Good marketing starts with a good foundation – here’s our recipe

Whenever I meet with a prospective client, I always ask them what their goals are for their new marketing activities.

99% of the time I get the answer I’m expecting: I want a stack of new leads.

Next, they usually talk about all the channels they think they should be using to get the leads (or, the ones they have been using that aren’t working).

But really, we’re putting the final coat of paint on the house before the foundation’s even set. There’s one huge step that needs to be completed first.

I call it a brand story, and it’s made up of five key components – business values, USP, value proposition, brand voice and key marketing messages.

It’s basically a five-point ‘self-discovery’ plan for businesses who haven’t looked in the mirror for a while. It tells anyone reading it who you are, what you stand for, what’s different about you, how you should sound in communication and what your key marketing messages are.

Pretty important, right?

It’s fundamental.

The content we develop in partnership with our clients can’t exist without a solid brand story to inform it.

And you can’t pick a channel or assign a budget before going through this process – even if you think you know what your goals are.

At The Marketing Project, we stick by the research – planning – implementation mantra for developing the perfect marketing plan. The brand story is a huge part of the research and strategy phase. We take all new clients through this process step-by-step. It’s amazing what comes out – our clients always discover new things about their own businesses.

Let me take you through it.

Your brand story, step-by-step

1. Brand values

Any business leader should watch Simon Sinek’s TED Talk, ‘How Great Leaders Inspire Action’. It’s a bit of a sacred text in the business world.

Simon’s idea is simple: people don’t buy what you do, they buy into why you do it. 

Great leaders aren’t afraid to say what they think. To give a crap about changing the world (or at least their industry) for the better. Great brands are no different.

People buy from you because they like the journey you’re on and they want to ride shotgun. That’s why it’s so important to have your brand values nailed down.


2. Your USP

Finding your unique selling proposition can be a tricky one for some brands to identify. Not because they aren’t doing great, unique stuff, but because sometimes it takes an outsider’s perspective.

Clients we work with are quick to cite aspects of the business that they think are unique, but often we find that it’s an aspect of the business that they hadn’t even given a second thought.

There are a million guides on Google to finding and articulating your USP. Some of them are good, and a lot of them aren’t (just like USPs). Or, you know, you could just talk to us.


3. Value proposition

So you’ve found your ‘why’ and your uniqueness – it’s all smooth sailing from here!

It’s time to do a value prop.

These can have a bad rap – often they’re the product of boardroom compromise, and say way too much without actually saying anything. Actually, this should be one of the most exciting parts.

Basically, this is ‘what’s in it for me?’ time for your audience.

Your value proposition should answer a few key things:

  • What you offer;
  • Who it’s for;
  • How you solve your customers’ problems;
  • What benefits you bring;
  • And why you’re different (which you should already know from #2).

The good news is that once you come up with this, it’s going to get plenty of airtime. Your value prop, perhaps with a little editing, should be the first thing that people see on your website. It should be on the business cards. Hey, it should even be on the wall of your office.

Here’s ours for reference, from our brand-new homepage:

Now try creating your own – let me know how you go!


4. Brand voice

Think of your brand voice as a character that does all your talking for you. If you were going to have a mascot – your own Michelin Man – how would they talk? What would they say?

As you start to answer these questions you can put together your own brand voice.

This can be as simple as three words, e.g. ‘creative, mature and charming’ – a couple of guidelines – e.g. ‘we talk straightforwardly and don’t use technical jargon’ – or a 20-page document, depending on what kind of business you are and how much content you think you’ll be creating.

From our point of view, the more you can flesh this out, the better (our copywriters love detail). Don’t worry, it’ll get used – this will be the voice you speak in on your website, on social media, in your advertising and in your content marketing.


5. Key marketing messages

It’s time to mix these all together, blend them up and create some beautiful marketing message soup.

Your key marketing messages are the statements that you take to the market, stand up proud and say ‘buy my stuff!’.

You should have several (we go for 3-5) per audience segment.

Here’s what makes for a good one:

  • Explain to people who you are, and why they should care;
  • Show how your product/service solves their problems;
  • Separate you from your competitors;
  • Demonstrate the value you bring;
  • And speak in your very own well-defined tone of voice.

These messages can form the basis for content you create, or work on their own in your marketing and advertising.


Now go and build your foundations!

Yes, the point of marketing is to get that stack of new leads. But to get there, we need to introduce some process. Working through these steps is the best way to get started.

A cohesive foundation like this is the jumping-off point for your content strategy.

Just remember these steps:

  • Define your values (why you exist)
  • Find your uniqueness (why you and not someone else)
  • Communicate your value (why now?)
  • Establish a tone of voice (how you speak)
  • And determine those super-important key marketing messages.

Want some help? Get in touch. We’ve taken lots of clients through this process and we’d love to help you too.

8 Questions to ask your potential marketing agency BEFORE you sign anything

If you’re looking for a marketing agency in Melbourne or Sydney, you’ve got a lot of choice.

There are the big multi-nationals, plenty of digital in-betweeners and a few plucky little agencies who serve their niches well (like us!).

So the question becomes not ‘who’s the best?’, but ‘who’s the best for me?’.

Let us help you make the right choice.

Here are a few questions you need to be asking any digital marketing or creative agency you think you might like to work with. They can dazzle you with a fancy office or a comped lunch, but there’s no hiding from these 8 grenades. Write them on your hand and don’t leave the room until you’ve had them all answered.

  1. Who will be my main point of contact day-to-day?

We’ve seen it plenty (and it’s happened to us in past lives) – the boss or creative director nails the pitch, then handballs you to a rookie and escapes up the tunnel.

It’s obviously unrealistic to deal with the business owner for every interaction – and having youth on your case can be a good thing – but you want to know there’ll be a senior marketer frequently looking at your account.

  1. What do your clients like about working with you?

A good agency should be proud of the feedback they get from their clients.

And if they’re a good agency, they’ll have had plenty of good feedback.

The trick is to read between the lines and decide whether that’s what you’re looking for. Just because a marketing agency is well reviewed, doesn’t mean you’ll like it.

  1. How do you manage projects?

Before you start a working relationship with an agency, you need to know what project management processes and systems they have in place. It’s really important that they gel with yours because it’s inevitable that you’ll end up using some of them.

It also needs to be scalable. If they’re a good agency they’ll be very busy, which puts the pressure on their workflow.

So – check how they do the following:

  • Project management (we use because we find it really easy to keep on track and share stuff with clients)
  • File sharing/hosting (we use Dropbox)
  • Document editing (we use Google Drive as it doesn’t require any software download for clients)
  • Time tracking – do they know how long things take, or are they just guesstimating your quotes and invoices?
  1. How is your team structured?

There are many different ways to structure a creative agency. They all have their strong points, but one will suit your company best.

Most have full-time employees, plus a few contractors and maybe a partnership with other (specialised) marketing businesses. It’s important to know which aspects of your work will be handled in-house and which will be outsourced. Also, it’s good to know where your agency’s suppliers are located.

If their team is in different places, ask how can they’ll ensure your projects will be handled collaboratively and delivered on time.

  1. What do you do to keep your team’s skills current?

Marketing changes almost daily. You need to know that your people are going to keep up.

If you find an agency that regularly sends its employees to courses, great; if you find one that does its own experimenting, even better.

  1. Do you specialise in specific industries?

This doesn’t have to be a deal breaker – after all, you wouldn’t expect your agency to know more about your industry than you do. With some industries, though, it helps to have some experience – especially when dealing with regulation or peculiarities.

  1. Are you working with any businesses that compete with mine?

Again, not always a deal breaker, but a potential issue. Some agencies don’t work with competitors as a rule. Clients can (understandably) see it as conflict of interest, but it can also be a good thing to specialise (especially if you’re in one of those tricky industries from question six).

  1. Why do you want me as a client?

This is a cheeky question to test they’ve bothered to do their research.

Ideally, you’re looking for them to have a good base knowledge of what you do and why you do it, and an idea of the direction they see your digital marketing strategy taking.

Another point to consider…

When you’re picking an agency it’s important to differentiate between those that make you feel good and those that will do good for you.

Do they just nod their heads and do what you ask for, proclaiming you a genius of marketing? Or do they provide advice based on what they think is best for your business?

Yes, you want an agency that’s easy to deal with – but there’s little to be gained from a supplier that just follows your instructions. You want them to disagree with you (if needed) and come up with ideas and campaigns you haven’t requested to get the best result for your business and budget.

Like this? Want to know more? We’re The Marketing Project, a digital marketing agency based in Melbourne. Get in touch here.