How can a 100-year-old business inject some life into its arthritic limbs?

That was Amanda Brinkman's challenge last year when she joined Deluxe as chief brand communication officer. Deluxe, a company that provides back-end checking and web development services for small businesses, was being outspent in advertising by its competitors by 14 to 1.

What do your customer's believe about your product? Brinkman's first task was to do what any brand marketer should do: she deployed surveys to evaluate the company's brand awareness and found that it could be improved--many people knew Deluxe provided checks for small businesses, for example, but few knew they offered web design too.

She then spent a lot of time thinking about her target market--small business owners--and their buyer behavior and where they spend their time consuming media.

"I think many more brand marketers could be thinking through 'How can we do something more purposeful and meaningful that people want to spend time with?'"she told me recently in an interview. "The question I always ask is 'Why does marketing have to be something that interrupts what we want to be doing? Why can't it be something we genuinely want to spend time with?' That's what content does if you do it right."

Develop a strong connection to your target market

To develop a stronger connection to her audience, Brinkman initiated a content marketing program called Small Business Revolution, consisting of, among other things, artfully conceived and beautifully shot videos, mini-documentaries that shine a light on the headaches and rewards, the wins and defeats, of owning a business.Check this one here.

With a strategy that mapped out pain points and rewards of owning a business, Brinkman and her team were able to create narrative arcs. These are not wishy-washy, warmed-over, feel-good films. They deal realistically with the fears of starting a business and the beliefs (and stubbornness) that are required to sustain it. Look through these and you'll no doubt find something familiar.

Create things that people want to spend time with

She started this video campaign in recognition of the power of social media. "Social media, in the marketing space, has really shifted the power of the voice to consumers," she says. "It means if you're going to interact with consumers you have to be diligent about it, it can't be something you do part time. With content, a lot of brands say they're really going to invest in it but they don't. They either find incremental funding to do it or they kind of do it half-way. You need to invest in it."

As proving the value of having a strong brand presence becomes harder and harder, it forces business owners to take bolder steps toward differentiating themselves. Doing what everybody else is doing is considered a failure.

"I think fundamentally when you're communicating with your audience, it comes down to making their lives better," says Brinkman. "Can you make them smarter? Can you make them more fun to be around? Can you help them with their job advancement? Can you help them spend more time with their families? Really think about what are the things that drive people to make decisions."

Published on: Jun 15, 2015