The Four Burning Brand/Marketing Questions That a Landscape Review Will Answer
June 5, 2017 by Maria Ford
Over 15 years, we’ve conducted many, many Landscape Reviews for companies. In fact, it’s our first step in tackling the job of answering a client’s Big Questions about marketing and brand.
First, I’ll briefly outline what a landscape review is. Then, I’ll show you how our Landscape Reviews consistently answer 4 “burning” questions about branding and marketing that our clients have.
A Landscape Review scans the environment, or CONTEXT, in which a company and a brand live. It situates the company, brand, messaging, communication, and presentation in the context that a prospect, customer, partner, stakeholder or any other audience will experience it.
Why is this important?
- Companies rarely look at their own “stuff” – and when they do, it’s necessarily through a filter of Too Much Inside Knowledge. It’s very difficult – I would argue actually impossible – to objectively see and understand your own company or brand without the help of an outside guide.
- Companies often obsess about their competitors’ “stuff”. It actually causes blindness. Focusing on what so-and-so is doing doesn’t tell you what YOU should be doing. So, while a Landscape Review examines your competitors as well, it does so fruitfully – through the lens of a target audience, not the lens of Too Much Internal Knowledge.
- It’s nearly impossible to argue with the findings of a Landscape Review. Our process involves gathering the “truth” of a company’s story through the voices of external audiences that experience the company and its brand. I’ve never heard an executive argue with the voice of a customer.
Our process includes gathering all relevant view points on a brand or company: internal and external. The voice of executives, of staff, of customers, of partners are brought to bear. It’s like holding up a mirror, or seeing a picture of yourself for the first time.
The 4 Burning Questions
These are the top four “burning” questions that a Landscape Review will answer:
- How can we crystallize our “secret sauce” and convincingly communicate how we are unique?
I believe that every company has an essence. Something unique that sets it apart in an industry or a market. It’s easy to lose sight of that essence in all the noise that is generated by the multitude of external forces that put pressure on a company. Forces like competitive noise, the opinions of partners, the guidance of stakeholders, the individual perspectives of new management or staff, the self-doubt of founders – to name just a few.
A Landscape Review resets and refocuses on what’s at the core of a company’s identity. This is absolutely critical to clearly defining and then articulating that uniqueness. “Differentiation” is a buzzword that companies and brands chase after through comparison to others.
I contend that true differentiation is already inside, and a Landscape Review shines a light on it.
One of the most powerful examples of this happened with a software consulting firm that I worked with. They came to me in a panic about offshore competitive threats. Their idea was to rework their marketing plan, messaging and website to counter the offshore trend.
I asked if they’d allow me to conduct an objective audit first – and what a surprise they got when they saw the EVIDENCE of the findings. It pointed them in a completely different direction. It saved them from wasting all their marketing resources (including money, time, energy and focus) on doing battle with a perceived competitive threat that turned out to be irrelevant. The Landscape Review crystallized the company’s essence and set them with confidence on a bold new path – a path that felt right, fit well, and was extremely successful.
“Maria was the first who was able to help us clearly articulate, from our customer’s point of view, how we were different from our competitors. The results were immediate – suddenly prospective customers were saying ‘I get where you guys fit.’” – Matt Hately, Entrepreneur and former VP Marketing
- We’re successful, but we’ve reached a plateau – where do we go from here?
Plateaus are signs of progress. That sounds contradictory, but think about it. You can’t plateau if you haven’t been moving forward. And you can’t keep moving forward without stopping to take stock now and then.
Imagine your brand’s or your company’s journey as a walk through the woods. At some point – especially if you’re doing things right – the path ahead disappears. Why? Because if you’re truly building something unique, you’re going where no one has gone before.
A Landscape Review plays the role of surveyor. It scouts around, reads the environment, and determines the best path forward for YOU. The findings form the chart of new territory that you’ll conquer.
The Attain Group is a great example of how this can work. After achieving the goals that our Landscape Review/ Audit and Plan set out for the firm early in its genesis, they returned to us to ask, “Where to next?” A new landscape review highlighted that they had indeed achieved what they set out to with their brand. It also showed how the company’s competitive and technical landscape had changed in 10 years. We then translated this into the way forward – what the company must do next to maintain its leadership position.
“Kaszas Marketing created our initial marketing strategy in 2006 and we have continually used their branding and marketing services since then. We followed their strategic recommendations and have seen the results, including substantial growth in our company and the successful positioning of The Attain Group as the leader in its chosen niche. Kaszas Marketing continues to provide us with invaluable insight and direction regarding where to take our business next.” – Derrick Hanson, CEO, The Attain Group
- How can we engage all our target audiences in one common message, goal, or mission – staff, executives, partners, members, customers?
Often, difficulty getting everyone on the same page holds entire organizations and brands back from progress. Many individuals within the company are usually able to see the potential of the organization – yet can’t seem to rally enough buy-in or excitement or understanding to fulfill that potential.
When we began working with Modern Niagara in 2013/14, the company didn’t understand marketing. They admitted to being afraid of it. But they also knew that they desperately needed a new website to remain competitive, and that’s why they originally turned to us. But a new website project brought all of the company’s fears, misunderstandings, and distrust of its own direction and purpose to the fore. It was impossible to move forward. I knew it wasn’t a “marketing” problem, and I knew that a Landscape Review/Audit would light the way forward.
Thankfully, they were open to and ready for this step. Our work held up a mirror to the company – it showed them a picture of themselves (positive and negative) that the entire management team could readily understand. It provided EVIDENCE of the company’s true essence and the direction it needed to move to maintain a leadership position. We proceeded to realign this national company’s brand, core messaging – and yes, also its website.
The most gratifying aspect of this project has been witnessing how the aligned brand identity has become a rallying point for the entire company. As soon as the company had a concrete manifestation of its essence (via a new brand, messaging map, and website), everyone was able to move forward with confidence.
Understanding of and pride in the brand and the message has filtered through every crevasse of the organization. This, in turn, has facilitated action. Everything from “What should our business cards and trucks say on them?” to “How do we integrate this company we just purchased?” seems a little easier now that everyone is on the same platform.
“Kaszas Marketing delivered a thoughtful and thorough process that helped our organization to become comfortable with what marketing is and to understand the importance our brand and how we convey and live our identity. It has been an educational, positive, and strengthening experience that has helped to focus our diverse organization around common conversations, goals, and identity.” – Tony Sottile, past CEO
- What actions, plans, and investments will serve us best? How do we prove it to our decision makers?
Marketing, branding, communication – often, companies hold a mistrust of the cost of “doing” these things. Previous investments may have failed to produce “results”. Often, when I meet a new company that feels it has marketing or branding challenges, they have “done all the things” and done them by the book. But still they are frustrated because they don’t see any real change.
A Landscape Review provides EVIDENCE and FOCUS. Not only does it deliver the proof that decision-makers need to give the go-ahead to new investments, it also narrows down “all the things” that COULD be done to (usually) just a few that SHOULD be committed to.
The Human Resources department of a national organization wanted to use social media to improve recruitment and internal culture. The team had many, many creative ideas about how it could use social media to do this. But bringing those ideas up the chain was nearly impossible because they were just that – ideas.
We recommended a Social Media Audit, which included a Landscape Review. Our research, analysis, and recommendations empowered the HR department with EVIDENCE that resulted in:
- Clarity and focus about how social media should be harnessed. We honed in on the highest value areas where it made best sense to focus the initiative and measure success.
- Validated internal misgivings about parts of the corporate website and provided the evidence needed to devote resources to updating that content.
- Provided the evidence needed to move a focused social media strategy “up the chain” for approval.
“The social media Landscape Review was a must-have for us. The temptation with social media is to jump directly into tactics and execution, but we wanted to step back, analyze where we fit, and create a strategy that would support our larger business goals. We would not have been able to do that without the landscape review.” – Communications Director
Whether you’re looking to drive internal change, articulate what’s known internally but not communicated well to your intended audience, or identify the right marketing priorities, a Landscape Review can deliver the clarity you need. If you’d like us to analyze your organization, contact us!