Mind Over Mountain: Five Lessons I’m Taking into 2023

By Lauren Sweeney

In late August, I stood at the base of a mountain in Utah.

Over the next 36 hours, I hiked it 13 times up and down, struggling each time to gather the energy to repeat my ascent. By late afternoon on the second day, I had hiked 29,029 vertical feet — roughly the equivalent to the height of Mount Everest.

This was Everesting. It was my misogi challenge for 2022: one in which I set an impossible goal designed to uncover what I’m capable of. I’ve learned a lot from this form of goal setting over the last four years, with an eye on applying these lessons to push Dotted Line forward.

My experience on that Utah mountain gave me much more than anticipated. Here are the lessons I learned that I’m carrying into 2023 and beyond.

1. Tackle your goal with grit and perseverance.

Any challenge comes with unforeseen problems, so we shouldn’t be surprised when these issues surface. Working through problems and adversity often separates those who will achieve their goal and those who won’t.

The difficulty of the challenge is what makes your success that much sweeter. That conviction when reaching the goal fuels a mindset of greater confidence and mental fortitude.

2. Attitude means everything.

As a mentor has shared with me about agency ownership, “Your attitude determines your altitude.” That’s because our thinking and beliefs drive our behaviors.

In our eight years, Dotted Line has ridden that coaster of highs and lows, ups and downs. If we believe we can tackle a pitch, we can. If we believe we can answer creatively to the toughest client test, we can. Positivity makes everything come together in magical ways.

3. Break it into bite-sized pieces.

Scaling a team, a product, or a company is an uphill challenge. Breaking the effort into individual steps focuses you on smaller pieces to complete and then move on to the next.

You control the pace of that progress, including if you need to break down one step into micro-steps. The important thing is that you don’t stop but simply keep moving forward with progress.

4. We are the stories we tell ourselves.

In agency ownership, there are seasons when we have momentum, and every move feels like a win. Then there are years when we don’t achieve our goals. This happens in business.

You can’t succeed if you don’t try. I’ve learned the hard lessons of remaining optimistic, learning from our misses, and keeping focused on my purpose and ultimate desired outcome.

5. The journey is the ultimate success.

Part of the mantra at Everesting is, “The journey isn’t about winning or losing; it’s about winning and learning.”

This past year at Dotted Line, we saw success with notable new clients, award-winning creative work, and business expansion. We learned about our shifting culture and people priorities to align with where we’re headed next. We learned about operating in our sweet spots and how to focus our talents.

No matter the season – whether it be a year of peaks or valleys – there is support, growth and much to appreciate in life.

This article has been edited for length. Visit Little Black Book to read the full version.

The do’s and don’ts of experiential marketing

By Matt Suttmiller

You’ve definitely encountered or participated in experiential marketing before – even if you didn’t know it at the time.

Experiential marketing involves creating memorable and innovative customer experiences that create deep emotional connections between a customer and brand. It’s a hands-on, boots-on-the-ground type of marketing that you’ll most often see in action at in-person events.

Some experiential marketing campaigns you might have seen out in the world include:

Yes, high-profile companies tend to make the biggest waves and earn the most online views with these kinds of campaigns. But experiential marketing can move the needle for any business of any size – if it’s done right.

Let’s dig into how experiential marketing can benefit your business, how it’s changed in recent years (hello, pandemic!), and some do’s and don’ts that’ll help you make the most out of it.

Why should you invest in experiential marketing?

Experiential marketing can create an impression that lasts – and often converts:

  • 65% of brands say experiential marketing increases sales.
  • 91% of consumers say branded events and experiences make them more likely to purchase.
  • 46% of consumers feel more positive about a brand after engaging in one of its events.

Digital marketing and other kinds of content often involve making a quick impression on consumers. With experiential marketing, you get to forge a personal connection that helps the consumer remember you months or years down the road. This especially helps brands whose products are more expensive or have a longer sales funnel.

For example, customers rarely impulse-buy insurance; it’s a longer, more carefully considered decision that they might not even need to make right now. That’s why companies like GEICO and Progressive pour massive spend into experiential marketing: It helps consumers remember them when the time to buy insurance finally comes.

Branded events also help you collect more in-the-moment data from your target audience. And they can even be a launchpad for online publicity. (Influencers love promoting branded experiences.)

How has experiential marketing changed recently?

As in most industries, the experiential marketing world experienced some massive changes triggered by COVID-19. But some of these changes are arguably for the better.

Marketers tapped into their creative juices to come up with virtual solutions to reach and engage prospects while maintaining physical distance. When in-person events did happen, they got rid of tangible lead-capture tools like iPads to minimize touchpoints. Instead, they opted for more cost-effective routes (with an added focus on personal health) like scannable QR codes so the consumer journey stayed within each consumer’s personal device.

Now, as in-person events are ramping back up, marketers have new insights for strategically spending their experiential marketing budget. They better understand which goals they can effectively accomplish through virtual or hybrid events rather than fully in-person ones. They’ve also started to favor more cost-effective engagement tools – no more dropping thousands of dollars on a bunch of tablets to collect email addresses. Plus, since the pandemic has kept people closer to home, it’s led marketers to seek out more localized initiatives to promote their products. 

Which, incidentally, leads to the first do of experiential marketing…

Three do’s of experiential marketing

  1. Do go where the customer is. Tempted to take your experiential campaign on a big circuit around the country? Before you get too ambitious, ask yourself: “How do I meet my customers where they are?” Unless you’re a nationwide company selling something everyone and their mother needs, you probably need to narrow your scope. Identify your target audience, then determine the cities and events where you’re most likely to find them. This will keep your campaign targeted and help you maximize spend.
  2. Do show return on investment (ROI). Like any worthwhile marketing campaign, experiential marketing is an investment. If you can’t show ROI, you’re not going to get buy-in for future experiential efforts. Gather the data you need to prove that you accomplished what you set out to do. And if you exceeded expectations, even better.
  3. Do conduct post-event research. Use surveys to understand how your experiential campaign impacted (or didn’t impact) your audience. A month or two after your event, reach out to people who likely engaged with it and ask them their thoughts. Then leverage that information for a pulse study to see if your event improved your audience’s overall perception of the brand. (If it did, that’s another point in your favor when seeking buy-in for future campaigns.)

Three don’ts of experiential marketing

  1. Don’t skimp on logistics. The event is only a piece of an experiential marketing effort. Have you accounted for the time it takes to produce supporting materials and collateral? How will you transport those materials – and how long will that take, particularly on a campaign with multiple stops? How much will you need to pay truck drivers, setup crews and on-site brand ambassadors? Tie up those loose ends so the campaign goes off without a hitch.
  2. Don’t forget to define your key performance indicator. If you start a campaign unsure of what you want to accomplish with it, you won’t be able to measure its success or ROI afterward. Determine exactly what you want to gain from experiential marketing. It could be a certain number of email opt-ins, coupon code activations or some other outcome. Set a realistic expectation – and if you don’t reach it, use the data you gather to optimize future campaigns.
  3. Don’t overlook smaller, more local opportunities. Everyone wants to give their brand the biggest possible platform. Maybe it’s your dream to set up an experiential event at a nationally renowned trade show or at major league sporting events. But don’t let these super-sexy prospects distract you from reaching your target audience. If you’re most likely to find prospective customers at less glitzy events – like a farmer’s market or the spring fling at your in-laws’ church – put those at the top of your list.

Not sure where to begin with experiential marketing or how to get it to work for you? Our brand strategy, content and creative experts can help pinpoint your audience and execute a great campaign that’ll forge lifelong customer relationships. Contact us to get started.

Tuesday Thought: The Power of What We Say

Last week, I took off on another training hike in preparation for the 29029 Everesting challenge, now coming up in less than a month. Our group, which included my colleague Emily Shane and two others, selected an 18-mile trail, which we covered in about 8.5 hours. This was a big step toward our Everesting experience, where we’ll hike more than 30 miles over 36 hours.

About 7 hours into this strenuous hike, our legs were tired, some of our crew had run out of water, and we couldn’t wait to just stop. We’d hit the point when doubt starts to creep in. Our small crew started talking about what motivated us to sign up for this type of challenge. Each of us shared details of our personal stories, what drives us and what we hope to gain from this experience.

I quickly noticed a trend in our conversation. Collectively, we recognized the life lessons we all learn when we aim to accomplish an outsized challenge. We also spoke about the personal influences in each of our lives: great mentors, coaches, friends – and the mantras we pick up along the way from these people.

As we were hiking a 20-40% incline on mile 14, our small group started voicing these positive mantras out loud in a round-robin type of fashion to keep the energy up and positivity flowing.

If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.

Growth and comfort do not coexist.

The hard is what makes it great.

I didn’t come this far to only come this far.

No matter what, remember tomorrow.

We are here to empty the tank. Leave it all on the mountain.

A few years ago, during training for a half-marathon, I kept getting stuck at mile 8. I started studying mindset coaching with retired Navy SEAL Chadd Wright, now an elite ultra-endurance athlete. One of his recommended tactics is a practice called thankful miles. At each mile, you say out loud something you’re grateful for. “We aren’t going to be negative,” Chadd says, “We aren’t going to give our pain a voice. There is power in what we articulate out loud.”

I am not good enough.

I don’t have enough experience.

I don’t have what it takes.

These are dangerous lines to feed our minds.

These important lessons have profoundly impacted my life, and it’s simple. This week, I’m paying attention to what I say out loud. The power in what we say defines how we see ourselves and what we can accomplish.

Tuesday Thought: Why you should set impossible goals

Every year, I set a big personal goal. A goal so large that it seems impossible to reach. But then, when I succeed, the impacts of crossing that threshold brings benefits I’ll reap the other 364 days of the year. 

Entrepreneur and business leader Jesse Itzler calls this kind of endeavor a Misogi Challenge. By design, it helps us uncover what we’re capable of and tap into possibilities we don’t see now.

Over the past four years, I’ve learned a lot from this perhaps extreme form of goal setting.

Taking on my Everest (literally)

This year, I challenged myself to an endurance hiking event, set for late August. The event is to hike the equivalent height of Mount Everest over 36 hours. My initial training started lightly last November and kicked into high gear three months ago.

A few days ago, I went for one of three lengthy training hikes to help prepare for the event. As with any intentional goal setting, I identified a desired future state: the right hike in terms of distance, elevation gain, and time that aligned with my training plan. I prepared driving directions, gathered supplies and got a good night’s sleep the night before.

But the first few hours of the journey didn’t go as planned.

Our driving directions took us to the wrong side of the mountain, and we lost an hour just getting to our designated starting point. About a mile and a half into the hike, we took a wrong turn due to poor trail markings, costing us another 45 minutes as we realized we were hiking in the opposite direction. With no cell service, we couldn’t rely on GPS. And our fuel supplies didn’t suffice for the added time on the mountain. I had to stop and rest at one point because of unexpected cramping due to dehydration.

I threw my hands up and said out loud, “Let’s just go home.” After all those setbacks, maybe it just wasn’t the right day and under the right conditions to complete that training hikes.

But we stayed and finished the hike. And, as you’d expect, the trek back down the mountain was much easier and more efficient than the hike up.

A universal roadmap for big goals

These types of challenges have taught me numerous lessons over the years. This specific challenge is so large that it is equal parts terrifying and exciting. Because of it, I’ve been studying how to overcome big business or endurance challenges.

According to Itzler, setting a roadmap to accomplish big goals is the same no matter the challenge:

  • Identify and visualize what you want to accomplish and what it looks like when you get there.
  • Acknowledge the personal fear created by the goal.
  • Recognize your internal doubt over your ability to reach the goal. 
  • Define your plan to achieve the goal.
  • Do the work and execute the plan.
  • Solve the right problems when you face unforeseen gaps, setbacks, and challenges. (These problems will happen. Expect them.)
  • Demonstrate optimism and confidence in your mental resiliency.
  • Succeed.

Too often, the problem phase stops people in their tracks. They become so overwhelmed by obstacles in their path that they can’t find the energy to overcome them.

What people don’t recognize is that they’re so close to accomplishing the goal – much closer than they believe and can see. And success is likely just on the other side of that challenge if they can persevere.

My recent training hike was a perfect reminder of this principle put into action. My ultimate August hike is a big challenge. Problems, small hiccups, and setbacks will arise, and we should expect this. But we can’t ever forget that success often is closer than what we might be thinking in the moment.

So, ask yourself: “Am I setting goals that scare me? What am I doing to overcome those fears? And am I closer to succeeding than I tend to believe?

Tuesday Thought: How your core principles can drive results

When teams put their core principles into action, they find themselves on a clear path to achieve desired results. Whether we refer to them as principles or values, these guiding tenets come alive in people’s daily conversations, decisions, and choices.

If you need further convincing, just look at Cheryl Bachelder, former CEO of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen – a brand she helped rescue from a serious slump.

I’ve recently had the privilege of getting to know Cheryl and learning more about her mastery of brand management and servant leadership. From working on brands including Domino’s Pizza, Nabisco, Gillette, and Procter & Gamble, she knows how effective leadership can drive a company’s revenue performance.

Cheryl often talks about the need for a bold destination and a compelling strategic plan – a roadmap that gives clarity as to what a team will accomplish. While the roadmap is essential, Cheryl notes that it can’t drive superior results on its own. Rather, the roadmap is the what; teams need to decide how to work together to accomplish a plan.

This is where core principles (the how) come in. Popeyes’ six core principles are:

  1. Be passionate.
  2. Listen and learn continuously.
  3. Be fact-based and planful.
  4. Coach and develop people.
  5. Be personally accountable.
  6. Value humility.

Popeyes had suffered from declining revenue, a tired brand, low employee retention, and other issues for years. But look at what happened when Cheryl came aboard as CEO and rallied the company around those core principles: Popeyes’ share price grew from $8.90 to $61.31 from February 2008 to December 2016, and its stock outpaced the S&P 500 restaurant sector.

Does your business have bold goals you hope to achieve in the next year or three or 10? That’s great – it should! But you can’t reach those goals with a compelling strategy alone. Your values determine how you will work together to accomplish that strategy. Get aligned on your company’s core principles, and the work will speak for itself.

So, ask yourself: “What are my company’s core principles? Is my team aligned on them, and are they driving the results we want to see?”

What does happiness in the workplace mean for your agency?

After two-plus years of the pandemic, our world’s relationship to work looks completely different from the way it used to.

We have a better understanding of what makes us feel fulfilled on the job and what leaves us feeling high and dry. We’ve learned that a rigid 9-to-5 schedule doesn’t work for everyone. We’ve decided that we deserve to do work that matters to us. In short, happiness in the workplace is more important than it’s ever been.

But happiness can easily fall to the bottom of your company’s priority list, especially in a high-burnout industry like marketing. Obligations to clients, deadlines and agency growth can overshadow whether the people you work with even like being there.

If you’re a leader at your agency, try asking your team a few questions to see how you can help them be happier on the job.

“Do you have the flexibility you need?”

One of the key lessons learned from the pandemic is that everyone works differently.

Some of us operate best with our coworkers buzzing about in the background. Others find a day at home helps them focus on pressing tasks. Some feel they only really need to be in person for important meetings, while others rely on in-person collaboration to spur creativity.

Your team members might have found that their pandemic-era setup worked unexpectedly well, but they might be hesitant to say so – especially if your agency has largely resumed in-person work. Given the nature of professional services, most agencies can offer some work-from-home flexibility without much trouble.

Try asking your team if your current attendance model works for them. If not, dig deeper and see what kind of flexibility they need to thrive.

“Do you feel valued?”

Nobody wants to be in a friendship or relationship where they feel unwanted. That sentiment applies to the workplace, too.

Feeling valued at work doesn’t necessarily mean a beefy paycheck. The highest-paid person on your team might feel undervalued if they get a paltry vacation allowance. Perhaps they’d like more learning and development opportunities, like going to that fancy conference next month. Or maybe they just want you to give them and their work the occasional shout-out.

People also feel more seen when others invest in them as people, not just coworkers. Sure, that office social hour or end-of-quarter party might seem insignificant. But events and team-building exercises help us bond over what makes us human: family, hobbies, culture – even embarrassing high school stories.

Show your team that you want them to feel appreciated, and then work with them to determine how you can make that happen.

“Are we doing meaningful work?”

People can’t be happiest at work if they don’t want to do … well, the work.

Doing work that helps others and feels meaningful can significantly boost your happiness, well-being and even your lifespan. (We’re not kidding.) That’s what’s so important about bringing on clients you and your team believe in. When your team gets to help make a difference, it will motivate them to perform their best.

But having the right clients isn’t the answer for every struggling team member. Sometimes, people just aren’t satisfied with their role on a team. When their responsibilities don’t play to their strengths, they’re bound to feel less accomplished, even if they’re doing passable work. Imagine being a knockout swimmer. Wouldn’t you be bummed if your triathlon relay team assigned you to the bicycle leg, even if you’re a decent cyclist?

Ask your team if they find their work meaningful. If not, encourage them to seek new responsibilities or (if possible) ask to work on a different client.

Finding our Happier Place … and helping you find yours

We’ve done some rethinking lately – about our goals and our motivations, how we perform best, and what makes Dotted Line a great place to work.

Creating a positive work environment is one of our top priorities, especially given how fast we’re growing. Thanks to open office dialogue, we recently took a few actionable steps to make our team a little happier:

  • We started letting people work from home up to three days a week;
  • We adopted an unlimited paid time-off policy with a four-week annual minimum;
  • We adjusted our profit-sharing model to more accurately reflect team members’ hard work; and
  • We scheduled a series of activities in May to commemorate Mental Health Awareness Month, including in-office yoga and a weeklong walking challenge.

One thing hasn’t changed: the happiness we get from doing work that makes others happy, too. That’s why we launched our Happier Place project earlier in May.

The Happier Place involves a simple, easy-to-use landing page. Just click a button to cycle through a roulette of smile-inducing GIFs hand-picked by our team. (We’re especially fond of the rabbit taking a sink bath and pretty much anything involving a hedgehog.)

It’s been a tough stretch for everyone in every industry. We hope this humble piece of creative helps you brighten a dull moment or wind down from a long day. Visit https://findyourhappier.place/ for a quick and easy mood boost.

If you think you need professional mental health services, it’s never the wrong time to seek help. Visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness or the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Services for important resources.

Grow Your B2C Audience With These 3 B2B Marketing Tools

Business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing often comes more naturally to marketers than business-to-business (B2B). It’s in our nature to relate to other people – to draw from our emotions, passions and other human tendencies – which is what B2C is all about. It feels less natural to appeal to whole organizations rather than the individuals within them – to rely on numbers and logic more than shared experience.

These differences have given B2B an unsexy reputation in the marketing world, distracting us from a surprising truth: B2B and B2C are more similar than most of us are willing to admit.

Though their end goals are seemingly different, running a successful B2B or B2C strategy means knowing your audience. And most audiences’ decisions are shaped by information they receive through multiple platforms –platforms customary to both B2B and B2C strategies. Adapting certain traditional B2B tactics to a B2C strategy can help to meet your audience at multiple points in their lives.

Consider using these three traditional B2B tools to fortify your B2C marketing strategy and up your chances of broader audience penetration.

  1. LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a great tool for both building trust in your organization and diversifying your social media audience, especially if you’re marketing to millennials.

Younger audiences are often mission driven in their behaviors. They’re looking for organizations whose beliefs reflect their own, and they want to see those beliefs put into action through products and advocacy. On LinkedIn, you can draw audiences with in-depth content that unpackages complex, mission-focused topics and helps build brand authenticity.

Further, while you’re more likely to reach women on channels like Instagram or Facebook, LinkedIn leans slightly toward men. If professional males are a segment of your audience that’s proven trickier to connect with, you’ll have better luck finding them on LinkedIn.

  1. Inbound Marketing

Inbound is typically a B2B tool because it’s great for marketing anything involving a high price point or long-term investment. Products such as business information software, machinery and consultation services have longer sales funnels, and leads spend more time weighing their options before they buy.

But prolonged sales cycles happen in B2C, too, with expensive products such as cars and homes – or long-term investments like meal kit subscriptions. Successfully marketing these consumer-facing products means nurturing leads through the awareness and consideration stages all the way to final decision.

Take our client GOGO Band, which specializes in tech-based solutions to childhood bedwetting. While our work with them is primarily B2C, their product includes complex electronic equipment and a recurring subscription model – a pricey, long-term investment. So we’re guiding prospects steadily through the sales funnel via email workflows, educational e-books and other lead-nurturing methods.

Remember that B2C inbound marketing should focus on anticipating your audience’s questions and answering them before they even ask. Rather than addressing these major questions in business-friendly formats like white papers and hours-long seminars, do it with bite-sized content like social media posts or newsletters.

  1. Longform Content

I know, I just said to keep things brief. But longform content lets your brand unpackage complex, often data-driven topics in a way that engages the consumer’s whole brain and helps them identify with your business objectives.

Our client Worksite Labs provides quick-turnaround PCR COVID-19 testing for business, travel, events, schools and other purposes. While testing is a high-demand product (especially during the recent Omicron surge), the inner workings of the test product – and the disease it addresses – are highly complex and scientific in nature.

By producing a three-part B2C blog series that explained COVID-19 immunity, preventive practices and treatments, our team helped Worksite Labs speak its audience’s language and educate them on a complicated, widely misunderstood topic. In turn, these blogs emphasized the importance of Worksite Labs’ product and concretized the company’s healthcare expertise.

Whether you use traditionally B2B or B2C tools, you can connect with your consumers if you take the time to understand them. Depending on your product and your goals, you can send different value props to different audiences or the same value prop across multiple platforms. Whatever you land on, be consistent. At the end of the day, it’s consistency that drives consumer decisions.

Are you looking to broaden your audience and meet prospects where they are? Our team of creative, content and brand strategy experts will develop a framework that can help your ambitious brand do more business. Click here to reach out.

Tuesday Thought: How the Golden Rule Drives Success

“A successful team is many voices with a single heart.” – John C. Maxwell

“Relationships help us to define who we are and what we can become. Most of us can trace our successes to pivotal relationships.” – Donald Clifton and Paula Nelson

•••

Dotted Line’s core values guide how we work with each other and with each client every day. At the top of that list: Treat others the way you would want to be treated. But it tends to be the least talked about and most misunderstood value.

We intentionally listed this first among our six values because it’s our guiding star for how we operate in our team-based model. In other words, if we do our best to treat others well in our daily work and interactions, living the rest of our values will come to us more naturally. It’s a big reason why this is a rule we’ve encouraged our team to follow since our earliest days.

Our decisions can impact more than just ourselves. How we treat others is how we invite others to treat us. This goes beyond simply being kind to each other. It’s thinking about others the way you want to be thought of. Feeling about others the way you want to others to feel about you. Speaking to others the way you want to be spoken to.

A well-intentioned culture, competitive benefits and rock-star team members who are known and recognized by our clients – these things are all wonderful. But if we don’t build strong one-to-one relationships within our own team, nothing else really matters. Treating others the way we want to be treated is an easy start to relationship-building. If we forget this, the risk of becoming our own worst enemy becomes greater.

Bringing this Value to Life

Each day, I approach how I engage with those around me – in my family, at work, among friends and within my communities – by aiming to live this value. To start, this means treating people with kindness and respect, but it goes much further. For me, that means I want to know:

  • my hard work will be noticed and recognized by my people leader;
  • team members are excited when I join them on a new assignment;
  • I can contribute new ideas in a group setting without being shot down or ignored,
  • others value my contributions to making our team and agency better;
  • if I have an off morning, someone will notice and ask;
  • my leaders listen and understand where I want to go with my career and are proactively helping me perform at the next level; and
  • my peers see I’m committed to an amazing work product – one we’re all proud of – and that its completion makes the client happy and generates a big team win.

How we embrace and interact with each other will differentiate how we elevate our work and deliver consistent successes for the good of each team member, our agency and our clients.

So, ask yourself: Does the way I treat others within my organization lift them up and further our collective goals? How can I go beyond merely treating people with kindness and respect?

Is Your 2022 Marketing Strategy on Target?

Here are 3 questions mid-size brands should ask themselves to find out.

Growing a middle-market brand is no small feat. You’re often competing in markets that are dominated by big players and saturated with energetic startups.

Many of our clients come to us looking to solve this challenge through marketing, trusting we’ll turn their promotional budget into maximum ROI. An iron-clad marketing strategy is key to keeping any organization afloat, but how do you ensure lasting impact over time?

By always understanding your audience.

If you don’t know what matters most to your key demographic, and how they learn and consume information, you will lose your relevance. Why should they keep you on their radar if you cannot empathize with (and solve) their problems?

My goal is to help our clients ask the right audience-first questions to keep their marketing strategy on track. So, let’s run through the three questions you should ask yourself when putting your own strategy under the microscope.

Are you driving value for your audience?

The entire purpose of a product is to solve the customer’s problems. If your customer-facing content doesn’t focus on how your product can ease their burdens, you will lose their attention, fast.

And that would be a simple charge if you served just one audience, but that’s often not the case. Organizations need to spend the time to understand each audience (their hopes, obstacles, and behaviors), understand their potential impact to your organization (lifetime value), and prioritize marketing spend accordingly.

Thankfully, if you’re already in business, you likely have ready access to your customer base. If you ask them to help improve your services, they’ll often be more than happy to oblige.

An in-person or online customer survey is perhaps the simplest branding “health check” you can conduct. Ask customers whether you’re meeting their needs and, if not, what you can do to fix it. (And it never hurts to offer participants a small incentive as a thank-you.)

Is your message relevant to your audience?

There are two types of relevance to consider: cultural relevance and industry relevance. As the speed of business and culture continues to quicken, it’s important to show customers that you’re in touch with what currently matters in a way that separates you from the competition.

Culturally relevant brands share their messages in a way that customers resonate with and understand. This extends beyond simply using keywords, phrases, and concepts your audience is familiar with; you should mirror their values as well.

A brand’s cultural involvement drives a whopping 25% of the average consumer’s purchase decision. If your brand gives back to the community, supports social issues, and otherwise conducts itself in a way that matters to customers, they will notice.

Brands should also maintain industry relevance by taking note of major changes, challenges, and opportunities in the marketplace. A brand that adapts its messaging to respond to its audience’s excitement or concerns about these changes will come off as trustworthy and well-adjusted. COVID-19 is a great example of this – brands that pivoted to meet their audience during this unique time earned brownie points in dividends.

Marketers can pursue both cultural and industry relevance by simply keeping a steady eye on conversations in the news and on social media. It also helps to study the discourse between your competitors and their audiences to determine what works and what misses the mark. Brands that want to stay in the know should consider regular assessments of competitors’ websites and social channels to gain a quick view of market conversations and untapped opportunities.

Are you using your audience’s chosen platforms?

Every brand has a customer base that interacts with the world in a unique way. We know millennial moms are oftentimes driven to the stimulating visuals of Instagram while their boomer parents tend toward more traditional social channels like Facebook. When you focus the bulk of your budget and energy on your audience’s chosen mediums, you can maximize your marketing impact.

Also ask whether your activity on those platforms is driving the actions you want in your business. Are your customers being led to your website? Does that, in turn, lead them to make a purchase or ask for a quote? Conduct quarterly and annual analyses to see whether your strategy is yielding the desired business outcomes, not just marketing outcomes.

An effective marketing strategy requires dedicated attention to many different aspects of your audience and brand. Asking yourself these three questions – on a daily basis, not just once or twice a year – is critical to identifying diverse strategies and creating holistic solutions that may be grounded in marketing but are revenue-generating – which is the ultimate goal for all middle-market brands.