value-based messaging

Want Increased Sales? Learn to Love Value-Based Messaging and Understand Your Customer Better.

If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it 100 times: every company is in the communications business. And communications is key because successful businesses use strong communications to connect with prospects—enter: the concept of value-based messaging.

The benefits of value-based messaging are clear. The right message helps us connect more efficiently with potential clients and shortens our sales cycle. When you tell a consistent story and communicate your company’s values clearly, you attract prospects who identify with the problem you solve and value the solution you’re offering.

However, we’ve also seen companies make the mistake of focusing so much on articulating their own values that they forget to consider their customers’ needs. Without this all important “gut-check,” a brand’s messaging can feel at best, disconnected and at worst, downright narcissistic. Taking a broader understanding of value-based messaging reveals benefits far beyond connecting with prospects and making sales.

Follow the step-by-step process below to begin developing your brand’s identity, retain your most valuable clients, and become increasingly valuable the longer you work together.

Step-By-Step Process for Effective Value-Based Messaging

Value-based messaging is all about how well you understand your customer and her needs. Once you are clear about those elements, seeing your business grow is a matter of aligning your offerings with what your ideal customer needs and delivering on the promises you make.

So what is the most effective way to get to know your customers? It all starts with simply asking them.

Step 1. Discovery

During this stage in the process, your goal is to collect as much information as possible about your current customers, prospects, and competitors as possible. This critical step is the beginning of understanding your customer lifecycle and buying process. You will use these early conversations in building customer profiles.

  • Interview sales reps: Great sales reps know what questions to ask in order to get closer to closing a sale. Ask them about the easiest deals they have closed, as well as the ones that they struggled with. Ask them what message they think resonates with your customers. Ask them to list customers with whom they have the best relationships and who would be the best ambassadors for your product or serve.
  • Shadow sales calls to learn about prospects: Listening in on sales calls is a great way to gather information about potential customers. You can quickly learn about their challenges, what makes them buy, how they understand your product, as well as pinpoint their biggest sticking points.
  • Interview lost prospects and current customers: Interview your last 5 lost prospects, the last 5 customers you won, and 5 customers who have been using your product for at least a year. Send a quick email asking if they will spend 15 minutes on the phone chatting with you. If you need to offer an incentive, we’ve seen a $25 Amazon gift card do wonders.
  • Interview industry experts and analysts: Large corporations have access to full time marketing researchers who gather all kinds of useful data, which is hard for the rest of us to get our hands out. Our recommendation? Select a company who would be a great customer. Add them to your customer profiles. Positioning yourself as someone looking for expertise, reach out to them for an interview.

Step 2. Build Customer Profiles

When building customer profiles, industry, revenue, number of employees, and whether a company is publicly traded are important pieces to the puzzle. But when it comes to really understanding your customers in order to create a value-based messaging strategy, what you really need to know is what values and benefits individuals are looking for in a product or service like yours.

In order to get to the heart of the matter, create the following items for each customer profile:

  • List of daily activities
  • Goals and responsibilities
  • How does she measure success?
  • What are her biggest headaches or problems?
  • What role does she play in the buying process (decision-maker, influencer, user)?

Once this picture is clear, you can consider targeted companies and how your customer profile fits into the larger organization. Now you have your ideal customer profile. You want to understand the kind of companies you sell to, who uses and buys your product, what motivates them to buy, and what issues do they want to solve.

Step 3: Create Value Statements

Having gone through the first two steps above, you are in a great position to begin creating value propositions. Start with categories of values (or pillars), then create value statements for each category.

Example:

Value category: Revenues

Value statement: Reduce lost opportunities for increasing revenues by proactively monitoring website and email conversion rates.

The key when it comes to creating value propositions is to focus on actual values, not features of your products or services.

Step 4: Review

Once you have brainstormed value categories and value statements for each one, you are ready to review the messaging framework with your team. This can be a daunting task especially if you have dozens or even hundreds of individuals on your team. The easiest approach is to design a simple questionnaire to ensure that information remains consistent and well organized.

Here are some further tips for the review stage:

  • Identify the best members of each group from which you’re seeking feedback. For instance, if you have 30 inside sales reps, choose the best 5-7 to interview.
  • Create 2-3 rounds of interviews and make sure each round includes a representative from sales, from manufacturing, from sales engineering, and from the c-suite. After the first round, analyze and make adjustments to your questions if necessary, then again include representatives from each group.

This comprehensive approach allows you to get measured feedback across all departments. It helps you avoid interviewing your entire sales force. And it prevents you from making changes that are unacceptable to executives or won’t work with your product map or other strategies.

Benefits of Value-Based Messaging

Follow the above process and you will be in an excellent position to develop high quality, targeted messaging along the following lines:

1. Shape your value proposition to your customer’s needs.

When speaking with clients, investors, and other stakeholders, do you understand their challenges well enough to explain how you can help them? For example, suppose your firm sells consulting services, in addition to a software solution. How do you identify prospects who are in need of consulting services versus those in need of the software solution? Which current customers are likely to bite on a promotional offer for a service they aren’t buying from you now?

By shaping your value (or unique selling proposition) to your customers’ needs, you have essentially primed the pump for your sales team. If your sales reps understand how much it costs a prospect to adopt a new software product, they can shape the sale as a means of cost avoidance via reduced risk, lower long-term cost, 24/7 support vs. hiring another employee, etc.

2. Position your company as the expert in your industry.

The more often you help prospects and customers with problem-solving around their biggest challenges, the more likely your brand becomes synonymous with expertise in your industry. And after the research and interviews there is a good chance, you will have the goods to start creating valuable thought-leadership content.

Here’s another example: let’s say you work for a publicly traded company. How much does it cost (in time or dollars) your shareholders or potential shareholders to evaluate a new stock for their portfolios? If you understand their portfolio goals and evaluation process, you can explain easy ways to save them time in terms that will resonate.

3. Show how your product or service saves your client money.

Finally, understanding how much your customers spend on acquiring new clients or servicing existing clients, etc. will help you position your company as providing cost savings. If your product or service can save them money or help them increase the number of clients the acquire for the same amount of time or dollars, that’s a win and shows the value of their investment.

Keep in mind in all three situations above, while facts and figures can reinforce a point (we’ve posted about the virtues of numbers before), leading with them is rarely persuasive. If you want to connect with potential clients and investors, which is the whole point behind value-based messaging, it’s crucial to activate their emotions.

That being said, it’s also important to note that we’re not saying you need to be everything to everyone or that your broader strategic message should change when you speak to different customers. We’re suggesting simply that you understand their key challenges/goals and tailor your messaging accordingly.

At Audacia Strategies, we are masters at helping clients tailor their messages to resonate with key audiences. And you don’t need to worry about sounding like you’re pandering or fitting into a cookie-cutter mold of some company you never wanted to be. We are all about helping you find your strategic, authentic voice. Let’s discuss how we can collaborate with you.

Photo credit: pressmaster / 123RF Stock Photo

leadership success

Apply This One Behavior Change Today and See Big Results Tomorrow—Show Up.

This summer, I’ve had the pleasure and amazing opportunity to work with a stellar leader as he steps into his new role as CEO. His core message of leadership success to his team and employees? Show up.

How powerful, right? Show Up.

  • Don’t just lurk online or in the back of the meeting room.
  • Don’t smile and nod and then forget the conversation (the equivalent of a Facebook “like” or an Instagram “double-tap”).
  • Don’t walk by your coworkers without making eye contact like you would on a city street (heck, don’t do it there either!).
  • Do engage with your coworkers. Take a real interest in them, in their challenges, and in how you can work together.
  • Do take the time to get to know your team as people.
  • Do ask for help and offer help in return.
  • Do remember that work, life, being a human being is hard. We can’t do it (successfully) alone.

We all know what showing up looks and feels like when we encounter it in our lives, but let’s consider some of the specific benefits for leadership success and how it can apply to our communications.

How to Show Up InfographicBenefits of Showing Up.

We all know that actions speak louder than words in life and in business. This is what makes showing up and being present so powerful. Now, let’s focus on the benefits for your team and for you.

For your team…

Showing up empowers them to own their work. Having you there and feeling your presence gives your team an increased sense of ownership over their work. And by “there” I don’t necessarily mean that you must be physically co-located. Many of us work with geographically diverse teams and we have to lead, contribute, and coordinate in virtual environments. This makes it even more important to show up, check in, and maintain open lines of communication to achieve leadership success.

Of course, I’m not saying that you have to cyberstalk or hover over your team. If you make it clear that you are there to offer input when they have questions or concerns and communicate a willingness to receive feedback about what would make their work easier, that’s not being overbearing—that’s being supportive. By contrast, if you always forcefully intervene on your own terms, your team will get the impression that you prefer minions to honest team members.

Showing up gives you the opportunity to model professional behavior. Remember that your team watches you carefully for cues as to how they should behave around clients, executive leadership, investors, and even vendors. Is being on time to meetings and events an important part of your industry’s culture? Model the behavior.

Showing up encourages team work. When the leader of the team engages—really engages—the team is complete. It’s easier for everyone to work through challenges and sets the tone in the office for working together.

For you…

Showing up makes it easier to develop authentic relationships with your team. Regular team interactions create bonds. And tight teams are productive teams.

Keep in mind that interaction cannot feel superficial or forced. Authentic leaders know how to be relatable and in tune with their employees’ needs. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be pals with your team members to gain leadership success. You can maintain professional boundaries, while building strong relationships. Even if you can’t always deliver on employee requests, as long as you take the time to connect, human-to-human, and explain your reasoning, you will earn the respect of your team members.

Showing up makes it easier for you to understand individual strengths. If your only interactions with your team is during group presentations or meetings where there is time for everyone to prepare their remarks, you are only getting one narrow set of data points.

You learn much more about an individual’s strengths watching her work on a daily basis and make decisions on-the-fly. In the midst of a high pressure situation, it becomes clear who possesses leadership success qualities and who could use some additional training to really shine.

Showing up develops transparency in your team communication. Often, we can feel that we have to pick the “right” words or we can’t share the context of our decision making. But when we are part of a high-functioning team, that information isn’t just important, it is part of the daily conversation that enables team members to assess, prioritize and make clear decisions about the best next steps to achieve the team goals.

When it comes to demonstrating true leadership success qualities, the first rule is the most important. If you don’t show up, you can’t be present.

Show up. Engage.

It’s a simple concept but startling in its clarity and potential impact. I’m taking the challenge. I’m ready to show up. Are you?

This September only, Audacia Strategies is challenging you to show up and crush your 2017 goals. We’re offering 25% off of our most popular service, the customized market insight report. Hurry! There are only a few more days left for you to grab this offer!

Photo credit: racorn / 123RF Stock Photo

media monitoring

Does Your Firm Have a Communications Early Warning Strategy?

Nothing teaches us the value of media monitoring and early warning systems quite like a crisis.

As we sit glued to news coverage about hurricanes hitting the southeast and wildfires lighting up the skies in the west, we watch social media to make sure our friends and family heed official warnings.

Somehow, it’s a whole different story when it comes to corporate communications though. Here most of the focus seems to be on crisis management, rather than prevention. We’ve seen too many horror stories of firms that wait until they are in the throes of a serious crisis before they seriously consider how to manage their communications.

If this hits a little too close to home, no judgment! Check out our previous posts on crisis communications here and here for more tips on planning for and managing through a crisis. And once you’re back to smooth sailing remember that having a strong media monitoring strategy makes crisis management a whole lot easier.

Because it’s simply no fun to learn the hard way that having a strong media monitoring strategy reduces the time and energy an organization spends in crisis mode, let’s discuss how to use communications as an early warning system.

What to Watch

Before developing the right strategy for your firm, it’s important to figure out what you should be looking for. Today, let’s focus on three key audiences to consider when developing a media monitoring plan:

1. Investors,

2. Customers, and

3. Employees.

It’s important to remember that each of these audiences represents a separate, though potentially overlapping, audience. This means that your communications team will need to monitor different types of media and create different types of communications targeting each group. For example, you are likely to learn more from surveys custom-designed for each major audience segment, than from one general survey sent out to your entire email list.

1. Investor Relations Communications as an Early Warning Signal

When it comes to investor relations, the early warning often comes as much from what investors don’t say as from what they do say. I’m not saying you should try to read your investors’ minds, but media monitoring around the publications your investors read can help keep you in a “ready stance.” You may be surprised at what you can learn about investors’ desires by watching subtle fluctuations in the market and media coverage of the market.

The same holds for direct communications with investors. For example, you should have a sense for how your shareholder base will respond to your quarterly earnings and incorporate that knowledge into your earnings communications. If your CEO finishes a quarterly earnings  meeting and made some important announcements, but there are no questions from stakeholders on those announcements, that could be a sign that the information wasn’t presented clearly enough or that investors aren’t sure what to do with the information presented.

Investors aren’t known for being wallflowers. If there’s an elephant in the room, it’s best to face it head on, rather than waiting for someone else to bring it up. Listen carefully to the sound of silence.

2. Customer Feedback as an Early Warning Signal

We all know that listening to customer feedback is crucial for raising brand awareness. But often this type of communication comes too late to really be helpful as an early warning signal. Again, keeping a lookout for subtler hints about how customers are feeling about new products, a new marketing campaign, or a PR strategy is key.

Here, it can be helpful to consider your broader business ecosystem. What are the trade publications saying? Distributor channel publications? And, if your budget and time allows, don’t underestimate the power of focus groups before launching a major new initiative or product.

In addition, social media is probably the best way to get a read on customer perceptions in a more timely manner. But in order for this to be most useful, it helps to have a dedicated media monitoring team for social media.

Here are some items your social media team ought to take into account:

There is no doubt that social media complicates corporate communications. Although monitoring social seems straightforward, what constitutes “good listening” will depend a great deal on your firm’s particular strategy. There’s a big difference in public perception, expectations, and customer engagement with a brand, like Starbucks, that receives millions of mentions per day and with a regional brand that may only see thousands of mentions.

Also, keep in mind that your day-to-day social followers are not necessarily the same people who will come out of the woodwork during a crisis to put their opinions out there. While your media monitoring team’s goal should be crisis prevention, when crisis happens, it can be a relief to remember that the “instigators” involved may not be your regular followers and they may even use different channels from your regular followers to make their voices heard. This means your team needs to listen broadly to develop a well-rounded perspective.

3. Internal Communications as an Early Warning Signal

The final component of putting together a strong corporate communications plan designed as an early warning system is closely watching internal communications. While internal staff may not be as forthcoming with warning signals as the two groups above, there are important signs to look for here as well.

When we at Audacia Strategies work with a new client, it’s always interesting to gather information about the company’s culture. If morale is low, it can be difficult for someone on the inside to determine what’s really going on. This is where bringing in an expert team can really be of value. Quite often, the outside perspective helps companies catch issues early and make the proper adjustments.

Also, in many cases, internal staffing changes serve as the proverbial canary in the coal mine. Data like sudden drop-offs in productivity, a decrease in retention among new employees, and an increase in whispering around the “water cooler” can be signs of bigger challenges on the horizon.

Media Monitoring Resources:

It’s important to budget for the right resources to meet your needs, but you can forget about trying to benchmark against others or buying the slickest new media monitoring software to hit the market. So don’t waste resources, while (simultaneously) being less prepared. Your best resources are a thoughtful crisis communications plan and a consistent practice of listening to your key audience.

That being said, there are several automated media monitoring systems available that could work as a first step depending on your needs. Still, bear in mind that even top-notch software won’t allow you to “set it and forget it.” Monitoring tools are incredibly helpful, but fallible. There’s no complete shortcut, but a thoughtful and strategic approach will help you prioritize your budget and your interactions.

Wrapping Up

Just as creating a game plan on the fly is not a roadmap to winning the 2017 US Open Tennis Tournament (way to go Sloane Stephens and Rafael Nadal!), creating a media monitoring strategy on the fly during a crisis is not a roadmap to communications success.

Companies with a record of successful communications know that media monitoring is a central part of preventing or at least, getting out ahead of any crisis. Our team is ready to work with you to develop the right strategy to create your personal early warning system. Let’s get you out of the path of your next communications crisis!

Photo credit: gaudilab / 123RF Stock Photo

business valuation

Don’t Sell Your Business Short! Find the Right Business Valuation and Sell Your Vision.

Imagine if a big shot investor walked in the door today and offered to buy your company. How would you respond? Would you blindly tell her to make you an offer and then consider whether it’s enough for you to retire? Or is your business valuation clear in your mind, such that you could seriously start talking numbers?

If you don’t know how to value your business, you risk being taken advantage of, even if the amount an investor offers sounds really good to you. One thing is for sure, the numbers don’t lie, so it’s important to know them or to at least know how to access them when you need to.

Whether you’re considering selling your business in the near future or simply looking for ways to increase your value, figuring out your current business valuation is the place to start. So, what do you need to know?

How to determine a business valuation:

If you are even a tiny bit familiar with the world of corporate finance, it will come as no surprise that there are several ways to value a business. There is a plethora of valuation metrics out there: EV/EBITDA, P/E, PEG.

Your finance team can help you decide the right valuation metrics for your business. However, basic business metrics are the building blocks of all valuation. Here is a short list of the metrics that will inform your business valuation:

  • The value of the business’s assets. Included here is whatever the business owns: any buildings, equipment, product inventory, patents, logos, and cash on hand. Your balance sheet should tell you the value of your assets. An investor or potential acquirer will ask to see your balance sheet – and the rest of your financial statements. Be ready.
  • Revenue. Many investors use revenue as a quick assessment of a firm’s value. A quick method they might use to estimate the value is to employ a revenue multiple. A revenue multiple is simply a calculation of the offered valuation divided by one year of revenue. For example, if you have $100M in annual revenue and your valuation is $1B, your revenue multiple is 10x. Benchmark multiples vary by industry. You should ask your finance team to research typical sales multiples in your industry.
  • Earnings. Of course, revenue doesn’t equal profits. Amazon is the most famous example of this. Despite revenues being through the roof, they have only posted a handful of profitable quarters. This is why earnings matter and why multiples of earnings may be a better way to estimate a business’s valuation.
  • Cash-flow analysis. Finally, revenue and earnings valuation are only a good way to value a company if you can prove they will remain steady. Changes in competition, supplier prices, and industry trends all affect earnings. It’s important to reflect these in your cash-flow projections to demonstrate the rationality of your narrative.
  • Nonfinancial considerations. The above techniques will help you value the financial side of your business. But, as we know, nonfinancial considerations also come into play. Any research you can do into potential investors’ portfolio, could help you get a better valuation. For instance, does the investor own other businesses in your location? Does she own similar businesses? Has she put the word out that she has always dreamed of owning a business like yours? You can use any of these intangibles to your advantage to influence the sale.

Beyond business valuation to selling strategy.

Once you know your numbers cold and you’re ready to sell, it’s time to come up with a strategy. Without taking the time to strategize, you risk letting fatigue or anxiety influence your decision. So make sure to take a deep breath and hold on tight to your strategy.  

Whenever I advise clients dealing with this type of transformation I recommend the following:

1. Take the time to get ready. Beyond getting your accounting, contracts, and legal documents in order (which you should absolutely do!), also consider how you talk about your business.

Do you have a clear, concise, and impactful elevator pitch? At this stage in the game, chances are good that you have this. But it’s good to remember that first impressions count now as much as when you’re first starting out.

If you can you introduce your business such that anyone can understand it, the first impression is that you have your act together and the rest of your business operations are equally well run. This is good!

Can you simply and easily explain your business model, competitive positioning, and prospects? Take the time to review your business model, market dynamics, and business pipeline. Look for trends—past and future. Again, the clearer your business model and prospects the easier it will be for a prospective acquirer to understand the current and future potential of your business and the better your opportunity to improve your valuation.

2. Look from the outside in. I often see business owners that are so caught up in running their businesses that they cannot see how their businesses look through the eyes of their customers, business partners, and—yes, valuation experts.

It can help to ask for external perspectives. Ask your employees (especially those who are customer facing), customers, business partners, community partners, etc. about their perspective on your business. Do not get defensive. This is an intelligence gathering exercise, think of it as nothing more or less.

Use the information gathered to help shape your clear and concise business messaging (see above).

If there are differences between the feedback and your perception (or your desired perception) of the business, consider a gap analysis to address any fundamental misperceptions. Here are some easy-to-use templates for getting started with a gap analysis.

3. Consider your promotion strategy. You wouldn’t sell your house without clearing the clutter, giving it a fresh coat of paint, and engaging a crackerjack realtor, right? Business valuations are similar.

Review your external face to the market (e.g., website, sales materials, business cards). Are they dated? Do they reflect your business in a positive light? Take the time to make your promotional materials work for you. Yes, this will be an added expense, but again, think of it like making cosmetic improvements to your home to get you to a higher price point.

If you have time, engage in a promotional strategy to raise the visibility of your firm and demonstrate market leadership and awareness. This won’t apply in the case where an investor walks in ready to write you a check, but that’s also not the most likely scenario.

By elevating public perception of your business, you improve your market positioning, customer awareness, and you may also increase your new business pipeline—all important factors as you enter into a business valuation.

The above is really just to get you started down the path of valuing your business. For a more comprehensive guide (complete with helpful valuation worksheets), see Jeff White’s How To Guide. Audacia’s CEO, Katy Herr was quoted in the article too!

And if all of this sounds completely overwhelming, take a step back and take a deep breath. Finding a business valuation that not only reflects your sweat equity, but also sells investors on your vision requires patience. Honor your hard work by taking the time you need.

Finding an expert who has been through it can make a big difference in your confidence level too. At Audacia Strategies, we can work with you to get your numbers straight and weave them into a narrative that reflects your complete business valuation. Let’s discuss your vision!

Photo credit: rido / 123RF Stock Photo

talking points

Successful Leaders Stay on Message—Here’s How They Do It.

The term “talking points” gets a bum rap. Often, using talking points is perceived as encouraging “robot-speak” or as a shady technique for dodging tough questions. We can probably blame this bad press on politics (which seems like an especially fashionable thing to do these days).

But rather than running away from talking points altogether, can we instead acknowledge that there are better and worse ways to use them? Yes, some of those ways get (rightly) labeled as lazy, stale, or simply uninformative. Others are absolutely essential for strong communications.

The reality is that we all use talking points in our daily lives. A couple quick examples come to mind: if you have a meeting with your boss, you go in with an idea of the key points you want to express; if you go out to dinner with friends, you generally know what you’ll talk about when they ask, “what’s new?” Whenever we organize our thoughts, whether we realize it or not, we are using talking points.

In IR, we see talking points as an essential tool in any CEOs toolkit. And coming up with these compact bundles of key information is really an art and a science. So let’s talk about what you can expect if you enlist the help of an IR expert to organize your remarks.

What are talking points? Why do they work?

First, let’s dig deeper into the concept of talking points:

1. Talking points are one way of organizing and remembering the main points of a discussion, argument, policy, investment case, etc. Importantly, they can also act as guardrails—defining what you are not talking about can be as important as defining what you are discussing. For example, during a meeting with investors you likely want to stick close to your investment thesis—this is not the time to discuss non-public strategy deliberations.

Raising information that falls outside of your guardrails, i.e., the main objectives of the meeting, press conference, or conference call, not only could confuse your audience, but it also might raise questions that you are not prepared to answer. There’s nothing worse for a CEO than finding herself in the weeds, panicking, and answering tough questions off-the-cuff. Talking points help avoid this nightmare situation.

2. Talking points are intended to be the broad strokes of a message. By knowing these broad strokes, you can fill in the rest of the picture with confidence. Here are a few good suggestions for going deeper too. Without an outline, additional details—stories—can just sound like disconnected messages. Have you ever had a friend tell a long rambling story? That’s indicative of a lack of talking points.

Talking points give presenters and the audience something to go back to. While it’s great for the report or presentation to be conversational, within those guardrails we talked about of course, the most compelling communications also have a clear organizational structure. Try to stick to three main themes that tie everything together.

3. Along those same lines—talking points allow you to get to the point quickly. For example, many of the investors I’ve spoken with have ZERO patience for long-winded answers. Investors are busy people, they want you to cut to the chase. Get to the point, give your support for the point, and move on.

It can be disheartening when we stop to consider how much the Internet has influenced us to have short attention spans. (Believe me! Those of us in communications fields are constantly shaking our heads at this trend.) But you aren’t going to stem the tide during this one meeting. It’s best to go with the flow here and give investors short, sweet points they can use.

The big picture: talking points enable better conversation. With your key messages top of mind, you can have a better discussion because you know the extent of your message/topic and you can easily transition between “color commentary” and specific data to be communicated

What talking points aren’t.

Talking points are not meant to be taken as the full message and recited verbatim (although there’s usually someone who does this every week on the Sunday morning talk shows). This behavior:

  • (a) sends the message that the speaker has no idea what they are talking about and can’t articulate an original thought;
  • (b) makes the message sound completely inauthentic to the listener; and
  • (c) doesn’t encourage engaging conversation… it’s just a one way spewing of information. And that’s just boring.

The right IR expert will coach you on how to expand upon the talking points in ways that feel authentic to you. Ideally, CEOs and any other leadership tasked with talking to the public will be involved throughout the process of distilling information down into crucial talking points.

Surely, we communications experts and those whom we advise can do better than the talking heads trying to keep up with the 24/7 news cycle. Investors deserve better when they are making educated decisions about where to add value to the market.

Finding the best talking points to keep your investors informed and give you the scaffolding to build your complete message is at least as much art as it is science. At Audacia we love to organize and package thoughts into authentic messages that resonate. If you love to talk about all things corporate communications, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s talk!

Photo credit: andreypopov / 123RF Stock Photo

 

mid-year earnings reports

Breaking Down Mid-Year Earnings Reports—What Investors and Analysts Expect

We have just crossed the mid-year point in the world of stocks, bonds, and financial markets. Q2 is officially in the bag! That means most firms are busily preparing and reporting their mid-year earnings reports (10-Qs), while many investors are anxiously waiting with bated breath.

Because 71% of publicly traded companies follow a calendar fiscal year (outliers include Apple and the US Federal Government (YE Sept 30), FedEx (YE May 31), and Microsoft (YE June 30)), investors and analysts look extra closely at earnings reports this time of year. And for good reason—mid-year earnings reports can be the key to assessing a company’s full year outlook.

So, let’s talk about what you should keep in mind as you check out your peers’ mid-year earnings reports and prepare your own.

Mid-year Earnings Reports and Expectations

Earnings reports have everything to do with expectations—measuring a firm’s performance against past expectations, setting expectations for a firm’s future performance, and most importantly, defining a firm’s position relative to market expectations.

The skill with which you communicate these specifics can affect analysts’ valuation of a firm, which in turn affects investor perceptions.

As Gerald Loeb (founding partner of E.F. Hutton & Co., a Wall Street trader and brokerage firm) put it so well, “stocks are bought on expectations, not facts.” This is true. But, as we also know, expectations depend on facts. So let’s look at the facts that are most relevant.

(Not) Just the Facts

What’s essential to communicating mid-year earnings reports is to paint the best possible picture, given the available facts. But what does painting the best possible picture mean in this context? It means evaluating Q1 and Q2 against the major milestones laid out in your 2016 strategic plan and making the best case, true to your numbers, for seeing continued momentum in Q3, Q4, and beyond.

At midyear, generally speaking, analysts and investors are looking at three main indicators:

1. Is the company on track to make full-year guidance?

Often at mid-year companies will have enough insight into their full year outlook to raise or lower guidance (projections for future earnings). Although companies are not required to provide guidance, it is common practice and can be a powerful tool for setting expectations. But the decision about whether to give guidance and how much is an individual one.

Factors to consider when it comes to guidance:

  • Primary Liability: Several provisions in the federal securities laws can create liability for forward-looking statements. For example, Section 11 and 12 of the Securities Act of 1933 impose liability on issuers, their officers and directors, and underwriters for misstatements or omissions of material facts. Because of the potential legal issues here, it’s important for those giving guidance to speak carefully, completely, and deliberately.
  • Safe Harbors: The Private Securities Litigation Reform Act (PSLRA) of 1995 enacted safe harbor provisions for forward-looking statements that are identified as such and accompanied by “meaningful cautionary statements” that could cause actual earnings to differ from guidance. However, PSLRA safe harbor provisions do not apply to IPOs or enforcement proceedings brought by the SEC.
  • Regulation FD: The prohibition on selective disclosure of material nonpublic information should also be taken into account in any discussion about whether to provide or update guidance. Guiding analysts about future earnings is permissible under Regulation FD, as long as the general public is informed at the same time.

This article from a Harvard Law School forum offers a more detailed overview of what public companies should know about giving guidance. Keep in mind, though, that there’s no substitute for consulting the pros when it comes to navigating the choppy waters of when to provide guidance and when to raise or lower these expectations.

2. What progress has the firm made against strategic initiatives?

If you are presenting mid-year earnings reports during a call with investors, it’s always a good idea to start with an overview of past strategic initiatives and whatever progress you have made toward your goals, e.g., entering a new market, cost takeout, R&D, integration of a recent acquisition, etc.

In going over the details of your progress, be as specific and transparent as possible. Analysts and investors like to hear specific examples backing-up statistical claims. So if you claim, for instance, that revenues for a certain sector grew 6% in Q2, be sure to talk about what exactly impacted earnings. Did a new licensing deal pan out? Was a particular marketing approach successful? Did you hire a fresh, young whiz kid who is setting the world on fire?

Point out opportunities for capitalizing on the momentum you’re building and places where it would be prudent to pull back temporarily or long-term. Be candid about any milestones or strategic initiatives that were less than successful too. As a favorite former boss used to say, “Don’t take it on the chin.” Rather, put the challenges in context and talk about what you’re doing to correct course or why you expect industry trends to shift. Not every initiative works. Real talk from your executives can go a long way in building trust over time.

Don’t forget to include non-financial achievements here as well. If you landed any new business deals, signed any new clients, launched a new R&D initiative, made progress on building your management team or on other recruitment efforts, this is all relevant information for assessing your firm’s progress. Remember to drive your points home by reiterating your key takeaways at the end of this section.

3. Is this company’s narrative consistent with what we know about the industry and the company’s strategy?

Industry commentary is one of the most complicated pieces of any mid-year earnings report. Any inconsistency between your comments about industry trends, e.g., predictions about shortages and surpluses of raw materials, and your peer companies’ comments are instant red flags for analysts and investors.

Outlier comments will be pressed during Q&A. This could be a good thing, if used strategically. Taking a novel view of your market or industry could indicate a key differentiator in market approach, which could be indicative of future earnings outperforming guidance (investors are always looking to capture alpha!). So, it literally pays to be prepared.

However, if your commentary goes against conventional wisdom or contradicts previously discussed strategic goals (i.e., your investment case), it will get more questions and be met with skepticism—guaranteed. When you know you are saying something that analysts and investors will find surprising, make sure you can succinctly lay out your case. Companies that can carve out a unique perspective (aligned to overall strategy) and back it up with data and performance, will generally see the the market appreciate those moves.

All the above barely scratches the surface and there is a lot more that could be said about each of these indicators. But, of course, the most valuable recommendations for preparing mid-year earnings reports are those specific to your firm’s needs and your industry’s trends.

So, if your investor relations strategy is in need of a touch-up, the experts at Audacia would love to help you paint the best possible picture. Contact us today to set up a consultation.

Photo Credit: Dmitriy Shironosov

 

corporate finance

6 Easy Ways to Empower Everyone on Your Team to Talk About Corporate Finance

We’ve discussed the issue of silo’d departments on the blog before. Most recently, we talked about tearing down the wall that divides sales and marketing. Another area where I see walls being built is around corporate finance. Smart executives know how important it is for all departments to stay on top of finances, but they often run up against resistance.

Frankly, that’s a shame. Effective financial communications are critical even when not speaking to shareholders or other investors. So, whether it’s because of a turf war, lack of discipline, or just plain uncertainty, it pays to remove these obstacles and make sure every key employee has a relative handle on corporate finance.

But “I Don’t Do Numbers”

I’ve heard a lot of otherwise talented marketers and corporate communicators say, “I’m a marketer/writer/communicator, I don’t do numbers.” This statement is frustrating to hear Every. Single. Time.

Here’s why:

1. Whether you work for a start-up, non-profit, government agency, or blue-chip titan of Wall Street, finances matter. If any part of your job involves convincing investors to risk their cold hard cash, you obviously better have those numbers on the tip of your tongue (or at least on the top of your mind).

But even beyond the typical financial stakeholders, media, employees, and customers all view companies through a financial lens. They are thinking: How stable are they? Are they hiring? Are they expanding their footprint in our area? Beyond our area? Understanding this perspective is crucial if you’re going to create a message that resonates with your audience.

2. If you can’t speak confidently about your organization’s business model, you’re missing an opportunity to add long-term value to your employer. Executives understand this point well. This is likely one big reason they have landed the positions they hold. And as a leader charged with mentoring others in the organization, you can’t stress this piece of corporate communications enough.

Organizations NEED communicators “at the table,” but if you can’t speak the language of business (finance) then you won’t be of value at that table. Regardless of what you take to be your primary role in the organization, if you want to rise in the ranks, you need to be on the lookout for places where you can “punch above your weight.” Being able to talk corporate finance is a huge advantage.

3. Financials are the proof points to your broader corporate message. In this context, financials can be revenue, market cap, overhead expenses, membership growth, etc. It is difficult to see how a marketer who doesn’t understand this point could truly understand marketing. Any marketing message that is divorced from a company’s finances risks falling flat, or worse, overpromising and under delivering can be a death knell for sales.

Empower Staff to Be Comfortable Communicating Financials

While it’s easy to say that every key employee should be able to speak about corporate finance, it’s a lot harder to make this goal a reality. How do you empower those within your organization to become comfortable with and effective at communicating financials?

1. If your company is publicly-traded, encourage your employees to read your 10-K, 10-Q, annual report, and proxy statements. You could also ask the finance director to do a short presentation or Q&A for all department heads.

2. Encourage leaders in marketing, sales, and other departments to take your IR lead out for coffee (bonus points if they do the same for your financial planning and analysis (FP&A) lead!). There’s no substitute for hearing about the state of an organization’s financials from the experts themselves. They can provide powerful insights and help in understanding the business model.

3. One great way to help get everyone up to speed is to read and talk about your industry publications (including the WSJ and FT if possible). It’s not important for everyone to read them cover to cover (or top to bottom online), but these articles will provide a general understanding of the impact of market movements on your industry. You could, for example, start a weekly meeting with a discussion of an important shift in the market and its impact on your business.

4. Actively follow your competitors and talk about what they’re doing well and where you have the upperhand. Encourage team members to listen to how peers speak about their business in the press, at events, in their writing, and in their financial filings.

5. Keep learning! This goes for everyone involved with your organization. There are some great FREE corporate finance courses out there (e.g., Finance for Non-Finance Professionals created by Rice University professors and offered through Coursera). Also, professional organizations (e.g., PRSA, IABC, NIRI) have opportunities to gain additional business savvy. Consider incentives for employees who put in the extra effort to gain skills in corporate finance.

6. Hire Audacia (joking… kinda). But seriously, sometimes bringing in communications professionals with an actual background in finance can make all the difference. Corporate finance is our world, let us introduce it to your team. Or, better yet, before you go through the trouble of trying absolutely everything, why not sit down for a consultation and let us steer you in the right direction?

Photo credit: pressmaster / 123RF Stock Photo

sales and marketing

Tear Down This Wall! 3 Effective Ways to Bridge the Gap Between Sales and Marketing.

For as long as there has been a separation between sales and marketing, there has been hand-wringing over successfully transitioning leads from marketing to sales. Especially when things are not going well, the hand-wringing is quickly followed by finger-pointing (and sometimes other not-so-nice gestures).

It doesn’t have to be this way! Sales and Marketing are both more effective when they work together. But while it’s easy to see how the two should work together, it’s far from easy to make this the reality. Let’s discuss some of the more common obstacles and powerful ways to bridge the divide.

My Experience

Having been on both sides of this fence during my career, I understand all too well the obstacles that prevent an integrated approach. But I have also learned along the way that we’re more likely to see success when everyone concentrates on sidestepping the major pitfalls to cooperation.

I started my career embedded with a B2G sales team and I still believe it was the best place for me to get my feet wet because:

1. Selling to government agencies forced me to think externally.

Coming from the private sector, I really had to work to understand our customers’ needs. Because market dynamics among private businesses are so different from market dynamics among government agencies, there was a steep learning curve. I spent a lot of time researching the industry, so that I could understand my customers better.

2. It taught me that the sales process doesn’t happen overnight.

When you first learn the ropes in sales, there’s a lot of talk about human psychology. The “tricks of the trade” are all about learning the right techniques to help you push all the right emotional buttons and close the deal. There’s also a lot of mystique built up around sales phenoms who can “sell sand in the desert” or whatever your preferred euphemism.

I quickly learned to set aside a lot of this conventional wisdom. I learned that sales is more about trust than trickery and that this holds true whether you are selling an aircraft, business software, or laundry detergent. Building trust-based relationships in B2G, B2C, or B2B requires cultivation.

3. I learned that being effective in business takes a team.

Cliche, but true. Not only did our sales team need to cooperate, but we also needed support from finance, pricing, contracts, operations/delivery, and communications/marketing. A successful customer approach requires more than the right technical solution. It also has to be priced correctly, with a mutually beneficial contract, and a solid plan for customer implementation.

Obstacles to Sales and Marketing Integration

Since those early years, I’ve talked with so many colleagues and clients who struggle with implementing an integrated approach to sales and marketing. I’ve noticed a few common patterns as well as a few common solutions.

My observations from the trenches and a few thoughts on what worked to overcome these common obstacles:

1. Silo’d departments.

Sales and marketing too often run on parallel paths. While there may be the occasional shout out across the cavern to make sure the language is consistent, most of the time, corporate marketing messages and tactics seem a world away from the needs of the sales team.

What helps: Share plans and ask for feedback.

While in sales, I spent a lot of time frustrated that my marketing team “didn’t get” what we needed to really sell. The truth was we hadn’t shared what we needed and they hadn’t asked what we were trying to accomplish. We assumed someone else had shared our goals or that they would instinctively know what we needed. They asked specific questions about markets for advertising placements or trade show investments, but not about bigger goals.

Later, when I was leading a marketing team, I spent a lot of time sharing our marketing plan for the year, asking for feedback, and asking “why” to get to the business goals we were trying to accomplish. For example, I would ask, “Why are we going to ABC trade show?” If the answer was, “because that’s what we’ve always done,” that was a red flag to me.

By the way, my team reduced trade show costs by over 30% and improved individual event ROI in 15 months, just by asking this question about every show.

2. Lack of shared goals at the working level.

Generally speaking, leaders have common incentives based on their shared understanding of business success. Generally speaking, leaders do a good job of communicating sales goals too. It’s fairly clear: orders, sales, profit. But communications can break down at the level of aligning marketing and sales to help everyone meet their goals.

What helps: Finding and communicating shared goals.

As a marketing leader, I would sit with our sales team(s) to understand their goals and align my operations and goals to support them. Then, I would communicate those goals to my team. I would also try to draw clear lines from the company’s mission and corporate-wide goals to each individual’s role.

Knowing the tactical goals made it easier to help each other. These goals go beyond sales and marketing alignment to internally communicating key metrics to help keep things real. In addition to keeping everyone on the same page and holding them accountable for their roles, sharing metrics that are reflective of goals, provides an effective way to share progress throughout the year.

3. Lack of trust.

This one is a bit soft and squishy, but those trust-based relationships (see above) are just as important to internal communications as they are to external communications. Marketers often view salespeople as “cowboys” shooting from the hip. Salespeople often view marketers as stuffy “PowerPoint junkies,” who can’t have a conversation without pointing to a chart.

What helps: Getting away from your office/cubicle/desk.

I’ve found that regularly attending already scheduled staff meetings is a great way for both sales and marketing to hear about the “real” work, as well as get a better sense for how to support, engage, and share fresh perspectives. It’s always useful to hear a fresh take on the market, your competition, or other issues facing your industry.

It’s human nature. The more you hear from others about their reasoning and approach to a particular challenge, the more you will begin to trust their judgment. Trust is key to figuring out how to work together.

So, invite a coworker in another department to Get coffee… Go to lunch… Go for a walk. And ask what they’re up to, what their biggest challenges are, and how you might be able to help.

With sales and marketing on the same page, you will see the hand-wringing and the finger-pointing put to rest. It’s challenging to find an integrated approach that works, but the results speak for themselves.

We have the experience, the patience, and the audacity to break down unnecessary barriers to business success at Audacia. If your sales and marketing teams could use some fine-tuning, give us a call. We’re always game to Get coffee… Go to lunch… Or Go for a walk!

 

Photo credit: rido / 123RF Stock Photo

communications plan

Does Your Message Actually Connect With Your Audience? — Finding the Right Communications Plan.

Wouldn’t it be nice if a communications plan were as simple as making sure that you have all of the relevant information organized in a way that makes sense? Unfortunately, finding the right package for this information is also important and can be more difficult. Developing an effective message is essential to getting the word out, especially when the information you’re putting out is highly technical or complex.

While there is definitely a time and place for technical information, we can be conditioned to hide behind complexity, rather than thinking more about our audience to clearly and concisely communicate our message. Although it takes some extra effort to determine what will resonate with our customers, investors, board members, regulatory officials, media, etc., the time we put in is well worth it.

Each Industry Has Its Own Language

When I started my career in the Aerospace and Defense industry, I literally worked with rocket scientists, PhD scientists, mathematicians, and other brilliant co-workers. Talk about intimidating! While I do have a few extra letters of my own behind my name, learning how to best communicate with these folks was challenging to say the least.

What made it especially difficult was not as much about the intimidation (I believe in the value of my work!), as it was about figuring out the industry’s language—you know, that jargon that pervades every industry?

I quickly learned how to call a post-meeting review a “hot wash.” I realized that people in A&D often speak using more acronyms than words. But some of the other lessons were learned the hard way.

I distinctly remember sitting in a new employee orientation receiving a detailed overview about my new firm’s products and services and feeling (a) overwhelmed by the amount of technical information, (b) lost in the lingo, and (c) utterly bored to tears.

I knew one thing for sure: If I was bored by our presentation, our customers would be positively comatose, that is, whenever they weren’t frustrated by trying to understand our offerings and why it mattered. This was the first time I realized that a communications plan could make a huge difference.

Don’t Blame Your Audience for Your Failure to Communicate

Now, be careful not to misunderstand the above lesson. Customers (or whoever our audience happens to be) need to clearly understand the technical specifications, features, and benefits of a solution. However, when we hide behind the technical lingo in lieu of focusing on determining the messages that resonate with our customers, that is when communications break down. We then blame the customers for not choosing our product or service saying, “they just don’t get it.” We can do better.

Instead of playing the blame game, wouldn’t it be better if we designed our communications plan around our audiences and took the time to figure out how translate technical language into a message that even those outside of our industries can relate to?

Here are some ideas for communicating highly complex information:

1. Start with the outcome.

What is the problem that you are solving? How do you help achieve your audience’s goals? In marketing strategy, experts refer to this in terms of “pain points.” The most important reason to start with the outcome when developing a communications plan is that it automatically puts you in an empathetic mindset. Thinking from your buyer’s or investor’s or board member’s perspective makes it more likely that the message you craft will resonate with your audience. My gut check here is: “Would my grandfather understand what we do?”

2. Avoid too much jargon.

A New York University study found that statements written plainly were viewed as more truthful than those that used jargon-y language. The reason? It’s easier for a reader to visualize an outcome expressed in concrete terms and apply it to their situation. Jargon-y language requires abstract thinking and separates the reader from the message.

Even if your audience is well steeped in the language of your industry, jargon is not usually the best way to articulate technical or complex information. Different experts interpret jargon differently based on their backgrounds and how long they’ve been involved in this world. So, if you want to avoid misunderstanding, it’s important to use precise language.

3. Use smart visuals.

While some industries tend to overuse visuals, others seem to forget entirely that they are a valid communications tool. However, a well-placed visual in your presentation will do wonders to make sure your team or investors are on the same page.

Now, it’s important to keep in mind that just as you need to consider what resonates with the verbiage you use, you also need to consider what resonates with the visuals you use. That means, NOT an overly complex, flow chart with super small font. Have you noticed the avalanche of infographics all over the web and in business presentations lately? It’s because a strong picture provides a concrete way to help your audience relate to and remember your message.

According to the Social Science Research Network, 65% of people are visual learners. So, take a page from your favorite professor in college and spend some time thinking about the best ways to show, rather than tell about the relationships present in your information.

4. Tell a story.

Storytelling resonates on an emotional level with your audience—making your brand more relatable and memorable. So, no matter how technical or complex the information, putting it into a narrative form will help you communicate.

In a previous blog post, we talked about ways to add storytelling elements to your communications plan. Even if storytelling is not “standard” in your industry, you can use elements of a story to get your point across. Just remember that however you present your narrative, it should relate to the outcome that you are solving for (see #1).

 

If you follow the above 4 tips, your communications plan will be effective, without being overwhelming, too jargon-y, or too boring. Find the right way to organize the information and to convey it in a way that your audience will appreciate and you will no longer be tempted to hide behind complexity.

Audacia Strategies knows how to help you find the message that best resonates with your audience. With our experts working with you, you’ll move from thinking “they just don’t get it” to “they couldn’t be more engaged.” Let’s do this!

Photo credit: pressmaster / 123RF Stock Photo

iconic brand strategy

Don’t Launch Your New Brand Until You Read This!—Everything You Need to Create Your Iconic Brand Strategy

Picture this:

The light bulb suddenly goes off and you have an amazing idea for your next iconic brand strategy. You’re so excited! There are logos and taglines and websites, oh my! There is social media marketing to consider. You have all of your ducks in a row…or at least, you think you do.

You launch your new baby out into the world and prepare for it to become iconic. And, maybe it will be. But it’s probably going to take a lot of behind-the-scenes work to make that happen. There is a good reason seasoned entrepreneurs often say, “It only took me 10 years to become an overnight success.”

The problem is that it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of creating something new and to forget that becoming an iconic brand requires a lot more than a great logo, tagline, and website. All of that shiny stuff is really just window-dressing. The research, positioning, and messaging are the real nuts and bolts behind an iconic brand strategy.

So how do find the discipline to lay the groundwork for success before you let yourself get swept up in the more glamorous side of launching your new brand?

First, it’s important to keep in mind that just because you need to do the hard groundwork, that doesn’t mean you can’t also reward yourself by working on the fun stuff, like planning the huge launch party you’re going to throw when you’re ready to announce.

As you read through the below list, it’s natural to feel a bit overwhelmed. But rest assured that if you take your time and insist on being intentional as you work through this process, you will be overwhelmed (in a good way!) by the end result.

Key Considerations for Launching Your Next Iconic Brand Strategy:

1. Start with the basics: Is there a market? AKA look both ways before you cross that street.

Whether you are creating a brand strategy for a new product or for an extension of an existing product line, it’s important to do some serious research into the potential market that you will want to tap into. There are three important areas to consider here.

A. Market/situational awareness:

Research the current tools, technologies, services, and work-arounds. Positioning your brand in the market requires extensive understanding of what else is available. You will be looking to gain a share of these markets.

Ask the following questions about existing brands and peers:

  • What works/doesn’t work?
  • What’s the broader discussion? Are companies/thought leaders talking about this capability?
  • Where is the solution on the technology cycle (cutting edge vs. mature)?
  • Is there pending legislation or regulation that may shift the market dynamics?

B. Market segmentation and prioritization:

Once you have a handle on what the market looks like, dig deeper. Get as specific as you can about what your real target market looks like. Segment different target groups in the way that makes the most sense for your brand. Prioritize, i.e., figure out which of these groups to target first, second, third, and when. Finally, determine each segment’s pain points and specific challenges.

Ask yourself:

  • Who is my specific target market? How do the buy? When? Why?
  • Where are these customers? Consider industry, customer size, geography, innovation requirements, you get the idea.
  • What are the customer pain points our product solves?

C. Competitive analysis

The last piece in the market puzzle of your iconic brand strategy is doing a thorough competitive analysis. This will help determine how to position your brand both in terms of the current market landscape and projecting into the future potential shifts.

Ask the following about your competition:

  • Who are they?
  • Where are they (physical locations, virtual locations, operational status)?
  • How big are they?
  • Market share (try to get at least a notional sense)?

2. Now, go deep inside your business. How will your new brand change your operations?

Depending on how much of a transformation you plan to make as you build your iconic brand strategy, this will take a good mix of pragmatism, creativity, and a bit of speculation. It helps to bring in your team to get a full picture of potential business impacts.

As an example, you might consider if you need to make changes to your business structure.

  • How will you need to structure your current business to accommodate the new brand?
  • Or is this really a new business/company? A spin-off? A joint venture? A product extension?

3. Prepare your brand messaging–this is huge!

Messaging can be the difference between launching a successful brand and launching an iconic brand. It’s the difference between a basically reliable casual shoe and a Nike. Try to figure out what unique value your brand offers and more importantly, how to get the word out. This may take some trial and error. Above all, make sure your messaging reflects your brand promise.

Here consider:

A. Value Proposition

  • Why us?
  • Why now?
  • What problem do we solve?
  • What pains do we alleviate?

B. Brand promise

  • What are you offering your buyers? Why is it important? What does your brand stand for and why?

C. Positioning Statements

  • How do our priority market segments prefer to receive information?
  • What is the tone they prefer?
  • How can we signal social proof?

D. Message Architecture

Think of message architecture as scaffolding for all of your marketing content. Your message architecture or framework will support and shape all the content you produce going forward. When marketers and communications pros talk about messaging, they are talking about the general impression they want customers to take away from the content itself.

When it comes to designing the message architecture, a good rule of thumb is to keep it simple. This article from some content experts is a good place to start and it offers a number of useful examples.

E. Elevator pitch – you have 15 seconds in an elevator with your dream client – what do you say?

Every new brand needs a catchy elevator pitch. This should be easy once you’ve done all of the research and analysis above.

4. Brand Identity — most people skip directly to this step, but putting in the upfront work is critical to developing an iconic brand strategy.

This goes beyond the broader messaging to even less tangible elements. Your brand’s identity is really the public perception of the brand. A lot more than words on your website goes into your brand identity. Unfortunately, some of this is out of your control, but you can learn to influence this if you really study corporate communications or find someone else who has done so.

Here the following are crucial:

A. Is this a stand-alone solution or does is it part of a family/suite of products/solutions?

B. Reflect on your market research and align to your aspirational positioning.

C. Consider whether you need/want a tagline — a tagline can be a powerful brand discriminator and shorthand for what’s unique about your brand.

D. Don’t forget to reserve your URLs!

5. Launch Strategy — get ready to be big!

Yay! Now that you’ve put in the real grunt work, you can start to plan the launch strategy for your new brand. I offered some good tips here in a recent blog post. And just imagine how much confidence you’ll have gained once you’ve completed the list above.

I know that this all sounds like a ton of work and it is! But this is your baby. What could be more rewarding and satisfying than watching your idea grow from a thought bubble into a household name?

New brands are exciting and can be overwhelming. We get it. Audacia Strategies has been there. Let us be your guide through launching your next iconic brand.

Photo credit: auremar / 123RF Stock Photo