The Marketing Secret That’s Hiding in Plain Sight

brand marketing depends on a secret ingredient: timeThere’s a blatant lack of information about one crucial ingredient to successful marketing that no one seems to want to talk about. You know what that means, right?

I’m going to write about it, of course.

The secret marketing ingredient no one ever seems to mention is …

Time.

Any marketing effort you make takes place over time. You plan your marketing, schedule it, implement it and track its results over time. And how you handle your marketing over time will determine whether or not it’s successful.

How to Screw It Up

It’s alarming how easy it is to mess up your carefully planned and executed strategy. All it takes is one shoddily-executed marketing piece to set back all your efforts.

The most common mistake I see? Creating pieces that are “off brand.” They look unrelated to everything your company has done previously. They use a different visual style, or write in a voice that doesn’t sound familiar.

Sometimes this happens out of boredom. You work hard to decide on colors, typefaces and an overall feel to your materials. But you get tired of looking at the same website and style. So you decide to change things up and try something new.

You don’t research the market and do a careful study of your options. You simply print a marketing piece — or create a website — that looks and feels completely unrelated to everything you’ve done before.

Big mistake.

All that brand recognition you worked so hard to build up? Gone.

You confuse your target market with your new “look,” and they wonder if the company has a new owner. You lose trust.

Steady as She Goes: Why Consistency Matters

… a high degree of consistency is normally associated with personal and intellectual strength. Is is at the heart of logic, rationality, stability and honesty. – Robert B. Cialdini, Ph.D.

Consistent marketing offers your audience a shortcut to understanding your information. They don’t have to process your logo, colors and typefaces — they can simply assimilate the new information you’re presenting.

Think about it this way. The first time you visit a blog, you pay attention to the name, style, colors and typefaces in great detail. They help form your image of the site, and — by extension — your ideas about the company.

But the second time you visit, you don’t pay as much attention to the visuals. And in subsequent visits, you go straight to the newest post, and start absorbing the information presented.

Tried and True, and Trustworthy, Too

When you suddenly change the visual appearance of your marketing materials, your audience is jarred by the change, and isn’t sure what else may have changed in your company. Do you still offer the same products and services they’ve come to expect? They’re not sure.

Instead of taking in your latest marketing information, they have to process the change first. They may never get around to understanding what you’re really trying to communicate.

Stay the Course

You build trust over time, by presenting your company consistently over and over. Your message, your visual presentation, your overall style work together to form an image in the minds of your target market.

Make sure time is on your side by staying true to your message, and sticking by your design decisions. It’s one secret to marketing success that’s not a secret any more.

Creative Commons License photo credit: bogenfreund

Comments

  1. says

    Great points, Pam. Change forces readers to process. Better to direct their energy toward processing your new content.

    It can also happen with your content if you lose sight of your target reader, or never quite establish a target in the first place. If you focus on one reader consistently, a unified message consistently emerges, sort of like a brand: a “thought brand”, if you will.

    Did I just make up a new expression? Hmmm, “thought brand”, not bad. ‘Scuse me, I gotta go buy a domain name.

    Jack

  2. says

    Pamela, the moment I started to read the first line I began to laugh… you will not believe me, but let me tell you.

    I was talking to a potential customer and telling him how important it was to market his product and how long it would take. Its really hard to convince customers that marketing takes time and does not work overnight. People like copyblogger and problogger have taken years to reach where they are today. Due to some crazy thought by some fancy blogger it has become more of a requirement to succeed overnight.

    The only way you will succeed overnight is my using blackhat techniques and that will surely get you in more of a soup than establish a brand for you.

    Lovely article. I am going to send this to my client and hopefully he will understand.

    • says

      Wouldn’t it be nice if we could see instant results? But this stuff always takes time, and you have to be patient and keep at it consistently.

      I agree that blackhat techniques aren’t the way to go, either. Not if you want a solid business you can count on down the road.

  3. says

    Great post Pam. This is something I’ve definitely struggled with. I always want things now. It might be because I’m so young. But I’m working to get better at it and this post definitely helps me.

    • says

      Thanks, Brandon. You know what they say: awareness is half the battle. Just knowing that time and consistency work together means you’ll be able to keep them in mind — and be patient ;-)

      Thanks for your comment!

  4. says

    Pamela, I often see companies limit their brands to marketing. They forget about their business and technical people who are delivering reports and other communication to customers (internal and external). Those reports need to support the brand, too. And that’s often not front-of-mind for non-marketing people.

    This is one area where company’s regularly let down their brands. The brand may be represented consistently in marketing material, but the thing the customer actually pays for — a 6 week consulting gig, say — ends with handing over of an unbranded report. Or worse, several reports which bear little resemblance to each other!

    You wouldn’t believe the number of times I’ve seen poor quality logos, or ones stretched out of proportion, on business reports. And that’s just for starters! If only companies would realise that this stuff is marketing their brands, too.

    • says

      Mark, that is a great point. I touched on that topic in this post, but I may have to write another post exclusively about this idea.

      I’ve seen it quite a bit, too, both as a consumer and as a consultant. They’re all lost opportunities to stay on message and maintain a brand image.

      • says

        Thanks Pamela, I read that post a while back.

        It’s so important for a business’s entire work practices to be aligned with its brand. It’s amazing how may clients I’ve worked for where the people outside of marketing (even in sales) don’t know their company colour palette, style guidelines, etc.

        Templates are one way people can be supported to consistently deliver the brand. That’s one of my areas of expertise (and the topic of my most recent blog posts). I’ve seen the huge difference this makes in the customer’s experience of the brand. And people love their own work to be presented in a fantastic-looking document.

        • says

          Agreed! I just did a lesson in the Big Brand System course where I shared templates for a whole series of marketing materials. I created most of them in OpenOffice so members could customize them by themselves.

          people love their own work to be presented in a fantastic-looking document.

          This is very true as well — writers like to see their work presented well!

  5. says

    Yes, yes, and thousand times, yes! As a business coach I find myself having similar conversations with my clients all the time. My personal view is that most of them have to function as “business owner-as-marketer”. Marketing is not their core competency, yet they often have little choice but to be the one in their business who does the marketing research, develops the strategy, creates the lead generation tools, and carries out the plan. And time is not a resource any of them feel they have much of!

    Great post! I will be sharing this regularly. Thank you!

    • says

      Thanks, Bobby. Those business owners you mention — the ones who find themselves needing to handle marketing duties themselves — are exactly the people I’m trying to reach with this blog.

      It can be a daunting task, but I believe business owners will always tackle their own marketing with more passion than anyone else, so they’re uniquely suited to do the work.

      Thanks for your visit and comment!

  6. says

    I think you must be talking to me!
    I have done everthing myself, from my site to all my marketing. Slowly moving forward one step at a time. Slowly building a name for myself and gathering a following. I find it is my followers recommendations that bring me the most business.
    I don’t know much about marketing, but I try and read and really do take my time. I am small enough that “time” is one thing I do have to invest. Also as you said motivation is high because it is your business.
    Thanks for the article.
    Mel

    • says

      Hi Melissa: thanks for leaving a comment!

      Well, the good news is marketing is just like any other skill: it can be learned. And you’re sitting at a powerful design tool, whether you know it or not. Our computers can do a lot to make our business materials look good, even if we don’t have fancy design programs. It’s just a matter of knowing some rules and then making good decisions about spacing, typefaces, colors, etc.

      I’m glad you stopped by! Hope to see you again soon. :-)

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