Before you can start to incorporate the philosophy and techniques of brand journalism into your marketing plans, you need to consider this question:
Why do people do business with your business?
Every business would like more customers, clients and sales.
Your existing customers do business with you for one, or maybe two, of these reasons:
Option 1: You’re the only available option in your market.
This is a pure monopoly. Pure monopolies are rare, outside of services like utilities, but they still exist, especially in smaller towns and rural areas.
- Think “rural broadband.” Trust me, it’s a misnomer in the region where I live. Even at my home in a major metro area, I only have 2 options for high speed internet. One is through the cable company (Spectrum), the other through AT&T.
Option 2: You’re the lowest price alternative in your market and your “customers” are primarily motivated by price.
This probably means your product or service is a commodity. If you’re competing solely or mainly on price you’re at the mercy of the bigger players in your market and on changes in consumer demand.
A few consumers are willing to pay a tiny bit more, sometimes, if your business location is more convenient at the moment they need to buy what you have to sell or if your business can more quickly respond to a service need.
Option 3: You Offer Premium Quality Products or Services
Businesses in this segment can price their products and services to reflect quality because the customer base is willing to pay for quality or the perception of quality that can come from a long history in the community or industry vertical.
At this level, you’ve moved beyond commodity level to the delivery of something that’s unique in some way and your clients and customers recognize this.
Trust is an element of quality.
Sometimes there’s a perception of quality simply because your company has been around for a long time. This is especially true in smaller communities and niche industry verticals. Think about some of the most popular restaurants in your community that aren’t franchises and the most successful plumbing companies, auto repair shops. Sometimes the association with quality is warranted. Sometimes, the quality is no greater than many competitors, but the perception of quality is there because the business has been around for a long time.
You Benefit From Brand “Identity” + Trust + Quality
At this level you’re hitting the sweet spot.
By brand identity, I mean that your clients and customers not only know about your brand, they find something in your “brand” that resonates with their values and aspirations.
Let's take a look at some examples, using businesses that aren't global brand behemoths:
Note: I have no affiliation with these companies, other than being a paying customer. They don’t know I’m writing this, although I might mention it to them as I share this blog post around the Start Learn Co social channels.
Harvest Roots Farm and Ferment
Even though I can (and frequently do) go the DIY route to make my own, lacto-fermented sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi and kombucha, I also regularly buy these same products from Harvest Roots Farm.
Why? Pete & Lindsay use local produce that’s clean and free of pesticides and all that stuff, they care for the land, they care for community, and they don’t aspire to be the big box global behemoth of probiotics.
How do I know this? Pet & Lindsay do a great job of sharing the Harvest Roots Farm story on Instagram and Facebook. They very effectively combine brand storytelling with social media marketing to grow and nurture deep, meaningful relationships with their customers.
“Last Call” 2017 Fermented Chili Paste. “Last Call” is the calls we get every October from our friends asking if we want their last hot pepper harvests before frost. We love those calls. We just harvested 30-40lbs from @feel.good.farm only hours before they were to be ripped out. And then 30-40lbs from @mtlaurelfarm and multiple more deliveries to come. Ten gallons down. We hope to make 25 gallons to keep you warm through winter. (P.S. these two make Harvest Roots happen…)
Zkano is a family-owned business that brought sock making back to east Alabama. I’m willing to pay extra to buy my running socks and some of my other socks. Why? I care about helping support the local economy. Values, again.
Zkano also does a great job of telling their brand story on their website and through traditional media coverage (using PR). Zkano also benefits from bloggers and social media influencers who also tell the story of why Zkano socks matter.
In the next post we'll take a look at how to look at brand journalism, content marketing and social media marketing when your product or service isn't visually compelling and/or your constrained by professional rules of conduct and proprietary information.