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SXSWv2v Event Reveals Frank Insights into How to Brand Your Startup

By Serena Ehrlich, Director of Social and Evolving Media, Business Wire

One of the major benefits of the SXSW conferences is the ability to connect with experts and brainstorm challenges and solutions, strategies and tactics on every aspect of building a business, establishing the reputation and product offerings needed to succeed.

SXSWv2v, Marketing Your Way to Success through Social Media Branding, hosted by Melodie Tao, featured a frank discussion focusing on the tactical steps startups must take to build a consistent, successful business brand. The audience included marketing professionals, CEOs, entrepreneurs and blue chip brands.

“How can you establish your brand?” was the first question Melodie posed.

A key rule in branding is always be branding. 

When you start the branding process, you must know your brand, and your audience.  Focus on what your product does today, not what your goal is tomorrow. Once you build loyal brand users for today’s product, it will be easier to convert them to tomorrow’s product.

To get started, get to know your product and what makes you different from your competitors and why that difference matters to your audiences, and then create a customer journey that outlines their path to purchase. Use data to tell you how long your sales cycle is, how often the users need your offering, when they make buying decisions, where they find the information (and file type) they consume each day. Then map out all the ways someone can engage with your brand and which of those touch points is the most impactful in the buy process.

Once you know your ideal customer, create your marketing goals. The room agreed that marketing content must be created to match every possible point in the customer journey—from learning about your business to becoming a customer and, even more importantly, a brand fan.

Create reputable, convertible content.

The creation of fundamental messaging is key.  One audience member successfully uses the pyramid model of messaging that allows employees to present their company clearly in 1 sentence, 1 minute, 3 minutes or more.

Many audience members suggested the creation of a style guide that outlines the usage of company logos and other multimedia files, taglines, boilerplate, email signatures, social media company descriptions, key marketing messages, marketing personas and tone, presentation decks and more.

Use an editorial calendar to help you stay organized and on track of content creation. Include both internal dates such as product launches and contract renewals as well as holidays, trade shows and annual market trends.

Present your differential and marketing messaging in written content like news releases, white papers and blog posts, visual content such as photos, interactive assets, photo essays, story arcs and video content in both long form and gif type files.  Differentials should include not only product impact differences, but customer testimonials for reinforcement.

The only good content is seen content.

Once you know your content strategy, calendar and content type,it is time to think about content promotion. The worst mistake you can make is to assume your content will go viral on its own.

While there are a wide range of marketing tactics to support content marketing, each idea falls into one of four core ways to increase the visibility of your content:

  • Paid: Pay to promote it!  If you paid to create content, it makes sense that you will have to pay to promote it.  A few paid promotional tools include news release promotion, influencer programming and online/traditional/social media advertising.
  • Earned: Pitch your story to relevant editors and journalists and reach out directly to social brands fans, employees, friends and family and ask them to write about or share your news. This is why building your company’s community is so important—happy active community members help broaden the reach of your company brand, and build your reputation, all with a single share.
  • Owned: Promote your content all over your owned sites – the front page of your website, email signatures, business cards, blog posts and social channels.
  • Shared: Reach out to industry partners and ask them to share your news, include sharing in partnership contracts and more.

It was unfortunate this discussion only lasted an hour—there was much more the audience could have discussed. For additional information on best practices related to promoting content, activating audiences or content creation, please read:

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