But unless you’re Disney, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Nike, McDonald’s, etc., it matters a lot less than you’d think.
Especially in the early days of your business, you don’t really have a brand. You have many components that can lead to the eventual creation of a brand — values, expertise, visual identity. But the brand itself happens over time.
So when you’re creating content, should your content focus on building up that brand reputation?
The answer is yes, but given the long-term nature of brand-building, that certainly shouldn’t be the only goal.
Consider the following data published by the Content Marketing Institute:
B2B marketers have done less to generate sales than all but two of their objectives.
B2C marketers have done less to generate sales than nearly half of their objectives.
Whether you’re a B2B or B2C company, your marketing content is going to have multiple goals and objectives. Brand is one of them. But another one — and perhaps the most important — is sales.
If you don’t focus on driving sales through your content, it could lead to some issues:
- Limited business sustainability through consistent revenue growth
- Ineffectiveness in acquiring new customers
- Little-to-no impact on tangible strategic goals
- Potential for misalignment and mistrust between marketing and sales
But here’s the thing: even if you focus your efforts entirely on sales, you’ll still take the steps necessary toward building your brand over the long haul.
This post will walk through why and how you can leverage sales-focused content in such a way that ends up building your brand as well.
1. Break away from “either-or.”
The first step to take when considering brand vs. sales is that it’s not an “either-or” proposition.
When you focus on generating sales in a helpful and human way, you’re going to naturally build your brand as a by-product.
This may seem counter-intuitive, especially if the word “sales” evokes some off-putting imagery in your mind. That’s why I stress the “helpful and human” part:
- Listening to the customer and their situation
- Focusing on providing the solution that’s helpful — and only the solution that’s helpful
- Respecting their purchasing timeline and only offering to sell when they’re clearly interested in buying
- Presenting yourself as a resource to help them along the buyer’s journey — being supportive, human, and helpful
If you focus on driving sales in this way, then you’re going to naturally build your company’s reputation. This reputation, in turn, provides the foundation for your brand.
Plus, when you have sales, that means you have happy customers, which lead to evangelists, references, case studies — all things that expand your influence and help to define who you are to your market.
Now, you may be thinking: if brand and sales aren’t mutually exclusive, why should you focus on sales over brand? Shouldn’t it work in reverse as well?
The answer is yes, sort of.
In general, generating sales is a short-term play, but building a brand is a long-term play.
It makes the most sense to start with the short-term objectives, which empowers you to meet your long-term objectives over time.
2. Build a foundation for your business to survive.
You need an income. This is as true for a business as it is for an individual.
For a small business, this becomes really real, really fast.
But not only is an income the number one tool you have to leverage future growth, but it’s an objective indicator of whether your business is succeeding in the marketplace.
So no matter how you want to look at it, your business needs revenue. Your content marketing strategy should, therefore, focus on generating those sales:
- Write on topics that speak to buyers as they are entering the bottom of the sales funnel
- Create clear and accessible calls to action that drive them to take the next step
- Present helpful solutions that build you as a trustworthy resource in their mind
- Focus on tactics that drive people to your website and social media to consume said content
Sales-oriented content shouldn’t have to be a sales pitch — it should spark the interest that leads to that pitch. It’s a subtle difference, but it’s one that’s important to keep in mind when you’re trying to balance brand and sales.
But when you focus on creating content that drives sales, you’ll start to bring in revenue faster, which only drives your brand equity over the long haul.
3. Don’t wait to start producing content.
With all the priorities that happen in the early stages of a startup, it’s easy to justify putting off creating content until later in the game.
When you are looking for rapid, short-term growth, you’re going to prioritize the activities that lead to that level of growth you’re looking for. In the beginning, long-term priorities take a backseat, due to a limited amount of time and energy.
It’s about priority. The immediate and high-ROI generating activities are going to be your top priority.
But even though content marketing is a long-term investment, that doesn’t mean that you can’t reap real rewards right now. Creating content that’s engineered to accelerate your ROI is a great way to justify investing in a content strategy right now.
Plus, you’ll eventually have to scale your efforts:
- To generate the volume of leads you need, you’ll need to attract a larger audience
- To attract customers with a higher price point, you’ll need to create content that engages them in a long-term relationship rather than one-off sale
- To solidify yourself against competitors, you’ll need to demonstrate that you are an authority in your field and know your stuff
Notice that each of these activities contributes to the sales process, simply at scale.
A lot of people want a quick and immediate ROI. But they forget that sometimes one of the fundamental principles of return on investment — that the return is proportional to the investment that you make in the first place.
Content marketing is a great example of this. While there are ways to speed up that ROI, the full benefits that come from your content come after you’ve been consistently posting for a significant amount of time.
This may sound like a brand play, but it really is a sales play. It’s just sales at scale.
4. Balance long-term goals with short-term execution.
There are two ways to build a brand. The first is to try and engineer from the top down exactly what you want your brand to be.
In this instance, you would come up with clever charts and diagrams and action steps that everyone can take to ensure that they’re in line with the “brand vision” for the company.
The second takes more time but, arguably, is more authentic. In essence, you let the brand develop organically over time, based on the following:
- What kinds of topics do you write about, and how do you approach them?
- How do you interact with customers?
- What is your online reputation?
- What are you known for in terms of the problems you solve and the actual results you’ve generated?
The result is something that is built on a solid foundation of reality, rather than being purely aspirational.
So how do you determine what these attributes are?
The answer: sales.
The goal in the early days is to generate business. The actions that get you that business are the actions that define how you go after that target market.
One of the interesting things about brand is that your it will ultimately be a reflection of your business overall — your marketing content, sales interactions, and general perception by the industry.
If you focus on sales-driven activities in the beginning, the brand growth will happen over time. So go after those deals. Focus