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Marketing ideas for small and medium-sized businesses

The 4 Documents Agencies Need To Work With You

Just because you’re not the best at marketing doesn’t mean that you must hand over ownership of it. And honestly, agencies don’t necessarily want to own your marketing. They want to help your company run successful campaigns. Because they understand marketing, they may be more or less willing to do the strategic heavy lifting on their end depending on available resources and capabilities in order to get the results you need.

The pitfall here is that if you’re not providing the strategic information to the agency, they end up owning the insights and research that informed the strategy used to deliver awesome results. This is not useful to you or them when you look beyond the campaign they ran for you. More importantly, it makes it difficult for your campaigns to be consistent and for your agency partners to represent you in a consistent manner.

As a pre-agency service, we want to help mid-sized businesses own their brand. We do this by helping you get your strategic ducks in a row by building out a strong brand framework that contains all of the necessary documentation to work with creative agencies in an efficient, productive and sustainable manner.

Here are 4 essential documents agencies need for them to successfully represent you and your brand.*

  1. Brand Vision & Story
  2. Brand Standards – logo, colour palette, use examples
  3. Customer Profiles – market segments, ideal customer personas, targeted messaging & keywords
  4. Competitive Analysis – top direct, indirect and potential competitors

* We’d love to share work we’ve done but these are confidential strategic client documents currently in use. However, we’re happy to quickly show you an example when you book your 30-minute free consultation so you have an idea of what to expect.

Your Brand Vision & Story

This is your brand’s big WHY. Your customers will choose you over your competitors because they buy into your vision and story. This vision is held at the core of your business and defines what you stand for.

Examples Disney’s Brand vision is to make people happy – and this manifests itself all the way down to their employee training. Dove’s brand vision is “A world where beauty is a source of confidence, not anxiety.”

These visions are informed by insights from their markets, and are emotion-based. Other examples are more results-oriented like Volvo – nobody should die or be seriously injured in a Volvo.

You can see the content start to flow just from that one statement – you know what the company values and what their operation is about. The challenge here is to make a complex position be a simple statement.

There is a lot of thought and pride that companies take in this mission, and it’s a message they happily spread throughout their company. Some even put it up on the walls so any visitors can see what truly matters to the business. Sales isn’t everything, right?

How we help you: We look at your founding story, your values, your operations, your industry and market trends to drive insights that inform your brand vision. Once we summarize all of the information, we craft 2-3 brand visions that highlight different aspects important to you and your market. Once we collaboratively identify your brand vision, we develop your brand story.

This mandate typically takes about 4-6 hours of work to complete.

Brand Standards/Guidelines

Simply put, these are large documents that define every use (or exempt uses) of your brand elements. Brand elements include your logo, symbols/icons, colours, and fonts. They can also include examples of how the brand elements are applied – typically on stationary like business cards and letterheads. They inform all designers on how to work with your brand.

They usually start with your brand vision and story and show how the logo is representative of it. Then they highlight the use of your logo and any brand elements that bring it to life, like colours, fonts, etc…

You don’t have a logo yet? Or you need a stronger logo design? No problem. the logo development creative process can be rolled into the brand standards mandate, where the Brand Standards are the final deliverable.

Lastly, to develop a solid brand guideline, the designer needs to understand your brand strategy. Sometimes, the long-term strategy is important if the design of your logo or brand elements need to be flexible in specific ways. For example, if your company plans on growing through acquisitions, you need to integrate that in your brand guidelines and how the brand will adapt with the acquisitions should a dual-brand approach be required (both logos are displayed).

How we help you: We have two primary roles in this mandate. One is to develop a creative brief to inform a partner designer on the design project for the brand standards. The other is to manage the creative development process, act as a liaison between you and the designer, advise on brand alignment and vision in order to make this process as smooth and easy for you as possible. A creative brief is a fundamental project document where we identify the strategic brand needs and the details of what needs to be included – logo design, number of use cases, etc… It’s like a request for proposal for a designer so they can assess the breadth of the mandate.

Your budget for this mandate should be anywhere between $5,000 and $10,000 depending on your needs and it typically takes between 1 and 2 months to complete from start to finish. More complex projects may take longer (sub-brands, web design, etc…)

Customer Profiles

When I develop customer profiles with clients, the most common reaction I get as we work through identifying the segments is that you look at your business and your sales differently. You are put in a position to think about what you’re offering through the lens of what the customer actually needs. That shift in perspective fuels other conversations and provides insights you didn’t even know you had in you. My job is to bring those out to strengthen your business’s brand.

My favourite answer when I ask business who their target markets are is “everyone… everyone wants what we offer.” However, that’s never the case. Never.

Your business typically appeals to a specific group of people who have a specific set of needs. The better you get at recognizing these different groups of customers, their characteristics and their needs, the easier it will be to manage your marketing campaigns and budget.

If you look at digital advertising for example, the smaller the population of people you target, the smaller the ad spend. If you target 500,000 people in a specific city with generic content, you’re paying thousands of dollars and you don’t even know if they’re interested in your product. Let’s assume you convert about 100. Now, you target 4,000 people in the same city based on hobbies and preferences, and you convert about 100. Your cost per conversion is significantly lower. The goal is to convert as many people who are interested in your product as possible. So, the exercise here is to achieve the following in defining your target customers:

  1. Describe a person or a business – how much do they make? where do they live? What do they struggle with? I’m sure you can find plenty of templates online to help you with this part. Don’t forget to identify how much they would typically spend with you.
  2. Highlight what they want – Identify the top products or services that customer is interested in
  3. Create messaging – the language should reflect the tone of voice used by that group of individuals. For example, your pitch will be different when you’re talking to someone who’s 25 versus someone who is 50. They will have different points of reference and use different terms.
  4. Develop keywords – because individual customer groups have different interests and may belong to different generations, identify some popular hashtags each customer segment uses

How we help you: We talk to you about the industry and the customers you typically engage with. When you generate leads, what is your criteria? We look at your revenue streams and ensure that we capture the bulk of your revenue sources in these profiles to ensure growth. We compile a summary of our conversation and identify your primary customer segments, develop the standardized messaging to accompany each custome segment, and keywords.

This mandate typically takes about 15 hours of work to complete.

Competitive Analysis

This is a document that takes an in-depth look at your top competitors that fall into three categories: direct, indirect and potential. The latter section is for companies looking through grow through diversification into other industries.

This analysis will inform what your market positioning is – what makes you stand out? It’s also helpful to see what common elements exist that define the industry standard. Are your competitors on social media? what is their content like?

When you share this document with your agency partner, you can ask what SEO ranks for your competitors and how you can take some of their digital market share. It changes your conversation from simply “this is who they are” to “how can the work my competitors already did work for me?”

How we help you: We research the list of competitors you provide and take a look at the marketing activities we can find. We analyze their content, branding and reach, and provide you with recommendations that can make you stand out.

This mandate typically takes about 5 hours of work to complete.

Ready to get started? Let’s talk about your business and start building your branding frameworks.

The 4 Documents Agencies Need To Work With You
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