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Between innovation and brand marketing, a complex equation for startups

Between innovation and brand marketing, a complex equation for startups

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As an entrepreneur, chances are you have many advantages: an innovative product, ambition and agility, something new to say in the market. Your goal is to turn these challenger advantages into immediate growth. In doing so, you’ll come up against a huge hurdle enjoyed by your main competitors: brand power – and all the benefits that come with it in terms of awareness, scale and loyalty.

Why brand marketing can seem like a luxury

Traditional brand marketing is, at first glance, not really accessible to start-ups:

  • The traditional approach to creating a brand takes time and above all involves a long-term vision which is not necessarily a priority when the challenge is first of all to attract new prospects.
    The traditional approach to brand building involves mass marketing which involves some form of waste in that you won’t just be targeting people who are ready to buy right away.
  • If you’re focused on the immediate demands of starting your business, from building revenue to customer service, these aren’t investments of time and money you can easily afford. It’s like putting money aside in a pension fund while you’re struggling to pay your monthly bills.

Another factor to consider is the time frame in which you operate as a startup. Hopefully, you’re growing quickly, and you’re probably changing just as quickly. Talk to the founders of successful startups and they’ll often tell you how important direct customer feedback is in helping them refine and evolve their offering. As a founder, you are often very attentive to your market. You are agile and responsive. Your offer and your proposal are likely to evolve. And while your business is still taking shape, investing in a brand that needs to be consistent over several years doesn’t necessarily make sense.

The innovator’s brand dilemma

Startups tend to face what Harvard professor Clayton Christensen calls the innovator’s dilemma. When an innovative company is growing rapidly, it makes sense to focus on current growth rather than investing in the long term and what might happen in the future. When that growth naturally slows and competing offerings hit the market, that’s when you need a strong brand to sustain your gains and make growth sustainable. The dilemma is that at this point it is now too late to start investing in a brand and all that that entails in terms of marketing.

It is difficult to find a solution to this dilemma if we consider brand marketing and the rest of the marketing issues, targeting potential customers, creating demand, conversions and revenue, as separate. To consider that these two aspects operate on a completely separate timeline and that it cannot be linked to immediate results is not to solve the dilemma but to be stuck in it.

But that’s not how brands really work or how your customers experience them.

The “missing link”: this is where your brand takes shape.

We all know Funnel Marketing. It is a simplified concept of the customer journey that maps long-term, top-of-funnel brand marketing to short-term, bottom-of-funnel performance marketing. In reality, between the long and the short term, there is a huge gap, a large part of the customer journey where the impact of marketing on results really takes shape. We call it the “missing link”.

The missing middle is where much of the brand experience takes place. It’s where your potential customers will meet your startup, and it’s where marketing can build your brand and drive demand. A startup strategy for the missing middle involves designing marketing around short-term and long-term needs and connecting them to maximize the value of both:

  • Take a holistic view of your addressable market, but focus your budget on the people who can bring you a return in the timeframe you need.
  • Target this market with ads that offer action, but also aim to have memorable impact.
  • Connect your various touchpoints so you can leverage every piece of interest you generate and respond to intent signals.
  • Recognize the power of experience in building your brand and design marketing accordingly.
  • Respond to audience demand for goals that elicit both emotional and rational responses.
  • Find metrics that give you actionable insight into the type of brand you’re building, meaning you don’t have to wait years to see results.
  • Solutions to exploit the “Missing Link”: Questioning the Marketing Funnel helps you build your marketing strategies

Here are some ways to build your brand by exploiting the missing link and solving the innovator’s dilemma:

  1. Help audiences move from brand experience to demand experience by…
  • Retargeting with engagement-based on-demand content with video and display ads.
  • Feeding audiences with branded ads based on engagement in demand campaigns.
  • Delivering branded ads in intent-filled environments that are mentally closer to the point of purchase (e.g. search engine results pages).

2. Be impactful by expressing meaning relevant to both your brand and demand…

  • Make your story and your values ​​visible to your potential customers
  • Put the notion of meaning front and center on your properties (website, LinkedIn page).
  • Track mentions and reputation level across search queries and inbound traffic.

3. Use data to map the “Missing Middle” and track your ad results in terms of brand and demand…

  • Use new metrics like Share of Search as a real-time indicator of awareness and mental readiness.
  • Analyze search trends to identify opportunities — and the context that shapes audience experiences.
  • Capture and segment intent signals.
  • Map the interaction of brand and demand over extended time periods to gauge how quickly impacts can be seen.

Breaking the divide between brand marketing and demand marketing solves the innovator’s dilemma. They perform their roles simultaneously and interchangeably through many identical touchpoints. Using digital marketing, data search, and AI, marketers can analyze search share to find early indicators of mental readiness in all buying situations (long-term or short-term). which bridges that missing link and helps marketers gain value by adapting their strategy. Access our ebook to learn more about the missing link.

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