Do You Use Performance or Brand Marketing?

Brand Marketing

Think Super Bowl. Think Coca Cola, McDonald’s, or the artsy car commercial. The ad is fun, entertaining, and doesn’t ask you to do anything.

Companies that use brand marketing to build a specific connection between you and them over time. With enough ads, absurd amounts of cash, and the right connections, brands can get you to love and respect them.

Do you measure what you’re doing? Do you track each ad and marketing piece you put out there? If not, you’re doing brand marketing by default.

You’re putting your message out there and HOPING it comes back to you with increased loyalty and revenue.

But there’s one major problem. How do you really know?

You don’t. You have no idea. And don’t assume you’ll get it right either. You have hundreds (if not thousands) of marketing options available to you when you factor in all the different value propositions, target markets, mediums, calls-to-action, and objections. Most of them won’t work. Only a couple of combinations will give you the ridiculously growth rates you’re looking for.

The odds are against you my friend.

Performance (Direct Response) Marketing

Performance marketing takes the opposite approach and measures everything. Nothing is taken for granted. If a campaign wasn’t measured, then it didn’t work. Since the perfect marketing mix is so hard to obtain, we can’t assume we have it until we prove performance.

Taken to the extremes, performance marketing is the sleazy stuff we all hate (direct mail sales letters, telemarketing, infomercials). But there’s more to performance marketing than just buckets of sleaze.

You don’t have to be sleazy or go for the hard sell, you just need to track and test what you’re doing.

Here’s the thing, nearly any marketing medium or campaign can be turned into performance marketing. All you need to do is build in tools to measure  performance.

So how do you measure your campaigns? You have a couple of options.

The easiest are coupon codes. In fact, coupons were invented to track marketing campaigns, not to generate sales through discounts. For the early performance marketers, the discounts were simply the cost they had to pay to be able to track where sales were coming from.

Instead of just putting your message out there and hoping for the best  (brand marketing), tell people they’ll get an incentive if they use a promo code or coupon. Now you can track everything.

What other options for tracking do you have?

  • Unique phone numbers – Use different phone numbers for different ad versions and campaigns, then you can tell which ads generate more leads and sales.
  • Links – If you’re using Google Analytics, use Google’s URL Builder to generate a unique, trackable URL for your online campaigns. This is the most popular way to track online campaigns.
  • For email or direct mail, check with your vendor and make sure you know how to use their tracking systems. Email vendors allow you to track and test different emails and direct mail vendors can insert hidden codes into return mailers.

Once you’ve got the tracking figured out, make sure you test different ideas. Test different headlines, layouts, calls-to-action, and value propositions until you find the perfect ad for your market.

Honesty Time: Even the best direct response marketers never get it perfect the first time. That means you won’t either. So start tracking your marketing, test new ideas, and adjust accordingly.

This is a lot of work up front but over the course of a year, you can easily double the effectiveness of your marketing several times.

The One Major Exception

You have one other option: building deep relationships.

All business is fundamentally about building relationships with people you enjoy spending time with. If you build those relationship deep enough, your customers won’t just be loyal, they’ll become brand evangelists. They’ll spread your marketing through word-of-mouth farther than a Super Bowl commercial ever could.

You won’t be able to measure any of this. You’ll have no idea where the ROI is coming in. All you know is that you’re enriching people’s lives. Some how, some where, it’ll help you build an extraordinary business. It’s won’t happen overnight either, this is a long term model that takes years to get going.

Here’s some examples:

  • Calling your customers and thanking them for purchasing your product (no sales pitch or marketing research)
  • Sending random gifts to your customers (free upgrade to first class shipping is an easy one)
  • Doing everything you can to help your customers (and I mean everything)
  • Putting the interests of your customers and your employees before your own

But here’s the deal: you can’t half-ass it. Either you go all in or you rely on performance marketing.

You can’t just slap a mission statement on your website about putting the customer first and expect it to happen. You need to live this philosophy and embed it into every last detail of your business. Every employee, every process, every email needs to completely embody this. Otherwise, people will think it’s an act.

All it takes is one seed of doubt to bring this entire model crashing down.

Need a case study for how to do it right? Check out Zappos. Tony Hsieh gives a complete breakdown of how he helped build Zappos in Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose. They completely embody this philosophy. Derek Sivers also did this with his former company CD Baby. He has plenty of great articles on his blog and wrote the book Anything You Want. I highly recommend both.

Be very very careful. The line between relationship building and brand marketing is pretty fuzzy. If you’re not actually talking to your customer, it’s probably just brand marketing. Make sure that you’re actually connecting with your customers and not slamming your pitch into their face (which is the best metaphor I can think of for brand marketing).

Bottom Line

  • Brand marketing = wasting money
  • Performance Marketing = minting money
  • Relationship Building = stacking the long-term odds in your favor

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