You’ve got your cool little business, you’ve had some degree of success and you’ve done it all on your own. The only bar you’re interested in raising is the pub down the street. Who needs all those consultants and brand gurus when you can keep your hard-earned beer money and find the cheapest student or cousin to spin your magic.
Well I’m here to make your day and save you tons ‘o dough by giving you ten ways to “DORK YOUR BRAND!”
1) Don’t even think about being consistent with your image. The trick here is to have one logo on your stationary, another variation on your signs and when you do a trade show, something homemade would be outstanding.
2) Brand values – frankly that’s for pansies. Just do what it takes to get the business. View those people you have to walk on to succeed as mere stepping stones. Don’t concern yourself with your reputation.
3) Find the perfect opportunity to blend in with what your competition is doing. If they are doing great then they must be on to something. “More of the same,” I always say to Dorks. You don’t want to risk standing out, you might be discovered for who you really are. There’s probably more money running with the pack anyway.
4) Did you know that you can get a logo designed online for free? That’s right, no need to worry about demographics, first impressions, market share or what ever. Image is for movie stars, your running a bizness. The less things cost – more for you, right?
5) Don’t ask – don’t tell. You’re only looking for trouble asking your stake holders what they think.
6) Are you going to one of them trade shows. Stay away from a professional presentation and get yourself one of those free folding tables and dress it up with blue skirting like all the other dorks. We’re blending in again, that’s the ticket. (Now you’re catching on).
7) And while you’re at the show, and you want to catch a stare or two, don’t waste your cash on relevant materials promoting a unique message – get yourself a booth bunny! Hey sex sells and even if hurts your brand – what’s the harm in a little fun.
8.)Keep dropping your price until you are the lowest price in your bizness. Don’t let nobody beat you.
9) Don’t bother trying to forge relationships with customers. Let’s face it, you’ve probably got enough friends, and besides they’d probably expect you to pick up the tab.
10) When the phone rings, it’s not important how your staff answers it – just be glad it’s ringing. There’s no point wasting friendly on some Nancy just looking for the cheapest deal.
Well that’s the branding game in a nut shell. One thing I can guarantee you is, if you decide to “Dork Your Brand”, you will make one business person very happy…
…that person is your leading competitor.
If your brand is your reputation (and it is), then it’s important to keep it on track. Everything that you do and say will reflect on that brand. How you say it is one of the toughest tasks when trying to keep your brand image compelling over all media.
I regularly drop into blogs and business consultant’s websites to check out some tip or suggestion that I may find of use. I can’t tell you how many times, I’m confronted with a brand image that absolutely contradicts the message they’re sending. As consultants, they are by nature a people business. Their job is to help people with problems and situations in their area of expertise. What sort of message are they sending if their sites and blogs are totally void of humanity. Not a single shot of a person. I want any consultant I hire to like people.
Businesses in the manufacturing sector are also guilty of this error. Lots of shots of real estate but nothing of people actually working the shop floor. One , that made me chuckle said that it was “their people that made the difference”. Guess what was missing in their literature?
The restaurant and hotel industry are great for this – lots of shots of expansive dining rooms, luxurious guest rooms and health clubs with no “body” in any one of them. As people, we all love to look at other people. We are a social species by nature. How you position people emotes a certain attitude. Diversity among the people we use, sends a powerful message. We go where the people are. Have you ever noticed that people are more apt to check out a new restaurant or store if there are people there when they get there. Nothing is more alluring than a parking lot full of cars at a store opening. There is nothing inspiring about a health club with no sweating bodies in sight. Humanity inspires us.
In the use of people shots, one simple tip in setting up the shot is an old design rule. Never have the model looking outside of your frame. It sends the eye away from your message. They should be looking in – our eyes follow their eyes. One that I employ is cropping. In a head and shoulders shot, cropping off the top of the head sends the readers eyes downward into the eyes of the model. When ever I use pictures of people I am always careful when choosing their use. I want the message to be consistent across the board and their use must compliment my brand. Even my own picture sends messages. One shot I particularly like is to a peer of mine – not friendly enough. “You are much friendlier than that picture suggests”‘ she often tells me. When we got together, she shot one that was more appropriate in her mind. It is the one most often seen of me out there.
Use people (images) to your advantage. Have them in your corporate colors. Be sure that they are of the correct demographic. Don’t have a genX ‘er in your materials if they are not your target audience. The wrong shot can alienate as powerfully as the perfect shot. Overall, remember that when choosing people shots for your brand, they must conform to your brand message. Don’t sacrifice this important point on the alter of creativity. Your brand communicates a specific message to its audience who are willing receptacles.
So you’ve decided to to start taking a serious look at your corporate brand and you are left with the task of assembling your branding team. Your branding team is a group of individuals pulled from your brand’s stakeholders. They would be gleamed from the three essential groups: employees, suppliers and customers.
One of the issues you will have at the end of your branding process is buy-in among employees. Stand back and take a visual on your employee group. Most are your garden-variety employee, but a few, while good workers are out-spoken and quick to judge. Other employees look to them for direction. They typically see initiatives coming down from the corner office as “just more work”. They do their best to put a negative spin on the initiatives and are a drag to getting things done. We call these folks, “wrenches” because they throw a monkey wrench into everything you do.
The trick is to include the Wrenches in the branding process. The theory is simple and basic – you want the wrenches to become advocates for the brand initiatives. If they are part of the solution, then they will use their energies to push it through to the employees stakeholders. Just imagine how empowered they will feel being included in the high-level branding sessions with the leaders of the company in attendance – actually wanting their valuable input.
Now, when the brand process is complete and ready to roll roll out to the employees, you have their key mouthpiece on your team. That monkey wrench is now a brand hero – everybody wins.
In my line of work you get to have a lot of fun working with companies. They come my way sort of lost. Many have achieved impressive success but feel that they can do better and feel that something is missing. While others are absolute start-ups and want to hit the ground running. What is typical in almost every case is the fact that they never considered positioning themselves from a point of differentiation. They all want to go to market with a laundry list of services and shout out that they do everything. Since this is what ‘most’ businesses do, it hardly appears wrong at first glance. But what is also noteworthy is the fact that this type of approach garners no emotion but a resignation to market. Marketing is seen as a necessary evil. They focus on catchy graphics, a visual hook. But, that will not really sell anything – it is simply eye candy. It is your position that counts – what compelling offer intrigues the reader to give you a few moments of their time to indulge you.
Many times eye candy is simply forgetable. How many ads have you seen where you remember the sweet spot but can not for the life of you, remember the pitch and certainly not the company. Not a great way to start off a brand relationship. Offering everything or God forbid copying the leader in your category just tosses your brand into a sea of sameness. You are awash in mediocrity.
Now – take a positioning strategy based on differentiation and watch your stake holders get excited by what they are shouting. When we develop this position they (the customer) are so pumped they can hardly wait to launch this new approach. WHY? – because they now have something to say. The message comes from they’re very core. It is a difference that makes sense, and one that they can build a relationship on. It is something the competition has failed to recognize and it becomes a lightening rod. Marketing is now exciting and they are invigorated.
Taking the effort to discover your difference, will rejuvenate your brand and this will generate income and inject excitement into your brand.
No matter what industry you are in, there are regulations in place to make your company comply with preset standards of practice. These standards are known as compliances. Some are set in place by government agencies and the others are professional compliances both internal and external. Government compliances in many cases deal with health, safety and security to name a few. Business owners have mixed emotions about compliances. In most cases, compliances are viewed with distain for many reasons over and above the expense of it.
What should be recognized as important is the effect on your brand your compliances have. If your corporate brand values are based on values such as integrity and due diligence, being compliant is very important to you. By complying you reduce the risk associated with running your operation. Deficiencies in the implementation of compliances can lead to unfortunate outcomes that essentially take a sucker-punch to your brand. No business can afford to run rough shod over their compliance obligations. Safety compliances protect your brand from being exposed due to employee injuries. These high profile events draw undesired attention to your company. Any adverse news makes your company look sloppy and insensitive.
Your brand is everything to do with your reputation. Not only is being compliant of importance to the health and welfare of your company but also by extension to your corporate brand as well. Industry compliances are more specific in nature. They typically associate themselves with standards of the type of business you are in. Architects for instance must adhere to compliances that allow them to promote themselves as architects. These industry compliances set the bar high for entry into the industry and protect the public in their quest for your services. Following these compliances assures the public of professional standards of practice. Detering from professional compliances sets your brand up to take the fall. Failure to live up to your compliances and accepting deficiencies exposes your company – and thus your brand. Any loss in professional designation will ultimately cost you money. Your brand loses its expert status in the eyes of your customer.
A third and often neglected area of compliance is the self-administered compliance. These are compliances that you have personally put into place to react to a cultural shift in your industry or to raise the bar from within. Self-administered compliances are very real opportunities. Corporate standards put in place within a company do so to provide an assurance on the level of quality of operation and service within the company. Self-administered compliances are a perfect opportunity to develop a more effective model of operation.
Now that we have looked at the 3 main types of compliances and recognizing their importance to the running of your company and their positive impact on your brand, now we must be assured that they are being implemented effectively. It is one thing to recognize a compliance need, it is another entirely that the compliance is being administered properly. There must be processes put in place to be sure that those rules and regulations are being followed and understood by all stake holders in the company. Any negligence in the implementation of compliances weakens the compliance leaving your brand exposed by association. Your marketing efforts often position your company in it’s best light. You simply can not afford sloppy compliance practices. It has a negative effect on moral and leadership within the corporation.
Once you have determined that all compliances are in place and that they are being adhered to according to processes developed to that end, it is important now to market compliances to your advantage. Being compliant on multiple levels can become the basis of a strategy of differentiation. Compliance icons can be used to shout this message out to your target audience. Stepping up as a leader in your category, not only raises the bar but puts barriers in place that impedes the forward movement of your competition. In order to match or beat you they have to invest considerable effort and expense to catch up and surpass you. Being the leader allows you certain bragging rights that gives your customers maximum confidence in dealing with you.
This confidence equates to a stronger brand relationship.
While I do know a few business owners who are absolutely religious about tracking their business’ performance, most small business owners tend to use the gut check method of monitoring the health of their business.
I get it. Numbers aren’t fun or sexy. They aren’t interacting with the customers, creating new product offerings or coaching the employees. But, without an understanding of the numbers – those opportunities go away pretty quickly.
Think of it this way. If you were going to build a house, how would you know how much lumber to buy if you didn’t have a blueprint? Before we can craft a marketing plan or create marketing tools, you need to know what you’re trying to build.
I’m not suggesting that you spend hours every day pouring over the numbers. But, if you track just a few of the key indicators, you’ll always have your finger on the health of your business.
Do you know the answer to these questions?
- What is your sales goal for the rest of the year?
- How will you measure/track that goal?
- What percentage of those sales should come from current customers?
- From new business?
- What is your ratio of gross sales to cost of goods sold? (What percentage of your GS is left for you to spend = Adjusted gross income or AGI)
- What’s your monthly overhead cost?
- What’s your monthly salary/benefits cost?
- By client, how profitable are you?
- By product line/service, how profitable are you?
- How have your business sales trended over the past 3 years?
If you already know the answers to these questions – excellent. But, if you are like most business people, these are not something that just trips off your tongue. And yet you make decisions every day that really need this sort of insight.
Isn’t it time to know for sure?