One Proven Method For Growing Brands

Patrick HanlonMarch 15, 20215 min

Here’s an activation you can deploy that has been proven successful in-market, with single and double-digit sales increases for billion-dollar brands. There are even some additional branding tips for you at the end.

Whether you are growing a product or a service business, here’s a proven method to help grow your brand:

First. Identify your brand zealots and define what makes them your brand’s best promoters.

Second. Identify your potential zealots and define what’s keeping them from becoming staunch brand advocates.

Here’s the first step: Identify your raving fans — brand zealots. These are the people who don’t just like you, they adore you. These advocates are passionate about who you are, what you do, why you exist, and interact with you constantly. They even rave about you to whoever will listen. In sum, they are the core of your business.

Select your brand zealots according to IRL (In Real Life) hard metrics: their number of repeat purchases, purchase volume, online (or in-store) visits or other metrics you trust. These factors will vary depending upon your product or service, your industry and your category. You already probably know who they are.

(Tip: If you don’t know who your brand advocates are, you need to find out. Keeping them happy is your reason for being on the planet.)

Once you’ve identified your brand zealots, now run a qualitative study to uncover what attracts them to you and makes you sticky. The gooey interactions between customers and brands can be complex, so rather than a web survey you will have to conduct discrete qualitative groups of respondents or one-on-one interviews. You’ll need to talk to at least a dozen people. More if your budget will allow.

(Pick cities where you are already popular. In the U.S., conducting studies on both coasts is standard, e.g. Orange County, Westchester County or New Jersey. If you have the resources, add other geographies where you want to grow, like Chicago, Nashville or Austin. Again, tweak the locations according to product or budget factors.) Yes, you can do this online.

Question: Why do you pick brand zealots — rather than the huge public mass out there that hasn’t tried you (or even heard of you) yet? Answer: Because you can’t afford to waste time or money.

Your brand zealots are not only core to your brand as first adopters, but as advocates they are responsible for Word Of Mouth, your best form of brand-building. (For purposes here, WOM can loosely include reviews, Likes and other positive customer responses.)

Your brand zealots know what makes you sticky and why they chose you to be another wonderful part of their lives. If you can discover those brand assets, you’ll make a special point not to inadvertently lose them.

You may even want to double click that magic sauce and make more of it.

Best of all, your advocates will advocate — they will put their zeal for your brand community into their own words. Listening hard, then translating your messaging into the consumer’s voice, can be the best possible thing for any brand.

Step Two. Once you’ve identified your best customers, now identify your potential advocates.

You need to identify both groups — because now you want to move your potential zealots from that column over to the column of steadfast IRL zealots.

Again, how you identify potential zealots depends upon your market and your category. Potential zealots might be defined by number of visits, repeat purchases, a dollar sales amount. You decide.

During qualitative one-on-ones, find out what’s holding these potential zealots back from becoming zealots?

And don’t miss this important next step. Take your qualitative insights through a quantitative study to substantiate your findings. This is especially important if you are going to invest millions of dollars in the media multiverse.

Removing friction points for potential zealots can yield the low-hanging fruit. Some billion dollar brands have experienced single or even double-digits sales increases just by doing this.

But that’s just the beginning. Now that you have moved potential zealots to actual IRL zealots, you just helped increase your brand advocacy and positive WOM. This becomes a self-sustaining circle: not only have you grown your bottom line, but you are growing and nurturing your own army of influencers. (Since your advocates are working hard for you, sometimes this even lowers cost of sales.) Nice job.

Back to potential zealots. Bear in mind that what’s holding these potential zealots back might not be something that you can easily fix — yours might be a seasonal purchase. It might be that you’re just too darn expensive. Or it could be some crazy thing your CEO just said in the media.

So target brand attributes that you can improve upon: ease of use, more exciting flavors, discounts and sponsoring social change.

Note: Some grocery brands have increased sales up to thirty percent just by updating their packaging to something more stand-out and exciting.

Understanding what makes you sticky with core customers — and revealing friction points you weren’t aware existed, is an efficient way to get improved results with diminished resources. Even if you’ve had a banner year, this is a scrappy way to keep growing.

Note that we have not mentioned changing your brand logo or your website. Or hopping across social channels — from FB to Influencers or TikTok. These feints don’t always create the same straight line to market growth.

There are other ways to grow a brand and sometimes it means going deeper than search optimization, content marketing, influencers or retargeting. Example? Fill the gaps in your Strategic Brand Narrative.

But first try the activation outlined above, it will grow on you.

Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: Patrick Hanlon, Author of Primal Branding

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