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Plan your brand strategy for 2016

At this time of year business owners will be reflecting on their 2015 brand strategy to evaluate what worked and what didn’t, and deciding how to promote their brand in 2016. They may not have huge amounts to spend on conventional advertising and marketing campaigns, but there are other options that are effective. Strategic partnerships When major brands sign up to cross-promotional activities with other brands, the public sits up and takes notice. When smaller companies do it, there may be less public interest but small business tie-ups are by no means less important. Richard Silbermann, managing director of Brand Remedy, says: “The most successful ventures are those where there are clear synergies between the various parties with each providing relevant and complementary skills. “There are a number of elements that businesses can pool together to fuel success, from an established client base and proven channels to market, infrastructure such as technology, new business and resources to specific expertise and niche skills.” He says it is crucial to remember that strategic partnerships are not mergers, but a joining together of entrepreneurs who wish to maximise their potential by sharing skills, networks and ideas. It’s a good idea to put the agreement in writing, so there’s no misunderstanding from either party in terms of what is expected from the arrangement. “Partnerships give these businesses a chance to accelerate growth, combine their potential and evolve their enterprises to fit with the fast-changing pace of modern business,” adds Silvermann. London minicab booking app Kabbee has entered into mutually beneficial partnerships with London-based events companies to boost their brand awareness in front of a key audience. One example saw them partner with the London Short Film Festival (LSFF), whereby Kabbee was the official travel partner for the week-long event, providing discounted cab journeys to VIPs, event staff and visitors. The LSFF attracts more than 10,000 visitors; city socialites who enjoy a night out who represent an ideal target audience for Kabbee. The company was included on a range of marketing materials such as the official programme, newsletter, website, social media channels and the event press release. Head of marketing Laura Przybek says: “Kabbee received strong brand visibility at the venue with signage to raise awareness of the app and its useful features, such as book your cab in advance to get home. With the combination of channels, the total reach was nearly 200,000 and resulted in greater brand awareness and increased traffic.” Running competitions The prospect of winning something can be irresistible, which is why so many companies run competitions to keep their brand ahead of their own competition. Faction Skis is a fast-growing ski brand, with headquarters in London and Verbier, Switzerland. Its growth is heavily dependent on brand awareness, and competitions have been a key feature of their brand profile-raising strategy. Last year the company teamed up with French resort Tignes, and this year with Canadian resort Whistler, for what they describe as their “mega comp” with a prize of a ski trip for four, with plenty of extras thrown in, such as food and drink and skiing gear. Co-founder Alex Hoye says: “We have made the competition B2B2C [business to business, to consumer], which engages our retailers and makes them the stars, while allowing us to raise our own profile and make contact for future engagement with our end consumers.” Sponsorship This can be a highly effective form of marketing for businesses of any size. More engaging, more targeted, and often cheaper than advertising, it can create a relationship with loyal fans in a very short space of time. Sophie Morris, director at Millharbour Marketing has been involved in rugby sponsorship at international level, while also supporting her own local, amateur club. She says: “Sponsorship presents an opportunity to truly engage with your audience rather than just putting your brand in front of them. But, it must be aligned to your strategic objectives, and planned and measured with the same scrutiny as any other marketing activity.” The key to success lies in the targeting and negotiation. Morris says: “You must find a sponsorship property that will reach your specific target market, and ensure that you get the most suitable benefits for what you want to achieve, not just the rights the owner wants to give you. “And use the sponsorship across the rest of your communications to fully leverage the investment. It is very often cheaper than the equivalent advertising exposure and builds a far stronger engagement with the fan base.” Sharing expertise It may be that a small business brand could benefit from exposure within a local or sector audience. One way of maximising this is for someone within the company to put themselves forward as a speaker at business clubs, groups and events. Erika Clegg co-founder of strategic communications agency Spring says: “You need to speak as an adviser on your own area of expertise and offer advice, and avoid treating it as a twenty minute sales pitch. Demonstrating authority and leadership in your area of expertise will do a lot to support your brand position and raise its profile.” This knowledge and expertise can be further shared through blogging, columns in industry press and across social media. Clegg adds: “Once you have content to share, my advice is to squeeze the juice out of it by adapting and deploying it across as many channels as you can.” Events A well-planned and well attended event is another way of ensuring a business brand stays firmly on the commercial radar. Careful planning before, during and after the event is a must, says Brand Remedy’s Silbermann. He says: “Pre-event, it’s crucial to give people a reason and an incentive to attend the session. During the event, they need to be given a reason to listen, and afterwards, they need to be encouraged to stay in touch and interact with the host brand. “Brands need to use social media, their website and as many marketing channels as they can to deliver information and content that will keep potential attendees, attendees and even those who didn’t turn up engaged and interested.”