What SMB’s can learn from Top CMO’s

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I recently attended the 2018 Notre Dame Chief Marketing Officer Summit sponsored by the Mendoza College of Business.  The theme was “The Future of Customer Engagement in a Digital World”.  Top marketing officers from Kellogg Co, TD Ameritrade, Intuit, Keds, Constellation Brands, American Eagle Outfitters, Ally Financial, Edward Jones, and USAA shared thoughts among others.

CMO Summit 2018

Although the brands, industries and organizations represented varied widely, there were some common approaches and themes.  In particular, I was listening for strategies and concepts that are applicable to small and medium businesses.

Here are three relevant themes:

Use emotion to drive brand engagement.

Brand engagement is key metric among all marketers, with the most astute ones valuing deeper actions over passive metrics.  Filling out the quote request form, visiting the store or hitting that “click to call” button is certainly more relevant than views, site visits, or time spent.     The key take-away from these marketers is in how they drive this: emotion.  One CMO even went so far as to say that emotional preference is often justified afterward using logic…but the initial action is driven from something not easily explained.  People feel before they think.  Then they justify it using words that make it sound like they thought it through.  The first job SMB’s should do is to make their customers feelsomething and associate it with their brand.

Strategies for establishing an emotional connection include leveraging the equity of a trusted endorser, testimonials from your customers (which helps SEO if they’re in included in your Google My Business), and telling stories.

 Tell a story

Good stories help customers see themselves benefiting from an association with your brand….being more secure, successful, productive, attractive, satisfied…whatever your brand delivers.  They’re not a logical listing of your features and benefits.  They make your customers feel something.  How did they feel after using your product or service?  Music and video can play an important role in setting the mood and getting your audience in the right frame of mind.  The good news for SMB’s is that social media today supports video, images and clips that can evoke more emotion than yesterday’s newspaper or yellow pages ad.  Story telling has never been easier with today’s tools and online platforms, but you still need to organize your thoughts and have a plan.  Click here to request our best practices for short videos.

Smart beats Big

If you’re a reseller, your suppliers are typically large organizations that have lots of resources.  You can leverage those ideas, themes, creative and digital assets to give you a leg up.  These are typically set up for you in their channel partner or marketing portal, which you should access and use often.  If your supplier partners have MDF or Co-op funding you should use that as it will extend your reach and frequency by adding their dollars to your budget.  Apart from full usage of your supplier resources, you should invest in your own brand.  You can outsmart your local competitors by establishing your brand using that emotional connection before your local competitors do.  Do you have a retail store?  Make visiting and purchasing from you a unique and memorable experience.  Pay off your brand promise with your in-store experience.  Think how unique Apple positions itself within their Apple Stores: store layout, color scheme, advisors, genius bar, etc.  What about your events and promotions?  Are they driving to make your customers feel or experience something in addition to the obvious purchase transaction?  Go beyond the transaction with an invitation to an ownership experience, affiliation or longer term association that you create.

Keep in mind that the strategies that large brands deploy aren’t only available to them…they’re available to SMB’s too!  You might be able to educate them if you’re savvy and been experimenting for a while.  You can be faster and smarter than many of them…testing out new tactics and approaches before they realize what you’re up to.

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