Archives for June 2010

Branding Voodoo That’ll Smoke The Competition

There are lots of ways that you can approach your brand to make it more effective. Some can be
costly, while many are simple and relatively inexpensive. It is the latter that I will outline for you today. They don’t take much thought or effort but can impact your brand in a big way.

1) Sponsor a local adolescent sports team.
This is not so much to get your logo on a jersey but it
is part of giving back to the community. Volunteerism speaks to your brand values. Not to mention that many of the organizers are also leading members of the
business community.

2) Join local networking groups.
Don’t just join groups and wait your turn to say your
elevator speech, but take an active role. Join committees, offer your assistance where ever you see an opening. People are impressed by go getters.

3) Write a short eBook.
You are an expert in your field. Take that valuable knowledge and apply it to a subject your potential customers might find compelling. Offer it up on your website or blog for free. Doing this puts you on
the path to building a niche group to sell to.

4) Consistency of image.
Make sure that all your materials have the same brand image. Any deviation only causes confusion among your audience. I go to great lengths to be sure I stay on track with my brand, so should you.

5) Do you have a new product or service that needs attention?
Do a press release and spread the word in the media. Any pick-up is free advertising for you.

6) Do a color analysis of the competition.
See what colors the competition is doing and choose a color they are NOT using to own that color and differentiate yourself. Of course this is great if you’re willing to re-do your brand image. If not, look at the attitude or tone of their messages and differentiate based on that observation.

7) Go on blogs that your audience is on and purposely leave constructive comments.
These comments will lead customers back to you. This is a great way to get the conversation started. It also works the same way in Linkedin groups, Facebook and Twitter.

8) Track your online visitors.
Be sure that your websites and blogs have analytic code installed so that you can see what keywords people use to find you. Use those keywords as the basis of links back to you rather than your company name.

9) Record podcasts/videos.
They don’t have to be super professional, just decent so as not to cast any negativity on your brand. A/V adds a distinct tone to your online content and positions you nicely. It helps add a personality to your brand.

10) Lead don’t follow.
How can you lead in your category? Determine a way to take the high ground from your competition. In Branding Voodoo, you MUST have the bigger pins, anything less is just doodoo.

How Do You Outsource When You Don’t Know What You Want?

Because our business does not employ full time employees (yet), some articles in business magazines don’t apply. Yes, we outsource and there are many parallels, though not always applicable. But while reading one an article by Jason Fried (co-founder of 37 signals and co-author of Rework) recently I was drawn to the many helpful points he raised. One of which really stood out for me because that’s what I’ve been sharing for a while too.Hlpwntd

In the article, Fried says that they generally, prefer to find out how to do a job before they start hiring someone to do it. The reason he says, “If you haven’t done the job, you don’t really understand the job. Without that fundamental understanding, it is hard to judge what constitutes a job well done“.

We totally subscribe to that thinking here. It is always frustrating when I hear of gurus or guru wannabes telling people, many who are new, inexperienced business owners that they can do this. Whatever this may be. The theme is always recurring. That you don’t have to know a single thing about the business or the market. Just bark out orders to some lowly paid worker and Voila! Instant website, e book, product, fill-in-the-blanks. While that may be true, it is also very misleading.

  • If you have no clue how to do something, how do you know the person you hire (or outsource to)  is not asking you to pay top dollar for skills they haven’t developed yet and are still learning to master?
  • If you have no idea what their day to day job pertains, how would you even know that you really need this job or position? Hiring someone just because you’ve been told you need such a position and aren’t quite ready for it yet is a waste of money.
  • If you have no idea how to do a job, how do you know what orders or direction to give? There will always be smaller tasks you can get someone to do without needing to know the details for example, you don’t need to know how to transcribe an audio before you hire it out. But there are also other tasks that need a little more direction and knowledge from you. If you depend on the hire or contractor for direction, then you’ll likely end up paying more and spending more time on a job due to additional communication.

Let’s be clear. I am not saying everyone who encourages you to outsource is wrong. But when someone says they don’t know how to build a website and yet make a gazillion bucks off their online division, the truth is, they have a go between manager who knows how to do the job to manage a hire for them.

What am I saying, do it all yourself? No. Not for the long term. But is definitely a good idea to do the work once, twice, maybe a couple of times before you decide if the job is something you really need to do, whether someone else in the organization is already equipped and capable of handling the job. After that, you decide the is a job worth hiring out for, now you know how to weed out the good people.

photo credit: carianoff

Can A Tarnished Brand Bounce Back And How?

This is going to be a slightly different type of post, one where you tell us what you think. In the last handful of years, there are certainly many brands that have fallen from their golden positions. Some fell much harder than others. To name a few that come to mind:

  • BP
  • Toyota
  • CircuitCity.com

Can these brands bounce back? What do you think they should do now?

Keep in mind, there were brands who went through some pretty rough times and come up on top, stronger than ever like Tylenol and for those who are too young to remember 😉 Apple.

Why do you think some brands are so resilient?

Hello My Name Is…

Hi It’s Ken Chandler. Some of you may recognize the name from Vera’s farewell post. Well, that’s me she’s talking about

I am sure most of you do not know me yet but I hope to  change that.

I have worked on military aircraft for almost 3 decades both as a U.S. Marine and as a civilian. I started my first offline business around 1992 and I have been working online with my own business since around 1996.   I  can easily understand how important your time is simply from my own experience. Given all that, I believe I will have many things to share that you will be able to utilize in your business and at the same time look forward to learning from you too.

I have 3 daughters  and a wonderful wife whom I love spending time with. My idea of fun is not slaving to a business.

It is not easy and I have big shoes to fill, but hope to continue the great work that has preceded me here. I am looking forward to connecting with you and challenging each other into taking our businesses to the next level.

I would like to take a minute and wish Vera much success in her new venture and  say I am looking forward to following her  progress. Be sure to follow her here.

www.DestinedUnity.com

I also look forward to her continued contributions here .

Ken 🙂

What To Do When People Keep Leaving

One of the most frustrating areas of my business in the last 2 years has certainly been the hiring and keeping of contractors. Before you get the wrong idea, I am not difficult to work for :-). The reasons for leaving are very typical for independent contractors/freelancers. Family issues, health and moving on to other things are the biggest reasons. Sometimes, there’s plain irresponsibility. People just fall off the face of the earth. Sadly, it happens way too often and in my case, they leave while a project is mid way.

Every time this happens, I have to start from the beginning. Explaining the objectives, the details of a project, the goals, where we are, where I want to go from here. They have questions. Stuff that you have perhaps gone over before in different threads of conversation and will have to dig up from your email archives or elsewhere. Getting someone up to speed is extremely time consuming. Time you could better spend on marketing and other income producing tasks.

ks2People say when you outsource, you train once and have others do the job over and over. It is harder the first time and just think. You’ll never have to do the job again after the initial training. That is true, if they stay with you. When they leave, you’ll have to do the training again. And again. You trade a set of problems for another.

How do businesses in high turnover industries do it? They use a combination of trainers and systems. You get someone else who has already created the training to train your assistants for you. Since the material is ready at hand, you do not need to take time off your own schedule. If questions abound, the trainers will help them through it. If they leave, send your new assistant to complete the training.

You also make sure you have systems set in place so all people need to do after coming back from training is to implement the systems using their new skills. When they stay with you, send them to more training to update or upgrade their skills. Like hiring employees, this boosts the chances of a freelancer staying with you.

Not all projects require full training. Sometimes like in my example above, all I needed was a good system – which I’ve since collected and sorted out. So if you find someone who can train as well as provide system frameworks for you and your assistants that would be so much sweeter.

That is the goal we are working towards at TechBasedTraining. We began with a strong focus on bite-sized, technical training that can be quickly implemented. As time went by we also realized the importance of providing basic systems. Many of the training and packages are created with that idea in mind. In the Pro members’ area, there are also checklists for smaller tasks that fall inside a system. This way, a the business owner can focus on the what to do’s even when their contractor or staff leaves for greener pastures.

photo credit: julianlimjl

Some New & Good Changes for Small Business Branding

There’s some pretty neat changes happening around here and I’m very excited about this decision. You see I’ve been wanting to pursue a road in life that is helping more people than just myself, and thankfully I’m now able to do this.

This is a bittersweet post.

Small Business Branding (SBB) has been a part of my life and my passion for a while now. I’ve ‘fallen in love’ with this community so making the decision to sell it wasn’t easy.

If you’ve known me for long you probably know that I’ve been a small business owner since back in 1996 when I owned and operated 5 retail stores. I made a huge decision to sell those retail stores so that I could create a life I wanted and so that I would have the freedom to spend more time with my husband and three kids.

I believe that there’s a time and a season for everything in our life. I ran those retail stores and SBB for a season and then it was time to move on. While I’ve made the decision to sell SBB I will still be a regular contributor around there.

This recent decision to sell SBB is going to help me move onto a new venture, one that will bring me closer to my genuine personality, my desire and passion to share my faith and do more for Mercy Ministries.

I’m excited to be able to start using my skills to help my church, my family and ministries. I currently go into a local children’s hospital on a weekly basis to deliver care packages, visit the children and just be there to be a voice of hope for them. I’m looking forward to doing even more and stepping out with boldness, doing things I’ve never done before and helping more people.

This is a new and exciting venture for me and I’m looking forward to being able to be truly genuine and share my faith on a regular basis. I’ve left Small Business Branding in the capable hands of Ken Chandler and I’m sure he won’t disappoint you. He’s got great ideas and I’m looking forward to still contributing.

Feel free to follow my journey into this huge leap of Faith! 🙂

You can see what I’m up to over at www.DestinedUnity.com and like I said before, I fully plan on being a regular contributor still here at Small Business Branding.

Please give Ken a warm welcome, he already has some wonderful ideas in taking this site to another new level and I truly look forward to see what he does in the future.

Drew Gerber Speaks on PR and your Brand

As part of my interview series with “Thought Leaders,” PR guru and author, Drew Gerber from “Pitchrate.com” shares his wisdom with us. I’ve been following Drew online for some time, so I was pleased as punch that he agreed to this important interview.

Ed Roach
: How much does personal branding matter in Public Relations?

Drew Gerber: Personal branding is as important in the world of business survival as food, shelter, and water are to personal survival. If you want to set yourself apart from the competition you have to make a name for your products and services. Chances are someone else is doing the same thing you are, so you really have to find what’s unique about you. The goal of branding is to make it so your target market remembers you. When you’re giving an interview you have to make sure you deliver your message in way that forces people to take notice of your brand. You have to make it like a song they can’t get out of their heads.

Ed Roach: Whenever I speak of corporate branding, I believe a company is smarter to lead than follow. Taking their PR efforts into consideration, how important is “being the leader”?

Drew Gerber: Being a leader is definitely important, but you also have to know what others are doing. I would never advocate following or “riding the coat tails”, but with the Internet and social networking, ideas and thoughts are being exchanged at a very rapid pace. It really comes down to progression these days. How far you can take an idea and how you can leverage it to really make a difference in you company.

Ed Roach: Drew, I’ve heard you say, “When it comes to small businesses, PR is in everything you do.” Since your PR is a part of your brand would you agree that the tone of your brand should be reflected in your PR initiatives?

Drew Gerber: Definitely! The tone of your brand should be reflected in all your PR initiatives. Your brand is who you are. It’s counterproductive to deliver a message in an interview that doesn’t align with your branding. You have to be memorable, not confusing.

Ed Roach: Let’s say a company is in crisis, how can PR play a role in re-establishing brand reputation?

Drew Gerber: PR can be a company’s most effective tool– as long as they are willing to take responsibility and be vulnerable. Crying on camera seldom hurts either. We all watched as Toyota launched a huge PR campaign after all the recalls. They had to reestablish trust with its current and potential customers. They went hard after their long history and track record, and even brought emotion into the campaign, which we don’t see too often from large corporations. When a company’s relationship with the public is tarnished for whatever reason, PR is the most effective way to get the shine back on.

Ed Roach: As a Public Relations expert, how do you believe the Drew Gerber brand is perceived?

Drew Gerber: Well, I always think it’s hard to be objective about yourself, even if you a branding expert. Ever try cutting your own hair? I hope I’m perceived as approachable, passionate, and, above all else, committed to making a difference.

L. Drew Gerber is CEO of Wasabi Publicity, Inc. (www.PublicityResults.com) and creator of www.PitchRate.com, a free media tool that connects journalists, publicists, and experts. Gerber’s business practices and staffing innovations have been revered by PR Week, Good Morning America and the Christian Science Monitor. His companies handle international PR campaigns and his staff develops online press kits for authors, speakers and companies with Online PressKit 24/7, a technology he developed (www.PressKit247.com). Contact L. Drew Gerber at: [email protected] or call him at 828-749-3548.

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