First of all, let me explain what I mean by a brand with heart.
A brand with heart is one that comes to life because it expresses the beating heart of your business. Your amazing vision, your core values, and the passion you have to change your industry - or even the world - all breathe life into your brand. Brands with heart exist to improve on the way things are currently done and are often focused on improving lives, communities and our world. By nature, they are bandwagons that people love to jump on because their visions are so clear and so inspiring. They keep people engaged because they are working for something that matters! They become the story your raving fans begin telling themselves about your products or services and the source of endless referrals. The crazy thing is, so many people with huge hearts create brands without heart. A brand without heart always struggles with competition, downward pressure on margins, and retaining great customers and employees. Is your brand holding you back from making the difference you could make and winning the projects you should be winning? Here are seven signs that scream, "Your brand desperately needs a heart!
You and your people are amazing at what you do, but there are just so many other messages, emails, distractions... vying for the attention of the individuals you need to reach. You know you can help them better than anyone, but you just need to be able to part the sea of endless mediocrity to get through. If only you could reach through their computer screens, gently grab their chins and say “listen please, I am saying this for your own good”. Well, you kind of can. Creating a brand with heart ... will attract them to you. It will compel others to share because YOUR beating heart is connecting with THEIR beating hearts. This is not flaky hippy stuff; this is simply marketing to humans. You will be saying something human in a brandscape of talking machines, robotic emails and one-sided conversations trying to use their confusion to sell them something. You will stand out from the herd of lifeless zombies and your staff will spend less of their time, and your budget, chasing shiny things. Instead they will focus on people who have already put their hands up and screamed, “Tell me more". Brands with heart stand out in a sea of lifeless zombies Sign#2
You've invested in all the right "todays shiny things". You purchased more than 500 promotional products to attract people to your trade show booth. You invested in par-per-click advertising and Facebook ads to drive traffic to your site. You wrote a number of posts for Linkedin and spent a bit more on traditional media. Now you are getting traffic. People are drawn to your trade show booth, your website, your landing pages... but then they bounce, and often never return. It’s like that conversation people flee from because it’s either too one-sided, or there’s no connection and they get bored. How many times have you signed up for an offer and then the next 9 out of 10 emails offer no real value to you. You archive the email and go on with your day. After a couple of weeks of this, their emails become invisible. You delete them without opening them and eventually unsubscribe. If you can't keep people engaged, they will leave. If it’s a high value customer they will often cross you off the list and leave for good. You will become as invisible to them as those words hanging over your reception desk that read, “Our mission is to...” Creating a brand with heart engages people, with purpose, from the beginning. They will ask more questions, start picturing the possibilities of working with you, and become invested in your vision. They will want to keep in contact to see how your living brand grows, learns and stumbles. Many will help you rear your new life. Some will even squeeze its cheeks... Yuk!!! The time it takes for someone to say yes will get shorter, you’ll waste less money on tactics that go nowhere, and the limited marketing budget you do have will become ultra-focused on those people who are engaged in your vision. Brands with heart always engage the “Tell me more” response at networking events Sign#3
You're attracting plenty of people through all of your marketing efforts, but they don’t seem to be the right kind. There are so many people that want to pick your brain until your grey matter starts unraveling like a poorly knitted sweater... and of course for free. Or you just seem to attract the types that just want to talk about anything... mostly themselves and their problems. Time vampires will suck you dry if you give them the chance. Then there are the freebie seekers. These are the people who have no interest, or need, for what you offer, they just want something more for free. By enabling them, you are enabling their problem. Stop! There is a place for charity, and it should be a huge part of your brand, but charity is not enabling hoarding behavior at the expense of your budget or brand. Save your time, money and hair! Brands with heart keep people on topic. They attract the people who see and believe in your vision to the point that they will identify and pre-qualify themselves before they ever make contact. You will waste less time and money hoarding garlic to repel the time vampires and more time in conversations that help both you and the people you serve. Brands with heart attract constructive energy Sign#4
There doesn’t seem to be a day when you don’t see something new in your inbox, say to yourself “that seems like a good idea” and go spiraling down another rabbit hole for hours on end. This often happens because there are too many paths to follow, too many experts telling you which the best path is, and too much content that is just useful enough to keep distracting you. And it will keep on happening until you create your brand’s beating heart.
When you purposefully identify the beating heart in your business or program, your brand’s foundation will begin revealing itself and it will start determining what is important and what is just another squirrel sent by the “gods of competition” to derail your focus. Your natural instincts will kick in, because your brand will no longer be separate from you, and your instincts will let you know what to focus on and what to delete immediately. Content will come so much easier. You’ll gain focus and reduce overwhelm. And you’ll stop driving the people who were meant to work with you, to your competition, because they never knew how awesome you really are. You’ll waste less time chasing gurus and more time purposefully following your own path... to realizing that you have been the guru all along.
Brands with heart have focus and direction Sign#5
People are liking and commenting on your blog and your social media posts are buzzing, but likes don’t pay the bills. They are drawn to your trade show booth and you’re having great conversations, but you never hear from them again. Your videos are being watched and shared like crazy but no-one is visiting your site, picking up the phone, or scheduling a meeting.
If people don’t know what you want them to do, they will do nothing. Focusing on ego-metrics like impressions, views, and likes are great... if you have a virtually bottomless bank account... but for us mere mortals we need to focus our limited budgets on something that makes a real difference as soon as possible. Like qualified leads, sales, donations, recruitment, accident reduction and real actions towards social change.
Creating a brand with heart gives people a reason to take action that counts. And their inner voice tells them to follow through because, it’s not only good for them, but it’s the right thing to do. You’ll ask for action, see action and measure progress towards your vision. That’s what we like!
Brands with heart inspire more people to follow through
You’re getting all sorts of referrals- but they are not for what you do best. You created amazing results for that last client but when it comes to referrals, it’s often her assistant that answers the phone and sends referrals your way. If she doesn’t know the scale of what you provide, she will always refer you for what she knows - or understands of your services - and this is often the lowest common denominator.
I'll share an example that happened to me:
A leader contacted me to help his business stand apart at a high stakes recruitment event overseas. I created a very unique dimensional advertising piece that engaged individuals and enabled them with the tools they would need to make the decision. Within the package was a very customized promotional product, copywriting, a web key and enablement resources. The leader wanted two engineers. We targeted 12 and he ended up hiring three. He was over the moon. It also won two national awards for recruitment marketing and garnered him national press.
Meanwhile, one of his assistants was responsible for taking delivery of the packages and ensuring they made it safely overseas. She never saw the research, strategy and copywriting components. She was only privy to the finished product. A few weeks after the big victory I got a phone call from a referral. The lady said, " So and so (the assistant) said you could help us with our company swag. I paused for a moment and made a decision. In retrospect maybe not, my greatest decision. I took the business and learned a huge lesson. I was being referred not for the transformation that I created but for the end product.
A thing, not a result. I took the business and continued to take the business. I was controlling entire organizations promotional products and apparel budgets. Then I woke up one day and realized that 80% of my clients were referrals and not for what I did best. I had effectively let referrals reposition my brand. I used to be the guy who everyone was hiring to reach high value targets with amazing success rates but now all of a sudden, I became the guy who supplies cool swag.
Things had to change. I had to reposition myself as the guy they hired to compassionately reach high value targets, to move communities to action, to deliver highly charged topics with sensitivity. The only way to do this was to rebrand and rebrand with heart.
Brands with heart take control of referrals, testimonials and inspire people to refer you for the amazing transformation you deliver, the problems you solve, the awesome experience you offer. Brands with heart are allowed to evolve. They are allowed to break through stereotypes and create spaces of their own. Most importantly, the ability to say NO makes them even more valuable.
Brands with heart attract referrals for what they are passionate about doing - Something I learned the hard way
Your employees are productive but seem to be somewhat directionless. There is a fair amount of infighting, complaining, and questioning why they are doing things this way and what they are trying to achieve. Little factions are arising with rebel generals of their own and long-term allies are acting like battle weary veterans. It all feels like a tightly wound coil about to SNAP!
Contractors are following their own vision of how things should be done when their work is supposed to represent you. The lifeless mission and vision statements on your wall have become an invisible piece of abstract art that inspires no one, except for the occasional sarcastic belly laugh. Your website is one-sided conversation bragging about how great you were and is kind of sounding more like the high school football star who now sells shoes. Customers are referring you less, and what they do refer you for are the small jobs. Employees are acting listless, defeated and bored, and all you can do is think of” your next escape from it all”. Your exit strategy is looking positively anemic. Who wants to buy a business without a beating heart? Brands with heart inspire people. They empower partners who adopt your vision to keep moving forward. They enable people to express themselves, and more importantly their true brilliance, in pursuit of a common vision. They inspire people to do things like joining you to change the world together, screaming your name from the mountaintops, or just throwing kisses and cash your way. They breathe life into all of your messages and create causes that take on lives of their own.
A brand with heart will catapult you out of bed every morning
David Betke is the CEO at Do Better Marketing- a division of Avatar Brand Management Inc. After creating a national campaign that helped save a 65000 acre forest, and winning seven consecutive national marketing awards, David continues to share his unique insights to help other world changing brands make a difference. Today he speaks and consults on bringing conscious brands to life.