By Lynn Manternach / Guest Editorial

Quick, name a bank.

What came to mind first for you? Was it your bank? Or perhaps another local bank? For many people, it’s easier to quickly come up with a nationally-known bank brand than a local one. That’s because, thanks to big advertising budgets, we encounter advertising for national brands daily. The more frequently we hear the name the more likely the brand is top of mind.

Top-of-mind brands have a powerful market advantage. When customers and potential customers need a product, service or solution, companies that come to mind first are on the short list for consideration. Being on the top of the short list has an impact on the bottom line. Multiple research studies show there is a direct link between top-of-mind awareness rankings and market share.

But just because you don’t have a huge advertising budget doesn’t mean your company can’t be top of mind. There are other ways to build top-of-mind awareness.

Get social. Social media can be a powerful tool for advertisers because it helps build brands without the expense of traditional media. Platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter give you the opportunity to connect with and engage customers and potential customers in ways that matter to them.

In addition, social media makes it possible to target your messages. If you’re talking to everyone, you’re not actually talking to anyone. A smaller, more targeted approach feels more personal, making it easier to engage with your customers.

Be visible. Consumers don’t wake up in the morning hoping to see some kind of messaging from your company. In fact, many of today’s consumers are actively avoiding marketing and advertising. That means you have to be visible, but not pushy.

Look for opportunities to connect your brand to the things that are important to your customers. If you’re a community bank, for example, connect your brand to community events.

Get your name out there by providing people the information they need to make a good decision about a product or service like yours. Use social media and search engine optimization to make sure consumers can find you and reach out for more.

Differentiate. One of the keys to making your brand top of mind is to make sure it is differentiated. You have to look at competitive differentiation from the perspective of your consumers. While you may think what you offer is clearly superior to what your competitor offers, the only differentiation that matters is the differentiation that is perceived and deemed relevant by consumers.

So who do your current and potential customers see as your competitors? Why? And how do you compare to those competitors in ways that are relevant to your current customers and potential customers? The best way to find out is to ask them. Once you understand what differentiates your brand, fiercely protect that differentiation, and communicate it at every brand touch point.

Be consistent. Maintaining brand consistency is hard. Marketers are always looking for ways to create something new. But when it comes to brand building, consistency is one of the keys to success.

There are many reasons to strive for consistency, but increasing brand recognition is one of the most important reasons. Maintaining consistency in the right ways means consumers recognize your brand at a glance, which helps with awareness. The challenge is that brand consistency takes many years to master before it really starts to work for a company. Many leading companies are leading because they have many years of brand consistency behind them.

They had a clear vision of where they needed to go, and consistently communicated their brand with visuals and messaging along the way. That doesn’t mean they haven’t adjusted and adapted product strategies and tactics as needed over the years. It means they have communicated the essence of their brand consistently. It’s not easy to have that kind of brand focus in an every-changing consumer marketplace, but the advantages are undeniable.

Build word of mouth. Consumers have a plethora of places to share their stories of joy or dismay about your brand with the world. Blogs, email, online communities and review options on Web sites can create a firestorm of awareness about your brand – good or bad.

Word of mouth is highly credible. Those recommendations are generally more effective than the marketing and advertising you pay for.

Top-of-mind awareness is a powerful advantage for those who have earned it. Staying focused on understanding and managing the customer experience is critically important for your brand, and ultimately, for your top-of-mind awareness.

After all, your brand isn’t what you say it is – it’s what consumers say it is.

 

 

Lynn Manternach is brand arsonist and president at MindFire Communications Inc. (MindFireComm.com) in Cedar Rapids and Le Claire. Contact Lynn at lmanternach@mindfirecomm.com.

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