Appearing To Do The Right Thing is The Wrong Thing in Branding

confusedHow many companies can you think of that tout customer service, great pricing, guarantees and transparency? They supposedly embrace social media and pretend to get the benefit of the web. They absolutely want their customers to know they love them. They expend a great deal of time and money trying to convince the great unwashed that they are the genuine article. They appear to be doing all the right things. The tricky word here is “appear.”

They appear to be doing all the right things.

Like any brand, it’s not enough to “appear” to be doing anything. To do so would be a HUGE injustice to your stakeholders. I can’t tell you the number of companies who tell me they’re on Linkedin but haven’t the faintest idea what to do there. They’re there because, “everybody told them they’ve got to be there.” They tout customer service because that’s what everyone wants right? Sure – but ask them what they do to facilitate great customer service and the real truth is, it’s written on the website and brochure but there are no systems in place to deliver.
Saying it seems to be enough. Ask anyone what differentiates them and most will say, “our customer service.” I’ve experienced this first hand. Being a branding guy, you can appreciate this is one of the first things I want to know about when first exposed to a new company in a networking situation or some other venue.

My favourite was one guy who had a guarantee on his marketing. His tout was, “Great service – guaranteed!” Wow! Two promises in one line. I asked him what was the guarantee if he failed to deliver great service. He said in all seriousness, “They can go somewhere else.” Now that’s shallow. That’s what you get if he fails!? Maybe he should reword his position and tell the truth – Satisfaction guaranteed or you can go somewhere else.” Are you sold? This guy wasn’t trying to be a smart ass. He genuinely believed that his guarantee was justified.

It “appeared” to do the right thing. No risk, no expectation to sacrifice should he fail at his promise to deliver. Thank heavens for the brand. Since it’s your reputation, the brand indirectly protects the public from less than ethical businesses. It’s no wonder most purchases are made on the recommendation of friends and colleagues. It’s one of the reasons why social media is so effective at defending and advocating great brands. Screw up and suffer the wrath of social media. “Appearing” be embracing social media shows a major weakness with this scenario.

If you want your brand to flourish and stand for more than what you do, it’s time to stop appearing to do something and start participating in it. Have a brand strategy that uses all channels to push your brand. This is taking control of your brand. Seems like an obvious statement doesn’t it? It’s a simple statement that’s for sure, but it comes with a large commitment. To control your brand you must put out a ton of effort. Sometimes it’s going to feel thankless. It will absolutely define your brand. There is an alternative however – and that’s to “appear” to be doing something. Nobody but your competition will thank you for that move.

Your competition LOVES to define what your brand stands for. They’ll thank you and all they ask in return is a little market share.

It appears to be you move.

The New Brand Benefit

bowIn a lot of ways starting a business and giving birth to a new brand can be an exciting process. No one knows who you are yet, so they have nothing to build an opinion on. On the other hand, since there is no formal introduction yet, everything about you is essentially rumour at this stage. A good place to start your brand is PR. Having a basic introductory website, and a weekly update to media, will help build interest and keep your information factual.
Any contact with suppliers and potential customers should alway be cordial. How you treat any contact at this initial stage, could set the tone of your new brand. Determine how you would like to be perceived and then strategize as to how you might influence this. Developing a positioning strategy that makes you the leader or the best at something will give your new brand resonance with your market. The worst thing you could do, is “follow the leader.” In doing this your brand offers nothing to the marketplace. Why bother existing at all? Every decision you make should assist in differentiating your new brand.
In discovering your difference, your launch can be exciting. You could be on your way to building a remarkable brand. Dream big! Don’t strive to be one of the best – strive to be the best. Just delivering good customer service isn’t enough – deliver the best service. Discover ways to over-deliver. Never forget that every thing you do affects the success of your brand. Don’t take designing your brand image lightly. An amateur attempt just reflects back on you. I’ve known some small businesses who took more interest in their decor than their brand image. Ultimately this shows in their success or lack there of.
Another important strategy is to build your “expert profile.” Your expert profile is your customer’s perception of your level of expertise. I typically recommend using Linkedin as a good start. Bringing your profile as close to 100% is a great way to get a handle on your level of expertise. Next round it out with a Facebook business page. But, I think that the number one activity that defines your expertise better than anything is blogging. It allows you to actively put your opinion out for all to see. With blogging the trick is to give away valuable information. It’s a lot of effort but the rewards over time can be extraordinary. I’ve not only gotten leads from blogging but press interviews and unique opportunities.
Your brand is in your hands. Ignore it and the competition will step up to define you. Own it, live it and strive from it.

Content Strategy Ideas That Work & Won’t Burn You Out

Chris Bennet of 97th Floor shares some wonderful content strategy ideas. The heart of the message – repurpose your content. Check out the presentation to see how he suggests doing it.

5 Ways to Pick a Great Domain Name That Fits Your Brand

Picking a great domain name that fits your brand is an important business decision. Likely, up there with some of the most key decisions you’ll ever make, and one you may be stuck with for a long time. Therefore, it is important that you take the time to give domain naming some thought before you jump in without considering the factors involved.

5 Ways to Pick a Great Domain Name-060514

1) Consider Your Business Model

Your business model consists of what you sell, to whom you sell it, and how you deliver it. Understanding these facts about your business will help you consider why you need a website. Every business has a purpose for needing a website. Consider some of these reasons for having a website.

  • Establish Credentials
  • Provide Information
  • Generate & Collect Leads
  • Sell Your Product & Services

What is the purpose of your website and how does it relate to your business model? Understanding your purpose can help you pick a domain name that resonates with your audience and business model.

2) Think About The Image You Want to Evoke

Words have meanings and bring to mind various images and connotations that should not be over looked. The meanings might be related to the dictionary but they might also be related to popular culture. Your domain name should connect your audience in their mind, before they even visit your site, to an idea of the type of content that will be on your website. That might be very remote such as with made up words like Yahoo.com which just sounds fun and people like to say. It might be more serious and direct such as with a domain name like shareware.com. It might even be brand related by name like MarthaStewart.com.

3) Know Your Market

Get laser focused on this but also look to the future. Do you see yourself expanding into other markets in the future? If you’re sure about your exact market right now, and in the future, you can choose a domain name that directly speaks to that audience. Your domain name impacts search engine optimization (SEO) in many ways making it either easier or harder for your audience to find you. Using a word that your market would use to find you can be an important and crucial way to being found online.

4) Research Keywords to Describe Your Business

You might think that you know all the keywords to know about your industry but you don’t. Try conducting keyword research using tools like Google Adwords Keyword Tool to help you choose a great domain name that represents your business in a good way, but that will also attract an automatic audience due to the use of the keywords in your domain name. Ensure that the keywords you choose have a high search volume and enough interest by your audience to choose those words as your domain name.

5) Know Your Current Position

Is your name known already due to work that you’ve done in the same niche? Are you a already a popular coach, author, well-known writer, virtual assistant or do you meet other criteria that would make your own name, or a made up name, an important domain name to consider?

These are names that you can brand. Good examples are SethGodin.com, Google.com, Etsy.com among others. If you are, or know you will be, very well known you can use your own name or a made up word to create a brand-new identity online but it will be a bit harder than if you choose words that already had meaning to the people searching for your information.

Picking the right domain name will help you establish credentials, provide information, generate leads, and / or sell your products and services. It’s one of the most important choices you’ll make going forward with your business idea. Take the time to use one or more of these five ways to pick a great domain name.

Brand Strategically: How To Tell When Your Graphic Designer Doesn’t “Get” Branding

Brand Strategically-060514There’s a great deal of discussion these days in regard to branding and re-branding. Typically branding is seen to be the domain of the big players in the marketplace. But what was formerly thought to be only available to them is now available to the rest of us – small and medium size enterprises (SME’s) who wish to use strategy to win. They are intrigued that they can absolutely succeed through taking a leadership position. SME’s turn to graphic designers to facilitate their “branding.”

It’s this writer’s opinion that a good percentage of graphic designers see branding or re-branding as nothing more than changing the logo and marketing materials – visual solution. The reasons SME’s have for needing branding typically have very little to do with visuals per se. Many are searching for a solution to flat sales, low moral, changing culture, up-dating of positioning, expansion , succession and any number of business issues. If you’re looking to have branding done properly, I’d recommend working with a firm that has a proven branding process that strategically looks at your brand and can develop strategies that position it as the leader in its category. If the graphic designers you’re speaking to only mention logo and marketing materials – hike up your britches and run like hell.

Avoiding these designers is imperative because they simply don’t “get” branding. They think it’s too complicated and frankly don’t have the confidence and expertise to deliver the real article so they deliver what they do have confidence in – a visual solution only. The unqualified designer will view a strategic, process-driven approach as counter-intuitive. I’m guessing it won’t to you when you understand that strategy is what the visual solution is based on. An experienced branding expert will deliver a strategic and visual solution together as an overall deliverable. Experiencing this properly allows you the customer to appreciate the value delivered. When delivered to your branding team, a qualified designer now becomes an integral strategic partner to your business. They will be able to assist you in not only developing a leading brand but also assist and facilitate launching it effectively.

Look for and demand that a branding process be utilized. A branding process allows everyone on your team to easily understand what is taking place. Your Team may not be used to things like branding, design and strategic brainstorming. A process allows everyone to see the deliverables as they emerge. They get that something comes next and over time builds into something very powerful and motivating. If you as an SME have experience in things like compliances, ISO and industry standards then a branding process with its validation components will make perfect sense to you with you.

As with anything an SME does to improve their business, it’s important to get it right the first time. Branding is no different. If you find it daunting to walk yourself through it, then it will benefit you to bring in qualified assistance. I’ve been branding companies for a while now and every time i facilitate the process with a business’s branding team, establishing a dominate position in their category has more impact than a slogan or a new logo. It reaches deep into the culture of the company and reflects the core values in it boldness. If branding is something you’re investigating but would enjoy some research in the matter, I’d recommend the book, “Blue Ocean Strategy” to help understand why positioning is the key deliverable from any certified branding expert.

For more information on how designers can work with a branding process, or for designers wanting to up their game and deliver a genuine branding experience, check out these two comprehensive brand training programs: “How to Talk About Branding,” and the Brand Academy Certification Workshop.
Designers should also catch the no-cost webinar, “How to Make $20,000 to $50,000 on Your Next Branding Project“.

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.