Office Supplies or Success – Your Choice!

As a business owner do you spend more on office supplies than you do on marketing your company? By marketing, I mean any activity whose goal is to grow new and existing business. This “investment” is an integral component in brand building. I can’t tell you how many small businesses I’ve spoken with over the years who put more value in the decor of their offices than the quality of their brand. They had no issue purchasing the latest office equipment, and lavished up their surroundings so that they are professional in their space.

When it came to their brand image though, it was get it done as cheaply and inexpensively as possible. Anybody with a computer took a crack at the logo and marketing materials. Bob, in IT did the website. The simple fact of the matter is, you don’t have to spend your kid’s college fund, you only have to allocate enough to get the proper guidance to bring your brand to the next level. The internet has brought to your desktop, resources that purchased wisely, puts professional advice into your hands. The simple fact that you are here at Small Business branding reading this post shows your passion for your business. You could be wasting your time doing something else besides trying to improve your business.

One of my clients, Guardog™ (a manufacturer of skate guards and covers) has recently produced their first 12 page catalog of products. This company is a classic case of a manufacturer whose patent ran out, and off-shore competition threatened to bury them. But, they chose to fight by super-juicing their brand and re-establishing their dominance in their category. Their brand now represents the best skate guards around the world. All the top figure skaters wear the Guardog™ brand. At retail you will see that it commands a higher price. That is what branding is all about. They could have taken the cheap approach and had the clerical department put their marketing materials together and build their brand, but they chose to take the advice of professionals and make them part of the team. Over the five years I’ve been associated with this brand, we’ve all benefited from steady growth. Distributors as far away as the Soviet Union eagerly await the latest Guardog™ product. The owner will also attest they did not break the bank achieving their goals, but spent wisely and strategically. Distributors on seeing the new catalog informed Guardog™ that it will definitely increase sales. That kind of confidence validates the effort expended.

Don’t view raising the bar as something that you can’t afford to do, but as something that you must do. Choose those who can guide you properly and work out terms that you can live with that allows you to be profitable. Your marketing and brand building should be invigorating and excite you. If you found it more more fun choosing credenzas than developing your positioning strategy, then you’re speaking with the wrong people. Presenting your expert profile should trump everything else. Invest in yourself properly and realize a significant return.

An Update on Nola’s Graphics Club & Some Great Reasons WHY You Need Them

Just a quick update on Nola’s Graphics Club for you today.

When I first wrote this post I wasn’t aware that Nola’s pricing was actually going up this Wednesday January 7th, 2009 to $95/year  (that saves you $35.05/year) which is still an incredible deal compared to others, plus I love Nola’s work (award winning) so I highly recommend her.

Here are some reasons WHY you need graphics on a regular basis.

1) if you have any new websites or projects

2) new fresh graphics for affiliates to use and promote your affiliate programs

3) reports you are giving away to your subscribers

4) an ezine cover graphic

5) to advertise on other key websites

6) to show off your services

7) to offer people coming to your site so they link back to you

And I’m sure there’s several more, but these are the reasons I keep Nola pretty busy.

1) To claim your Free Banner (468×80) just go here:

>> http://www.classiccreationsdesign.com/club

2) In the Referred by put SBB (Be sure to do this part because I’ll have some cool prizes planned for you)

Don’t forget you get a FREE banner just for joining – this was something I asked Nola offered to me via email as a club member and I asked her to also extend this for my readers.

Rebranding a Newly Acquired Business: They Told Me Not To

Rebranding a Newly Acquired Business: They Told Me Not To

Not long ago, I purchased an online business. When I bought the business, it came with its own, pretty well known brand, was a fairly profitable business and had a loyal client base. After obtaining the business, I pondered over completely rebranding it. The business didn’t require a fresh image, but it was something I personally felt would be a profitable choice as the new owner. I had plans to grow the business prior to acquiring it and giving it a brand make-over is just one of the ways I hoped to do so.

During the planning process, I consulted with business coaches, owners, and even those who worked in the same type of service based business. During that time, I had not one, but two business coaches tell me NOT to rebrand it. Both suggested rebranding the site was not necessary due to the fact it already had its own unique brand.

This led me to really think about which direction I wanted to take the business. I also had a hard decision to make in deciding just how willing I was to possibly lose current clients or turn future clients away. No one wants to think they may lose faithful clients, especially when acquiring a new business that has reached successful status. However, the more I thought about the direction I wanted to go and the types of clients I wanted to attract, the more I realized the following:

1. If the previous owner was the only reason they did business with the site chances are likely that they were eventually going to leave anyway, regardless of whether I took the site in a new direction or not.

2. Those clients who stayed on board did so because of the quality my team had given them since I took over. If they were happy with our services and we maintained those same services and quality, they would continue working with us no matter what I chose to do with the brand.

I planned to continue with the same services and have even added a few more. Therefore, the choice based on those two items was fairly easy. I now had one plus on my pros and cons of rebranding list.

My ultimate goal was to grow the business. I now had to think about the types of clients I hoped to attract in the future to make this possible. This is where rebranding gets a bit personal. Branding is more than just a logo and tagline. It also includes the ideals, direction and personality of the business. In the case of an online service based business, this means the owner, team members, and customers, given that they all make up the business.

This is another of the reasons I deliberated rebranding the business. When I took over, it had already changed hands once. The current brand reflected the original owner perfectly. However, the brand wasn’t really representative of my personality or the professionalism I wanted to portray.

I wanted a broader, more qualified image that reflected who I am as a person and more of the actual services offered. Yes, the previous site was good at letting people know that articles were their forte due to the fact the word article was in their name. However, I wanted to reach more than just business owners who needed ghostwritten articles. When someone simply sees the word “article” it doesn’t tell them right off the bat what it is the business is all about. If someone is searching for a service that creates special reports or sales pages for example, would the word article turn them away because they think at first glance that it’s only an article writing service?

What about the person who does needs articles ghostwritten? Due to the previous business name, it wasn’t really clear if it provided article writing services or something else. See where I’m going? I wanted to capture a broader range of customers that needed more than just articles written. By changing not only the brand, but the name of the business as well, I would be opening the playing field to a bigger range of possible customers.

Of course, these are not the ONLY things I had to consider before deciding whether or not to go forward with the rebranding of the business, but they were a big part of the thinking and planning process. I knew the business was doing well when I purchased it and absolutely respected the decisions of those who told me I shouldn’t rebrand it (after all they are business coaches for a reason and very good at what they do). Even after all these things, I still felt in my gut rebranding was necessary to get where I wanted to be with this business. Therefore, I went ahead with my original plans and gave the site a completely new look and feel.

I’m happy to say the results have been phenomenal! In the less than two months since the rebranding process was complete and Get Content Results (formerly Article Mojo) was opened to the public, I have more than doubled my client base!

Is There a Hierarchy in Social Media?

One question I have postulating for some time has just resurfaced by prominent blogger John Jantsch over at ducttapemarketing.com.  He says there is.  And I agree.  The basic theory is similar to Maslow’s theory that self-actualization cannot be achieved until the most basic human psychological needs such as breathing, eating, and sleeping are first met.

The same holds true in the small business realm. The ultimate potential of your marketing cannot be actualized until the basic or preliminary marketing requirements are filled.

For example, as I have mentioned man times before, the number one mistake I see business owners make is they implement tactics before strategy.  They will go out and buy radio advertising before they have thoroughly researched their target market, determined their competitive advantage or their marketing message.

In regards to social marketing there is a logical progression that should be followed.  You should learn to walk before you run.  John has listed a really hierarchy for this progression.

Social MediaHe recommends small business owners look at the following progression or hierarchy as they move deeper into social marketing tactics. So, jump in, but do it in this order and don’t move on until you have the basics of each stage down and working for you.

1)  Blogging – the foundation of the pyramid – read blogs, comment on blogs, and then
blog. This is the doorway to all other social marketing.

2)  RSS – Aggregate and filter content around subjects, and use RSS technology as a tool to help you repurpose, republish, and create content.

3)  Social Search – Often ignored in this discussion but I think it’s become very important for small business owners. By participating, you can stimulate and manage your reputation here.

4)  Social Bookmarking – Tagging content and participating in social bookmarking
communities can be a great way to open up more channels to your business. It can also
generate extra search traffic, but it takes work.

5)  Social Networks – Branching out to take advantage of the potential prospects you
might find on sites like Facebook or MySpace will frustrate—at least as a business tool—
if you don’t have many of the above needs met. These networks take time to understand
and thrive on ideas and content. You’ve got to have much to share if you wish to build
a business case.

6) Micro – He lumped some of the more experimental social tools into the edgy trend of
micro: social, real-time communication that will likely only confuse most small business
owners. The confusion is not because they can’t figure out how to make them work, it’s just not obvious why they should spend the time. John believes Maslow suggested that self- actualization is a place most might never reach. In social marketing terms, Twitter,
Plurk, and FriendFeed might be some sort of sick transcendence.

Coaching and Your Business Can Go Hand in Hand

I’ll be soon offering coaching services here at Small Business Branding. Among a complete re-branding of an existing business that I took over, I’ll be posting on that very soon!

It’s super exciting!

In the meantime, as a little addition I started a monthly coaching program here and for the first 75 members at Get Brand Results.

When you have a business that is thriving, it is always important to look for ways to diversify and expand your business.

Expanding your business through online coaching is a great way to increase your profit and client base.

Becoming an online coach in the niche that you already have a business in is a natural extension in the minds of many business entrepreneurs.

With a little work you can have a successful online coaching business that works hand in hand with your already existing business.

The business that you already have is hopefully already profitable.  Therefore, adding coaching to your business should simply be a matter of extending your services.  Say you sell workout equipment, for example.  Adding fitness or diet coaching to your services will mean an added income stream that you can promote to your current client base.

Most businesses can easily add coaching as an added product to their current services and products.  If you’re not sure whether your current customers will be interested or not, simply ask them.  Send them an email saying that you’re considering a future coaching program and give them a few details.  Then ask them to sign up to the notification list to receive a discount once you launch the program.  This will help give you an idea for demand.

You will also market your online coaching business to people who have never heard of your business. These clients are a great and integral part of your business success. Once they have started using your online coaching services, you can market the products that your business sells to them. You can easily increase the profits that your business makes with referral sales from your online coaching.

Your online coaching and business will naturally build off each other as the connection between them in your niche becomes stronger. It is natural for people to want to purchase the products from your business that they need to be successful in your online coaching.

It is just as natural that people who purchase your products would enjoy the coaching that is available to them. You can run the business that you already have and your online coaching business as the same business, just with different departments.

Becoming an online coach in the niche where you already have a business is a great way to increase your profits and your client lists. It is a natural extension of the business that you have already built. By using the niche that you are in and the client base that you already have, you will be successful in your online coaching endeavor.

With most of the hard work already done through your business, it is easy to take the next step with an online coaching business.

You can’t create cool. Can you?

Let’s face it.  Everyone is envious of Apple right now.  They were the king of cool with the iPod.  But then they got out cooled.  By the iPhone.

Who doesn’t want to be the iPod or iPhone of their industry?

But that’s the rub.  The more you chase cool, the less likely you are to catch it.  That’s the premise of the book Chasing Cool: Standing Out in Today’s Cluttered Marketplace by Noah Kerner and Gene Pressman.  The book interviews brand visionaries about how they discovered, invented or in some cases, tripped over cool.

Here are a few cool deal breakers:

How many of those are you guilt of?

The book is an interesting read.  While it gets you fired up, wanting to be cool — my beef with the authors would be that 90% of their examples are retail, consumer products.  It’s a lot easier to be cool selling an iPod than it is being an accountant.

That doesn’t  make it a bad read.  Just fair warning. There’s still plenty of inspirational stories and solid reminders of how we can better invite cool into our companies.  But I would have liked it if they went one step further and helped more with the “how to” section.

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Dork Your Brand!

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.

This article was inspired by SBB commenter Steve, over at Pinnacle Displays, and Nichpreneur Michelle for encouraging us.

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