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Hi, I’m Michelle Raab — Welcome

This is the launch of my new blog, and I’m so excited! Why? Because I love marketing. Creating strategies. The science of it. Researching trends, marketing best-practices, and tips. Writing about it. Here’s where I’m going to share my love and knowledge of marketing with you. The small business owner. Sole proprietor entrepreneur. The freelancer. The indie creative.

Why did I start this blog?

I live in an area that has a small “commercial” area, a few short streets really. The street is lined with sole proprietor shops and family owned businesses from a grocery store to a bakery to many restaurants, clothing stories, shoe repair store, and even a nonprofit movie theater. I think that this is what makes the area that I live in unique, special, and charming. There is no other place like this.

One of the main reasons that there is no other place like this is because of the people who own those shops. It is the people who make this area unique. People who live and raise families in this community. Having unique communities enriches all of us. When I shop, I’d prefer to buy handmade soap from an Etsy shop than buy it from a chain store. Why? Because of the love that went into making that soap. Those artisans love what they do so much that when you get the soap, it’s like opening a present with how they package their item. That love shows through in the shops and restaurants in my area. The owners care about their customers and care about what they do. They are not alone.

Small businesses make up about 99.9% of all businesses in the US. Home-based businesses make up 52% of all small businesses. Careful planning is essential for the growth of these businesses. For me, small businesses are more than just numbers. They are the people at those shops that I like visiting.

Seeing small businesses thrive brings me joy, because behind the business is a person who is passionate about what they do.

Freelancing means freedom for so many. It provides a way to do something that they love and get paid doing it. It means making extra money, so that they can live more freely within their budgets. It means being able to be geographically free. For others, it is a way to pursue lifestyles that they find more spiritually rewarding. I want to help support that freedom by helping freelancers with their marketing.

Almost all mass media is owned by six companies. Our culture is in part created and curated by mass media. Mass media isn’t set up to help foster diverse voices, partly because they are too big. They can’t represent niche audiences, because their budgets can’t afford to market to that kind of audience. The big corporations are built to serve the masses, not niches. Indie writers, who are their own publishing houses, can afford to represent and market to those niche audiences. Representation is vital to diversity inclusion and empowerment. Indie writers and other creatives are not only vital to representation for diverse audiences, they also represent diverse audiences. The creatives are diverse. In my work with the World Indie Warriors that I founded and lead, we are creating a community that is dedicated in expanding the stage for diverse voices. As a marketer, I want to help you, the indie creative, find your audience.

The purpose of this blog is to give sound advice and foundational information that both stands on its own and is complementary to the paid consultation that I do. The consultation is available for those who want or need more personalized service.

What is this blog all about?

What can you expect on this blog? My plan is to give information that you can use to aid in your marketing efforts and background information into the science of it:

  • Quick Reads
    • Postcards from rabbit hole dives (Little summaries of things I find on my rabbit hole dives)
    • Tips lists
    • Trends
    • News
    • Recommendations
    • Quick book reviews
    • Quick summaries of news, techniques, tactics, etc.
  • Featured Posts
    • In depth analysis
    • How tos
    • How whys
    • Book Reviews with commentary
    • Summaries with commentary of rabbit hole dives

I will also include FREE Tip Sheets and worksheets that will help you in your marketing efforts. 

Who is this blog for? 

I have friends from graduate school who use their doctorate in psychology in marketing, because psychology is the foundational science for marketing. I think that small business owners deserve the same kind of expertise in their marketing strategy plans as corporations. In fact, I feel passionately about providing the same level of advice that corporations get, but for small businesses.

This blog is for small businesses (less than 5-10 employees), sole proprietor entrepreneurs, freelancers, and indie creatives. People who wear many hats in their business and need help with their marketing plans.

Your business goals can include ones like this is your career, this is a second or part-time job, a side gig, or even a hobby where you’re hoping to make just enough to pay for your hobby. In all these cases, you are concerned to one extent or another in selling your product or service. This means that you need a marketing plan.

How did I get here? 

My first foray into marketing was when I was in college, studying English Literature. I trying to figure out how to be a writer and make a living. Public relations seemed like a good way to do that. I did a PR internship, took newswriting and public relations writing from the Communications Department, and took marketing classes from the Business Department. I didn’t end up going into public relations at that time, but years later, I volunteered in an art museum in the public relations office.

I used my public relations and marketing skills throughout the years, but never formally went into marketing or public relations, until now.  

Recently, I fell into giving marketing advice.  After finishing my doctorate that took way longer than it should have (long story for another time), I was in a place in my life where seeking traditional employment was not a good option.  

With my degree I could get a job as a professor of some sort or work in the private sector applying my psychometric skills – statistics applied to people.  Those sorts of jobs require a lengthy lead time.  I had friends who spent years trying to get their professorship.  I was willing to work as an adjunct at a community college, which would have been easier than a tenured track position.  Even still, they take a while to get.  That was the problem.  Time.

By the time that I finished my doctorate, my husband and I were ready to start our family.  We were going to adopt.  The logistics of adopting a child and looking for a teaching position were complicated to say the least.  Plus, I really wanted to stay at home with the kid, at least until they went to kindergarten.  Working a traditional job was out of the question.  So, what to do?  What to do?  For a while, I spent some time in grassroots politics.  I’m deeply passionate about social justice and decided to apply my skills I gained in graduate school to help there.  I oversaw messaging for a grassroots group and had some success there in terms of helping to motivate people through our messaging.  But, it took a lot of time, so once we did get our kiddo I just couldn’t stay in the fast-paced world of politics.

That’s when I had the brilliant idea of returning to an old love: writing.  Before I went to graduate school for psychology, I was on a track to become a writer (another long story for another time).  I wanted to go to graduate school to get an MFA in writing.  Well, that didn’t happen, but I could still write.  That’s what I decided to do.

I did research into what I could do for writing and decided to go the indie publishing route.  I thought if I was going to have to do my own marketing that I might as well have full control.  Plus, I’ve always had a bit of an entrepreneurial spirit, so being an indie was a great fit.  

I’ve met some amazing people in the indie writing community.  In fact, I was in love with the people that I decided to found and lead a community of indies, called the World Indie Warriors, to support and develop indie writers (long story for another time).  I had a dream to expand the stage for diverse voices and that dream is coming true thanks to some amazing people I’m happy to call friends, like JD GroomCassidy ReyneDr. Aparajita JeediguntaAlly Aldridge to name a few. I plan to transform this group into a nonprofit in the Summer or Fall 2020.

One of the things that I noticed when I talked with my fellow writers was that the marketing advice that was floating around made no sense whatsoever.  The data did not support some of the advice.  Marketing science did not support much of the advice, at least not in how the advice was being given.  There was much confusion from conflicting advice and outright bad advice.  I had to do something.  

I started giving advice to people individually.  Then, I started writing blog posts on my other website.  Before I knew it, I decided that I really liked marketing and the results people were getting suggested that I was good at it too.  

The problem with the advice indies were consuming was that, in general, it lacked the big picture – a foundation as to why one tactic could work under certain circumstances and why it wouldn’t work under other circumstances.  In helping indie writers, I also came across small business owners, and I found similar confusion about what to do for their marketing. That’s where I came in.  

Although I don’t always explain the bigger picture, I do have that and science as a foundation for the advice that I give.  As such, I can problem solve when things don’t go the way one would hope.  So, I began offering services from the limited liability company that I formed, in part to publish my books.

Then along the way, Michelle the writer got muddled with Michelle the marketer.  

I knew for months that this was a problem, but it was a problem that I put on the back burner, until I got a phone call from a colleague and friend from graduate school.  I had helped her on a project, and she received feedback from a couple of people about being confused about why I, Michelle the writer, was part of the project.  Fair enough.  A writer doesn’t mean that I’m qualified to be a marketing strategist but having a doctorate in psychology does.  I realized, of course, that this was a branding problem.  

So, it was time to rebrand.  I started this website and created the social media platforms that I would need to establish a new brand.  I set up content creation systems and worked to figure out my new brand.  I needed to make a mark that says, I’m here.  And, I did. 

Now, I have two websites and two social media identities.  (Well, three if you count leader of the World Indie Warriors).  This blog is where I’m be donning on the marketer hat. 

Thank you

Thank you for visiting my website and reading my blog. I hope that you find the information here useful and practical. 

If you have any questions or ideas on topics that I should cover, I’d love to hear from you. Just give your suggestions in the comments below or contact me directly.

You can get started here on developing your marketing plan, or email me with any questions.

©2020 Michelle Raab, PhD. All rights reserved. Copyright notice: You may copy up to 50 words without permission, provided that you give attribution, link back to the original post, and do not change the meaning or message.

Disclaimer: Any articles, templates, or information provided by Michelle Raab Marketing on the website are for reference only. While we strive to keep the information up to date and correct, we make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability, or availability with respect to the website or the information, articles, templates, or related graphics contained on the website. Any reliance you place on such information is therefore strictly at your own risk. 

Do people use brands because their family does? Intergenerational Brand Loyalty

The other day I went to my living room to retrieve my laptop, and to my horror, I found the aftermath of some insect war. Carpenter ants lay dead on top of my laptop. A few struggling for their last gasps of breath. A lone soldier crawled around the battlefield. The horror of the scene only grew as I noticed on the floor around the end table was an even more macabre scene, too grotesque to describe.

Enter my husband. I won’t describe the comedy of marital negotiations that followed as we tried to figure out what we should do next. We settled on calling the exterminator. But which one to use? I remember that my parents, who used to live in Hawaii where the insects were most hardy, had good luck with the Xterminators (I made up that name, but they did use a real company). The Xterminators rid my parents home of the infestation of hell-spawn minions some may misprize by calling insects. So I thought, let’s call in the Xterminators.

This begs the questions. How loyal are people to brands across generations? To answer that, I’ve decided to do a little digging. After using “intergenerational brand loyalty” only to find the different between generations on brand loyalty, I found the magical keyword combo: intergenerational brand transfer.

In one study[1], it was found that amongst mother-daughter pairs transmitted more brand loyalty than father-son, but this is just one study. Does this happen a lot? It happened with me, but has this been found amongst a lot of studies.

Why would I ask if it happens in a lot of studies? The simplest answer is that people are complicated. Sometimes results happen in one study because the people they happen to be studying were different than the general population. For example, you probably would get different answers on whether or not the most current incarnation of the Doctor on the sci-fi series Dr. Who was the best or not, depending on who you were talking to. Sci-fi fans may have different opinions than those who don’t watch sci-fi. Even amongst sci-fi fans there may be differences in groups. Star Trek fans may have differing opinions than die-hard Dr. Who fans. Star Trek fans may have more variation in their answers, where their opinions were all over the place. Die-hard Dr. Who fans may be more polarized.

If you don’t like sci-fi, then insert your favorite television shows.

The answer is yes, at least in one situation. I’m going to keep digging. I’ll give an update as I find more information.

©2020 Michelle Raab, PhD. All rights reserved. Copyright notice: You may copy up to 50 words without permission, provided that you give attribution, link back to the original post, and do not change the meaning or message.

[1] Hussain, Khalid and Siddiqui, Kamran, Women Dyads Have Higher IGI on Brand Preferences (March 4, 2016). Sci.Int.(Lahore),28 (1),509-512,2016. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2742333

You can get started here on developing your marketing plan, or email me with any questions.

One change in consumer behavior has many consequences: how a single behavioral change in consumers can ripple across many industries
Imagine a small pebble being tossed into a large lake. You can …
Branding Research: Part 2 of 2
In this post, I’m going to be talking about the research that …
Branding Research: Part 1 of 2
The notion of a brand can seem amorphous partly because of the …
Branding: Starting from Scratch
You have aspirations. You want to be known as an expert of …

Disclaimer: Any articles, templates, or information provided by Michelle Raab Marketing on the website are for reference only. While we strive to keep the information up to date and correct, we make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability, or availability with respect to the website or the information, articles, templates, or related graphics contained on the website. Any reliance you place on such information is therefore strictly at your own risk. 

One change in consumer behavior has many consequences: how a single behavioral change in consumers can ripple across many industries

Imagine a small pebble being tossed into a large lake. You can see the ripples cascading from that single point of entry. The same can be said for a single change in behavior amongst consumers. I’ll show you how. On May 26, 2020, Harvard Business Review published a post on post-COVID behavioral trends.

One of them is that 54% of Americans are cooking more, according to a study they cited from Hunter, a food marketing firm. Not only that, 35% say that they are enjoying cooking more now than before. Why would a marketing firm care about people cooking? Well if people are cooking at home, they aren’t eating at restaurants. It also means that people are buying more groceries, so food distributors may want to know this so that they have more domestic packaged food available rather than commercially packaged food. It also means for restaurants that they may need to shift how they are doing business to stay in business, like creating meal kits that are delivered or are available for curbside delivery. (I don’t know if that’s actually a good idea. I just made it up as an example.)

A single behavioral trend can shed light on a lot of different things happening in the market across a lot of different industries. For marketers, they can help the businesses that they consult for shift how they are doing business or how they are promoting their business. For the businesses being aware of behavioral trends can help the owners make strategic decisions about their business. Staying in business means shifting with changes in the market.

Being data-driven in your business and marketing plans is essential for the health of a business.

©2020 Michelle Raab, PhD. All rights reserved. Copyright notice: You may copy up to 50 words without permission, provided that you give attribution, link back to the original post, and do not change the meaning or message.

You can get started here on developing your marketing plan, or email me with any questions.

Disclaimer: Any articles, templates, or information provided by Michelle Raab Marketing on the website are for reference only. While we strive to keep the information up to date and correct, we make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability, or availability with respect to the website or the information, articles, templates, or related graphics contained on the website. Any reliance you place on such information is therefore strictly at your own risk. 

Branding Research: Part 2 of 2

In part one, I talked about how a brand is more than just a logo for a company, product, or service. It’s the story of your business, products, and services. This story is told by you, through your promotion, your products and services, and how you interact with your customers. Your story is also told by the individuals who consume your products and services, and by the community of consumers. 

In this post, I’m going to be talking about the research that explains how this story is told and how this story is understood

The second part, how the story is understood, is key to how people decide to purchase goods and services. Branding plans should, therefore, be informed by knowledge of how people make purchasing decisions and how brands affect those decisions. This, and future posts, will shed light on this.

Why do we purchase the things that we do? What makes us choose one brand over another? Although you as a seller of products or services are coming from a place of wanting to truly understand branding, you also have to look at purchasing from the consumer’s perspective.

If you think about purchasing from the consumer’s perspective, which shouldn’t be hard since we are all consumers, the story of brands takes on a new perspective. Brands act as beacons for things we can purchase that will enhance our lives. Brands are like potential friends. Some we will connect with, and some we won’t. 

As sellers of products or services, this may seem a bit scary for, because we may think: what if I don’t connect with anyone? I know that you will. What you have to offer is more than your product or service, it’s you. And you add tremendous value to whatever you are offering.  

The key to branding is making sure that the story that you tell is authentic to you. The science of how that story is transmitted is both fascinating and also helps to be mindful and intentional in how we plan and execute our branding.

Although this post does not cover all areas of research on brands, it is a good foray into the research. 

These perspectives are from,

  • cognitive psychology,
  • social psychology,
  • cultural sociology,
  • and neuroscience.

Marketing Research: Science of why we buy

There are a number of branches in science (both biology and social science) that have examined brands. Marketing, as a science, began in 1959, where there was a call for a systematic methodology in examining how marketing works.[i]Research in branding also began in the 1950s.[ii] This was in the area of psychology, specifically cognitive psychology.[iii],[iv]

Branding research began in the 1950s with branding choice[v], why a consumer would choose one brand over another. There was a lot of debate over the next couple of decades with each new theory becoming more complex.

Cognitive psychology and brands

Cognitive psychology looks at how an individual thinks, makes decisions, remembers things, among other functions of the mind. When looking at the questions of how a person thinks about brands and how that leads to making a purchase decision, the question for the cognitive psychologist is to look at what is going on inside a person’s mind. Cognitive psychology, to reiterate, looks at how a person thinks about a brand and makes a purchase decision. When you come across research that is looking at decision making, it is most likely coming out of cognitive psychological research.

It wasn’t until the 1980s that the notion of customer loyalty entered into the picture,[vi] where a consumer’s past purchasing behavior was thought to have anything to do with future purchasing behavior. This may seem like common sense. 

If a customer liked a product before, they will probably buy that product brand again, but if you think about your own purchasing behavior, sometimes that’s true and sometimes it’s not. This is why science looks at these questions to try and figure out when it would be true and when it wouldn’t, so that we can predict future behavior. This is one of the things that the Amazon algorithms is based on, predicting purchasing behavior.

In the 1990s, a researcher, named Kevin Lane Keller, looked at not only how a consumer thought about brands but also how they felt about the brands.[vii] This may seem to be over dramatic to say, but it was huge that someone brought feelings into the equation. I spared you the mathematical formulas predicting consumer branding choice in my earlier paragraphs. Let me assure you, there are lots of formulas. In those formulas, there wasn’t a bit about how a consumer felt. In the social sciences, decisions were usually looked at as rational, logical processes. It has been a mind-blowing experience for many in the social sciences to consider that decisions are often (if not mostly) based on feelings. So, this was huge. 

Take away about marketing science research

Every new study adds a layer of understanding to a particular thing, which in our case is branding. Unless a conclusion is outright disproven, each new study sheds more light on what we are looking at. For example, at first marketing science researchers only looked at how people chose a brand, then they looked at if a brand was previously chosen if that influences the next purchase (customer loyalty), and then they looked at how feelings influenced decisions. These are all building blocks for our understanding today, which will then be built upon in years to come.

Take away from cognitive psychology

When you are thinking about how an individual person will decide whether or not to purchase your product or service, this is going to be a decision process happening in their mind. Part of the decision may stem from logic. Part of it may stem from feelings. Cognitive psychology assumes that the brand has a fixed meaning, that is, a relatively fixed story that comes from the seller.[viii] Other perspectives added to this field by looking at what individuals and communities added to the stories.

When you see tactics that seem to be trying to increase your likeability, they are targeting the feeling part of the purchase decision making process. 

Social psychology and branding research

In a nutshell, social psychology looks at how an individual’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are influenced by others. The question that social psychology looks at for branding is how the brand is interpreted by the consumers. The focus is how the brand’s story is delivered by the seller and then how the story is interpreted by the consumer. Where cognitive psychology just looks at the story being delivered, social psychology looks at the brand as being the result of a conversation[ix].

Take away from social psychology

When you are creating your branding plan, you should keep in mind that the story about your brand isn’t just created by you. 

It’s also created by your consumers, meaning that reviews also create your brand’s story, as does the media, bloggers, podcasters, and what people tell each other about your brand. 

You can influence your story through the quality of your products, your customer service, and creating communities where you can build good relationships with your customers.

Cultural sociology

Cultural sociology looks at the different parts of a culture. Culture is the combination of unspoken rules, art, language, economy, religion, hierarchy, government, and more. Unspoken rules are like things we do that aren’t written down, but we all know we are supposed to do, like waiting in line is the custom in some places and not in others. From a cultural sociological perspective, brands are looked at as how are they integrated in a culture. 

For example, if you were looking at upper class east coast people, you might expect for them to wear certain kinds of clothes and use certain brands of clothes. If you’re talking about someone who is in the west and lives in a more rural environment, they might wear different clothes and buy different brands of clothes. The clothes are a part of the culture. 

Take away of cultural sociology and brands

Brands become a part of a culture and has meaning within that culture. When we create branding plans, we have to keep in mind that the target audience has a culture that will interpret the brand in a certain way. There have been a lot of marketing mishaps that have occurred when culture wasn’t properly accounted for. One example is Kentucky Fried Chicken. The tagline “finger licking good” got translated to “eat your fingers off.” Another example, If you run across news of an advertisement being tone-deaf, then this would be a marketing mishap that didn’t take into account cultural issues properly.  

Neuroscience and branding

What neuroscience looks at is how the brain works when we are thinking, feeling, and doing things to answer the question of which part of the brain does what. One way that this is looked at is by looking at blood flow. The idea is that with more blood flow in an area, then that area is the part most likely associated with a specific function.  

One way that neuroscientists try to uncover what the brain is doing is by looking at how the brain works doing one thing, and then seeing how the brain works doing another. They look for similarities and differences in brain activity. This has uncovered some startling things about brands.

In Buyology (not an affiliate link), one experiment looked to see how we experience brands. There was an experiment to see if people really liked two different cola brands: Coke versus Pepsi. It was a two-stage experiment. 

The first stage volunteers were given the two colas and asked which ones they liked. Most said that they liked Pepsi, and the area of the brain that is associated with liking the taste of something lit up. So, they said that they liked Pepsi and their brains agreed with them. Cool.

In the second stage of the experiment people were told which cola they were tasting before they took a sip. So, one sip Coke. One sip Pepsi. Then the volunteers were asked which cola they preferred. Most said Coke. Wait, what? Were these groups just that different in their preference? Uh, no. The brain activity was much different than in the first experiment, meaning what they were thinking and feeling was different. Instead of just registering a taste that they liked (like the first stage), their brain’s activity increased in another area associated with higher level thinking. The conclusion of the experiment was that the volunteers were wrestling with the actual preferred taste (for most, Pepsi like in the first stage) and the brand with which they had the most emotional connection (for most, Coke). Coke won out because of its branding, [x] the stories told by the company and the volunteers (the consumers). 

Circling back to the cognitive psychology research that showed that emotions were part of the purchasing decision process, neuroscience has shown how that plays out in our brains. Rationally, most people should have chosen Pepsi, because that was the taste that they actually preferred, but the emotional attachment to Coke was stronger. We do use our emotions to make purchasing decisions. Branding was not only the story told by the cola companies, but also the emotional attachment the consumers felt from the stories told within their culture. The branding, the story told by the seller and the consumers, had a powerful effect on the purchasing decision.

Take away from neuroscience and branding

We are taking an inside look into how we make purchasing decisions. Emotions play a huge part in our purchasing decisions. Making sure that people feel a certain way is vital when doing branding marketing.

So how does all of this fit together for branding marketing plans?

When you’re creating your branding marketing plans, you are trying to convey your story. Your values. Your reason for selling the products or services. This is what makes you unique, but it does something more. 

The most important goal for conveying your story is to create a feeling with your potential customers or clients. I emphasize with my clients that they should be authentic when telling their story. Why? Because the feeling that is conveyed when they are authentic is that you are getting to know a person and not some business entity. 

In purchasing a product or service, you’re getting human connection. The feeling of human connection is a very powerful one. 

I also emphasize with my clients to promote why they are offering the product or service, as much as what they are offering. It’s the why that potential customers will connect with. 

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. You can leave your questions in the comments below or email me. If you want a quick FREE snap shot of how you are doing on your branding, check out my Branding Check-up.

©2020 Michelle Raab, PhD. All rights reserved. Copyright notice: You may copy up to 50 words without permission, provided that you give attribution, link back to the original post, and do not change the meaning or message.

You can get started here on developing your marketing plan, or email me with any questions.

Branding Check-Up

Do you know a quick way to tell if you're clear on your branding? Try explaining your brand to someone in 30 seconds. Take this quiz to see if your brand needs a bit of fine-tuning or clarity.
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References:

  • [i] Gordon, R. A. and J. E. Howell (1959). Higher education for business, New York: Columbia University Press.
  • [ii] Russell S Winer. The History of Marketing Science: 3 (World Scientific-Now Publishers Series in Business) (p. 19). Wspc/Now. Kindle Edition.
  • [iii]  The Cambridge Handbook of Consumer Psychology (Cambridge Handbooks in Psychology) (p. 209). Cambridge University Press. Kindle Edition. 
  • [iv] Russell S Winer. The History of Marketing Science: 3 (World Scientific-Now Publishers Series in Business) (p. 19). Wspc/Now. Kindle Edition.
  • [v] Russell S Winer. The History of Marketing Science: 3 (World Scientific-Now Publishers Series in Business) (p. 19). Wspc/Now. Kindle Edition.
  • [vi] Guadagni, P. M. and J. D. C. Little (1983). A logit model of brand choice calibrated on scanner data, Marketing Science, 2(Summer), 203–238.
  • Russell S Winer. The History of Marketing Science: 3 (World Scientific-Now Publishers Series in Business) (p. 43). Wspc/Now. Kindle Edition.
  • [vii] Keller, K. L. (1993). Conceptualizing, measuring, and managing customer-based brand equity. Journal of Marketing, 57(1), 1–31.
  • The Cambridge Handbook of Consumer Psychology (Cambridge Handbooks in Psychology) (p. 228). Cambridge University Press. Kindle Edition.
  • [viii] The Cambridge Handbook of Consumer Psychology (Cambridge Handbooks in Psychology) (p. 212). Cambridge University Press. Kindle Edition.
  • [ix] Holt, D. B. (2003). Brands and branding. Harvard Business School Teaching Note (N9–503–045).
  • [x] Lindstrom, M. (2010). Buy ology: Truth and lies about why we buy. Currency, p. 26-27.
Do people use brands because their family does? Intergenerational Brand Loyalty
The other day I went to my living room to retrieve my …
One change in consumer behavior has many consequences: how a single behavioral change in consumers can ripple across many industries
Imagine a small pebble being tossed into a large lake. You can …
Branding Research: Part 1 of 2
The notion of a brand can seem amorphous partly because of the …
Branding: Starting from Scratch
You have aspirations. You want to be known as an expert of …

Branding Research: Part 1 of 2

For those who need to see the big picture, this will help you to understand how branding works to better in creating, curating, monitoring, and maintaining your brand.

Part 1

This is the first part of a two-part blog post. In this post, I will be giving an overview of this peak into branding research and discussing what a “brand” is, which is more than just a logo.

The notion of a brand can seem amorphous partly because of the ubiquitous use of the word. This makes it hard for people to think about their own brand. I’ve talked with a lot of solopreneurs and indie writers who are at a loss when they are trying to create their branding plans. I think that part of this is because there’s confusion about what a brand is. 

I think that looking at an overview of the research is good to understand what a brand is so that you can create and curate your own brand. This is especially true for people who need an overview before they can delve into creating or enacting an action plan.

This is by no means comprehensive, but more introductory look into the research.

I talked a little about what a brand is in my post Marketing: A Primer and in my post Branding: Starting from Scratch. Both posts were informed by research, but I didn’t discuss what that research was. So far, I’ve described branding as the story of your product, service, or company as told by you, your community of customers, and as individual customers. In this post, I’m going to go a bit deeper into what a brand is.

Let’s start with a little bit about why we want to look at brands – because the brand is often why a consumer buys a product or service and not just because of what the product or service does; it’s function.

What consumers are buying

“A world without brands would be a very boring world indeed.”[i] ~ Jill AveryAnat Keinan.

Meaning Based Assets

Brands can be called “meaning-based assets.[ii]” When people use products or services, those products and services become much more than just the needs and wants that the product or service fills. Embedded in the brand itself there is a story. That story becomes part of the life of the person who uses the product or service.[iii] Part of who they are becomes associated with that brand. Not all brands and not all products. But the point is that products and services can have a deeper meaning for the person consuming it, than just fulfilling a need. That added meaning is sometimes just below our awareness. Why do you pick one brand of toothpaste over another? Are they really that different? 

The meaning is the story that is embedded in the product’s brand. You may buy one cleaner over another because the company that makes the cleaner donates some proceeds to the wildlife fund, which is something that you support. So, you feel good about buying that cleaner because you are helping wildlife. Everytime you use the cleaner the thought that you’re helping wildlife may be a tickle of a thought in your mind.

The term “assets” refer to brands are a thing. I lightly touched on that in in my post Branding: Starting from Scratch. Calling a brand an asset also emphasizes that this thing has value. There is a value that it has for the product seller, and there is a value that the brand has for the consumer.

The value that a brand brings is that “brands are not about what you do, but what you enable people to do. Brands are about people, not products.”[iv]

The most important value of a brand is what it does for the consumer. Whatever it is that makes a product or service unique (because of what you do) is what makes the product or service uniquely valuable to the customer

When you create your brand, you are creating a story that will resonate with those who are purchasing your product or service. Those who become repeat customers or fans, what they are saying is that they are embracing your story on a very personal level. In this way, your brand becomes a part of their story. This highlights the very personal nature of branding, which is in part building relationships with your customers or clients.

This is one of the reasons that it is so important to tell your story through your promotions, so that those who will resonate with your story are able to find you to connect with you. 

Keeping in mind that your brand becomes a part of your consumers’ lives shifts the focus from just your business to your customers. Your business, then, becomes an act of service to those your brand resonates with. When you see taglines that include “serving your neighborhood since … “ that tag line is speaking to that service. Yes, you are making a living selling your product or service, but you are also doing it to enhance the lives to whom you are selling.

Branding to help showcase differences between similar services and products

Branding helps consumers to tell the difference in similar products or services that may be a better fit. 

Let’s say that there are two life coaches that have very different ways of asking questions. One is more matter-of-fact, which may appeal more to some. The other is more spiritual, which may appeal more to others. One coach is going to be a better fit for a group of potential clients, which the other coach will be a better fit for another group of potential clients. This also circles back to brand position. You can create a market, a niche market, based on your unique approach, even if the service or product is similar to another. I will talk more about brand positioning in future blog posts.

As product and service sellers, the more nuanced of an understanding we have on what a brand is and how that leads to the very pragmatic question of sales, the better we are able to create and curate our brands, and differentiate ourselves from others.  

The Research: Preview of Part 2

In the part 2 of this post, I’m going to talk about four different perspectives of branding in research, a little about the history of that research, and gives some hints on how that applies to you. Some of the perspectives will resonate more with you than others. Each time we look at the same thing from a different lens, we add information. They add to the nuance of understanding. In the second part of this post, I’ll give a framework on how to put those perspectives together.

So how can we unpeel the layers even more about what a brand is, so that we can be better creators and curators of our brands? Let’s look at the research.

There are four areas of research that I have find to be clarifying on what a brand is and the power of branding. These perspectives are from,

  • cognitive psychology,
  • social psychology,
  • cultural sociology,
  • and neuroscience.

In my next blog post, I’ll be giving a brief overview of these four areas of research.


If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. You can leave your questions in the comments below or email me. If you want a quick FREE snap shot of how you are doing on your branding, check out my Branding Check-up.

References:

[i] The Cambridge Handbook of Consumer Psychology (Cambridge Handbooks in Psychology) (p. 209). Cambridge University Press. Kindle Edition.

[ii] The Cambridge Handbook of Consumer Psychology (Cambridge Handbooks in Psychology) (p. 211). Cambridge University Press. Kindle Edition

[iii] Levy, S. J. (1959). Symbols for sale. Harvard Business Review, 37(4), 117–124.

[iv] Fisk, P. (2015). Brand innovation: Embracing change to innovate your brand and accelerate growth. In K. Kompella (ed.), The Brand Challenge. London: Kogan Page, 41–82.


©2020 Michelle Raab, PhD. All rights reserved. Copyright notice: You may copy up to 50 words without permission, provided that you give attribution, link back to the original post, and do not change the meaning or message.

You can get started here on developing your marketing plan, or email me with any questions.

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Branding: Starting from Scratch

You have aspirations. You want to be known as an expert of something. Maybe you want to start a blog. Maybe you want to write a fiction book. No matter what  it is, in the beginning, you’re not what your aspiration is. 

You may even think that this is a Catch-22, where to establish yourself as the thing, you have to be that thing to establish yourself as that thing. How can you be an author if you haven’t written a book yet?

At this point, it may feel like you have to be a magician to conjure your aspiration into existence before anyone recognizes that you ARE who you want to be.

You can start establishing yourself as a writer even before you’ve finished the book.You can establish yourself as an expert, a blogger, or something else. I’ve done it, not once, not twice, but multiple times in multiple venues. I’ve even helped other people and groups do it.

It’s generally the same process no matter the venue and for whatever thing you’re trying to conjure.  At first, the thing (acknowledgement for your expertise, your identity as a writer, or your identity as … you name it) doesn’t exist and then you conjure it into existence. So how do you do it?

Mindset

The first thing is that it starts with your mindset. What is a mindset? 

According to Dr. Aparajita Jeedigunta, a Certified Professional Coach and Social-Personality Psychologist, your mindset is simply your internal framework — the core beliefs and assumptions that you make about yourself that dictate not only how you see yourself and your future potential, but also how you show up in all the spaces in your life and interact with the world around you. 

One problem you may run into is imposter syndrome, which can get in the way of fully realizing your mindset. “Imposter syndrome is something that afflicts all of us at some point or another in our lives, usually when we are about to do something that’s out of our comfort zone. It is that inner voice of doubt that tells us that we may not be good enough, or that we are just faking our competence until we get called out on it,” Dr. Jeedigunta explained. 

What are ways you can overcome imposter syndrome? 

  • Recognize when you’re having thoughts of self-doubt.
  • Stop comparing yourself to others and focus on what you can do.
  • Reframe your ideas of failure as learning moments.
  • Acknowledge your own growth and accomplishments.

If you don’t believe you’re an expert or writer when you do have the knowledge or have the skills, no one else will. 

It exists and it has a name

The second action step that you need to take is to create content that shows that the thing exists. You do this by naming it. If it’s a business, then you can use the name of your business, but if there is something different about your business, like your customer service, you have to name your customer service something.

There’s power in naming things. Naming something is the first step in making something exist. You also have to show that it exists.

How do you show that your thing exists? You provide evidence. You post pictures of your doing the thing. You write about it. You show people that the thing exists. For example, if you own a car washing business, post photos of your washing cars, of the line leading up to your car wash, of your employees, of your customers. 

If you build it … you have to build it

If you build it, they will come … eventually. You have to be patient while you’re building your thing. You have to give yourself and your thing time to gel.

It’s not enough to promote something and name it, you also have to build your thing. What do I mean by that?  Building means doing the thing that you want to exist for long enough for people to see that you are doing it.

If you’re an expert and are just beginning to establish yourself, you have to show people that you are an expert by being an expert and creating expert content. You might ask, how?

I’ll tell you. Answer questions posed on social media. Write articles for platforms like Medium or on your own blog. Show that you know what you’re talking about. 

And, not just once or twice. The number of times depends on a lot of things. How much a person is paying attention to you when they see your name. How much what you said aligns with what they know, so that they don’t easily dismiss you.

If you’re establishing yourself as a writer and want to show people that you are, post about your process and use hashtags that will get your posts noticed by the right people. Who are the right people? Other writers, bloggers, and readers.

And most importantly, get other people to say that you’re the thing.  The expert.  The writer. The thing you’re trying to establish yourself as. This is actually the most potent persuasive tool that you have, getting testimonials either in comments or as posts or whatever. Other people saying you’re something is more powerful than you saying it, because you might be exaggerating about yourself to make a sale.

Building something requires not only showing people the thing, but also giving people enough time to know that it wasn’t a one-of. Part of building is allowing time for your thing to establish roots to grow. 

Take-Aways

1. Mindset. You must believe that you are your aspiration. 

2. Show others you are your aspiration by doing what you aspire to be. Promote yourself by showing others that you are doing what you aspire others to see you as. 

3. Get others to endorse you. This is the most important thing, because it’s the most powerful. Other people saying you are your aspiration will carry more weight than anything else you can do, especially if that person is trusted in your community. 

You can start where you are marketing yourself. If you’re just starting, you can market yourself. The best time to market yourself is right now. 

©ALL RIGHTS RESERVED and held by Michelle Raab Writes, LLC.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: You may copy up to 50 words without permission, provided that you give attribution, link back to the original post, and do not change the meaning or message.

Originally posted in michelleraabwrites.com on March 23, 2020.

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You can get started here on developing your marketing plan, or email me with any questions.

Disclaimer: Any articles, templates, or information provided by Michelle Raab Marketing on the website are for reference only. While we strive to keep the information up to date and correct, we make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability, or availability with respect to the website or the information, articles, templates, or related graphics contained on the website. Any reliance you place on such information is therefore strictly at your own risk. 

Fear and Loathing of Marketing

When I talk to people about marketing, I hear a lot of people saying things like, they’re not good at it, it is overwhelming, they hate it. I get it. But then I dig a little deeper, and I’m told other reasons. People feel uncomfortable singing their own praises. There’s so much advice that it is confusing and overwhelming. What if my plan fails? Related to this if my plan fails, I just wasted my time and money. There’s so much to do that I don’t know where to start. Let’s look at these concerns:

  1. I feel uncomfortable tooting my own horn,
  2. So much advice,
  3. What if I fail?
  4. Don’t know where to start.

I feel uncomfortable tooting my own horn

A big one is that people don’t feel comfortable tooting their own horn. 

I’ll let you in on a secret. I don’t either. 

I don’t have low self-esteem (I’m actually quite proud of my accomplishments). I have, though, absorbed some cultural values where I shouldn’t call attention to myself. I still do it. I’m doing it now. But my barriers are from culture. You may have similar cultural values, where your work should speak for itself or you’re bragging (and bragging is bad) if you call attention to your accomplishments and your skills.

You may have other reasons for not liking to sing your own praises. 

Maybe, you’re not confident about yourself. 

Perhaps, you haven’t thought a lot about it to know why you’re uncomfortable. 

The reason for your being uncomfortable may not be what’s important. For most people knowing the reason may not lead to their feeling more comfortable. 

What will help for most people is just practicing. The more that you can clearly articulate what you’re good at, what you offer, and what you’re all about, the more comfortable you will become in being able to do it.

So much advice

Yeah. There is a lot of advice in blogs, in books, on webinars, etc. Sometimes, it seems like if you don’t do all of it then you will fail. Worse yet, there is advice that is contradictory. I’m going to let you in on a secret. 

There are many ways to market your product or service. There are many tactics that you can use.

If you try one way and it’s not working, then you can try another way. What you should do is have a plan with a concrete goal that you can track, so that you know if your marketing efforts are working or not.

Those of us who are sole proprietors, creative entrepreneus, and freelancers – we don’t have the same kind of resources that big companies have. But in some ways we have more freedom than those companies. We can change our marketing campaigns more easily than they can. We can respond to customer feedback quicker and with more proximity to our customers than they can. We can afford to go into places that they can’t – like niche marketing. They’re too big. 

We aren’t small. We are nimble. Our flexibility is our strength.

Because we are more flexible, that means that we can think outside of the box for marketing. 

This leads me to my point about marketing advice:  

There is no ONE magical formula for success. 

There are many ways to market your product or service.

The key is having a foundation on the mechanics of marketing so that you can optimally take advantage of our flexibility. This is why I don’t just give advice. I also teach the mechanics of marketing to my clients and share those marketing mechanics with my readers.  

But what if my plan fails

Your marketing plan didn’t failIt just didn’t have the expected outcome.

Let’s unpack that.

Your marketing plan is made up of four parts. The strategy. The tactics. Implementing the tactics. The result.

The strategy is why you’re using the tactic you’re going to be using. 

For example, your goal is to get name recognition (aka brand awareness) because people can’t buy your products or service if they don’t know you exist. Your plan involves getting your name in front of potential customers. Let’s say that you are using social media for that. You’d measure your success based on reach, or how many people saw your post. You’d also look at engagement, of those people who saw your post, how many people responded to it. That will give you a feel for how you did on that post regarding name recognition.

If your marketing plan is to get traffic to your websites, then you would look at the post to see how many click-throughs you got if you’re on Facebook. You’d also look at your websites analytics to see from where your traffic was originating: social media platforms, search keywords, et cetera. 

For either case, you’d want to look at what the average is for a comparable business like you. The fewer followers you have the more engagement you can expect[1]. 

You also want to look at your metrics (the numbers for your engagement, traffic, click-throughs, etc) over time. When do you get the highest? Is it going up? Up and down?

From that you can get a feel for why certain posts and certain efforts get the intended attention. Getting more than a feel would require a full analysis. A how-to on this is worthy of a mini-ecourse.

If you’re not getting the results you want (not enough attention or reach), then look to posts of companies in your industry who do. What are they doing differently? How can you replicate it? When you try, what results do you get?

Not only can you track the success of your marketing efforts, you can use those marketing efforts for marketing research.

I just wasted time and money

This is closely related to the above. If you get unexpected results, call it market research. The postmortem will give you insight into your market and will give you the information to update your marketing plan.

Don’t know where to start

There’s no magical place to start. 

Really, there isn’t. 

You can start as soon as you get an idea that you to start a business and feel your way to creating your brand. You can have an established brand and want to rebrand it, because you and your business has evolved. You can also plan your marketing strategy before launching your business. Maybe, you have been in business for a while, have had no plan, and would like to have one to help with increased sales.  That’s a perfect place to start. 

No matter where you are, you can create marketing plan. 

Why do we fear and loath marketing?

Why do many of us fear and loath marketing?

It’s the anxiety and fear of thinking that you don’t know what you’re doing and that you can’t possibly ever know. 

The truth is, everyone can do this. No. Really. You can. How do I know this? Because I’ve helped people with their branding and marketing strategy. When I do consulting, I don’t just give you a plan, I also teach you about marketing. 

That’s why I write about marketing, teach in venues like webinars, and have clients. I want to help you create your own marketing strategy. I want to take the fear and loathing out of marketing. 

Even if you hire someone to create and implement your marketing plan, I think you should still understand what you’re paying for. I think that this is especially important for those of us who are entrepreneurs, sole proprietors, freelancers, and indie creatives. We don’t have the luxury of having an army of people dedicated to being our marketing team. We are the ones who sell our products and services, hand out fliers, talk to customers, and a million other ways that we market our business. It is a necessity that we understand our marketing plan, so that in our daily business activities we can execute that plan.

I love marketing. Let me help you love it too!

Originally Posted on michelleraabwrites.com on July 13, 2019.   

©2020 Michelle Raab, PhD. All rights reserved. 

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: You may copy up to 50 words without permission, provided that you give attribution, link back to the original post, and do not change the meaning or message.

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Marketing: A Primer

Where to begin?

You have a product or service that you want to promote, and with all the jargon out there, it’s hard to make heads or tails of it. So, how do you even figure out what you’re going to do if you don’t know what your options are or what those crazy jargon words mean? I’m going to help you with that.

What most people do is read a blog post that recommends a particular tactic. A tactic is what you do. For example, you might read a post that says you HAVE to get emails for a subscription list. Getting emails for a subscription list is a tactic. Maybe, you read that you HAVE to do social media, also known as content marketing. This is another tactic. 

A tactic is something you do for promotion

Promotion is any marketing that you do. When someone else talks about your company, product, or service (like the media), this is called publicity. We’ll unpack that some more later in this post.

Most people start with the tactics without really considering the strategy

strategy is the reason for using a specific tactic. We will circle back to this at the end.

So far, we have briefly mentioned tactics that are the different kinds of things you can do to promote your product or service.  Content marketing is an example of a tactic. When you use a tactic, that’s called promotion. When someone else talks about your product or service that’s called publicity.

So, where do we start in our marketing planning?

Branding

Let’s say that you have a product that you want to sell. It’s likely that there are others who sell products like your product. So, what makes your product different?  All the things that make up your brand is what makes you different. Your brand is the keystone of your marketing strategy. What exactly is your brand, then?

Your brand is the story of how your product or service is different from others like it. A brand is a complex concept. It is a combination of a lot of things, like why you are in business, what you have to offer, what subtle things you do differently, your customer service, et cetera. It is also the story that others say about you and your business. I’ll be unpacking this concept in this post and in additional upcoming posts. 

A brand is a complex concept, some might argue an ever evolving one, so how do you let your potential customers know that you are different? 

You use tactics to let other people know about how you are different. In other words, you use tactics to promote your brand.

These tactics carry the message of your story, which is your goal. To convey your story.

Your brand is YOUR STORY, as told by you, the media, and customers.

How do you tell your story?

Promotion Tactics

Content Marketing

One tactic is to use social media to communicate your story, which is called content marketing. Content refers to the images and verbiage in posts, such as on Instagram. Content can also be videos or quizzes on social media. 

Content, in a general sense, is anything that is posted online, such as YouTube videos.  Content marketing, then, is using online content to market.  

The cost here is just the cost to create the content, which for many is just time.

Advertising

You can also use advertising, which is where you pay a platform like social media or some other venue like a newspaper, television, or radio to run something that you created to promote your product. You’re familiar with this. If you watch television, the commercials are advertisements.  The video snippet on the television was paid for by the company that is promoting its own product.  The cost is how much the company paid to produce the advertisement and how much the company paid the venue to run the advertisement.

Street Marketing

Street marketing is another tactic. It’s pretty much what it sounds like.  It’s doing something “on the streets.”  A clown wearing a billboard promoting your restaurant is street marketing.  Handing out fliers or rubber wrist bands with your logo and website is street marketing.  Having a branded van (a van with your logo and associated images painted on it) parked at an event, like a festival, handing out branded items like t-shirts and samples of your product is street marketing.  

Other Tactics

There are other kinds of tactics, like ambient marketing, where you place your brand or things associated with your brand in the environment of the customer. If you paid a bar to use colors associated with your brand of vodka. The cost is how much you pay the bar and any products you give to them and their customers for free.

How do others tell your story?

Public Relations

Public relations is all about your relationship with the public. See what I did there? Part of that is monitoring and managing messages about your business.

This includes having a communications plan to respond to negative comments on your website, negative reviews, or complaints

Community Building

Community building is another thing you can do to manage and even monitor your relationship with your customers and the public. 

If you create a fan page for your product or service, that’s community building. This is a way to foster and enhance relationships you have with your customers or clients. The cost is only how much you spend to promote the content, and the cost of someone to run it. 

Word of Mouth

Word-of-mouth advertising isn’t really advertising in that you don’t pay for it. It is a tactic that promotes your product or service through other people. It’s the recommendations of friends to friends. It is one of the most powerful forms of promotion in our arsenal, and we have little control over it. The control that we do have is the quality measures that we take and the customer service that we have in place. Beyond that, word-of-mouth has a life of its own, but so is a part of our brand. I put it in the public relations category because it is a manifestation of your relationship with the public, but it is also how people tell your story. In the end, it’s kind of a hybrid between public relations and publicity.

Having talked about word-of-mouth, what other things fall under publicity? What exactly is it?

Publicity 

Publicity is when a mass media reporter or journalist talks about your product, or when you get reviews on a website.

Because this is a big topic, I’ll just touch on it briefly.

What gets published by a news organization?

Newspapers will only publish specific topics. You can see what kinds of stories they publish in the sections of the newspaper or website and by looking at the stories themselves. They also only publish stories they see as “newsworthy.” Newsworthy is whether the story is about something that can impact their readers, is part of the geographical coverage (like a neighborhood paper), loss of life or property, or conflict of some kind. They may also tend to publish stories from a particular perspective or with a particular themes, also called angles.

The best way to know what a story deems newsworthy or what angles they tend to write is to read that paper and take notes.

Pitching a story

Pitching a story is when you try to get a reporter or a newspaper to cover something about you. Included in the pitch will be your “press kit.” 

Press kit

Your “press kit” or “media kit” can include documents like,

  • A FAQ sheet or fact sheet, which is about your products and services, number of customers, followers on social media
  • History of your business
  • Biographies of significant people in your business, like the owner or founder
  • A fact sheet with quotes that would be relevant to the facts given, like a quote from the founder about why they formed the company
  • Photos or videos
  • Newsletter
  • Brochure
  • Samples
  • Contact information

News alerts you send before the story is going to happen, such as before a product launch. A press release is sent after the event. News alerts and press releases have a specific format. You will want to become familiar with the format. You can use your favorite search engine to look this up. The more you adhere to industry standards, the more professional you will look. 

It’s not just the mass media who distribute “the news”

Podcasters and sometimes bloggers are included into this category, especially since so many in the mass media produce podcasts and writing blogs. Treat podcasters and bloggers the same way you would reporters. Find out what they podcast about or blog about before you pitch them the idea to interview you or to write about you. For the most part, you don’t have to be as formal as with reporters in sending news alerts or press releases, but sending a well-crafted email and attaching your “press kit” of your fact sheet and photos is a must.

Influencer marketing is when an influencer either uses or reviews your product and posts about it on their platforms. This sometimes falls under advertising, because the influencer is being paid by you to say nice things – and sometimes it falls under publicity because they are acting separately from you. 

This means that an influencer may wear your purse to an event that they went to and as part of their post, they mentioned your purse and how much they loved it. Their audience is able to imagine themselves using that purse, which helps move the audience towards purchasing the purse. For some products, it helps to have a demonstration of using the product to help make the sale. Tupperware was one of the first companies to do this. Besides demonstrating using the product, is there anything else about influencer marketing that is persuasive?

The influencer is viewed by their audience as a peer; the influencer is just like the audience – they are not an expert or in the media. Their power is from being like their audience and being trusted by their audience.

A critic is part of the media, but an influencer is a reader or foodie just like their audience telling their audience about products and services.  They have influence because if the influencer likes something, you will probably like it too.  An influencer acts like a friend giving you a recommendation.  

The trick with publicity and influencer marketing is for them to tell your story in a positive way, so that the word-of-mouth advertising that you get is positive. But, this can go both ways. If your product is of shoddy quality, then that’s the story that they will tell. All publicity isn’t good, no matter what the adage said.

How do you make sure that the marketing tactics you use lead to your business goals?

Strategy

Our brand is the story of our product or service that we tell. It is also the story of our product or service that others tell.  In this way, our brand is both the strategy (why we tell our stories the way that we do) and a tactics (when others tell their stories about our brand).

If our brand is blend of the story that we tell and that others also tell, then our brand is both the strategy and a tactic.

Tactics work. They work best when you have a reason for using the particular one with a particular goal in mind.  This is where strategy is vital.     

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”

~Sun Tzu

What I have seen with many small business owners and creative entrepreneurs is using tactics without much understanding of why they are using the tactic.  They may use content marketing, but not have an overall plan for why and how to use it. They will find themselves floundering and feeling aimless. 

Part of this is because they haven’t taken the time to really develop the story of their brand. That story is what focuses everything you do in marketing, because everything you do in marketing is telling the story of your product or service. 

Does this mean that you won’t evolve? No.  Of course, you will and so will your brand.  As you evolve, you will have to re-examine the story of your brand to make sure that it is matching up with the messages that your tactics are telling.  

Once you know the story of your brand, you can move onto your marketing strategy: what you want to accomplish with your marketing tactics.

Goals

Your marketing strategy begins with your goals:

  • What are you trying to accomplish?  
  • Are you trying to sell a product?  
  • Are you trying to get bookings for a service?  

This is where your marketing plan intersects and is even integrated into your overall business plan. 

  • What are you trying to sell?  
  • To whom are you trying to sell it?  
  • Who else offers products and services like you?  
  • What is their share in the market?  
  • Can you segment your target customers or clients into a niche where you’re the only one?  

Once you answer these questions, you have the beginnings of your marketing strategy.

Measuring Success

A vital part of your strategy is how you measure your success. Where having a clear understanding of your story and a clear vision of your brand helps you to focus your marketing strategy and use of tactics, having a way to tell you if you’re successful keeps you focused.

How do you measure marketing?  It seems a little like trying to measure love or honesty.  You can have a cup of love or honesty, but do you measure these sorts of things?  Indirectly.  I’ll try not to let my love of measurement theory make me geek out too much here.  If you’re using love as an example, you would measure behaviors associated with love, like caretaking behaviors.  For marketing, it goes back to your goals.

You can get started here on developing your marketing plan, or email me with any questions.

In a nutshell…

Strategy is the reason you choose a particular tactic. To whom you are telling your story determines HOW you tell it and how often that’s your strategy.

Your brand is the story of you and your product or service, as told by you, the media, and the public. 

Branding is the way you tell your story, through your visuals like logos, your content marketing, advertisement, and customer service. 

You tell your story through promotion, using different tactics like content marketing, advertising, street marketing, and ambient marketing, 

When the media tells your story, it’s called publicity.

Your relationship with the public is monitored and managed through public relations.

I hope that this has been helpful in dispelling the mystery around marketing jargon. I also hope that you were able to gain a few tips from this about the strategies and tactics used to promote your business, your product, or your service. 

Thanks for reading!

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. Leave your comments below or email me. If you have expertise in this field or have a story to share, please leave a comment below.

Marketing Glossary

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©2020 Michelle Raab, PhD. All rights reserved. You may copy up to 50 words without permission, provided that you give attribution, link back to the original post, and do not change the meaning or message.

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Disclaimer: Any articles, templates, or information provided by Michelle Raab Marketing on the website are for reference only. While we strive to keep the information up to date and correct, we make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability, or availability with respect to the website or the information, articles, templates, or related graphics contained on the website. Any reliance you place on such information is therefore strictly at your own risk. 

Have you ever asked yourself, what the hell is a customer pain point?

A while ago, I was talking with an editor friend of mine. She had attended a webinar on marketing, where the host was giving advice on how to market to pain points. She kept using the phrase pain point like it was a thing. I had a pretty good idea of what I thought it was. I very much dislike overly used jargony words, because when people use them — it doesn’t make for clear communication or clear thinking. So I jumped into the rabbit hole to see what I’d find.

I came across an article posted on INC.com. It was one of the first articles that I came across. This article talked more about how to find pain points than what it is. You can infer from the article that it’s a problem that the company (or person) you’re trying to sell has that you can solve. Okay, cool. The article suggested that you use an example company who had a problem similar to what you think that the company (read also person) has and then explain what the solution was.

When I was getting my MA in clinical psychology, we called this the hip-pocket patient. In a situation where the patient (or client if you prefer nomenclature) has a problem (eg., depression, addition, …) and you can see that they are hesitant to talk about you, you bring out your hip-pocket patient. You talk about the problem that they had, and how you were able to help them solve the problem. In this situation, the hesitancy is usually because of shame for having the problem. Bringing up the hip-pocket patient allows the therapist to help the patient feel like they aren’t weird for having the problem. I mean if someone had some horrible things happen to them in their life, it’s completely normal to get depressed about it, but you’d be surprised how many people feel weak or shameful about having a normal reaction. But that’s doesn’t address the what the hell is a pain point.

Back to the advice from the INC.com article on how to sell based on pain points. In the situation of a sales meeting, you don’t want to come in guns blazing and say, hey I have a great service or product for you that will solve your problem … when you don’t know what the client’s problem is. Nobody likes to have assumptions made about them. The idea is that you have to get the client or customer to tell you what their problem is — I surmised from the above mentioned article.

But. But. But. Here’s the caveat. You can’t just say, hey, tell me what your problem is. According to the (again) aforementioned article, your customers or clients aren’t going to want to do your work for you. You’ve got to work for it. So you bring out a previous customer that had a similar problem and tell the potential customer/client how you solved the similar problem. Yay. That’s a great sales technique. But it doesn’t really tell you what a damn pain point is other that saying, it’s a problem that someone has.

So is that really all there is to this overly used jargony word? Well, yeah, as it turns out. I came across this blog post on tempestamedia.com. In the first sentence of the blog post, they defined what a pain point is. It’s a problem that your potential client/customer has that you can solve.

End of rabbit hole dive report.

©Michelle Raab, PhD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

You may copy up to 50 words without permission, provided that you give attribution, link back to the original post, and do not change the meaning or message.

You can get started here on developing your marketing plan, or email me with any questions.

Do people use brands because their family does? Intergenerational Brand Loyalty
The other day I went to my living room to retrieve my …

Disclaimer: Any articles, templates, or information provided by Michelle Raab Marketing on the website are for reference only. While we strive to keep the information up to date and correct, we make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability, or availability with respect to the website or the information, articles, templates, or related graphics contained on the website. Any reliance you place on such information is therefore strictly at your own risk. 

Marketing isn’t just selling, it’s connecting people

Have you ever set two people up you thought would be perfect for each other? Then you see them meet. You see the spark. The human connection.  Have you ever seen a meme and thought about someone, sent it to them, and they message you back saying they are so happy because it made their day because it said exactly what they had been thinking. 

For me, that’s what marketing is. It’s about helping bring people together. It’s about human connection and community.  Within the indie creative community, it’s about helping people connect over the expression of the majesty of the human experience. It’s the moment where people say in concert, I get you/you get me. For the small business, it’s about connecting people with products and services that will make a positive impact on their lives that they may not have known about without marketing.   

To help bring people together in a sea of possibilities, you have to understand how people navigate this life and the world of communication in order to help soul mates (writer and reader, product and customer, service provider and client) together.

In my work, I do this in two ways. I’m building a community of creatives to help them know that they are not shouting into an empty and uncaring void. I want to help expand the stage for voices that have gone unheard. I want to build a community of collaboration and cooperation to help in this endeavor. I plan to turn this community into a nonprofit to be able to do more to expand the stage and develop indie creatives and their careers.  

The other way is helping sole proprietors, freelancers, and indie creatives. I want to help these people who are trying to build a business make the most out of their endeavors. I want to help people who serve others through their products, services, and creative endeavors to make the most out of their business and find those who will benefit from what they have to offer.  You. 

When I help people clarify their vision for their business, and thus their brand, and crystallize what they want to say to their potential customers, I get a great joy out of that. It’s helping people to find, even re-discover, what they are trying to do in the world. I take extraordinary joy in helping them figure out how to communicate that vision to their potential customers through storytelling in social media, advertising, customer service, and even pricing. If a person and their brand is about compassion, then they tell that story in how they handle their customers. If their brand is about service, then price gouge. The brand isn’t in harmony with their pricing. An honest price for an honest, quality product. If their brand is about innovation, then the visuals that they use should be edgy and innovative, even if the visuals aren’t talking directly about their products, only their company. 

Marketing is a way for the proprietor to tell the story of the business. Marketing, though, hasn’t always been about telling stories. Marketing has also been used to manipulate. For example, the origins of guerilla marketing tell a different kind of story than mine.

During the 1960s a famous marketer coined the term guerilla marketing to describe a strategy and collection of tactics that radically shifted how marketing was done. The term itself was borrowed from psychological warfare used during the Vietnam War.  This term coming from war makes my heart ache, because it is the exact opposite intention for relationship building that I endeavor to pursue. It makes the consumer the enemy to trick into betraying their country, their homeland, their people, their values, themselves. That’s not the kind of relationship that I want to foster.

I think that if your focus is on gaining money through deception, manipulation, fraud, and theft is immoral. I don’t think that a fair exchange of resources, be it barter of product and services or for currency, is bad. Money isn’t the problem. Money represents resources.  It makes it easier in exchanges of resources. Pay your landlord rent in chickens or money. If the landlord doesn’t need chickens, but actually needs something else, converting chickens to the something else isn’t as easy as converting money to that something else. If the exchange of resources is fair, then that exchange isn’t immoral. It’s just an exchange. It’s a way to live in the world without having to be a hunter/gatherer.  

Marketing to me is not what the Mad Men did or the promoters of the Fyre Festival. It’s not engaging in infiltrating the consumers private space as an enemy combatant. It’s about understanding one sliver of what it means to be human. And it is the human experience in action, where humans can connect with their soul mates.  I don’t want to add to conspicuous consumption. I just want to help people find things they will cherish or that will add to their lives. I’m a connector.  

I’m also a guide for those who don’t have the education, fascination, and experience to understand consumer behavior. To DIY a marketing plan, I’ve known sole proprietors, freelancers, and creatives who have turned to advice books, only to be confused by the advice that they are given.

I have read marketing advice books like a person who had been trapped in the desert drinks water.  I hoped that the marketing book will give me some insight that I hadn’t thought of or hadn’t run across in the behavioral science literature that I have found in textbooks and journal articles I found through Google Scholar. 

To my dismay, the advice is not always that good in the advice books. Ranging from problematic application to advice based on a faulty understanding of behavior to contradicting itself to the point of being nonsensical advice. The only marketing books that I have read recently that I find at all solid is the Cambridge’s Handbook on Consumer Behavior and (author) Buy-ology, which is about the neuroscience of marketing, and the 1-Page Marketing Plan.

The problem with the first book is that it’s not written for the layperson. It’s written for the advanced marketing scholar, who has had at least some coursework in psychology.  So, there’s a lot of theory to sift through and little to no application. 

The second book is readable for the well-read layperson, but there’s really no application there either. 

I did find one book that did a pretty decent job of explaining marketing for a general audience. I wrote about this. Allan Dib, author of  the 1-Page Marketing Plan, does a good job defining marketing jargon, like the differences between marketing, promotion, publicity, and tactics. He also does an excellent job giving examples of various kinds of tactics. He touches on strategy as well. 

He didn’t really delve into how tactics would be implemented in different spaces, because he wrote it for a general audience. In my research and experience, the way that tactics are employed need to be tweaked depending on what industry you’re in. Tactics also need to be chosen based on the stage of your career. If you’ve been in business for a while and have some repeat customers but want new ones, you’ll implement your tactics differently than someone starting from scratch.

As a side note, how well a single tactic leads to sales depends on a lot of factors: has the tactic been overused, are there changes in the market, or changes in how people engage in marketing (like moving towards a particular social media platform over another).  

For those who are needing clarity on the different aspects of marketing, this is a great book to read. 

I think though that choosing tactics comes down to using the tactics in service of reaching people and not just making sales. Yes, the end goal is to make a living, which requires making sales, but it’s a matter of focus. In my research and experience, focusing on people and not just sales leads to long-term customers, clients, and readers rather than just reaching short-term goals. I have also read that retaining customers costs less than getting new customers. I’ll write another post about that, after I do a rabbit hole dive. In my mind, it makes more sense to be people focused than just sale focused, both from an ethics perspective and overall profit perspective.

Marketing isn’t just about selling, it’s about connection. Connection between those who serve through their products and services and their customers. Connection of people with their own story and how to tell their story through their messaging. Connection between science and practical application of that science. And, connection between myself and those I serve. You.

© 2020 Michelle Raab, PhD.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: You may copy up to 50 words without permission, provided that you give attribution, link back to the original post, and do not change the meaning or message.

Originally posted in michelleraabwrites.com on February 10, 2020.

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May 2020 Preview

Since this is the first month of my blog, I’ll start with writing about my thoughts on marketing, my take on jargon words, my musings on why people may fear and hate marketing for themselves, and something that I think is foundational to marketing strategy: branding.

I get the sense that a lot of people think that marketers are just out to get people to buy stuff that they don’t need or want. I also think that people may see marketers as a cog in the machine of conspicuous consumption. Even though I’m not a minimalist, I do think that they have a point in mindful consumption. Conspicuous consumption leads to all sorts of problems, consumer debt and environmental issues – like where do we put all our trash? This may be the case for some marketers, but that’s not what I like doing. If I had to, I wouldn’t be able to look myself in the mirror. 

I think that you can live in an economy of mindful consumption. It would be weird for a marketer to advocate no consumption, and really that’s unrealistic anyway. We’re not hunters and gatherers. We are going to have an economy based on selling and buying, but that doesn’t mean that we have to do it in a way that is over the top in consumption. 

In my upcoming post Marketing isn’t just selling, it’s connecting people, I talk about some of my thoughts on marketing. This is a revised version of a post that appeared on my other website.  This post speaks to one of the reasons, though doesn’t directly address it, that I like working with small businesses, sole proprietors, freelancers, and indie creatives. It’s more personal to connect a small business owner with customers than a company with a mass of customers that are so numerous that they just fade together like the dots in an impressionist painting. 

In the currently titled Marketing Primer, I write about the different jargon words that float around about marketing and try to build a cohesive frame for how these words go together. I hope to come up with a cleverer title, but I probably won’t. 

Referencing the great Gonzo journalist, Hunter S. Thompson, I wrote about why I think people don’t want to do their own marketing in Fear and Loathing of Marketing. This post originally appeared in my other website. I’ve revised it a bit. For one, my audience on my other website was mostly readers and writers, so I’ve expanded the post to include a wider audience. All of you guys. And the other reason I revised it, I can’t leave my own work alone. I’m like that painter J. M. W. Turner, who’d keep working on his paintings even after they were hanging in a museum. I’ve been known to re-read a post and go in and edit it.

For the rest of the month, I’ll be posting about branding, including how to get started (a revised post from my other website and some summaries of current research in branding with my commentary. 

You may call them my snarky summaries

Since I’m not in academia, I can be as snarky about research as I want to be. 

I’ll let you know what I think you can take away from the article with suggestions on how to apply the article. I wouldn’t write about the article if it didn’t have any merit, just FYI. 

In academia when you summarize a journal article, you usually include the “limitations” of the study, but you weren’t allowed to be snarky about it, which is more the pity I think. It would make scholarly articles more interesting to read IMO.  

And that my friends will be the month of May. Along the way, I may include some quick reads. I’m wondering if I should call them Pop-in Posts, because it’s just me popping in with a post. Hmmm. Interesting idea.

©2020 Michelle Raab, PhD. All rights reserved. Copyright notice: You may copy up to 50 words without permission, provided that you give attribution, link back to the original post, and do not change the meaning or message.

You can get started here on developing your marketing plan, or email me with any questions.

Disclaimer: Any articles, templates, or information provided by Michelle Raab Marketing on the website are for reference only. While we strive to keep the information up to date and correct, we make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability, or availability with respect to the website or the information, articles, templates, or related graphics contained on the website. Any reliance you place on such information is therefore strictly at your own risk.