With most small businesses running all of their sensitive information through the internet there is a greater need to keep it as secure as possible. See the statistics below as to where the greatest risks have been over the last several years.
A few years ago I pitched my branding process to a mid-size Canadian City mayor. Suffice to say he loved the presentation and the opportunities it would open up. The one item that buried the project was his short-sightedness. Knowing upfront that there were deficiencies in the brand, he didn’t appreciate my comment that those deficiencies would have to be fixed so that their brand had a better chance of being authentic to it’s target audience. The fastest route to failure is to tout something powerful and then have your buyer discover it was all just advertising spin. The city can’t walk the walk. Today they’re still just doing advertising but labelling it branding.
Here in my community we have a city market. The bylaws people saw an opportunity. They showed up early on a saturday morning and went booth to booth gathering business cards from the grannies selling biscuits, young people selling items from their hobbies and other micro entrepreneurs. Satisfied that they spoke to everyone, they went back to their offices and proceeded to send out notices to all these people that they’d all have to buy a business license or shut it down. Their phoney smiles hid the reality of their intentions – more fees for the the city. They didn’t care what happened to these individuals and their dreams. What they failed to see was the long-term benefits of city market vendors. Many of these folks are testing their ideas and planning for the future. A local furniture store just turned 90. It all started with one guy peddling furniture door-to-door. Where would the 4 locations and hundreds of employees be today if the city had shut them down because they didn’t have a $XX business license?
Another new grocery business in Ottawa, Canada ( Farm Boy ) started in their city market and now have multiple locations and are spreading across the province. That equates to property taxes, bricks and motor leases, employment, and investment all started in a small city market. What our city should have done was gone in, introduced itself and offered to help them in any way they could to succeed. They should provide mentors, and business incentives to go beyond the cookies in wax paper to opening a small bakery in an area the city would like to re-new. But, this involves long-term thinking and long-term branding.
Place brands like any other thrive on long-term thinking. Bureaucrats have to start understanding that short-term gains CAN and DO suppress long-term growth. Being smug about shutting down the painted flower pot booth today changed the future that might have been – namely a unique gift shop in a wanting downtown area. All this is branding folks. Doing it with vision creates log-term wealth. Short-term advertising spin is just that.
Your brand is this – your brand is that. Some would have you believe that your brand is this OR that. The fact is your brand is everything. I enjoy speaking with businesses on branding and helping them to understand the what their focus should be in branding. It is almost without exception that business people assume that a brand doesn’t extend much beyond the visual elements. Most think your brand is your logo and marketing materials. When you think of it, that’s a lot of pretty heavy lifting for something visual. If that perception were true, brand problems would be a cinch to resolve – just change your image. Don’t like that soft drink – change the logo. Do you think it will taste better? Not likely. I’m guessing you’re going to have to tweak the recipe to lure you to buy.
Sales are flat? Maybe the problem goes way beyond a tired logo. Perhaps the sales staff have aged to the point that they’re not hungry anymore. Maybe your business culture has deficiencies. But chances are strong that it’s a little of everything. You’ll discover (if you’re brave enough to look) is that slowing sales is a symptom of an overall slowing of the brand. As Auston Powers might say, “You’ve lost your mojo!” And in the marketplace your mojo is your brand.
A re-brand if handled properly is absolutely more strategic than visual. But both are joined at the hip. The strategic side involves all experiences of your stakeholders. Those experiences are those that exist on line and off-line. From the way reception answers the phone to how an employee might talk about the company at a church picnic. Stupid things said on social media has in numerous cases taught business brands to react publicly where in the past it was handled behind closed doors and often ignored. Today you can’t ignore anything. Everything affects your brand.
The solution to a happy brand is to get your brand strategy in shape, then tie it all together with relevant visuals that represent your brand values and personality. This essentially boils down to defining your brand and reaping the rewards company-wide. Companies that do this right go on to raise the bar in their industries. They are the companies that inspire others to emulate them. They are the leaders. Of course it’s not for everyone. You have to be bold and willing to believe in what makes your brand great. Steve Jobs had it when he said that Apple had to develop products that were – “insanely great.” Most companies are followers. Followers embrace price over value. Followers copy smart brands. Followers allow the marketplace to define them. Followers never reach their potential or attract top talent.
And followers think that their brand is their logo. If it were only that easy.
It’s that time of year already, where everyone has to do their taxes. Most people, about 54 percent of filers in the USA, end up getting a refund. When you receive the money, you’ll need to think about what you should do with it. Since you’re a small business owner the most likely thing you should do with it is invest it into your business.
Photo Credit © Depositphotos.com/phodopus
Pay Off Revolving Credit
First things first, if you have any interest bearing loans over six percent you should pay it off. If you do you’re earning that percentage on your money. It’s a great way to stretch your income tax refund. Now that you’ve paid off high interest debt you can now invest the amount of your former payment into your business on a regular basis. With the monthly savings you can now do several things that you couldn’t do before.
- Have immediately improved credit. You can sign free with Credit Karma to find out what your credit rating is. Please, ignore the credit card ads as they are very tempting since they also tell you how likely you are to get approved.
- Invest the former monthly payment. Whether it’s $50.00 or more monthly you can put that right back into your business investing in website upgrades, software, a mastermind club, or a savings account to save up for something more expensive. You can also up the amount you’re putting in your individual retirement account. (IRA)
- Breathe. You paid off a debt and you don’t have to pay it anymore. Take a break from spending money and celebrate your smart financial move by not going into more revolving high-interest bearing debt.
Nothing can jump-start growth more than being debt free, turning around and putting that money back into your business or freeing up money that is going to debt is important. If you’re fortunate enough to get a tax refund, or find yourself with extra cash for any reason, use it wisely with thought and care.
Invest in Business Automation
If you’re one of the smart people who avoid using high-interest revolving debt and you’re debt free, you can now invest in something that helps your business by improving automation. Perhaps you need to invest in technology that improves your website, backs up your website, or makes your website better in some way like a complete rebuild and design. Of course, it depends on how much your refund is as to how far you can get with improvements.
- Mastermind Club – This is a good investment in your business because the connections you’ll make are innumerable. You may likely earn back your investment in the club due to the people you meet.
- Business Coaching – If you received a substantial refund you may decide to invest in business coaching. There are many great coaches, so be sure to pick the one that is right for you and has experience plus good reviews.
- Software/Technology – If you have a lot of websites or a very important website that is most of your income, are you protecting it sufficiently? If not then you should highly consider backing up your site. Using Dropbox.com or other file storage solutions isn’t really good enough; please consider using something like Mozy.com, BackupBuddy.com or BackBlaze.com if you use a Mac.
The important thing is that when you get a tax refund that during the time you’re waiting to receive it from the day you submit your tax return to the IRS that you sit down and give a lot of thought as to how you’ll use the cash to make it pay off today, tomorrow and well into the future. You won’t be sorry.
Everyone loves a good story, right?
Many brands are using this to their advantage by creating powerful stories based around the brand. See how 4 brands are putting this strategy to work for them and making it big.
If you’re out there selling something – stop it right now!
Stop selling and start branding. Your brand has a story to tell. Educate your buyer so they have all the knowledge they need to make an intelligent decision. If you start selling, they’ll just roll their eyes and try to get away from you. They won’t trust you. Find out where their anxiety lies, and show them a way out with knowledge. Encourage them to compare. You’re approach will be refreshing to what they see.
I take myself as an example. I position myself as the branding expert. I have an 8 page brochure that educate’s my customer on “How to give their brand a boost.” The whole point is to help them position their company as the first choice (of their buyer) rather than just more of the same.
You often hear that people don’t like to read much anymore. It’s not that they don’t like to read, it’s more that they don’t like to read copy that benefits you more than them. Give them information that makes you the first choice. You have to show your confidence and give away information that empowers your buyer.
Branding as an empowering tool draws to you customers who also value knowledge. It drives away buyers who fixate on price alone. These are not the customers you can grow on. You’ve heard of “price wars,” well this is a battle that only deep pockets can win. If that isn’t you, then it’s time to change the game to one of an intelligence strategy.
Don’t concern yourself if the competition starts to copy your model. That means they have their eyes off the ball and squarely on what ever it is you’re doing. You can’t control them, so keep your brand out front. Their ignorance can only help you.
It’s like I always say: “Lead don’t follow.”