Josh Miles is a designer, author, speaker, and principal of Indianapolis-based national branding agency, MilesHerndon, where he leads brand strategy and business development and hosts the popular podcast Obsessed With Design.
We recently caught up with Josh to ask him his opinions on branding and inbound marketing.
Tell us about your experience and how you came to co-found MilesHerndon.
I technically started Miles Design (as we called it back then) in the basement of our first home in 2002. We had grown to nine employees by the beginning of 2015 when Daniel Herndon and I decided to join forces. In doing so, his team at Redwall moved in, nearly doubling the team and forming a new branding agency: MilesHerndon. We now boast a team of 16 people and just wrapped up remodeling our offices on the lucky 13th floor of historic Circle Tower, overlooking Monument Circle in the heart of downtown Indianapolis.
How has the concept of business branding changed from the 20th century to the 21st century?
Many of our clients are in the expertise business - professional services firms, IT companies, and consultants - and that group is coming of age in the 21st century in regards to how they brand themselves. As recently as the late 90s, few firms had legitimate websites, and very few could describe to you what their brand was or why it was important.
Today, clients come to us realizing they're in need of branding and website help. In fact, my favorite opportunities are the clients who already appear buttoned up from the outside, but they're looking to step it up even further. It's much more effective working with a client who has the mentality of "let's do it right this time" as opposed to "this is our first time working with an agency."
Finish this sentence: "You know it's time for a business to change its brand when..."
...the business has changed on the inside as well. Change can come in many ways: new partners, an acquisition, new service offerings, new locations, a shift in market strategy, or simply a desire to change how the market perceives them. In my mind, branding is all about aligning who you are with where you're going, and how you want to be seen in the market.
How do you go about overhauling the brand of a well-established company?
Rebranding doesn't have to begin by tearing the walls down to the foundation. In our approach, there's a continuum of options from a very light touch to a "select all, delete," approach. And while it can be exhilarating to make something completely new, there's no rule that one of those approaches fits well-established companies best. If branding agencies aren't auditing and assessing the equity of a well-established company to begin with, they may be missing a huge opportunity to build on the existing brand value.
How does a strong and well-constructed brand help a company with its inbound marketing efforts?
As I discussed in my book, Bold Brand, some of the most valuable outcomes of a well-executed rebrand are distinctive positioning, differentiation, and awareness. Ultimately, if it's clear who you are, what you do, and why a website visitor should care, you're far more likely to be in a place to convert those inbound visitors into marketing qualified leads.
What branding (or general) advice would you give to a company that is struggling with its inbound marketing program?
Companies who are working hard at their inbound marketing program but still find themselves struggling are probably having one of three issues:
- their brand and messaging are unclear and confusing
- they're delivering quantity over substance, or
- their content is simply not optimized for conversions
I'd encourage asking a few friends who don't know your business intimately to take a spin through your website, and ask them to interpret what they see. Do they get what you do? Are they intrigued to read or learn more? Are they successfully finding their way to your calls to action? If not, consider having a professional talk you through the next steps.
What strategies are effective for tweaking a company's social media presence in order to facilitate better lead generation and inbound marketing?
Historically, many businesses have had their social media funnel upside down. They work so hard to get visitors to their websites, then they provide multiple paths away from their websites in the form of social media links. The first step I'd recommend is to rethink those pathways. Sometimes this is as simple as asking yourself "When a visitor arrives at ____, what do I want them to do next?" And then ask yourself that of each social channel. Once you've completed this exercise for each channel, you should have a pretty clear pathway for improving your social media presence.
What do you see happening in the future regarding branding and its importance to the success of a business?
I don't think branding is going away anytime soon. This world is only getting noisier, and branding is one of the most effective strategies we have as companies to set ourselves apart and create affinity and preference. The goal is to help the market find the best options and to reflect the most accurate view of these brands as possible. Our job as a branding agency is to ensure we're using our powers for good.
Weighing the options of hiring an agency to help you with your branding and inbound marketing? Download your free eGuide to learn more about the qualities and skills you should look for in a marketing firm.
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