Brand Strategy vs. Brand Storytelling: The Missing Link for Account Based Marketing
Strong brands uniquely represent your business. They are visually and verbally different from other brands and they make or follow a controversial belief or see the future through a different lens. It’s the most powerful asset in your sales and marketing toolkit.
Without it, the path to revenue and revenue retention is harder, longer, more expensive—and risky at best. With account based marketing, customized messaging becomes even more important. Campaigns require personalization that meets the specific needs of the buyer based on role in the buying process.
An effective brand strategy spells out the unique identity and differential that separates you from the competition. But there’s a critical difference with companies who effectively translate their brand identity into the products that they deliver.
Do your customers actually identify with your brand? Will they internalize your story as their own?
That’s where brand storytelling comes in. A StoryBrand Framework connects your brand identity to your customers so that they can understand the benefits and value of using your products (and connect on an emotional level). Understanding how and why your customers buy and what will resonate with them will guarantee your brand strategy works and the tactics you need to make your ABM campaigns effective.
Brand Strategy Essentials
There’s no getting around the fundamental work that’s required to build a brand strategy. There is research, consensus building, and development work.
- Executive leadership team interviews (with an anonymous brand questionnaire)
- Customer interviews from a well balanced mix of clients & candidates from all LOB (lines of business) and across referral sources
- Competitor analysis including positioning, tone, customer targets and key differentiators
- Distill findings and key takeaways including customer views, values, feelings, what they’re thankful for, and resonating quotes
- Brand architecture
- Design sensibilities
- Brand visual assets
- Marketing strategy
From this work, you can build the brand architecture and storytelling frameworks.
Brand Architecture Framework
Brand Values: as Seth Godin defines it, a brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.
As an example, Amazon is a successful brand but it is suffering on representing its values. There is an anti-Amazon sentiment movement manifesting in Prime membership cancellation due to their treatment of workers and recent tax-avoidance in their new locations. Lesson? A brand in conflict will fail. Even though the boxes are happy and singing, there is no hiding the unhappiness the company is creating with people.
Brand Personality: How the brand is perceived by its customers and how the brand portrays itself. There are 5 dimensions (excitement, sincerity, ruggedness, competence and sophistication). As an example, Apple leverages excitement, competence and sophistication in its personality.
Functional Benefits: Aimed at satisfying a need, functional benefits reflect the specific performance of your product. Supported by an emotional benefit, and those benefits become even more powerful.
Emotional Benefits: A great way of defining this is understanding how your product makes your customer feel. Emotional benefits are entirely cognitive and are specifically attached to brands and their particular features.
Value Proposition: Investopedia defines this as a company statement that summarizes why a consumer should buy a product and how it will add more value or better solve a problem than other similar offerings.
What you do with this?
Blending these raw ingredients will allow you to create your brand positioning and internal statement:
– Design sensibilities
– Site content/focus
- Positioning statement (target, frame of reference, and point of difference support)
…and which then defines your market-facing deliverables such as:
– Logo and treatments
- Online and offline content templates
– Editorial calendar
– Sales copy
Brand Storytelling Framework
Based on Donald Miller’s ‘Building a Story Brand’ book, there are 7 categories of messaging that makes up the Storybrand Framework. Following this framework, you’ll guarantee your brand work will resonate with your target audience. Here’s what a customer needs as outlined in the book:
A Character. The customer is the hero, not your brand. This principle requires you know what your customer wants and inviting them into the story you are telling.
A Problem. Companies tend to sell solutions to external problems but customers buy solutions to internal problems. Customers face more than external problems. These external problems cause internal and philosophical problems as well. Customers are more motivated in solving their inner frustrations. Identifying these and mapping them back to your brand identity and you’ve got a winning combination.
And Meets a Guide. Customers aren’t looking for another hero; they’re looking for a guide. If customers understood their problem, then they wouldn’t need you. A guide needs to identify with their customers through empathy (we feel your pain) but with authority (we’ve done this before).
Who Has a Plan. Customers trust a guide who has a plan. Making a purchase is a big step and buyers need stability during this step. If it’s confusing or lacking clarity, you’ll lose them. There are two types—an agreement (alleviating fears) and a process (outlining the required steps) plan.
And Calls them to Action. Customers don’t take action unless they are challenged to. Mapping the steps it takes and what it will yield and when, is critical at this buyer stage. There are two ways to do this—direct (make a purchase or schedule an appointment) or transitional (a path to further the conversation/relationship).
Helps Them Avoid Failure. Every human being is trying to avoid a tragic ending. In a story, there must be an inherent danger and peril that we’re desperate to avoid. We must show people the cost of not doing business with us.
And Ends in Success. Never assume people understand how your brand can change their lives. Customers need to understand the utopia they’ll experience after they purchase your product which ties back to your brand vision.
5 Essential ABM Branding Rules to Guide You
Make your message simple, relevant and repeatable. If it is too complicated, the brain doesn’t know how to process the information. That’s why stories work. Stories have a beginning, middle and end and put information in that order so that it can resonate and be remembered.
Make your message about helping customers survive and thrive. Great stories appeal to us on a physical, emotional, relational or spiritual basis. If your story taps into any one of those needs, you’ll appeal to the brain’s #1 job.
Make your content customer centric. With ABM, your content needs to do the job of cultivating relationships and brand awareness on a 1:1 level—at scale. This requires a hyper-level of scrutiny on the unique needs of your target accounts.
Develop a brand persona that represent all of your buyer personas. Identify the characteristics that are common your buyers and then based on their challenges, fears, motivations and goals, map out what this persona needs most from you from you.
Make sure you know your story. In order for customers to engage with your brand, they need to be able to answer 3 questions within 5 seconds. This is your brand story.
- What do you offer?
- How will it make my life better?
- What do I need to buy it?
Putting It All To Work
Donald Miller has done what is missing in branding today…the Storybrand Framework assembles the essential elements of a solid brand strategy and puts it to work. If you branding doesn’t have depth, you’ll fail at implementing the framework. ABM requires this level of depth in order to deliver content to support buyers on an account level. The overarching message here is to get the story right, make the message short and clear, and ensure your brand embodies it.