The “NEW” Business Card

whatsnewcardUse traditional 3.5″ X 2″ business cards to promote new services, products, specials or whatever is new at your business. They would still have your contact information. Use them to drive business to your website or location. Treat them as promo cards with a personal circulation. A clever new way to celebrate your brand.

When you go to a networking event in your community, you can take the opportunity to NOT hand out your traditional card but instead, hand out your “what’s new card.” One great result is that it initiates conversation on your “news.” It’s a simple idea, but one that is inexpensive and novel. It doesn’t matter what size company you have – there’s always great news to spread. What could you put on your promo card?

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What are you nuts? We can’t do that!

confusedOr can we?

In helping companies to position themselves, half of the challenge is inspiring them and the other half is encouraging them to embrace what may seem at first to be impossible. Much of what I do is listen to how your company works. What is it that your customers love about you? What would they miss if you were to disappear over night? I have to get into how you think. If you are an owner – the visionary of the company, your dynamic plays a large role in your brand. Your decisions have affected for a large part the reputation your brand carries into your marketplace.

Many times in developing the positioning strategy for companies much of what inspires the Bold Idea comes directly from the mouth of the company’s visionary – other times the Bold Idea is inspired by the visionary’s passion. How ever the idea comes, it almost always emboldens you, the visionary to do remarkable things with it. This is due to the fact that we are bringing to the table a very compelling proposition for the customer. My job in developing the Bold Idea Positioning Strategy is to find a marketable point of differentiation. Many customers have built a very good business being all things to all people. If they wish to go to the next level they must be bold. They must stand out in the customers mind as the clear choice, not one of many.

The very nature of a bold idea challenges and then inspires. Your competition will probably think you’re nuts (at least that’s what their hope is). Even they know that while a bold idea is what everyone craves very view have the fortitude to act on it.

The Bold Idea Positioning Strategy is your opportunity to show the real value of your company and its relationship with your customers and competition in a spectacular way.

No, you’re not nuts and YES you will succeed!

Gawd Brand It!! Do As I Say Not As I Do!

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I came across an interesting article today that smacks the face of good branding. It speaks to authenticity. Colby Sambrotto, the founder of ‘for sale by owner’ recently sold his home through a real estate owner. He even paid full commission. What does that say about his authenticity? The negative press will certainly hurt the DIY market. Read the story here.

Are you and your brand on the same page? Do you manufacture parts for GM but drive a Chrysler? You can’t have it both ways. We are all guided by our perceptions. I’ve met people who sold sales training packages but they themselves never used it in their sales efforts. I’ve met Dale Carnegie guru’s who never exhibited traits complementary to Mr. Carnegie’s principals. Hypocrisy abounds. It takes real effort to live your brand. To do otherwise shows that you don’t take branding seriously and put its value as so much spin.

Branding is not a slogan or an “I wish I was great.”

Branding is the reality of your company at this point in time.

It’s not what you wished it was or hope it could be one day. Real estate agents across the continent are going to be re-defining Mr. Sambrotto’s DIY brand for him over the next little while. He wrongly thought his personal and business brand were exclusive of each other. That kind of arrogance can be very costly and hard to back away from.

Is Your Brand Image Up To The Challenges To Come?

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Your brand image is the face of your brand. It is the first thing your target audience sees when first introduced to you. What do you suppose goes through their mind when they see your brand image? Are the colors and imagery resonating by correctly representing your brand values and personality? How about consistency, are you showing one message?

At the first introduction everything is riding on your brand image. If a business’s image is amateur, then they are doing immediate damage to sales goals. Their efforts to save money and get an image on the cheap, only shows their lack of understanding as to how the buying public formulates buying decisions. Their perceptions are the reality in the world of a brand. If a business looks like a small player, a person will have a more difficult time building a belief that the business can deliver for them. These perceptions and reactions happen in seconds. Building trust is huge in the sales cycle and so any distraction from that effort is critical.

Your brand image should also differentiate your company. Choose colors that not only represent your personality, fit psychologically but also are different than competing companies. Every aspect of your brand must be compelling to a prospect. Your brand image mustn’t be simply window dressing either. You have to walk the walk. There are so many things you have to remember in order to succeed, your image should be the wonderful wrapping to a tremendous gift inside.

Take this opportunity to look objectively at your brand image. Ask friends and customers for their opinions in a short survey. Use the results to address any deficiencies and make your job a little bit easier.

Get Your Expertise Out There

We are all experts in something. You might be humble in your discussion of your expertise, but be assured that you ARE an expert. I think that it’s imperative, that you share that expertise with your audience and allow them to benefit from with their exposure to you.

October has been a good month for exhibiting my expertise. On Tuesday past I spoke to 120 women leaders when I presented to Athena International in Chicago. Yesterday I was interviewed on List Builder Tele-Summit, an initiative spear-headed by Donna Ward and Rodney Rich. Next week, I’m featured at the grand opening of The new Windsor Small Business Centre at the University of Windsor signing my new book, 101 Branding Tips.

All three events were opportunities to expand my reach and profile my expertise. In all cases, it’s a great way to meet new people and see how I can potentially help them with their brands. In every case I am providing opinion free of charge to help those in attendance. It defines my brand, and in turn provides me with the opportunity to develop new leads. What do you do to share your opinion? It’s a great way to show your expertise in your category. It’s very much a three dimensional form of marketing your brand.

Challenge yourself to stand up and express your leadership topic. Put yourself out there and I can assure you that you WILL benefit from the effort. Outside of self-promotion another worthy effort is to mentor younger people with your expertise. It takes a leader to recognize the value in helping others grow. It’s rewarding on many levels.

Embrace The Limb

brand positioningConsidering all the words I write on branding, essentially all I’m saying is that if you’re not playing, you’re losing. That’s not to say that you’re not successful, but that you’re not being the best you can be. I’m saying that marketing can be a little easier when you compete as a leader not a follower.

Most companies advertise by using campaigns to inspire consumers to buy in the moment. They use any number of proven techniques to get the attention of you the consumer. A number of these techniques have even taken on a life of their own. Ie: When something is new and improved, or there’s 50% more etc., you see these statements contained in a burst, or a banner, or a peeled back page – these visual gimmicks are called violators in the industry. There are violator companies out there, who do nothing but generate these cues. Color is used for its psychological effects, sound and smell are often brought into play. Tantilizing visuals are also used to stir those emotions. As this paragraph outlines, there are any number of tried and true ways to advertise and they are consistently used by everyone who advertises.

The one thing that every advertisers does not use is positioning.

Why?

Because to position wisely, you must be a leader. As we see in life, not everyone is cut out to be a leader. There are vastly more followers than leaders. Many businesses like the tried and true. They don’t enjoy going out of their comfort zone and they pay a high price for this. It is much easier to do nothing and be content with what you have. A lot of people are afraid of “Leader” because they fear being called out on it. This is a just fear if they’re really not a leader, but are pretending to be. It’s not enough to say you are the Leader, you must BE the leader. Act like one and win like one. Without knowing it, we all lead in some way. It’s within all of us. Maybe it’s the ‘no brag rule’ that our Mother’s instilled in many of us, or a childhood shyness we never quite outgrew. If you ache for your brand to lead, then positioning should be a must-do in your business bucket-list.

This is where I typically come into the picture in the role of Brand Consultant. I take heads of companies through the maze of their business environment and deliver an awareness of their brand. This clarity provides the fuel that satisfies their hunger to lead. Often times, the positioning developed accurately reflects an area, they currently dominate but have not articulated effectively. I inspire them to “bold-up” as it were. If you couple the Leadership Positioning with traditional marketing, then you have a very powerful message to resonate with customers. Without positioning you are simply one of many. Your competitors are many as well. Without Positioning, everyone is saying the same thing in different ways. All the slogans while inspirational, don’t resonate. Leading gives the customer something to embrace and understand your value.

As a category leader, you must embrace the limb. That is to say, you have to climb out onto the limb first, then with all confidence embrace it. To benefit from this precarious location you have to put in place processes that encourage and sustain your leadership. Brands grow or decline with time. Depending on the foundation laid out, your brand will go in one of these directions. Establish a strong set of Brand values and stick with them. The leadership position you embrace, must where to these values as they are the foundation defined.

Is Your Brand Believable?

I’m struck lately by large companies who say one thing but clearly speak out of the other sides of their mouth. It strikes me that some PR person or ad agency is advising them to put a great spin on everything. Say it enough times and the masses will believe them. Reality has nothing to do with it. It’s all about the spin. It’s also timely that it’s election season in the U.S. and many of the negative ads are also following this pattern. It doesn’t matter that Anderson Cooper is “Keeping them honest,” drive it home enough times and it sticks. Sometimes.

Oil companies are incredulous how, on one hand their spin tells us how much they care about us and their beloved homeland (whether that’s Canada or the United States). They proudly outline how many jobs they create, how they support community, how much they influence innovation and on and on and on. Then they jack up the price at the pumps and collectively drive the economy into the ground. Everything comes from oil. If they “really” cared, they would charge a fee that allows them to make an honest profit, but not hold the world economy hostage. They would be an honourable citizen partner. But greed is really their brand. Wait until gas is $15 -$20 a gallon, wow, just think of all the great things they’ll be able to do for us.

Airlines too are heavy into speaking out of two sides of their mouths. Siting in your seat watching the CEO of the airline on the video spew out how much he appreciates your business, and then rambles on about how great they are and how wonderful they are – blah, blah, blah. What is incredulous here is that while you listen to this tripe, the hostesses are trying to sell you a pillow to use. A few dollars more for a headset. Earlier in your trip you were subjected to: pre-boarding fees, extra luggage fees, long lines and the humiliation of security. I had a friend recently who clicked the wrong button by mistake when purchasing a ticket online, only to be told it would cost $250. to make a correction. Today the worst part of any trip is the flight. They have sucked the pleasure out of it.

None of us can afford to have a brand that relies on spin to try and fool our customers. Airlines and oil companies know that for the foreseeable future we have no choice. They can play their games and win. BUT, there will come a time where they will fall, and fall hard. When faced with a choice our customers will show their dissatisfaction with their feet. You’ll get no second chance. If it is your intention to make your brand shine for years and decades to come it has to be built on authenticity. Your values have to be rock solid. Thank heavens most brands do exactly that.

One thing that greed brands do is is serve as an awesome mirror for everyone else. They reflect on how not to do it. Holding your brand up to them, allows you the opportunity to do the polar opposite and be great.