standout customer experience will matter more than differentiating on product and price.
On top of a personalized shopping experience, consumers show more loyalty to brands that secure their trust with excellent customer service. Research from Zendesk reveals that 62 percent of B2B customers purchased more after a good customer service experience. In contrast, 39 percent of consumers continue to avoid a vendor even two or more years after a bad experience—and 45 percent share those negative experiences on social media, further harming your brand.
Your customers are real people, not just numbers in your lead funnel—customer service matters now more than ever. Your profitability depends on branding that connects.
Protect your brand and build trust
Once your brand is established, you need to protect it like the precious asset it is. We don’t have to remind you that retaining existing customers is much less expensive than acquiring new ones: Harvard Business Review reports increasing customer retention by just 5 percent can increase profits by 25–95 percent! Protecting your brand is one of the best ways to encourage those customers stick around.
Your brand builds trust with customers by consistently upholding your brand values and delivering on your brand promises. But brand trust is on the decline, both globally and in the U.S., according to the Edelman Trust Barometer. In this “trust in crisis” era, only 52 percent of the public trusts businesses to do what is right, and only 38 percent of U.S. respondents rate CEOs as extremely or very credible. Make your brand stand out by delivering stellar customer service, standing by your brand values, and refusing to fudge the truth for short-term financial gain.
Brands that put profitability above customer trust are destined to fail—just look at Volkswagen, who took a huge hit to consumer trust after stories came out about the company installing software designed to manipulate emissions test results in their diesel vehicles. Do your bottom line a favor and protect the customer relationship your brand has worked so hard to establish.
How to Use Marketing to Strengthen Your Bottom Line
Create a marketing strategy
Now you’re ready to merge your strong brand with a marketing strategy that drives results. It’s tempting to jump on the bandwagon of every marketing trend out there, but that’s not the best way to leverage your existing brand equity.
The Small Business Administration recommends developing a marketing plan to save time in the long run. Set your marketing priorities by looking your metrics so you know which marketing efforts are worth your focus. In addition to creating a marketing plan, Moz recommends making all your employees aware of your marketing goals and how they relate to your brand values.
By aligning your brand with your marketing strategy, you’ll have a company-wide plan that allows every employee to do their part in lead generation.
Increase brand visibility
You have a value-driven brand. Now you just need to make sure your potential customers know who you are. It’s not just about shouting the loudest: Brain chemistry and psychology play a big part in customers’ purchasing decisions.
A study in the Journal of Consumer Research found “repeated exposure to a brand will lead to an increased likelihood of selecting that brand.” Even more telling, brain research suggests that 90 percent of purchasing decisions are made subconsciously, favoring brands that have an emotional impact.
The combination of a genuine, purposeful brand and increased brand exposure can lead to more conversions and higher profitability. Use analytics to determine the best way to increase brand visibility with your target audience, then make those actions a priority in your marketing strategy.
Provide value with inbound marketing
The days of traditional advertising are over. Consumers aren’t interested in how awesome you are; they want to know what you’re going to do to help them. Inbound marketing is a methodology that combines SEO, content marketing, social media, and lead nurturing to build trust and provide information. Rather than interrupting users with annoying ads, billboards, and radio spots, inbound marketing uses digital content to attract and entice target markets by providing the information they’re looking for online.
The Content Marketing Institute reports “Millennials expect brands to develop content for them,” with 80 percent wanting to be entertained by content marketing. Inbound marketing isn’t just for Millennials: 90 percent of consumers find custom content useful. Not only is inbound marketing more effective than traditional outbound methods—inbound leads have a 14.6 percent close rate, compared to a 1.7 percent close rate for outbound leads—it also costs 61 percent less.
Who wouldn’t want to increase lead generation while driving down the cost per lead? Inbound marketing brings together your brand values and marketing strategy to increase profitability.
Branding and Marketing: A Profit-Boosting Match
Forget about branding vs. marketing—you can use both to increase profitability! Far from being meaningless buzzwords, these are two smart strategies you and your team can leverage to increase lead generation and bolster your bottom line.
Now that you’ve seen the data on how branding and marketing can be the perfect pair for your business, learn more about the benefits of inbound marketing in our article Does Inbound Marketing Really Work? Experts Weigh In.