Archives for October 2005

Forget Creating a Brand. Build a Great Business.

This post is by Michael Pollock, the original owner of Small Business Branding. Yaro Starak now owns and produces the latest content for this blog.

>> Return to the Small Business Branding front page <<

I meant to talk about this a while back when I first heard it, but never seemed to get around to it. Friend and fellow blogger John Moore (Brand Autopsy) uttered some of the most simple but brilliant words I think I’ve ever heard that relate to branding.

A little background … John used to work for Starbucks, and he’s in the process of writing a book called Starbucks Tribal Knowledge. This is how John describes the book: 

"What exactly is Starbucks Tribal Knowledge, you ask. 

"Well … it’s the pithy quote uttered by a respected Starbucks
executive. It’s a mantra used by Starbucks project groups to bring
forth passionate followership. It’s ‘A-ha moments’ from successful (and
failed) projects. It’s company campfire stories passed down from one
generation of Partners to the next. It’s poignant. It’s
thought-provoking. It’s actionable."

Perhaps you’re wondering what we solopreneurs can learn from a huge company like Starbucks, besides how to make a mean Caramel Macchiato. I was wondering something similar until I watched a video
that John created in which he shares some brilliant business nuggets he
took with him when he left SB. Here’s the one that gets the award for
most brilliant branding quote of the year:

"Starbucks never sought to create a brand. The company was too busy being a business than trying to be a brand.

"Starbucks was too busy building a viable and profitable business to
think about something as seemingly trivial as branding. Starbucks was
too busy sourcing and roasting the highest-quality coffee beans to
think about branding. Starbucks was too busy educating customers on how
and why they should appreciate a stronger, bolder cup, more flavorful
cup of coffee to think about branding. Starbucks was too busy creating
a comforting and welcoming place for people to exhale to think about
branding.

"And because Starbucks was busy working on and working in the
business, they built a business, of which, the by-product was the
creation of a strong brand
.

"Starbucks teaches us that rarely, if ever, can you sprinkle magical branding dust to create an endearing and enduring brand." (emphasis mine)

I’m trying to think of something wise to say as a follow-up, but how can you top that?

Things I’m Still Thinking About

This post is by Michael Pollock, the original owner of Small Business Branding. Yaro Starak now owns and produces the latest content for this blog.

>> Return to the Small Business Branding front page <<

What a busy week for me. I just finished catching up on email that had piled up since the beginning of the month (sorry to everyone I left waiting). Now I’m feeling a bit reflective. It’s like that "I just finshed diggin a ditch, and now it’s Miller time" kind of feeling (btw, I hate Miller beer; it’s only Corona for me). In any event, these are some of the things I’m still thinking about from the week that was.

1. Solostream – I never stop thinking about it. Now that I
have the web platform in place, I’m feeling like it’s time to set some
real goals. There are a few more blogs to be put in place, and that
will happen over the coming two weeks. One will be on podcasting.
Another on simplifying global communication or something like that. The
other one is around creativity and/or personal information management.
I have some people involved with helping me on each of them. All in
all, it’s happening, albeit never fast enough for me.

2. Typepad is Still Pissing Me Off – Heard from Ginerva, a member of the Typepad team. She wrote to say she’s sorry for my experience with TP. In the meantime, Mena Trott, TP’s president posted on her blog about what’s going on with the service.

According to Ginerva, TP’s CEO is supposed to be sending an email
to all their customers addressing the problems and concerns (haven’t
seen it yet). Oh, I just received this message from Ginerva:

"Barak has taken the road of eating our own dog food, rather than blasting
everyone with email, and posted more about the issues. (find it here)

Again,
I have to go to them to figure out what’s up. In this case, my request
is that TP go ahead and blast me with an email, as well as the blog
post.

I’m still being patient.

3. Entrepreneur Magazine – I wrote
a couple of days ago about EM’s "Branding and Image columnist," who
suggested a company’s logo is the foundation of it’s brand. I suggested
maybe there’s a little conflict of interest when someone who sells
logos (via his website: logoyes.com) would suggest something so
ridiculous in such a widely read magazine. Jim,
one of my loyal readers, wrote to suggest the EM editor must have been
asleep at the wheel on that one. The more I think about it, the more
EM’s credibility goes down in my eyes. Jim and I are planning a letter
to the editor.

There’s probably more to talk about, but my time has run out.
There’s a 12-year-old young lady waiting for me. Have a great weekend
everyone.

Oh, one last thing. I’m 80% completed with my free PODSNAPPER Beginner’s
Guide to Podcasting. Hope to get it out in the next few days. Keep an
eye out for it.

More Typepad Issues

This post is by Michael Pollock, the original owner of Small Business Branding. Yaro Starak now owns and produces the latest content for this blog.

>> Return to the Small Business Branding front page <<

Typepad users have been experiencing "service degradation" quite a bit lately. I mentioned it a couple of weeks back. After that time, things improved a bit, but this week I’m still having intermittent problems with the service – at times it’s slow, and occasionally it’s down altogether. Frustrating.

Steve Rubel mentioned it as well earlier today. He framed it this way:

"Everyone who has issues with customer service from time to time should take a page from Six Apart’s blogging playbook. They are consistent in how they explain when their TypePad
service is lagging, which it has been over the past few days. TypePad
powers this site. Unfortunately, my blog was down for hours on Tuesday
(as was Scott Adams’ Dilbert blog
on the day it debuted), yet the CEO took the time to email me. I am
sure they will work out their issues as they begin to migrate to their
new architecture, Project Comet."

As
much as I respect Steve, I have to disagree. Maybe Typepad’s CEO
emailed Steve, but have they reached out to any of their other
customers via email? They haven’t reached out to me. Yes, they’ve made
posts on their various blogs, but frankly, I don’t follow those blogs
day-to-day. I wouldn’t have know what was behind the Typepad’s service
degradation unless I had read something about it on Steve’s blog.

I’m not meaning to whine here.
What’s really at issue is how aggressive should a company be in
reaching out to its customers when problems occur? Is it enough to just
talk about it on the company blog? Or should they reach out via email
or some other means? In my book, I would appreciate some more proactive
information sharing on Typepad’s part. Especially when problems like
this continue happening.

Don’t make me come to you. Come
to me and tell me what’s going on. What’s the problem? When will it be
resolved. Why should I continue to endure this "degradation of
service?" And, most important, what are you doing to make sure it
doesn’t happen going forward?

With much respect to Steve,
Typepad’s blogging playbook may be tops, but their customer service
playbook seems to be a few pages short.

Reframing Sales and Marketing

This post is by Michael Pollock, the original owner of Small Business Branding. Yaro Starak now owns and produces the latest content for this blog.

>> Return to the Small Business Branding front page <<

Last month, my friend Helaine and I did a mini-workshop/group coaching session for about a half dozen of her clients. We talked about small business selling, and how do do it better. With a 10 year background in sales, I’m always amazed at the reaction of most non-sales-people when they think of themselves in a sales role. It scares most people to death.

The biggest problem is the frame through which they understand selling is way outdated. You know, it’s that 1970’s-used car salesman frame they developed either from the movies or from an actual expereince with a salesperson who still uses that style of selling. Yes, they’re still out there, unfortunately (but we’re movin’em out as quickly as possible).

So back to our group coaching. The first thing we did was reframe the concept of selling.

Side Note: Reframing, by the way, is a great little coaching skill to learn. We sometimes get stuck with a certain way of looking at a situation or expereince; a certain frame though which we see it. Many times that frame can be disempowering or even disabling. Effective reframing gives you a new way to look at the situation. A way that helps you move forward. It’s not wishful thinking, and it’s more that "positive mental attitude." It’s based upon reality; usually a part of reality that escaped the client’s view prior to the reframe.

In this case, an outdated frame of selling was very disempowering to Helaine’s clients, as it is to most people. It would be to me too. After all, who wants to be one of those "back smackin, cigar-smokin, tell you anything to make a sale jerks" we’ve all come to hate.

So, I reframed selling for them. Here’s the first thing I did. I prepared a list of what selling is not (the outdated frame). It included things such as:

  • Doing a slick con job.
  • Pushing products or services onto someone who doesn’t want or need them
  • Pressuring someone into making a decision.
  • A win-lose situation.
  • Putting one over on the customer.
  • Manipulating someone against their will.

Then I created the new frame by sharing what modern-day, professional selling actually is. It included things such as:

  • Establishing and/or building a relationship between 2 or more individuals.
  • Forming a mutual, beneficial partnership.
  • Discovering how your product/service can best meet someone’s wants, needs and desires.
  • Providing additional information.
  • Clarifying concerns and addressing any questions.
  • Working toward a win-win relationship.
  • Creating/exchanging value amongst all involved parties.

What’s interesting is one or two of Helaine’s clients were able to adapt the new frame immediately, and it empowered them in their business. Most, however, will need some time to adapt the new frame. They’ll need to repeat the reframe over and over before they can begin to see the world clearly through that frame. Or they’ll need to experience it for themselves somehow, either by engaging as a sales person in that way or by meeting a sales person who acts that way.

Not long after that workshop, I happened upon this post by Tom Asacker, author of A Clear Eye for Branding. Tom quotes Peter Drucker (known as "the father of modern management"), who wrote: "The aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous."

Tom drive the point home when he writes:

"Have you ever been approached by a Google rep? An iPod salesperson. Someone from IKEA, Ebay, JetBlue or Target?  Me either. And that’s how you can tell that their marketplace offering is truly unique …

"Now am I saying that selling is dead? Of course not. It has simply changed (like everything else in the world of business): from trying to convince people of your point of view, to helping them achieve what they’re trying to achieve, or become what they’re trying to become."

See, there’s so much information out there today, and the world is so connected via the net that we don’t have to rely on a salesperson to convince us to buy a product. We can do a little (or a lot) research and figure it out for ourselves.

If you want to buy a certain book, you might read the Amazon.com reviews, for example. If you want to go out for dinner, you make your decision based upon your past experience or the experience of others who talk about the restaurant. If you’re curious about that new cell phone, mp3 player or other gadget, you might read reviews on Engadget or CNET. Or you might meet a really great sales person at Best Buy who demonstrates why the Creative Zen Micro is a better option for you than the iPod.

Marketing, selling and branding has become much less about telling and more about demonstrating. And demonstration is all about experience. Focus on demonstating to as many people as possible how effective or how great your product or service is. And focus on constantly enhancing the experience it helps people have. That’s what sales and marketing is all about today.

Customer Experience, Not Logos, Form the Foundation of Your Brand

This post is by Michael Pollock, the original owner of Small Business Branding. Yaro Starak now owns and produces the latest content for this blog.

>> Return to the Small Business Branding front page <<

I ran across an article in Entrepreneur Magazine today called "The Basics of Branding." It irritated me. In the fourth paragraph, John WIlliams, the article’s author, writes:

"The foundation of your brand is
your logo. Your website, packaging and promotional materials–all of
which should integrate your logo–communicate your brand."

As it turns out, John is EM’s "Image and Branding columnist." He’s also the founder and president of LogoYes.com, "the world’s first do-it-yourself logo design website," so it might make sense that he would suggest your logo is not just important, but it is "the foundation of your brand."

With all due respect John, do I really need to define the word
"foundation?" Probably not, but to make a point, I will anyway.
According to Dictionary.com, a foundation is "the basis on which a
thing stands, is founded, or is supported."

I don’t mean to be argumentative, but how can someone who is
presumably an expert on branding suggest that a company’s brand is
built upon the logo? And by the way, John began the article by stating:

"Branding is one of the most important aspects of any business, large or small, retail or B2B."

He then defines a brand as "your promise to your customer." So
let me make sure I understand this. Your brand is your promise to your
customer, and that promise is built upon a logo??!! Are you kidding me
John?

Does anyone besides me see a problem with this? Here’s a person
whose company sells logos. He’s telling a lot of people that logos are
not just important but that they form the very foundation upon which a
company’s promise to its customer is built. And it’s patently wrong!

I think most people know as well as I do that what you expect from a
company has little, if anything, to do with the company’s logo. The logo only reminds you of what you expect from the company. The actual expectation is built upon:

  1. your past experience(s) with that company and/or its products.
  2. what other people tell you about that company and/or its products.

I’m not saying logos aren’t important, but they are hardly the foundation of what your customer’s expect from you. Look at the following logos of some well-known company’s. Did all these companies build their brand upon those logos?
 

         

    

It’s this type of agenda-driven misinformation that constantly confounds business people about brands and branding in general. I’m very disappointed in Entrepreneur Magazine for this one. But the interesting thing is I’ve had so many positive experiences with that magazine in the past, this one disappointment won’t turn me away. No matter what their logo looks like.

Related Post: What Is Small Business Branding

The Power of Relevant Ads

This post is by Michael Pollock, the original owner of Small Business Branding. Yaro Starak now owns and produces the latest content for this blog.

>> Return to the Small Business Branding front page <<

I received this email from Harry Joiner today:

"I love this blog.  I just bought the podcast starter kit from Musician’s
Friend, and ended up buying a ton of drum parts too. Total was in the
several hundred dollar range. I hope you have an affiliate deal with them —
because I have been wanting to get into podcasting, but didn’t know what all
I needed until I saw your link.

"Mike, your blog rocks. Keep it up!"

It seems that Harry clicked on one of the Chitika ads I have running on my all my sites. I’m guessing it was the one to the right.

First of all, I’m happy to hear the ads I’ve chosen were useful to Harry. Secondly, it goes to show the power of relevance
in advertising. When I set up the Chitika ads, I set it so the ads
would be for products that I would appreciate – stuff to do with
gadgets, podcasting, mp3 players, etc. My thought was that people who
read my blog probably like the same types of stuff I like.

As it turns out, I don’t have an affiliate arrangement with
Musician’s Friend. If I did, I would have received a 6% commission on
everything Harry bought from them. Instead, I’ll earn a percentage of
whatever Musician’s Friend paid for the click-through, which is
probably substantially less (maybe $0.50) than if I had been an
affiliate. Makes me think I should become an affiliate for them while
continuing to run the pay-per-click ads as well.

I think for me, more so than the money, what really feels good is
that Harry found something he was looking for (and then some, it
sounds), AND because he found it on my blog, my brand equity has
increased in his mind (hey, he thinks my blog rocks!). The money is
nice too. It’s a win-win-win for all involved – Harry, me and the
advertiser. What could be better than that?

Pretty cool that he would write to tell me that too. Thanks again, Harry.

Internet Business Conversation with Yaro Starak

This post is by Michael Pollock, the original owner of Small Business Branding. Yaro Starak now owns and produces the latest content for this blog.

>> Return to the Small Business Branding front page <<

I had a conversation with Yaro Starak a few weeks ago, and we recorded it. Yaro did a brief intro and summary.

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