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How To Tell If Your Brand Strategy Is Working

You’ve done it. You bit the bullet and took the leap. You’ve formalized your brand platform. It’s an exhilarating feeling because, in the past, you had an idea you were marketing your business correctly. But you were never really 100 percent sure. Now, you have absolute clarity. You know what you were doing right, previously, and you changed what had to change. Today is a new day and you see a clear path toward success. You understand now precisely what emotional benefit your market expects from your business. You know your mission is to fulfill that benefit. You know exactly what your brand promise is. You know how to make that brand promise so that people will believe you. And you know how to deliver on that brand promise. But what if you’re wrong? Once you put your brand strategy into action, how do you know it’s paying off? How do you measure ROI? As the old saying goes, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” So how much time should you give a new brand strategy to work and how will you know if it’s working? Over the years, Boardwalk has identified eight key performance indicators (KPIs).

First of all, if you’re a small or middle-market business, it’s likely going to take six weeks to six months to develop your brand strategy. That will depend on the size of your business and its market. The process involves a fair amount of qualitative research. That means one-on-one interviews with representative constituents in your market. People will be flattered that you asked them to give their opinion. But you’ll still have to fit into their schedule. The people you need to interview might have more urgent priorities. They might take vacations or get called for jury duty. So it can take a while to get all the interviews done.

At that point, you need to write and design the creative tools that will drive your brand strategy. Logo with supporting visual identity system, websites, marketing tools, advertising, etc. Again, depending on the size of your business and the scope of your needs, the creative work could take another six weeks to six months to complete. So if you were to get started right now, you’re three to twelve months away from launching a new brand or refreshing an old one.

Once you do launch, it’s typical so see some positive effects right away. But they’ll be anecdotal. It’s not a bad thing to learn that a key client likes your new logo or website. But that doesn’t tell you if the new brand strategy is actually moving the needle. Here are a few things to check, though, every six months or so.

Revenue
Sales often jump up right after a brand launch, sometimes dramatically so. There are many reasons why this happens but they’re not important. It’s a welcome occurrence, of course, but most likely incidental. The brand is supposed to increase awareness, demand and revenue; that takes time. So the true measure of a brand strategy is year-over-year growth in top line revenue. Keep your eye on that.

Growth
Once your market sees you consistently delivering on your new brand promise, you should start seeing more opportunities to extend your product/service line. If the market trusts you to supply A, they will trust you to supply B as well, assuming B is a logical “sibling” to A. The same is true for geographic expansion. Once your brand is well-known and trusted in one territory, it is likely to be welcomed in another. Not only will these new markets open up to you but financing the growth will be easier because bankers and investors will regard your brand favorably too. Even if you don’t act on these opportunities for growth, the fact that they’re popping up means your brand strategy is working.

Costs
You should see savings in marketing and in human resources. The brand strategy should simplify and streamline your marketing. It should spare you the necessity of constantly reinventing the wheel. Sure you’ll still do your A/B testing. But you’ll be testing nuances, not whole campaigns. And the same brand strategy that delights your best customers will also attract your best employees. This will save you money in recruitment and training. Watch for these costs to gradually decrease.

Workforce
When your employees “get” your brand, when they perceive your offerings as valuable and authentic, they become true brand ambassadors, happily maximizing all customer relationships and touch points. Look for more job applicants, more people accepting your job offers, deeper employee engagement and a decrease in turnover.

Customers/clients
You should start seeing improvement in customer loyalty. As your brand grows strength, customers will begin forming an attachment to it. They will evangelize on your behalf, bringing you new accounts and opportunities. Best of all, they will strenuously resist your competitors’ most determined efforts to lure them away. Find a way to measure customer loyalty and check it regularly.

Pricing
People will pay more for a brand they like. As your brand grows, experiment with raising prices. The degree to which those increases are accepted is an indication of how well your brand strategy is working. In times of recession, hold the line. Do not reduce prices until after your competition has done so and, then, only if you really have to. The stronger your brand, the less likely you’ll have to cut.

Future-proofing
If you view all strategic decisions through your Brand Lens – that is, assessing your options as to how well or how poorly they will help you keep your brand promise – you should avoid making any serious blunders. Take note of how and when your Brand Lens has saved you from making a disastrous decision.

Valuation
Get a valuation of your business before you launch a new brand strategy. Then get it reevaluated once your brand has reached some level of maturity. Strong brands add a significant number of multiples to the sale price of any business. Reevaluate at regular intervals (however often makes sense for you) and watch your brand value grow. There are consultancies that specialize in evaluating the worth of brands.

As time passes and you measure periodically, you should see improvements in most, if not all, of these KPIs. If you do, you’ll know your brand strategy is on the mark and working hard for you. If you fall short in one category or the other, don’t panic. Look at those areas carefully. For instance, you might find that everything looks good across most metrics but employee turnover has not improved. Isolate that issue and examine it closely. There may be a reason, totally unrelated to your brand, that is causing the problem.

Now the big question. How long before I see results? Of course, that will depend on the particulars of your business. Remember it can take up to a year of strategy and creative before you can even launch. And, once you do launch, it takes time for the brand strategy to work its magic. It takes time for the market to recognize your new brand promise and see how well you’re living up to it. It takes time for the market to warm up to it. Even so, most middle-market businesses should see some improvement within six months of launch. And three years after launch, most should recognize their brand strategy as an unqualified success.

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