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Evolve or Die: How Purpose and Authenticity are the Future of Brands

By | Building Community, Mack's Musings, Social Media, Uncategorized, Web Marketing | No Comments

screen-shot-2016-11-16-at-5-09-08-pmThis year, Mack had the honor of presenting Evolve or Die: How Purpose and Authenticity are the Future of Brands all over the world— from Boston, Massachusetts to Vancouver, Canada; from Dublin, Ireland to Raleigh, North Carolina. What follows are the highlights of her talk that explores how companies need to evolve their marketing and what’s required to build a successful and durable brand in the digital age.


Imagine your company is competing in a fairly saturated and competitive industry like fast food. You’ve been around for a little while but you’re really just getting started. You have something new and different and you’re ready to take the world by storm.

Taking on the world

Now imagine that you’re up against companies like McDonald’s who spent $800 million on their advertising in 2013. Or Panera Bread who spent $55 million on their marketing efforts in that same year.

Imagine this is your competition and these are their marketing budgets. What would your marketing strategy be? How would your company contend?

How would your company compete?

Chipotle did. In 2013 they spent a fraction of what their competitors did — less than $10 million — on their advertising and marketing efforts and they had a much greater impact because they were doing things like this:

  • Creating videos like the Scarecrow that takes a stand and challenges how the fast food industry typically operates and sources its food.
  • Holding free festivals like Cultivate where people celebrate good food and music and connect with each other.
  • Sponsoring a “Food for Thought” column on the Huffington Post that is dedicated to creating awareness about how food is grown and the effects this system has on our world.
  • Investing in better ways of working that gives their employees more authority and empowers them to be better leaders.

All of these things that Chipotle has been doing aren’t just marketing campaigns. This is what they believe in as a company and this is authentically how they operate.

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And that is what has contributed to their durability and growth over the last decade.  From 2006 to 2015, Chipotle has grown revenue from $820 million to more than $4.5 billion.

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So how did Chipotle’s approach bring this much growth? And how can you learn from it to grow your business in the digital age?

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There’s no doubt that if you want to compete in the digital age, you must have a stellar product or service, and you have to provide a cross-channel experience that is unparalleled.

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Ultimately, these things must be baked into your DNA; this is the new status quo.

But competing today—for time, attention, and market share— is not about how much money you spend on your marketing.

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If you want to stand out from all the noise, you have to build from purpose and authenticity.

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And here’s why:

More than 63% of consumers would rather buy from a company they consider to be authentic over the competition.
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In that same Cohn & Wolfe study, the #1 behavior that people expect of brands is the fact that they communicate openly and honestly about their products and services. They don’t let their customers down, and that they act with integrity at all times. Because people want to relate to you, they want trust you and know you’re going to do what you say.

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Additionally, a BBMG study shows that when people are trying to figure out who to buy from, 73% of people care about the company, not just the product when they’re making purchasing decisions.

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And when people care about your company, they tell their friends. And word of mouth is responsible for more than 50% of all purchasing decisions.

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The fact of the matter is, in this face-paced, digital world, if you want to earn and keep your customers, build a community of advocates who will support you and tell their friends about you, your approach to marketing must shift. It’s not just about how your company is packaged, it’s about who your company is.

If your company wants to experience growth in the digital age, your company, and your marketing, needs 3 very important things: 

  1. You need to clarify your purpose that so that you can effectively position around it and communicate it to your customers.
  2. You need to better understand your people so that you can remove their roadblocks.
  3. You need to use strategy and action to prove you’re worth your customers’ time and attention; showing them you are willing to keep your promise to them.

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Chances are, your company or the company you work for is in business because you want to make some money. You want to grow. So how will building an authentic brand help you do that?

Because authentic brands are built from purpose, and purpose is the key to their growth.

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Our world is changing so quickly, and that has changed how quickly businesses must react and it has also changed consumer behavior.

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Consumers know they have the upper hand. They know they have a choice. So the bar has been set a lot higher for companies. Consumers expect businesses to play a larger role in changing society.

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Not only that, but as far as employees go, people want meaning in their work and they want to work for better companies.

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Purpose is something that can help companies hurdle each of these challenges. It also helps them stay relevant in their customer’s lives.

In a Harvard Business Review study they found that companies with purpose make more money and have more involved employees, all because they’re operating from purpose.

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Purpose drives your products and services, the people you hire, your culture, and your marketing. Most importantly, it gives focus that drives the whole business. Once you have purpose and focus, you can develop a much more effective and powerful marketing strategy that will connect with the right customers. When you’re talking to the right people and removing their roadblocks, those customers want to become part of your community, tell their friends, and drive your growth.

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The first step in building an authentic brand is positioning your company around that purpose. One of the ways we do this is by using an exercise from Ogilvy & Mather’s called the Big Ideal.

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It can take some time to figure out your big ideal (we’ll use Dove as an example from Arielle Jackson’s work on First Round), but essentially it works like this: combine two things: your cultural tension—which is the problem in the world that you’re looking to address:

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with your brand’s best self—what your company actually does when you are at your best:

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Dove’s big ideal is that the world would be a better place if women were allowed to feel good about their bodies. This purpose drives the focus for everything they do. Their job is not just to sell soap; it’s to create products that help women feel good about their bodies.

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This purpose and focus then comes out loud and proud in everything they do in their marketing strategy. Dove has been running the real beauty campaign for over a decade now and it’s still resonating and relevant because it’s coming from their purpose.

And from 2004 to 2014, Dove saw a $1.5 billion dollar jump in sales as a result of focusing on purpose to drive their business.

Because Dove’s purpose is so clear, it’s easy for them to resonate with the people who align with it. This isn’t a marketing ploy. They eat, live, and breathe this throughout their organization. Just like Chipotle does.

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Often times companies will disregard an authentic, purpose-driven approach to building their company and brand because they think it is only applicable to environmentally or socially responsible companies like Patagonia or Tom’s Shoes.

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A purpose-driven approach is not a social cause thing. It’s not a non-profit thing. It’s not a B2B or a B2C thing. It’s a people connecting with people thing. It’s focusing on the right things that will help you build a company that people care about, want to work for, and do business with. That’s what brings growth in the digital age.

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When you’re building an authentic brand, how do people fit into the equation? Every day it seems that there’s some new marketing tactic to try; a new piece of technology that will magically help you earn customers faster. But technology will not earn customers. Having a great product, building a great company, being authentic, and doing the work to find and connect with your people will.

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The biggest thing to remember about growth and building a community is that you’re not looking for everyone. You’re looking for the right people who connect with your purpose. And this takes time because you’re not just looking for numbers. You’re building a community of customers who will become loyal advocates who want to tell their friends.

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If you want to build your community and make a connection with your customers, your job is not to focus solely on selling your product. Your job is to figure out how to bridge the gap between the purpose of your company and the people who want to be a part of it. Let’s look at an example.

Traveling Vineyard

We have worked for a company called Traveling Vineyard for the past three years. They’re a direct sales company. They have several thousand people, or Wine Guides as they call them, who are mostly women, who sell wine for them.

before-purpose

Before we met Traveling Vineyard, that’s exactly what they were doing. Selling wine. And they were struggling to connect with their people.

We worked with Traveling Vineyard to discover they actually don’t exist to sell wine. Their purpose is to change lives by providing fulfilling (and flexible) work. This purpose has been driving the growth of their business. One by one, we have been looking for the people and organizations who align with this purpose and who are a match for their community and customer base. Clarifying, operating, and marketing from their purpose has helped them build a deeper connection with their customers and has brought a tremendous amount of growth to their company.

In the very beginning of our work with Traveling Vineyard, we began by identifying an audience that appeared to be 3 different types of moms: a stay-at-home-mom who loves her family but could use a little extra income without a lot of commitment. An empty-nester who’s looking for something new to consume her life now that her kids are gone. And an achiever; someone who is tired of just being a mom and wants something that’s just for her.

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But when we were building their persona, we didn’t just stop here by identifying these stereotypes.

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We wanted to make sure we were talking to the right people, so we took the step of matching these persona to real, actual people.

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Once we mapped the characteristics of the stereotypes to REAL people in their community, we honored them as ambassadors. This allowed us to build better relationships with their existing community and leverage that community to find more people outside of their community who are like them.

connect-by-identifying-challenges-and-goals

One of the first steps we take when we’re building these relationships is to create a Customer Journey Map (adapted from an exercise from Adaptive Path) that helps us understand these women’s desires, roadblocks, and fears that keep them from converting to wine guides.

We then deconstruct this journey by starting with one persona or audience segment. Like Kirby, who represents nearly 60% of their customer base.

persona-segment
Through many surveys, group meetings, and 1:1 interviews, we’ve identified Kirby’s biggest challenges and goals.
biggest-challenges

goals

Once we knew Kirby’s greatest challenge and most important goals, we could break down what she is thinking, feeling, and doing at each stage in her journey in the lifecycle of becoming a Wine Guide for Traveling Vineyard.

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When we analyze what customers like Kirby are thinking, we look at the common questions that are holding them back. Stuff like: Is the company legit? Will I make money doing this? Do I have to be a wine expert?

Then we move onto how they may be feeling in each stage of their journey. These are the emotions that they are having that could also pose potential roadblocks like if they’re nervous about trusting the company, anxious to tell their friends they may do this, or even just excited to get started.

And then lastly, in the doing stage, we analyze their actions; the actions that the potential wine guides may take before they convert. Things like investigating other companies, talking to their friends and family, and watching videos or reading content on the website.

And even though Kirby won’t be thinking/feeling/and doing these things in a linear fashion, deconstructing her customer journey this way helps us understand what her overall experience must be likecustomer-journey

Now once we understood all of these things about Kirby, we can address all of her thoughts/concerns/fears/challenges through a content strategy that helps reach goals for the company.

content-strategy-to-remove-roadblocks

Let’s say we’re breaking down the CONSIDER phase in the funnel and identify roadblocks for potential Wine Guides who have been comparing Traveling Vineyard with other direct selling job opportunities.

So for example, let’s say we wanted to address Kirby’s fear of whether Traveling Vineyard is a legitimate company:

thinking-stage

We created some content around the concern of pyramid schemes and how Traveling Vineyard isn’t one.

model-example

We asked their existing Wine Guides (who Kirby can relate to) in order to help us create content so that they could tell potential Wine Guides about how Traveling Vineyard’s business model actually works and isn’t a scam.

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We even asked direct selling experts to provide an unbiased view on direct selling to address this roadblock.

expert-insight

Then we built content to address Kirby’s ‘feeling’ behaviors; being unsure that this job will add stress to her family:

feeling-roadblock

We interviewed Jonelle, an existing Wine Guide who someone like Kirby would resonate with, to talk about what a day in the life is like with Traveling Vineyard and how she balances it all.

day-in-the-life

In this video, Jonelle shows talks about her schedule and how she fits Traveling Vineyard into her family routine. Again, more real people (and user generated content) from the Traveling Vineyard community addressing these common roadblocks.

day-in-the-life-schedule

Finally, we addressed Kirby’s ‘doing’ behaviors — the actions that someone like Kirby might want to take in order to become a Wine Guide.

doing-behaviors

Each week, Traveling Vineyard provides a webinar which is an opportunity for potential Wine Guides like Kirby to better understand the business. It’s also a chance to ask questions about what it’s really like to work for Traveling Vineyard and learn that it is in fact possible to be a Wine Guide and keep your family in tact. 

weekly-webinar

Doing this work to understand Kirby (and the other persona segments) and give her what she needs throughout her customer journey with Traveling Vineyard has helped to increase lead form submissions (one of Traveling Vineyard’s key performance indicators) by more than 298%. This growth has contributed to a more than 40% revenue growth in the company (year-over-year).

growth

Clarifying your purpose, understanding your people, and removing roadblocks brings sustainable growth. This is an iterative cycle of getting to know your people, understanding them, figuring out what they need, and helping them solve their challenges.

people-purpose-growth

This doesn’t require any of your content to “go viral.” This is simply a slow build of trust that has brought tremendous growth to the company.

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Over the last year, Chipotle has been having a rough go of it. And for a brand that is supposed to be synonymous with “FOOD WITH INTEGRITY” being associated with words like Norovirus, E.coli, and Salmonella is pretty bad news. Even worse, when people are talking on social media about puking and pooping and going to the hospital because they’ve eaten your food, it is not so good for business.

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But in true authentic style, Chipotle has spent the last year reacting to this stuff from authenticity and purpose. So they’ve not only been telling their customers that they’ve blown it, but they’re doing what it takes to make it right.

Chipotle has been transparent about how the outbreaks most likely happened. They’ve taken apart their current food safety systems and put them back together. They’ve provided their customers with a plan for action to pioneer and become a leader in food safety. Chipotle wants to make sure that this not only doesn’t happen again in their restaurants, but also inspire other fast food restaurants to operate the same.

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But had Chipotle not built such trust with their customers over the last 10 years, their runway for error would have been quite short and this whole fiasco could have ruined them. But because Chipotle had built such trust, their customers were willing to have faith that they will make it right because that’s who they are as a company.

And that’s what’s kind of remarkable about Chipotle’s community is that their customers were willing to give them a second chance. Even as their stock prices fell and the media chewed them up, their customers were still with them.

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And even though Chipotle is projected to have a 65% earnings loss this year due to the outbreaks, next year in 2017, their earnings are projected to jump 125%. And even over the next many years, Chipotle is still projected to have a higher growth in earnings than McDonald’s and their big ol’ marketing budgets.

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But Chipotle did not build a durable brand from the money they spent on their marketing. They built it through continued, strategic action every day as a company.

strategic-action

For Traveling Vineyard, we used a framework like this to build their durable brand. 

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It’s a 90-day framework for driving growth. It includes three, 30-day cycles that will help you focus on building from purpose and do the right things to reach your goals as a company.

phase-1-purpose

In the first phase, you’re working on either identifying or clarifying your company’s purpose. Just like we looked at with Dove and also with Traveling Vineyard. This purpose will provide your business with focus.

purpose-strategy

Once you’re clear on your purpose, then you can move into the second phase which is continually clarifying and evolving your brand’s foundation. This is not a set it and forget it. This is a constant iteration of testing and learning and refining your brand over time. 

When setting your brand foundation in this second phase, you need to be very clear about the goals you have for your company—both for your business —your financial benchmarks—and for your brand—the company you want to become.

You also want to make sure that your company is relevant in the world, so understanding your cultural tension along with the value you offer that is unique to your company is imperative. Even more imperative is that it is effectively communicated at every touchpoint with your customers.

Then, you need to do the work of deconstructing the customer journey for each of your persona so that you fully understand their behaviors and what they are thinking/feeling/doing at every stage throughout their customer journey.

The final part of Phase 2 of this framework is developing an agile marketing strategy. In this strategy you’re identifying the things that your team will focus on accomplishing over the next 90-days in order to reach your goals. Strategy needs to be complete with action, so we break pieces of the strategy down in Google Docs all the way down to tactics and then we assign accountability to the appropriate people on the team in Basecamp.

phase-3

Then you’re ready to execute your strategy in Phase 3 of this framework. Maybe your focus is on increasing conversion from paid ads so you’re building custom landing pages. Or, maybe you want to increase brand awareness so you’re working on training the Ambassadors in your community to create user generated content. The most important thing is that everyone on your team has clear direction on what they’re executing and there is no mistake in who is accountable. Hold weekly stand-ups to remove roadblocks and ensure you’re staying focused and building momentum.

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And at the end of each 30 days, do a scrub before moving on to the next 30 days in the cycle. There’s a lot of things that are happening in the company that can cause a change in direction, so the scrub helps to be mindful of the things that have moved in the business over the last month that may cause you to re-prioritize your efforts. You then adjust the next 30 days accordingly without wasting any planning and then again, break down and assign accountability for all of the tasks inside of that cycle, and assign them to your team.

phase-3-c

And that process repeats itself over each 30-day part of the cycle. And then during the final 30 days of the entire 90-day cycle, since you’ve had nearly a quarter worth of work go by, it’s time to look at the 30,000 foot level at realigning the bigger priorities in your strategy as a whole. Is one channel performing better than another? Is there something that has happened in the business that changes your direction overall? Typically during the last 2 weeks of this final 30-days you’re looking ahead to identify strategic priorities for the next 90-day cycle; locking in and delegating tasks, actions, and accountability to your team for the 30 days in front of you.

And that’s the framework for building a durable, authentic, purpose-driven brand. All you have to do is do the work, be consistent, and you will find momentum.

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If you’re considering building an authentic, purpose-drive
brand, remember these things:

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Building your company from purpose gives people something to connect to and believe in. Even more, building from purpose gives your business focus. Focus that will bring growth.

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If you want to earn the right customers who will support you and stand by you through the good and the bad, you’ve got to bust your ass, hustle and do the work to connect with people. The people who align with your purpose.

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And lastly, as a company, you need to have a killer product. You need to provide a stellar experience across all channels. But remember that growth comes from a deeper place than that. It’s not about how your company is packaged, it’s about who your company is. And your job is to continually prove —through your actions — that you’re worth your customers’ investment.

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When it comes down to it, building and marketing a company and brand in today’s world requires a different path than traditional marketing, advertising, and quick-fix tactical approaches. It’s not about how much money you spend on your marketing.

Technology is going to continue to change. Google is going to continue to change. We need to use technology effectively and also build brands that transcend this technology.

These are all very simple things. They just take time and iteration and focus. Many companies aren’t committed to doing the diligence of this work. They are doing the same things that every other company is doing. They are creating content for the sake of content. They are adding to the noise. 

If your company is ready to triumph over the next many years, it’s time to evaluate and evolve your approach to marketing.

Why Content Strategy Isn’t Enough

By | Building Community, Mack's Musings, Social Media, Web Marketing | One Comment

Mack recently had the honor of speaking at SearchLove Boston 2016 where she presented on Why Content Strategy Isn’t Enough. What follows is a recap of her talk about how companies need to evolve their approach to marketing in order to survive in our ever-changing world.

Technology has changed our world

There’s no doubt that technological advances have made our world faster, smarter, and more connected. Where it took the phone companies 89 years to connect 150 million people, it took Facebook only 8 years to connect 8 billion.

technology-advancing

The problem is, even with all of the remarkable technology that we have, companies are failing to make authentic connections with their customers. Although our world, business, and consumer behavior has evolved, there is an approach to marketing that’s fundamentally broken and it’s not helping companies earn the relationships they need with their customers.

 

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Competing on content and experience alone won’t do it anymore. Great brands and companies already have these things baked into their DNA.

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Being stellar at every touchpoint is the new status quo. And yet this, alone, is not enough for companies to weather the relentless evolution of technology, earn customers, and experience growth.

Earning customers and experiencing growth has to come from something bigger and deeper than content marketing or content strategy; it comes from building a company from purpose and earning the trust of your customers through authenticity.

Building an authentic brand is not a social cause thing. It’s not a non-profit thing. It’s not a B2B or a B2C thing. It’s a people connecting with people thing. And it’s about building a company that people care about and want to do business with.

In order for your company to succeed, you have to continually strive to build a better one. And from that, comes your marketing.

Over the next 5 years, authenticity will win

Every day it seems that there’s some new marketing tactic to try: a new piece of technology that will magically help you earn customers faster. But technology will not earn customers. If your company wants to make it through the next 5 years of content saturation, noise, and technological advances, you must build an authentic, human brand.

cohn-wolfe-study

Here are the facts:

  • More than 63% of consumers would rather buy from a company they consider to be authentic over the competition.
  • That same Cohn & Wolfe study shows that the number one behavior that people expect of brands is open and honest communication about their products and services. The second behavior is that they don’t let their customers down, and the third behavior is that they act with integrity at all times.
  • A BBMG study shows that when people are trying to figure out who to buy from, 73% of people care about the company, not just the product, when they’re making purchasing decisions.
  • When people care about your company, they tell their friends. Word of mouth is responsible for more than 50% of all purchasing decisions.

In today’s face-paced, digital world, it’s not about how your company is packaged. It’s about who your company is.

not-about-packaging

about-who-you-are

How to evolve your marketing

How does your company evolve in this digital age so that you can experience sustainable growth?

Start from purpose

Building an authentic brand starts from purpose, and from purpose comes growth.

purpose-growth

Purpose is also what solves these common challenges in our world:

  • Businesses are challenged with unrelenting change. And because our world is changing so quickly, that has changed consumer behavior and how quickly businesses must react.
  • Consumers expect businesses to play a larger role in changing society. They know they have the upper hand. They know they have a choice. So the bar has been set a lot higher. Consumers want companies to do more than just make money.
  • Employees want more meaning in their work. And they want to work for better companies.

Purpose helps companies hurdle each of these problems and also helps them stay relevant in their customer’s lives. Even more, “purpose-driven companies make more money, have more engaged employees, and are better at innovation and transformational change.”

purpose-driven-company-benefits

Building an authentic brand comes from purpose and that purpose drives everything.

purpose-drives-everything

Purpose drives your products and services, the people you hire, your culture, your marketing. Most importantly, it gives focus that drives the whole business.

Once you have purpose and focus, you can develop a much more effective and powerful marketing strategy that will connect with the right customers. When you have a great product or offer great services, and you’ve done your diligence to learn about your customers and how they align with your purpose, those customers want to become part of your community and support your growth.

Positioning around your company’s purpose can be done through an exercise called the Big Ideal from Ogilvy & Mather.

the-big-ideal

Your Big Ideal is the soul of your company. It’s also your point of view on how the world should be. Identifying your company’s purpose comes from the combination of two things: your cultural tension—which is the problem in the world that you’re looking to address, and your brand’s best self—what your company actually does when you are at your best.

big-ideal

One of our clients, the Traveling Vineyard, addresses the cultural tension that people are looking for more meaning in their work and also in their lives.

cultural-tension

At their best self, Traveling Vineyard provides the resources and training necessary to build a successful career in direct sales.

best-self

Traveling Vineyard believes that the world would be a better place if people could change their lives with a fulfilling job. This is their Big Ideal.

world-is-better-place

Traveling Vineyard’s Big Ideal then drives their purpose. Traveling Vineyard exists as a company so that they can change lives by providing fulfilling work.

purpose

This purpose then powers Traveling Vineyard’s marketing strategy that is centered around the theme of living a richer, fuller life. Any content that is generated addresses the questions, concerns, thoughts, and feelings that their customers have at every stage in their journey with Traveling Vineyard.

content-strategy-theme

Build an ecosystem

Once your company has clearly identified its purpose, that will drive everything. Essentially, your marketing strategy will be born out of this ecosystem:

marketing-ecosystem

  • Identifying and understanding the people who align with your purpose so that you can talk to them
  • Developing the strategy that will help you use the right channels to reach that audience
  • Creating the right content that will connect with that audience, taking care to solve their problems
  • Getting that personal and customized content in front of the right people with customized outreach
  • Assessing data (and intuition) to determine whether what you’re doing throughout this cycle is bringing growth.
  • Finally, showing your purpose through action: having that stellar experience; having that stellar content; following through at every touchpoint and simply being human

Ultimately, your marketing strategy is only powerful when it’s connected to the purpose of your business as a whole. Your marketing efforts then become an iterative cycle of getting to know the right people, understanding them, figuring out what they need, and helping them solve their challenges. This is a slow build of trust. You must work to be authentic and personal in order to earn a community and grow your business.

personalization

Why isn’t content strategy enough?

There are two reasons that content strategy isn’t enough to build a sustainable company and brand:

durable-brands

 1) Content strategy alone won’t build a durable brand
If you want to earn the right customers who will support you, tell their friends about you, and stand by you in good and bad, you’ve got to do the work to connect with people. Yes, you need to create 10x content and provide a stellar experience across channels, but growth goes deeper than that. It’s not about how your company is packaged; it’s about who your company is.

brands-transcend-technology

2) We need to build brands that transcend technology
Remember that technology can’t build relationships with your customers. That’s what humans are for. Building an authentic brand will help you weather technology, the saturation of mediocre content, competition, and Google. So no matter what the trend is, or how the algorithm is changing, you will have built a brand so durable that people will talk about you, they will hear about you, and they will come looking for you.

time-to-evolve

It’s time to evolve our approach for durability and growth

Just like building a business, a purpose-driven and authentic approach to marketing is hard. It takes a lot of time and effort and care. Perhaps it’s time to assess whether what you’re doing now in your marketing is really working. Maybe you’re feeling stuck. Maybe you’re not getting results from what you’ve been doing for many years. Maybe your audience growth has plateaued. And maybe all the tactics you try don’t seem to get traction.

It’s time to do things a little differently. It’s time to build from purpose and build authentic, human relationships with customers.

The Importance of Building a Human and Authentic Brand – A Podcast

By | MISSION: Authentic, Web Marketing | No Comments

The-Importance-of-building-a-human-and-authentic-brand

Mack Web is now Genuinely. Learn more.

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Welcome to Stop 7 of MISSION: Authentic

What does it mean, as a company and a brand, to be authentic and human, and why does it matter? Those are the questions guiding the conversation between Mack Web CEO Mack Fogelson and web psychologist Nathalie Nahai.

The simplest reason is that being authentic and human is the best way to earn your customers’ trust. And earning their trust is the best way not only to attract their business but also to ensure that they amplify your brand awareness with their own powerful word-of-mouth recommendation.

In short, being authentic and human is an important way to build a successful business.

Mack and Nat, two experts in the field of humanizing brands and humanizing the web, engage in a 30-minute conversation about why and how a brand should embrace these characteristics and behave in an authentic way. Read More

What’s In A Name? Naming Your Company For Who You Are

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Naming-your-company-for-who-you-are

Mack Web is now Genuinely. Learn more.

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Welcome to Stop 3 of MISSION: Authentic

A rose by any other name …

Despite the many adages against making judgments based on first impressions – books and covers, etc. – we can’t quite help ourselves. First impressions are lasting impressions and they shape how we think about the person, the business, the organization we’ve just met. At least until we’ve managed to form a deeper acquaintance.

It simplifies matters tremendously to make sure that you or your business make a first impression that genuinely reflects who you are. That means naming your company with care. Read More

7 Steps to Authentic Influencer Marketing, Part Three

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Mack Web is now Genuinely. Learn more.

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You’re now at the third and final stage of our influencer outreach marketing series. Remember, influencer marketing is the practice of building relationships and collaborating with influencers in order to increase brand awareness, build a community, and/or expand your network.

If you’ve missed the first two posts, you’ll want to catch up with those before continuing on to the last stage here. The first post will help you understand why influencer marketing is so important, what it can do for your brand, and how you get started. The second post will walk you through how to keep your focus on the right influencers and how to authentically engage with influencers in a way that will lead to more success when you are ready to send over a pitch. And speaking of sending over pitches, that’s where I’ll pick up this part of the series. Read More

7 Steps to Authentic Influencer Marketing, Part Two

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Mack Web is now Genuinely. Learn more.

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In our series about working with influencers in authentic and meaningful ways, we’re now moving into Step 2 through 5 in this post. If you’ve come to this post before reading the first one on why you should collaborate with influencers and how to start your research, you can check it out here. For those keeping track at home, here are all the steps of the series: Read More

7 Steps to Authentic Influencer Marketing, Part One

By | Outreach, Social Media, Web Marketing | 2 Comments

Mack Web is now Genuinely. Learn more.

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Think back to your last big purchase, let’s say a new oven.

You probably started out your search getting to know your options and narrowing down what features you wanted in the item you purchased (4 electric burners with a timer and a broil setting). Then, you tried to find out which oven was rated best for the features that were most important to you and was within your price range (your search might have taken you to Home Depot or Lowe’s to cost compare).

Somewhere between researching the item and actually buying it, you probably got input from friends, family, coworkers, online forums, or online reviews. Feeling overwhelmed by the sheer amount of info out there, you turned to the people or places you knew you could trust for unbiased reviews or feedback. You might have asked, is this brand better than another? Why does this one cost $200 more? Is that extra feature worth it? What oven do you have? Do you love it? Why?

We look for others’ feedback to validate our thoughts and help guide us in making the best decision or confirm that we made the right choice. Our desire to get others’ feedback before we make a purchase is what makes influencer outreach marketing so powerful, and therefore, important to many marketers. Read More

How to Lead with Meaning in Your Marketing

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Mack Web is now Genuinely. Learn more.

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brian-solis

There are a whole lot of companies who have been changing the face of business, and our world, with a very simple approach: prioritizing meaning over money. Rather than just make a profit, they recognize they’re here to do something bigger. They want to use their businesses to be agents for change and to build durable, worthwhile companies that leave a mark on our world.

Often referred to as mission-driven, companies who value purpose over profit experience a number of advantages. Their employees are happier and more engaged; they stay longer and make bigger contributions. Mission-driven companies also have a better understanding of their value and how to use it to retain a strategic advantage over the competition. As a result, they attract much more passionate customers.

The biggest caveat to this concept is that it can’t be just for show. To reap these benefits and connect people to your brand, your company must genuinely communicate your meaning beyond money with an authenticity that comes directly from your core.

The trick is to lead with meaning while, at the same time, effectively marketing your product. The best way to do this is by completely intertwining them so that no one thinks of your product without considering your meaning, and no one ponders your meaning without connecting it to your product.

This can be accomplished in a few ways. Read More

Purpose, Integration, and Understanding: Conversion Optimization Beyond the Landing Page

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A Mack Web Webinar (Thanks, Unbounce)

Mack (and the rest of our dedicated team) was tickled pink – nay, fuschia – at the opportunity to create a webinar with the great folks over at Unbounce. We love their stuff on conversion. So we were excited to shed our particular wavelength of light on the subject, namely all of the ways to optimize the potential for conversion before and beyond just the landing page.

If you were among the brilliant (and potentially allergen-avoidant) people who signed up for the webinar, you know we had some technical difficulties. (We can neither confirm nor deny an encounter with a rip in the time-space continuum that sent our entire office back to the Dark Ages of 1994, well before the ascendance of Wi-Fi. That said, certain persons have been singing Can You Feel The Love Tonight for the last three days. Draw your own conclusions.)

But we’re back on track with some bonus treats. Unbounce has released the full recording of the webinar and, if you’ve got 45 minutes, you should definitely take a gander.

Since we couldn’t hold a live Q&A with the webinar, we did an Ask Mack Anything session on March 31st, instead. Check out that conversation on Twitter (all relevant tweets have been tagged with #UnwebinarAMA).

And, as is our custom, we also have, for your edification and perusal, the full deck here. It is, as per usual, a beauty with plenty of brains behind it.

And just in case you’re in a super big hurry, we’ve pulled out some key takeaways. Just for you. (Can you feel the love tonight?)

Key Takeaways

Customers connect and participate with you on many levels. They have high expectations. Don’t trick them into clicking a button.

Successful conversion doesn’t start with a beautiful landing page. It starts with building a better business from the inside out.

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If you’ve put in the work to improve your business as much as you promote it, conversion gets a lot easier.

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If you create a cohesive and genuine experience for your customers at every possible point of interaction – your landing pages, website, blog, social media, email, on the phone, at events, on the street – you’re presenting customers with something they can hold onto and believe in over the course of your entire relationship with them. (More on that in a minute.)

People notice and are drawn to companies that display and prove a meaning beyond money.

Before you can build that cohesive and genuine experience, you need to articulate the purpose and passion that sits at the heart of your business.

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That core can take any shape: a shoemaker that thinks everyone should have basic necessities, a toy company that believes girls can be scientists too, an outdoor gear supplier that promotes social and environmental responsibility, a direct selling company that yearns to change women’s lives.

Whatever that purpose, it’s going to drive all of your conversion efforts.

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Once you know why you get out of bed in the morning, it’s time to make sure that your outsides – the ways and means by which you interact with your customers – match your insides.

All of your efforts should work together to drive your customers to conversion.

We have a client. They just so happen to be a direct selling company that loves the wine they bottle but yearns to change the lives of the women who work with them. Our efforts to help them convert more leads into ‘Wine Guides’ did include a landing page upgrade.

We went from this – a generic, promotional page:

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To this – a profile of a real, live Wine Guide including her vital stats, her story, candid photos of her at work and play, video of how the company changed her life, and a call-to-action at the end:

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Actually, we built three of ‘em.

But that’s hardly all we did:

  • Before anything else, we identified and prioritized the top 3 persona groups to make sure we were targeting the right people.
  • Then we did the interviews and built the landing pages.
  • We created supplemental blog posts that drove traffic to the landing pages, fully supported by one-to-one outreach on social media.
  • We created targeted email marketing campaigns that drove traffic to the relevant blog posts.
  • We created a buzz on social media, fostering the relationships that our authentic posts attracted and amplifying our reach with paid efforts.
  • We set up an engaging and automated email response to follow up on all form submissions, continuing the conversation via inbox and telephone and clarifying the next steps.

All of this was to make the message clear:

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Landing pages are important to conversion, no doubt. But they don’t stand alone.

Done right, conversion takes time to pick up speed but becomes unstoppable.

Here’s the downside, the fine print, the hard truth to expect. All that stuff we did for the client?

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Conversion doesn’t happen overnight. But the efforts that come from the genuine core of your company are built for longevity, for relationships that endure. You want to be in your customers’ lives for a long time. If they believe in what you’re doing, they start doing the promotion and conversion work for you, becoming lifelong advocates of your brand.

A successful conversion experience will result in more than form submissions.

Which is not to say that lead form submissions aren’t important or can’t be achieved. In the year we worked on those integrated landing pages efforts, our lead form submissions went up by 57%.

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But we also saw a 71% increase in traffic to the site and the consequent brand awareness. We saw a significant rise in new visitors and a huge increase in returning traffic, indicating a reinvigoration of the existing Guides belief in the brand.

Email list subscribers increased and, more excitingly, the engagement of email recipients increased by 42%.

Traffic to the site from social media sources went up by 130%, giving us new insight into how to reach the audience.

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In fact, learning more about our audience was a huge win for this set of landing pages and the surrounding efforts.

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We targeted three types of leads: Stay-At-Home Parents (Kirby), Pathfinders (Christi), and Achievers (Debbie). The response to each landing page helped us understand which sections of the target audience were drawn by the landing pages and who was visiting the blog.

Which is to say that we came away from the landing page launch with not only an increase in conversions but a better understanding on how to get more as we move forward.

(Not to mention an increase in brand awareness, increased enthusiasm from potential brand evangelists, and tacit permission to keep persuading leads who haven’t quite committed yet.)

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Aren’t you sorry you missed it?

Like we said, you’ve definitely got a chance to learn more about the glories of a fully-optimized, fully-integrated conversion process. You can check out the recorded webinar, go through the whole deck above, or tune in to Ask Mack Anything.

Or, y’know, sign up for our email below. This isn’t the last time we’ll be talking about meaning beyond money or the best of all possible user experiences.

And maybe one of these days, we’ll even get permission to either confirm or deny the time-space thing. In the mean time: Hakuna Matata!

Using Focus to Build Long-Term Momentum in Responsive Companies

By | Building Community, Business Stuff, Mack's Musings, Social Media, Web Marketing | 2 Comments

focus-mack-web

If you take all of the lessons we’ve learned over the last 11 years, add them up, and extract the most telling insight, the biggest realization is this: the clients who have been most successful are those who are willing to focus.

Focus is the ultimate challenge. We have a finite amount of time. How do you spend it on the right things that will grow your business?

Many of the companies we work with are Responsive or inherently become more Responsive as they work through our approach to marketing. Where traditional companies often allow their long-term planning and projections to drive the direction of the business (and their marketing), Responsive companies embrace the unpredictable and rapidly changing world we’re living in.

Responsive companies are a different kind of animal. They learn, respond, and advance. They utilize a more progressive method to build their businesses, one that is dedicated to constantly evolving and iterating — both their organizational structure and products or services. They also spend a lot of time investing and listening to their customers and their employees.

It’s definitely more work to be Responsive, but these companies are using their businesses to change our lives and leave their mark on our world.

Responsive companies run on operating systems that allow for agility. They move quickly and respond to unrelenting change with grace. They have different values and cultures and support flexible work environments that many companies envy.

Responsive companies hold themselves to a higher set of performance standards and expectations and actually achieve them. They work to communicate and collaborate. They honor transparency and community. Most importantly, they prioritize meaning ahead of money.

Responsive companies are remarkable and they build their organizations, and ultimately their brands, differently. And that requires a very different approach to marketing. Marketing that will provide focus so that goals are accomplished. Marketing that constantly evolves just as quickly as their company does, but without adding to the chaos.

If you want to be a Responsive company, you have to do it through and through, including your marketing. Every part of a Responsive company’s marketing should align with everything that makes the company Responsive. This requires a focus on two fundamental things:

[1] A Focus on Core
Especially as you grow, there must be a sustained focus on the core of the company and the stuff that makes you authentic.

[2] A Focus on an Adaptive Marketing Process
In order to accomplish company-wide brand and revenue goals, you need an adaptive process that lives and breathes within the company’s operating system.

Doing both of these things will keep you on target and add to the durability of your company. Even more, it will provide the focus and necessary momentum toward achieving the company’s long-term vision.

Here’s how it works.

A Focus On Core

As a Responsive company, your marketing is going to follow the same paradigm as your overall perspective: it focuses first and foremost on your core.

This, by far, is the most admirable characteristic of Responsive companies because at their core lives their higher purpose. Something truly authentic that propels the organization and transcends their desire to exist solely for the sake of profit.

Prioritizing meaning over money doesn’t mean your company has to lead an environmental cause, put shoes on people’s feet, or glasses on people’s faces. It can be as simple as encouraging young girls to develop an affinity for science or helping stay-at-home moms find more satisfaction in their lives by building a successful business.

Focusing on core and valuing meaning over money doesn’t mean you’re disregarding the importance of financial benchmarks. It means you’re investing in the long game. From the core meaning of the company you derive the marketing goals that are going to make you the company you want to be.

At the top are your Visionary goals, driving the 3-5 year bigger, hairier, audacious vision.  These goals are then broken down into approachable Business and Brand goals that share equal weight. In other words, the financial benchmarks you want your company to achieve are certainly important, but so are the Brand goals that will ensure you’re continually working toward realizing the company you really want to become.

Finally, Campaign goals are what initiate the necessary steps toward action and bringing everything to fruition (which I’ll explain more about in a just a bit).

Meaning Beyond Money | Mack Web

When a company has the courage to focus on their core and build an authentic brand from meaning, they have clarity about why they exist.  They’ve identified their heartbeat, the real thing that makes them go, and they choose to infuse that in everything they do. This is what drives their marketing and it’s also what makes their marketing go a little differently.

When a company operates from core meaning, marketing momentum starts at the source and naturally works its way out through integrated strategy. On the inside, the company is aligning all tactics and deliverables with their meaning, goals, and vision. On the outside, customers and community get to taste that authentic core first-hand, connecting them fully to the brand.

Just like building a Responsive company, marketing from your core is hard work as it is an ongoing challenge in self-awareness. Companies don’t have to be perfect, but they must be real, authentic, transparent, and above all, human.

When you can do that, people will genuinely respond to you. When you respond like a human who cares about something, you provide a better user experience. Your customers remember you. You stand out. They return. They tell their friends.

By focusing on core in your marketing,  people become your momentum. Before you know it, you have a community of loyal advocates and an inexplicable strategic advantage over the competition.

Over time, the organic velocity becomes unstoppable.

Improving, Not Just Promoting

In order for your marketing to align with everything that makes you Responsive, there must be a continual focus not only on defining your core purpose but on ensuring that everything you do — the marketing campaigns you execute; the user, customer, and employee experience you provide; the way you operate and communicate internally — aligns with the vision, mission, and goals that make up your brand’s foundation.

Ultimately, for marketing to bring momentum, there has to be a willingness to improve the business, not just promote it.

This requires continuous evaluation, improvement, and a willingness to be self-aware in the business. It’s doing what sometimes may be harder or take longer to experience ROI because that’s what’s best for your employees and for your customers. It’s putting an emphasis on important stuff like improving internal structure, team communication, fostering your internal culture, and investing in the personal growth of your employees as well as the external culture you have with your customers.

You must continually work on your company’s value and own what truly makes you different from your competition. The authentic vision that you’re driving toward needs to be revisited from time to time, not just put on auto-pilot. You’ve got to hold your entire company accountable for living your mission and values every single day. All of that stuff sounds great, but it takes a tremendous amount of dedication and work.

There’s an important marketing framework to developing your brand’s foundation, too, that improves the business and contributes to the success of your marketing. Persona must be developed and remain dynamic so that you’re attracting those customers who align with your approach, values, and over time will become loyal advocates. Communication loops must be built in and feedback applied so that customers and employees know you’re listening. Critical (yet simple) questions must be asked and answered so that resources can be developed for your audience and provided at every point in the lifecycle.

Investing in your core requires building meaningful relationships one by one. It’s seeing your goals through even when you don’t think you’re going to reach them.  It’s intentionally selecting priorities and spending time executing integrated strategies that strive for consistency and integrity across channels. These are all of your building blocks and they’re what place your responsive company on a solid foundation.

Momentum Comes From Building Blocks

No matter how long a company has been in business or what stage they’re in, momentum towards realized goals and fulfilled benchmarks comes from focusing on all of these core, foundational building blocks. Over time then, and through your marketing, you’re able to radiate your authenticity and the internal work you’ve been doing on your core, outward. This may seem fluffy, but in actuality, all of this work is what builds an ideal experience with your brand that you can actually measure.

Time spent on the brand’s foundation ensures that no matter how someone connects with your company — a referral from a friend, on social media or your website, clicking through on an ad, attending an event, speaking to customer service, or picking your product off the shelf in a big-box store — you present the same message, meeting and exceeding their expectations. You’re real, you’re human, you are the company you said you would be because of your investment on improving your business and in your core.

This level of commitment to core focus certainly requires a level of diligence and intention. It’s also something that can be managed with an adaptive process.

A Focus On an Adaptive Marketing Process

This authentic approach to marketing is a long, organic game. The inherent challenge with a Responsive company is that there are always so many opportunities along the way. So many shiny things that you want to embrace with enthusiasm as they provide another chance to iterate and try something new.

The problem is, this is also what perpetuates campaign-centric-shiny-thing marketing that makes it difficult to integrate across channels and teams, accomplish company-wide brand and revenue goals, and experience long-term progress. That’s why you need a process that helps you identify and focus on the right strategic priorities to stay the course,  but also gives you room to adapt.

It’s easy for Responsive companies to struggle with process because it can be difficult to implement and utilize one without feeling suffocated by it. Without allowing it to drive or sacrificing flexibility. Rather than stifle, process should provide guardrails for momentum.

Responsive companies may be drastically different from month-to-month. The challenge becomes making the commitment to slow down so that they can also speed up. As companies pass through different stages of growth, priorities become a moving target. This lack of focus impedes momentum. When it comes to marketing, Responsive companies need an iterative process — a cycle that ebbs and flows with the rhythm of the business — to help them identify and prioritize areas of focus and then provide the necessary structure to see them through.

Something like this:

 Responsive Process | Mack Web

Focusing and Adapting: 90 Days at a Time

When you’re aligning your marketing with your core and using an adaptive process to drive it, strategic priorities — and the tasks required to accomplish them — will ultimately fall into three categories: acquisition, conversion, and retention. Your focus may fall more heavily in one of these areas at any given time.

Let’s say your company is just starting out with this approach and you’re carefully placing the building blocks of your core (going back to identify your meaning beyond money, your values, your mission, vision, and goals).

Focusing on Core | Mack Web

Before you jump into your first 90-day cycle, you’ve identified your strategic priorities for accomplishing your Campaign goals (that stem from Business and Brand Goals), and for this time period, your strategic priorities lie in acquisition (and awareness) and retention.

Strategic Priorities | Mack Web

So, for this first 90 day cycle, 75% of your marketing resources and bandwidth will be spent executing deliverables that drive acquisition. You may be making the necessary adjustments to the copy on your website and on social media to better align with your authentic voice and communicate your meaning beyond money, focusing more heavily on the value you provide for your customers and community.

You may be creating additional copy on your website and blog to answer the questions your actual customers have (based on your persona research) as they’re experiencing your brand through the variety of phases and channels on which they interact with you.

The other 25% of your marketing efforts for this time period may be spent focusing on retention and the customers you already have. Listening and learning from them, understanding what they need, and then driving strategic priorities from there. Maybe, as part of a test phase, you’re curating content and talking with your community (both on and offline), using targeted social campaigns to test and gather information about what really speaks to them.

All of these efforts are essentially iterations that take place in 30-day increments. Your focus is on executing, testing, and collecting data that will help you better identify how to accomplish those goals you’ve set, and to make informed decisions about direction moving forward.

Iteration- Mack Web

As you go about your merry way, executing on these strategic priorities and associated deliverables, at 30-day intervals, your team will work through an exercise called Catapult where they will review data and also consider intuition to identify red flags, challenges, and opportunities. Most important, during Catapult, the pulse of the company is evaluated in order to determine whether deviations from tactics being executed need to occur. Then your focused efforts continue as planned, or are adjusted, and the cycle (and your momentum) continues.

At approximately the 60-day mark in the 90-day cycle, strategy is scrubbed at a deeper level:

  • What is generating the most momentum?
  • What has become a larger priority during this cycle because of what you’ve learned through testing and iteration?
  • Do you need to adjust the balance between Business and Brand focus during this cycle?
  • Based on what you’ve learned and what’s changed in the business, in the 90 days ahead of you, does acquisition, conversion, or retention take the largest precedence?
  • Ultimately, are you accomplishing the right things in the short-term to eventually (in many cycles) reach your long-term goals?

Responsive Process Scrub | Mack Web

The more cycles completed, the more momentum that builds and the more the process becomes ingrained in the natural routine and flow of the company. Every 90 days, strategic campaigns get better at integrating together and becoming more seamless, building continuity across teams and channels.

Then, as you accomplish the smaller Campaign goals each cycle, you’re slowly chipping away at achieving bigger Business and Brand Goals, and eventually, reaching the Visionary goals and mission you’re working toward for your company overall. Over time, all of the efforts build on each other, not only bringing momentum, but long-term value and durability to the company.

Responsive Process | Mack Web

The most important thing to remember about focus when using an adaptive process like this is that it doesn’t mean you just put your head down and drive. This is where self-awareness comes in. This is where you’re being accountable for aligning with your core and your meaning beyond money. It means getting to know your business better so that you can make better decisions. It means spending more time listening to your customers and your employees, all the while learning and adapting as you work your way up the mountain.

Mountain of Success

Playing the Long Game

Responsive companies are powerful, world-changing entities. They are bold, agile, and lead with authenticity and meaning. Their approach to marketing should most certainly follow suit.

But this kind of approach isn’t easy and it takes companies who have the diligence to be intentional. Companies who are committed to investing in their core and the foundation of their brand even when they’re not brand new. Companies who can be alive, self-aware, and present, and also see the value in taking the time to focus so that they can strategically play the long game.

By really focusing on conveying their central meaning to their very human audience, responsive companies light the spark of connection and interest and real, solid value that will ignite the engine of their growth. By following a reliable, adaptable, cyclic process, they can keep that motion going, meeting both Brand and Business goals.

Most important, they can effectively communicate why they exist, from their very soul, which will foster communities full of advocates, continue to shape a durable foundation, and sustain a strategic advantage in the marketplace. All it takes is a little focus for the momentum to build and the company to continue to thrive.