by Tim Dunn

2020 has been a year unlike any other, but it is (mercifully) soon ending.  We’ve run the gamut from pandemic to quarantine to Tiger King to sour dough bread baking, and now face another potential lockdown. And 2020 also had to take Alex Trebek? Just adding insult to injury.

If you’re like me, you want to meet 2021 head on, making it the year where we blow our brands up, helping our existing clients succeed while landing fun and dynamic new customers. Having a stellar 2021 has to start by strategically planning and instilling brand discipline right now.

Here are five easy steps to take in the next few weeks to make sure your brand is ready to succeed in 2021:

Stop and think about your audience. This is probably the biggest challenge I’ve encountered in my nearly two decades working in marketing and communications. You absolutely need to know who your audience is, what they want, and how to engage them. If you don’t know your audience, then you really need to bring in help to figure it out. Here’s a spoiler alert…. you know your audience; you just don’t realize it. Be purposeful and review your revenue and sales data to understand who is buying your product/service and why. By actually sitting down and committing this content to paper, then segmenting those audiences logically (demographics, buying power, motivation, etc.), it becomes infinitely more tenable to build the right messaging for those audiences.

Build messaging for your target audiences. Once you have taken a few minutes to critically understand who you want to hear your story, it isn’t terribly hard to build and refine your message for those audiences. If your target customer is a 35-year-old single working mother who likes soccer and crafting, perhaps messaging your product like a beer commercial might not make sense. Identifying key themes that motivate target audiences will allow you to build or refine your messaging to be sure the way you’re telling your story actually engages and motivates your target audience to care.

Develop an editorial calendar. Again, this is a much easier task than it appears. Quite simply, once you know your audience and you have messaging to engage them, building out a 12-month strategy of how you plan to deliver those messages to those audiences is a logical and practical next step. Do you plan one press release per month? Two social media posts per week? Targeted digital and social media advertising in advance of specific buying periods? Doing this in a purposeful manner will allow you to budget your time and marketing resources and ensure you’re being disciplined in delivering on your brand story.

Spend on the right tools. Marketing dollars are at a premium in nearly every industry and business and unfortunately, they are often the first place to cut when times get tough. That’s why it is incredibly important to build a budget that makes sense for your objectives.  Every tool available to marketers — whether it is traditional earned media, traditional or digital ads, social media, or TV/radio advertising — will perform better with certain audiences.  Set goals and watch metrics, using real data from your actual activity. Did you notice a specific uptick in sales last June when you ran that Facebook promo? Do you ask new customers how they learned about your brand? I’ve always found that clients who know exactly where they’re spending their marketing dollars and why are the most effective and efficient. Develop a realistic budget and make sure you’re focused on getting your key messages to your target audience.

Better to do a few things well than many things mediocre. My favorite adage to borrow from sports is “if you have two quarterbacks, you don’t have one.” I’ve never been a big fan of marketing efforts being spread thin just to check boxes. In my experience, brands that try to have a presence everywhere often fall short, leaving a disconnected brand presence and a frustrated customer. I’ve seen far too many dormant social media accounts to name and I’ve always believed it’s better to kill off a marketing tactic than do it poorly or half-heartedly. This is a great way to focus your efforts and maintain brand discipline. Tell yourself 2021 is the year your brand absolutely crushes one tactic — maybe that’s PR, maybe it’s thought leadership or blogging, maybe it’s social media. Focus your efforts and become the best in class in that one space, rather than being middle of the pack on several fronts.

Please trust me, this is not an overwhelming approach to refining your brand. Undertaking these five easy steps will absolutely elevate your brand for the year ahead and position your brand for success in 2021 and beyond.  If you start down this path and get stuck, don’t worry… our team at Dunn Strategy Group is here to help businesses small and large elevate their brand, tell their story, and reach greater levels of success.  Learn more or ask me for help by contacting me here!   

Tim Dunn

Timothy Dunn launched Dunn Strategy Group in 2016, following a diverse and unique career cutting across the spectrum of marketing communications specializations. For more than 15 years, Tim has advised political, business, academic, and nonprofit leaders on strategic decision-making and communications. At DSG, Tim has worked with large companies, PR firms and agencies, startups, nonprofits, and political campaigns to help tell important stories and engage audiences.