If there’s one thing we can all learn from COVID-19, it’s that the internet is full of bad advice.
There are plenty of people who are willing to tell you whether you should or shouldn’t wear a mask, what fish antibiotics you should be taking, and what government plot is behind the spread of this latest pandemic.
There are also plenty of people who are willing to give bad marketing advice. (Heck, that’s not news to anyone that’s spent a few minutes in a Facebook group.) What’s shocking to me is how downright awful the advice from someone who is supposed to be an expert can actually be.
There’s a specific example that has me miffed right now. In said example, this expert states the following:
“…clients aren’t interested in branding. They are much more interested in your business’s:
- Training and credentials
- Breadth of knowledge and skill
- Services and IT solutions
This is such a boneheaded thing to say that it actually offends me as a marketing professional. Here’s why:
First of all, most of the things on that bulleted list are part of a company’s brand, so the statement actually makes no sense. (It does prove that the person making the statement doesn’t know enough about branding to be a trustworthy source of information, though.)
Now, the inflammatory part of the above statement is that “clients aren’t interested in branding.”
Consumers aren’t supposed to be interested in branding. But you should be interested in it because branding is what connects consumers to your business. Your branding doesn’t have to “interest” your clients, it just needs to resonate with them and show them that you’re different from the 20 other IT companies that are emailing them every day.
When someone says “clients aren’t interested in branding,” all I hear is “I don’t understand branding, so it’s not important. Just trust me on that one.”
You can’t take a single marketing course without learning and understanding the importance of branding. It just won’t happen. The fact that someone can claim to be a marketing expert and utter those words is what has me in such a tizzy, because it’s just so blatantly wrong. It’s like hearing an auto mechanic say “meeeeh, you don’t need to put oil in your car. Maybe if it was a more expensive car, but nah. Your car doesn’t burn oil, it burns gasoline.” You hear something like that and immediately recognize that something is really, really off.
If executed correctly, branding builds subtle bridges between consumers and sellers. “Subtle” is a key word there. Branding requires creativity, artistry, style, and real understanding of human behavior. Branding requires skills and abilities that can’t be learned from books or YouTube videos, which is why so many mass-produced marketers badmouth it. It’s hard to do correctly.
But when it is done correctly, branding solves many of the growth problems that MSPs are facing on a daily basis. Branding helps with acquisition and retention. Branding increases response rates to outbound marketing. Branding improves mindshare and helps with wedge selling. Branding increases value perception — it’s how you avoid becoming a commodity! And branding is NOT just important for $10m companies, because solid brand strategies are how small businesses penetrate into and survive in competitive markets.
If branding didn’t work for small businesses, every single consumer product would be purchased from Amazon or Walmart because the only relevant factor would be price and convenience. But there’s actually a resurgence in bespoke and specialty retail that is entirely focused around brands. Yes, people will pay more for something because they resonate with the brand that’s selling it. Again, this common sense, day-one marketing stuff that no respectable professional should ever be contradicting out of hand.
Sure, branding is powerful — the great equalizer in business — but it can only do these positive things if it’s done well. You can’t go to someone who says “branding isn’t important unless you’re Nike” and expect them to develop and execute a viable brand strategy for your MSP — they won’t know how. You definitely can’t expect quality work from someone who thinks a “branding guide” is a person (another funny mistake made by the aforementioned expert). Of course they can’t help you with branding — they can’t even navigate the terminology well enough to trash talk it.
If you want to see the power of branding, go to someone who knows how to harness that power. A powerful brand strategy doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming — it just has to be developed by experts who know what they’re doing. And remember that going to a “marketing professional” who tells you not to worry about branding is like going to a mechanic who tells you not to put oil in your car.