How To Make Brand Difference Sell For You.

I read an interesting blog today. The author felt that using differentiation as a brand strategy was misguided. He felt that being different wasn’t enough considering that many people purchase things based on a commitment in their minds. Being different wasn’t enough of a reason to change their minds.

Time for ChangeI think he was well intentioned but he took ‘different’ too literally. Using his theory, it’s easy to understand that if you’re a fan of say, Apple products, it’s not likely that your next purchase will be swayed by a brand that is completely different than Apple. Different doesn’t necessarily mean better. Different for difference’s sake IS misguided.

A differentiation strategy from my perspective takes a stand. ‘Different’ can mean many things. But it can’t JUST be different. Your brand strategy has to been authentic. Just being different is masking a weak reality. Swaying a purchase your way involves many things. In addressing a need, one has to intrigue the buyer. To get the customer to move their money to a new resource, that resource has to provide a solution that resonates with the buyer. It has to compel them to give your brand a shot. It’s not enough to emulate the leader in the category, which really only reinforces that leader. Your offer has to lead not follow. Your brand has to earn the trust of the customer and deliver on a promise to your customer that raises the bar against the competitor. You have to exploit the weak flanks that they are taking for granted. Once you own that flank, you must become it as well. You must offer a benefit in your differentiation. Your brand has to be a viable alternative, not just window dressing.

If it were just being different that would be too easy. If that difference emulates from every corner of your brand, then it can resonate and allow you a foot in the door. Difference is all about the conversation. You want to change the conversation and control it. If you are able to do that, your customer will take your story and give it a moment of their time. Branding properly opens doors. From there it is the sales staff’s job to land the business. If you are one and the same, then you have to be a master of your message and consistent in its delivery.

Embrace your difference, then sell it and land it. If your difference is all visual you will lose the opportunity. Your difference goes to the core of your brand – exploit it.

The Convenient Entrepreneur

Branding[Entrepreneur] according to Webster’s dictionary one who undertakes a business venture, taking both control and risk.

I would add to that – a commitment to one’s vision or dream. When you decide to put up that shingle, you’re making a promise to yourself and your customer to work in the best interest of both. In this world economy of ours many people found themselves out on the street for the first time in their careers through no fault of their own. Streamlining, down-sizing – whatever the cause has had a lot of people “re-inventing themselves.” You may have noticed a plethora of coaches, consultants, gurus, agents of change and what ever moniker these discarded individuals hoist upon their shoulders. Don’t get me wrong – there are a great many who are the genuine article and come with their guidance, a rich portfolio of wisdom. BUT, there there are many who lay claim to being something they’re not.

In your community, you see them everywhere. Individuals who love the idea of “entrepreneur” but lack the gumption and commitment to walk the walk. When they worked as an employee they may have envied the entrepreneur and even envied their “freedom” or perceived freedom. They answer to themselves (or so they thought). A true entrepreneur is the hardest working person in the room. They recognize that it’s not about who’s the boss. Their motivation is not simply the money but the satisfaction. They weather the risk and some even thrive in its uncertainty. An entrepreneur is a unique individual.

You see the cracks in psuedo-entrepreneurs very easily. They are the ones are looking for the short-term solutions. They are the ones who book meetings at their convenience. These are the people go into business and wait for the customer to somehow grace their door steps. They are the individuals who quit at 5:00pm, using (balance) as an excuse. The worst offence is these are the people who profess to love their business but secretly yearn that someone will come forth and offer them a full-time job with benefits. This is a dangerous individual. Companies that hire their ‘expertise’ are thrown to the curb at the first job offer. Instead of looking for opportunities to grow their businesses they try to play all the angles to minimize risk. The best way to minimize risk in business is to work harder and focus on your core competency. If that competency is being a great employee then focus on that and be the best employee there is. Businesses need great employees. They don’t need opportunists. They’re hard to rely on. Employees should do what they do best and that’s work for the visionaries. Be a great follower.

If you are the leader and are having a hard time with it – get out there more. Network – meet people who are making it happen . Talk to them, read about them. See what makes them get up in the morning. Try new things, put yourself in situations out of your comfort zones. Align yourself with individuals that you admire. Avoid negative people who will bring you down. Consciously try and stay positive and provide positive vibes to those around you. Start a mastermind group of brilliant business people who love the concept of sharing.

As Webster’s states – ‘…take control and risk.’ Stay true to yourself and you’ll end up where you ought to be. Pretending causing confusion and opportunities that should be yours avoid you until you are clear in your intentions.

How To Avoid A Weak Brand in a Post-Patent World!

Patents. They’re great things aren’t they? It gives you absolute control over that product. It protects you from unscrupulous competitors. Life is good.

11409504_s-300x267Have you given any thought to the day when that patent runs out? Maybe it seems so far away, that it simply isn’t on the radar. Twenty years off seems like a life time. Maybe just worry about it when the time comes. For many that’s the conventional wisdom. I’ve known companies who did exactly that. During the patent years things were good. Business was growing and the future looked promising.

And then it happened.

Where did the twenty years go? You’re sure it was just yesterday that you got your patent and you were set. Now with the patent opened up, hawks are all around you. The protection you enjoyed has slipped away. What to do? What to do?!

In hind-sight what you should have done was have a plan. As it stands today, your brand is at its weakest. You’ve sat back and allowed your product to coast on its protected status, not paying any attention to what brand you were building. Because of your monopoly status, the brand was lazy and maybe a little arrogant. Now, all that has changed and the marketplace demands to know why they should care about you. In the onslaught of emerging competition, you now stand the real chance of being left behind. Deemed irrelevant in the industry you invented! How can this be, how can you stop this?

Patent

What you should have considered long before the patent ran out was how to develop a strong brand that, when the patent ran out, could come out of the gate with all guns blazing. You had the time and room, to define your brand as the only choice because it was superior. Your patent would have allowed you the luxury to establish a positioning that was unchallengeable. An enviable position for any business. Early planning would have allowed you to grow your brand story at your own pace. But if you waited, you’re scrambling making up for lost time and opportunity. Depending on how the competition launches their attacks, you find yourself responding to them. It didn’t have to be that way.

If your patent is still active, then NOW is the time to embrace and grow your brand. Envision your company in a post-patent era and determine what you would like your brand to stand for. Take that vision and put strategies in motion that will allow you to build to that positioning. Having done that will remove a lot of the anxiety attached to lurching into an unknown environment you may have failed to anticipate. Planning early not only makes your brand stronger, but also keeps you grounded and completely aware of any fluctuations and trends in its marketplace. Defining your brand right now saves you a ton of aggravation later.

My client while failing to plan for the post-patent moment was quick to realize his error and put into motion strategies to correct it. Now, they have gained back lost market share and have surged forward. Their brand has once again established its leadership role. They fully recognize in hindsight that should have reacted earlier and could have saved themselves a huge dilemma. Many other companies in the same boat, didn’t come to that conclusion early on and are now drowning in waves of competition and are desperate to find a solution – any solution. It usually revolves around ‘lowest price’ and the inevitable race to the bottom and out.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Put that patent smirk away and plan for the day when it is no longer there to protect you. It IS coming. You can either have a brand that refuses to succumb or one that panics and flounders. Start the conversation today.

Start Your Conversation with Confidence.

I just returned from a successful workshop in San Diego where I facilitated (with a friend Marcia Hoeck). We were teaching graphic designers how to drive profits by building brands for clients before any design work is done. Our audience was graphic design firms from across the U.S. Essentially we went through Marcia and my eleven step branding process. One important issue kept cropping up – confidence. It would appear that our audience that day and i’m sure many small businesses in our audience here, have a rough time selling with confidence. Especially a new service like ours.
talking
I’ve found over the years and I’m sure Marcia would concur, a great way to gain that desired confidence is to start the conversation immediately. Start talking up the subject with everyone you come into contact with. Without looking like a boor that is.

One of our attendees did exactly that on the flight home and landed herself a new lead. Talking – it’s that simple. Show everyone how excited you are about what you do. Show the passion. You will find yourself getting on people’s radar. You become the go-to person on that category. Your personal brand is tied to it.

Because of our subject matter we encouraged them to making branding their core service, driving all other services, starting the proper conversation helps to clarify and differentiate them in their markets. Go ahead and say nice things about your brand, it’s good for the soul.

When All Else Fails, Trust Your Brand!

9673439_sWe all have good days and bad days. What do you do when that stretches to weeks and months? It’s the kind of situation that has your mind playing all kinds of tricks on you. Has your run come to its end? Have you lost your mojo? Maybe the world simply doesn’t need your product or service anymore. You start to point fingers at all kinds of reasons to explain this increasingly desperate situation. This post comes from a conversation I had recently with an associate of mine.

They felt the problem was that on their website the tone of the message was coming from “we” and they felt it should be “I”. This they felt, was one of the reasons why business dropped off the face of the earth. I thought not on the other hand. My thoughts were that once the (we’s) were changing to (I’s) we’d also be having this gloomy discussion again about poor business.

Then I asked a key question – “I understand that you’re slow, but are you taking this opportunity to market yourself?” “No” they said, “we don’t have the money.” I proceeded to ask if they had a database of potential customers and they said yes. Then why aren’t you doing email marketing? Why aren’t you cold calling? Why aren’t you attending networking events? Why are you doing nothing at all to attract business to yourself and have settled with pointing fingers outward instead of inward. There is no good reason to do a better job looking for blame than looking for a solution. We have to eat and pay bills – that’s not going away.

I too had a slow summer last year – so I spent all my time marketing myself, networking, looking and developing opportunities, trying to do whatever i could to keep my spirits up and allowing a positive attitude to drive business my way. My friend’s conversation touched me but frustrated me more when I discovered their reluctance to help themselves. Even though I was slow, I at no time felt the need to change my brand, change my message. It worked for me in the past and is still working moving forward. Suppress the urge to change up your brand. Spend your energy pushing it even harder.

Change or stay the same – the choice is yours of course. The hard choice seems to be trusting in yourself. I think change is the sucker punch.

Who Do You Think You Are?

confusedAs we head into the new year, do you have a clear understanding of your own personal brand? Are you aware of what the perception on the street is of you? Does your personal brand reflect consistently with your business brand? All good questions if you’re looking to go into the new year on a high note. Look around your circle of influence. Like myself I’m sure you’re witness to individuals who don’t have the slightest idea who they are. They call themselves specialists who list a flurry of services they try to deliver on – but excel in very little. I’ve been asked to coach a number of individuals to develop a brand for them. But, I can’t help them if they don’t know who they are. As I tell them, “it’s not up to me to tell you what you should be. I can help if you know who you are but are floundering in how to present yourself in a way that resonates with your target audience.

The problem stems from a lack of confidence. They suspect (but haven’t committed to the concept) that they are experts. They lack the confidence to express it in a tangible way. They question what the perception might be. Will their audience ridicule them for what they think is a lack of excellence. They throw up barriers to move forward. Having a lack of confidence is a scary place to be. Not only does it hinder who your are but also aids in failing to charge a fair dollar for your deliverables.

Lack of confidence is a psychological barrier, but one, that if you can breach, will deliver immense rewards. Those of us with confidence find it hard to understand why someone would be so hard on themselves, when the rewards are so encouraging. When I work with people and companies, I’m using the strategy that they focus on the money-maker. Most have a tendency to want to list everything they do, to show their scope of services. Lists are dangerous in that customers believe that since you’re listing services, if you fail to list something then you don’t do it. Ouch! My take is by focusing on your strongest service to get the door open, once in you have the opportunity to sell what else you do. It’s easier to build confidence if you focus on your strong point. Every time this happens, clients clearly have more fun and are excited by their brands (personal and business) again.

Understanding who you are can only make your brands more powerful, resonating in a big way. Not everyone is cut out for this bold a strategy and wish to remain with what keeps them safe and risk-free. Where has a safe harbour ever gotten anyone? Leaders are folks who embrace excitement and a challenge. Identifying who you are and acting on that in a direct way, changes the script you’re currently playing to. That in itself will generate enough confidence to hurdle the challenges you face.

So moving into a brand new year – who are you?

5 Easy Steps To A Better Brand

GreenChecklistOne:

Determine your brand values and be sure that they accurately reflect your brand. One way to be sure is this scenario: if you took away any one of the values would your brand cease to exist as that brand? If not, then the value wasn’t a true value.

Two:

Determine or develop a positioning strategy that makes your brand a leader in your category. This is not some fluffy slogan that merely inspires but is something that potential customers can resonate with and in many cases pay more for.

Three:

Own your color palette. Look to your competition and establish color as an icon that represents your brand exclusively. Think UPS.

Four:

Talk with stakeholders to be sure that their perception of your brand accurately reflects the reality of your brand. It is a good opportunity to validate your values as well.

Five:

Is your brand logo in sync with your brand culture? Does it need updating etc? Many graphic design firms and ad agencies believe branding starts here – pity. Your brand logo should reflect your values and also help to differentiate you. Your logo is essentially the face of your brand. It’s how the public is able to identify with you visually.

Naturally there is so much more to branding. But, if you are able to build these five steps into a cohesive message you will be well on your way to strengthening your brand and make it easier for you to sell your products or services.