Everyone has their own definition of what brand is and for Mitch Wainer, Co-Founder and CMO of DigitalOcean, brand means every single interaction that a customer has with your company. Whether a customer sees your advertisement, receives your email, watches your tutorial, lands on your website, each interaction will invoke a judgement of your brand. When thinking about your company, remember that everything is connected, and all of your messaging must be consistent with what your brand is trying to convey.
DigitalOcean has raised $123 Million to date and is currently serving 500,000 customers globally. Mitch has been steering DigitalOcean’s marketing since day one, and he sat down with SheWorx over breakfast to discuss what needs to be done to position your brand and company for success.
How should you position your brand? Start with a SWOT analysis.
Before you finalize your brand and commit to a marketing strategy, step back and go through a diligent audit: interview your target customers, your employees, see how they perceive your company. Look at your competition and figure out your unique value proposition. How will you differentiate? Conduct SWOT analysis: What are the strengths/weaknesses of your brand? What opportunities are there for distribution? What threats do your competitors pose?
What do your customers really want? Observe how they are spending their time.
Thoroughly understand the kind of person you are targeting. What kind of content are they absorbing? Through what medium are they absorbing that content? What are their favorite blogs? Are they listening to podcasts or spending more time on open forums?
What if your industry is boring? Find the human element.
“How can I build a brand customers can identify with if I’m in a dry industry?” Especially for some B2B companies, this can be a challenge; however, less exciting industries can still find that human element to tap into. For example, you could create content surrounding “Top 5 frustrations in industry X” and discuss how your company can minimize those frustrations.
How do you scale the brand? Write it down.
Once you have identified your brand positioning, make sure to write it down in a clear and authoritative guide that everyone in the company can read. Any customer facing team - marketing, community, communications, customer support - should read your company’s brand guide, and have access to it at any time. Customer facing teams should be stuck together like glue and be able to communicate the values of your brand clearly and consistently.
How important is content for your brand? It's crucial.
Content is crucial no matter what industry you’re in, but with so much low-grade content out there, focus on quality over quantity, and put it on a schedule. Shoot for 3-5 posts per week, and find that cadence and discipline to post. Begin the content creation process as early as you can and think about why each post is socially shareable. Fill in the blank for each post: “This is good because…” Does it teach something? Does it solve a problem? How is it relevant?
Hire a good writer who has some knowledge of SEO. Aim to build thought leadership early on that can bring very targeted traffic to your website, and make sure to convert/capture those inbound leads. HubSpot is a perfect example: by focusing on content, they established themselves as an authoritative voice on inbound marketing. Their content team is the largest team internally.
I've got some content, now what? Focus on community building.
DigitalOcean started building their brand through content but evolved to continually engage their customers. They have an online community platform with tutorials, Q&A, and a tagging section for easy organization. Their target customer are developers and as such, they posted on sites like Quora, Reddit, and Hacker News where they knew their community was absorbing content. Later DigitalOcean created a developer relations (events) team to build relationships with developers at meetups and even sponsor some of them to go to more expensive conferences. For your brand, focus on building a loyal community both online and offline, and strive to create a brand that customers can love and evangelize.
Is it awkward to put myself out there? No, own your personal brand.
Don’t feel uncomfortable promoting the work you are doing. Building a company is an amazing opportunity to build your personal brand. Find opportunities to answer questions on topics you’re passionate about, and don’t be afraid to be open about what you care about. Many of the great companies have a CEO that people can identify with. This goes back to creating the human element in your brand. Your personal brand contributes to that. Some examples of leaders who do this well: Richard Branson, Tony Hsieh, Gary Vaynerchuk, Elon Musk. Remember, no one can duplicate you, so invest in yourself as the authoritative voice of your brand.
The biggest mistake startups make when building their brand? Pivoting.
Pivoting. Entrepreneurs are especially susceptible to pivoting quickly. From a brand perspective, this is extremely detrimental to the company as a whole, and is immediately confusing to your customer. Proceed cautiously.