Straightforward originality and top-of-mind awareness

By Nancy Garberson / Guest Column

True originality is what businesses strive for. A common approach for organizations wanting to differentiate themselves to establish credibility within an industry and stand apart from the crowd is to constantly rethink their approach, strategic positioning and messaging.

“Strategic planning” is happening in countless businesses and boardrooms across the world. A common goal of these planning sessions is originality, because it is an advantageous trait to gain top-of-mind awareness among the vast amounts of information floating around on the internet, in mass marketing and through media outlets.

Flourishing organizations are led by individuals considered “thought leaders” like Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway, Bill Gates of Microsoft, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Jeff Bezos of Amazon.

We tend to think of the most successful professionals in their fields and how they managed to take an idea and make it thriving reality. Because they are top-of-mind, they have influence over many audiences. These are thought leaders who have developed organizations we all know and think of because they are “leaders” in originality.

Thought leadership is when something original is created – something that is perhaps out in front of all of us, or something that needs fixing or a new twist on an old theme, or is a new technology or product.

Top-of-mind awareness happens when brands shift from strategic discussion to strategic action. They begin with solving customer problems, and then they become relied upon as trusted places to turn. People have confidence in thought leaders and turn to them for advice. They have made the shift from being one of many companies achieving the same day-to-day activities, or providing the same types of products or services, to becoming a singular organization that people believe in and rely upon. These businesses have actively moved beyond trade to connection – instant, top-of-mind connection.

Organizations can close the gap, moving from strategy to action to execution effectively if they first consider all the possibilities without fearing change. Change can be laden with opportunities. Today I learned about a new product: Smithfield Foods is embracing consumers’ thriving interest in bourbon with its new Brown Sugar & Bourbon Bacon.

By sharing original insight, brands can take a creative step that can mean long-term sustainability. Brands we recognize as leading influences in their particular markets or areas profit from that recognition of originality. So when you hear that “strategic planning” is on the agenda for your organization, never fear, because stepping outside your comfort zone and seeking possibilities of what can be done is productive for new, exciting pursuits.

After strategic planning, action includes getting top-of-mind awareness by offering the right product at the right time to the right audience; build a profile of an early adopter, including all of the other details of what influences that particular profile. This is referred to as “targeted” or “niche marketing,” but it means not wasting time, attention, resources and money on the wrong audiences. Skateboard companies don’t market to octogenarians, and Life Alert doesn’t market to young skateboarders.

Companies that position themselves as leaders first identify, connect, inspire and persuade those individuals that their offering is better than any other. With the attention of their ideal consumer, the next action is to persuade those ideal people to give their product or service a try. In this wild, fast-paced marketing world, it’s vital to find the right paths to spread new concepts, and there seem to be more and more marketing paths to take every day.

Strategic planning begins with empathy: by putting yourself in the place of your current customers or those that you wish to make customers. What are their needs? Are their needs something your organization can fulfill? Where does your originality lie? These kinds of questions lead to even better questions about your business and industry. Then, expand your thoughts to what an extraordinary and original future you could lead.

Nancy Garberson is the owner of Marketing & Strategic Communication Strategies Inc., in Cedar Rapids, and an adjunct professor at Mt. Mercy University, teaching managerial marketing in its MBA and Master of Strategic Leadership programs.