Not too long ago, we ran a business audit for an established organization-an event destination that had been featured as a top location in years past. They communicated that they wanted to become more profitable with one of the higher-priced packages that they sold.
We found out quickly, however, that they were already very much in the black, and although closing more leads was what they wanted, it wasn’t the real problem.
There was a branding issue. Their brand story no longer appeared to be making an impact, and they didn’t know how to fix it. And if they didn’t fix it, they’d continue to lose business.
As we combed through the data, we saw a number of issues. First, times had changed, but their story had not.
When they had launched, there were few competitors in their market. Now, there were hundreds to choose from, and why someone should buy from them instead of another organization was now unclear.
Why were they better? What made them the ideal choice? Their business had become a commodity-a bad thing to be when there’s a lot of competition in the market.
Another issue was that they were improperly identifying their ideal customer. Due in part to personal opinions and interests, they had become convinced that consumers celebrating life events-weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, baby showers-were their target audience. All of their marketing materials, sales programs, earned media messaging, and advertising was focused on this target.
However, their location really was not ideal for these customers for a number of reasons. The parking lot was too small. There weren’t a lot of ‘photo-opp’ locations. Event vendors were limited. And their ‘brand story’ also was no longer compelling or unique enough when compared to other locations. Although inquiries would come in, few would close because the sale wasn’t a very good fit for enough customers.
The good news is, data doesn’t lie. When we looked at past sales, we could see who their real, ideal customers were. These were customers that were easy to work with, the most profitable, and also the most consistent. They were corporate event planners and local businesses like hospital groups, a local NBA team, and small, national leadership organizations whose core values aligned with theirs. They were also religious organizations and small businesses that needed the space for bigger team meetings and collaboration.
This was the tipping point for this organization-and what was missing in their messaging. It wasn’t just a matter of place or space that triggered a purchase. It was why they did what they did, who and what that impacted, and what that meant to the community. In other words, what was ‘in it’ for the planner or organization that held the event at their location? How did choosing to hold an event here make a difference for them?
This wasn’t a fancy, upscale hotel with a golf course and black tie wait staff. It was a boutique, historic building with small-town charm, and a focus on seasonal, fresh foods. Their vendor partners were artisans and local businesses. They didn’t offer elaborate, extravagant floral arrangements, but instead sustainable plants, and succulent arrangements that could be repurposed, instead of just becoming part of the trash. And they focused catering on sustainable, plant-based dishes, instead of high-end steak dinners.
And as it turned out, their best customers were businesses that chose them because of their ‘local-first’ and ‘planet-first’ values. They just needed to freshen up their story, implement small changes like seasonal, more plant-based food menus, and add a ‘selfie wall’ painted by a local artist.
The visual topic? A direct connection to the founder’s latest passion project and ideal brand story fit: honeybees, a critical species needed for the planet and our food sources, and an authentic symbol of collaboration!
These small changes would also act as marketing tools to help spread their rebooted story, and get the word out that something new, fresh, and different was happening that would add value for these ideal, right-fit customers.
Brand storytelling doesn’t just work for things like spaces and destinations. It can be incredibly impactful with consumable goods, other service-based businesses, and even personal brands like public figures, coaches, and consultants.
A well-known authority on values-based branding, Simon Sinek said, “There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it.” Inspiration can come from previous positive experiences and emotions, so by creating a common thread between the product seller and the buyer, as well as a reason to purchase that is more deeply seated than a short-term issue or pain point, the human element is reintroduced. This can create a more compelling trigger for them to select a particular product or brand over another, thereby increasing both the opportunity to purchase and the likelihood of long-term brand affinity and loyalty.
Large organizations and legacy brands can also benefit from connecting their brand narrative or brand story to what customers care about. Brands that make the effort to do so statistically spend less on advertising, earn product placements instead of paying sponsorship fees, and generate organic, positive customer loyalty that can turn into sales. That means retaining more profits, fewer expenses, and happier customers.
Not every business knows how to best share its brand story and purpose, but in most cases, there is a key within the core ethos of why a brand was created that customers will deeply relate to.
To get there, ask yourself questions about your customers.
- What do my customers really care about?
- What outcomes do I give them?
- What solutions are they seeking when they buy from us?
- What causes do they follow?
- How can I make a more meaningful impact for them?
When you determine the answers to these questions, along with outlining a series of effective, appropriate steps to shift your brand narrative to align with their needs, it’s more likely that changes can be implemented and make an impact.
If you’re a business owner, are you ready for a brand story reboot? How well is your business or brand connecting with customers in a personal, emotional way? Is the story fresh, and does it resonate with them in a way that matters? Or, is it possible it could be missing something? How much profit might be left on the table because customers don’t clearly see why they should purchase a particular product?
A good brand consulting firm can help you focus on the long-term play, and hold you accountable for implementing the actions needed to grow your business. If you’re looking to increase profits, boost visibility, or build brand affinity in a highly competitive marketplace, schedule a call with our team to discuss what a brand audit and the right story could do for your business.