Your brand defines who you are and what you represent. Once your brand is built and established, it reinforces your position in the market. With a reputable brand, you’re automatically in an advantageous position to launch new products and take risks because your audience already knows and trusts your brand. Brand recognition is everything. Also, your brand establishes the foundation for your approach to all marketing and advertising efforts. It’s nearly impossible that those efforts will result in a cohesive and consistent message if you don’t first lay the groundwork that informs what you’re doing and why.
As part of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure to interview Rob Timmermann, President & CEO of the Timmermann Group. Rob has been a pioneer in the digital marketing world for more than two decades. And you don’t make it that long in this industry without learning that every strategic venture comes with its own unique challenges and opportunities.
Rob first became part of the Dot Com arena in the pre-Google era of the late ’90s when the Internet was still a relatively unknown media platform. With a growing love for building websites and the foresight to realize what online branding and development could eventually grow into, Rob ascended to a Vice President role within one of the region’s leading digital firms.
In 2003, Rob’s entrepreneurial spirit combined with a vast knowledge of sales, design, and web-based marketing led to the creation of Timmermann Group. A part-time, two-man operation in its infancy, TG has grown into a full-service agency providing strategy, branding, website design, social media management and more to businesses all over the world.
As a business owner himself, Rob understands the importance of being able to measure the results of a marketing campaign and turning data into marketable, strategic, corporate growth.
Rob passionately believes in continued education, both personally and professionally. Always staying in tune with the latest trends, Rob regularly recommends blogs, podcasts and books to team members, clients and friends both in person and through his lively social media channels. His constant desire to improve processes and optimize performance, and to never accept ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it’ as an excuse for lackluster results, makes him an influential, dynamic voice in the industry.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I started working for an Internet Service Provider in 1996 back when a lot of the world was first learning what websites were and how they could be used. At the ISP I was responsible for our dial-up Internet services, computer hardware consultations, as well as owning the strategy piece connected to some very early website designs and application builds.
With a couple of years of website consultations under my belt, I moved from a small town in Illinois to St. Louis where a colleague connected me to a sales executive role with a web design company. I came in a little overconfident thinking I’d crush it, despite not having any outside sales experience whatsoever. Unfortunately, my novice definitely showed in my performance. It took a long time — and a lot of research — before I’d have the knowledge to back up my enthusiasm. But once I was fully committed to becoming great at developing strategies for companies and selling people that strategy, things just took off.
That company was eventually bought out in 2003 so I started doing sales for a national healthcare provider. I did pretty well there too, in fact, and helped me gain even more sales experience. After hours, I’d do freelance web design out of my apartment. And this was how Timmermann Group got its start.
And that’s basically how things went for the first several years. Just me and one or two freelancers. By 2010, Timmermann Group had become big enough for me to quit my day job, find an office, and start hiring a full-time staff. We’ve been fortunate to have had 16 years and counting with positive financial growth every year without ever having a single layoff.
Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
We once had a client with more than 1,500 virtual locations. So when I was updating their Google My Business, I just submitted all 1,500 Google Place locations with the assumption that they’d be added to Google Maps. Unfortunately, I didn’t think to check if virtual locations were allowed in the feature (they’re not, by the way). Long story short, Google cracked down on the virtual locations, but for some reason, 800 of them stayed up for four straight weeks. That’s 800 live locations each receiving traffic and driving revenue. As it turned out, my error led to a pretty rewarding month for the client who went from making around 1,000 dollars per day to upwards of 25,000 dollars per day. Needless to say, they were pretty happy (for four weeks anyway). When this happened, I finally grasped the power of the Internet and e-commerce. It was one of the best experiences in my professional career.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
A lot of companies in our industry focus a disproportionate amount of their time and energy on either innovation or customer service, but rarely both. You’ll typically find companies that overpromise and underdeliver in terms of product quality, yielding a poor customer service experience. At Timmermann Group, we strive to provide our clients with quality products and exceptional customer service. This year we even won awards for Best Marketing Agency and Best Customer Service in our local market.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We’re working with a national healthcare provider right now on a new e-commerce website that we feel will revolutionize the way consumers receive medical testing. It’s our hope that this system will simplify and expedite the way patients seek out medical care. We’ve seen positive results so far and we’re excited about the next steps.
Ok let’s now jump to the core part of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?
The way I see it, branding is basically the process of conveying what your company represents to your audience. Basically, what is your position in the market? Are you known for your quality products? Your innovation? Your affordability? How does the public see you? Or more accurately, how do you want the public to see you? Advertising is the act of repeatedly presenting a very targeted message to a very specific audience on the value and importance of your product or service with the intent of making a sale. It’s about influencing your customer’s emotions to encourage them to take an action related to your specific offer.
Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?
Your brand defines who you are and what you represent. Once your brand is built and established, it reinforces your position in the market. With a reputable brand, you’re automatically in an advantageous position to launch new products and take risks because your audience already knows and trusts your brand. Brand recognition is everything.
Also, your brand establishes the foundation for your approach to all marketing and advertising efforts. It’s nearly impossible that those efforts will result in a cohesive and consistent message if you don’t first lay the groundwork that informs what you’re doing and why.
Can you share 5 strategies that a small company should be doing to build a trusted and believable brand? Please tell us a story or example for each.
- Be explicit in your branding: For small businesses especially, the name of what you do should be in your branding. Make yourself memorable. Stand out in some way.
- Consider all mediums for your brand: Your logo might look great atop your website, but have you considered how it’ll look on a business card? On an awning? On a billboard? On a television screen? Your logo and brand should be strong and identifiable enough to work across the board.
- Commit to consistency: This one sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many businesses will list various contact numbers or random email addresses across their website or social media channels.
- Invest in your assets: Your customers are doing their research. They’re finding you online before they ever set foot inside your business or place an order (if they ever do, that is). A great website takes a lot of time and effort to get it right. I’d say that if you’re not putting everything you can into building the perfect website, you’re going to be at a major disadvantage.
- Cater to your consumer: For small businesses, it’s imperative that your customer service through production deliver a consistent and positive customer experience.
In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job building a believable and beloved brand. What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?
For me, Harley Davidson is doing everything right and has been for a long time. It’s a classic American brand with a dedicated following and everybody recognizes that orange and black color scheme. They have a lot of governance on their branding and take every precaution to make sure that it stays as strong as ever. Their dealerships are practically tourist attractions for bike enthusiasts and they make sure that their employees know exactly what they’re talking about when it comes to promoting the Harley Davidson product line. Harley Davidson has been going strong for more than 100 years and you just don’t get that far without having strong governance on your brand and protecting it at all costs. They are a definitive example of a brand that has stood the test of time and become a worldwide phenomenon. In my opinion, they’re a fantastic company from which entrepreneurs in every industry could learn a thing or two.
In advertising, one generally measures success by the number of sales. How does one measure the success of a brand building campaign? Is it similar, is it different?
When measuring the success of a brand-building campaign, your primary focus should be brand recognition. So here’s a KPI that you can use to judge the success of your campaign that you may have never considered: check out the number of searches per month for your brand name on Google Trends. If people are searching for your specific brand on Google, it means you’re doing something right. People are talking about you and people want to know more. As your brand building campaign grows, you should see a gradual increase in this KPI as well.
What role does social media play in your branding efforts?
Social media is really the only digital channel where you can proactively reach out to an interest group and present them with your offer. So for a business like Timmermann Group, using social media strategically to increase brand awareness, generate leads and sales is vital. We’re fortunate to have a super-talented social media team who ensures that we’re in step with the latest social media trends and that our clients are getting the most out of their social media budgets as well.
What advice would you give to other marketers or business leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?
I like to plan out my entire week on Sunday. I set aside time every week for just that purpose. It’s important to organize your schedule as best as you can ahead of time so you’re not wasting time or frantically trying to stay ahead of tasks throughout the week. I’ve found that simply having a running calendar of every meeting, appointment, task, etc. has helped prevent the “burnout” of which you speak. It’s important to treat every task with equal importance and urgency so you’re not pushing things off. Make a plan and stick to it.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Any great movement starts with a great leader. So my advice is to first learn what it takes to become a great leader. This might mean being a leader in your family, your community, your workplace, or anywhere else. Be someone who takes charge in stressful or overwhelming situations and knows how to always get the best out of people. Remember, a great leader isn’t necessarily the person at the top. It’s anyone who acts as an example for others by being the best they can be. If you can lead, you can inspire.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I’m a big fan of author Stephen Covey. He’s the genius behind “7 Habits of Highly Successful People” and “First Things First”. I’d say the very title of that latter piece is great advice in itself. There’s no way to get more time out of a day, so you have to decide what is most important in your life and prioritize, then make time for those things first. Don’t waste a single minute. Accomplishing things is about being productive, not necessarily busy. If it’s urgent and important, do it.
We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I would love to have a conversation with Andy Frisella. He’s a fellow St. Louis guy with an incredible story and attitude toward entrepreneurship. He has the kind of fiery determination that is hard to come by nowadays and he does a great job of conveying his passion for everything he does.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
You can find and follow me on Instagram (@robtimmer) or search for me by name on Facebook or LinkedIn.
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.