Archives for December 2011

Positioning Is King!

Gold Branding CrownOnline and off, one the most important services I am often engaged to perform is the development of a positioning strategy for small to medium size businesses.

A positioning strategy is not simply a cleaver slogan but a powerful and dynamic stand that your brand takes in your category. Right now as you read this, I believe that you are sitting on something that would absolutely position you as the leader in your marketplace. All too often, we as small business people think that advertising an inspirational tagline, will draw in customers. But that really isn’t enough to make them engage you.

You have to been seen and believed to be a leader. Customers like to do business with leaders. Your position has to resonate with them. When was the last time you bought something based entirely on the slogan? We purchase all the time on our perception of their brand position all the time. They belief that they have something that is better than everyone else. Apple is a good example of effective positioning. You can benefit from the same thing and have your brand raise the bar and claim the high ground.

Are you pricing for 2012 or 2002?

Have you noticed how much more money you have to shell out for your groceries lately? If you’ve truly been paying attention to your bills, you’d know it’s been going on for a couple of years.

It’s not just the price tag. Packaging has changed too. Sometimes you find less product for the same price. Heres one we noticed recently. A pack of little smoked sausages used to be 16 oz. It is now 12oz. The price is the same but you get 4 oz less. Some manufacturers have introduced entirely new packaging with different sizes so it is difficult to do a direct comparison, whether to mask the real pricing or cushion the sticker shock, I don’t know.

The effect is still the same. Higher prices. Ultimately, all this affects us. The cost of hiring is higher, the cost of office consumables, transportation (if any) and just about everything else is higher. At the end of the day, if our prices don’t change, our bottom line shrinks. The way everything else costs more now, it’ll eventually shrink till it becomes nothing. Not a good thing if you want to run your business long term.

I understand, believe me. Pricing is often a difficult subject for entrepreneurs. We don’t like raising our prices because we don’t want to upset or lose customers. Yet, we don’t haggle prices when we go to the grocery store. They aren’t afraid of losing our business. It’s this price or you don’t eat.

True, not every product is urgent or vital,to sustain life like the food industry. That may be why you’re hesitant. This is not about greed or turning into a big heartless corporation. Its not about pricing higher just because you can or pricing far out of customer’s reach so we can have a fat bottom line. It’s simply being realistic. If we want to keep growing; To continue paying people we hire fair wages and put food on our own tables, we have got to price our products or services for today.

If you’re afraid of backlash, try different packaging just like the brands in your grocery store do. As we rush into the New Year, and make all sorts of plans, take a moment to consider if your pricing will give you enough room to support the growth and staff you want it to in 2012 and beyond.

Photo by quinn.anya

Is Social Santa coming down your chimney this year?

Has SME’s (small to medium enterprises) taken up the social networking banner? I’m coming off one of my branding projects and as part of the research we asked the brand customers if they use Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter or None of the above.

100% of the respondents answered “none of the above.” 100% can you believe that? Wow.

That flies in the face of what traditional media says on the subject. But in my local market, ( southwestern Ontario/Michigan ) it does resonate to some degree. Most of whom I speak with have very little knowledge on the subject, or are curious but noncommittal. They hear the buzz, but don’t understand what it means for them. Since I work with predominately the heads of companies, they understand the passive approach of traditional media, where you run an ad or send out PR and wait for a response (if any). Social is very much a hands on, labor intense exercise. It also has to be on-going and non-stop. This takes quite a commitment.

I see it in my wife Rose. She loves Facebook and spends hours every evening doing her thing on her MacBook. In my region, there are the social guru’s who try to help SME’s grapple with it. Even after all this initial startup effort, those who carry it forward are a small minority. Myself, I am 100% committed to blogging. Here and at my own blog (Brand Corral), I try to keep the information flowing. My efforts have definitely been rewarded with leads, projects and publicity. Friends and colleagues are fascinated by the results I’ve gotten. But as I share with them – it’s got nothing to do with luck but solid effort. I’m going into my seventh year blogging now, and it is my number one online marketing vehicle. Offline is networking, which to me is live blogging in a sense.

Clients I have convinced to blog are still hard at it and are getting results. Any reaction they get is attributed to their efforts and opinion. They have embraced social media and are forming relationships with readers in their categories. They too, are getting leads, projects and publicity.

It escapes me why any modern SME would ignore the potential of social. The only explanation I have is that the traditional media when reporting on it view it from strictly the personal side. They appear never to speak from a business to business perspective. When they do address business it is more the consumer versus business side. So the natural reaction is going to be – “How does that help me get more business? I don’t care that a potential customer’s cat’s birthday is tomorrow.”

Facebook is introducing Timelines now. I understand that they are considering a business version. This hesitation on their side, will only exasperate the business person trying to come to grips with all of this. I only use Facebook and Twitter to promote my articles to try and draw audience back to my blog and website. I yearn for a productive presence on Facebook. Over time I’m confident the social media will shake out and a business fit will flow from it. I admire those of us who have successfully integrated Facebook and Twitter into their marketing efforts with results. I envy you. Myself, I love blogging, and have centred my efforts there.

This year for Christmas, why not give yourself the gift of committing to one of the social medias to start building your online audience. I know for a fact that your SME is on the good list of Social Santa, so you’re deserving!

How To Release Your Brand

So many businesses around us pay very little attention to their brands. Some are under the illusion that to have a brand is a question of choice. As some have said to me, “Ed, I’m not ready for a brand just yet. I’ll let you know when I am.” What they fail to understand is that they have a brand, whether they want one of not. From the very first hour a person decides to put out their shingle, their brand also begins its journey. In straight terms a brand could be replaced by the word – reputation. Everything that your brand touches and everything that touches your brand affects it. Some allow their brands to grow and morph on its own – in other words do nothing and ignore their brand. Failing to define your brand leaves one uncomfortable reality – it allows your competition to define it for you. Once that happens it is very expensive to claw it back and change the negative perception of your marketplace. This is critically true if your competition is perceived to be the leader in your category.

Are you allowing your brand the freedom to flourish? Without a strategy in place, your brand is not properly positioned to take the high ground. To be the leader it rightfully deserves you have to takes steps to cut your brand free. Look for the restrained brand behind barriers such as:

• Weak uninspiring slogans
• Tired or unprofessional logos
• No brand values to speak of
• Multiple logos
• No local profile
• Just like everybody else marketing
• Uninspired sales staff
• Off brand employees
• Drowning in the sea of sameness
• You’re competing on price

To breadth fresh life into your tired brand, you have to get out there on-line and off. Make your presence known. Start building your expert profile. It’s time to come out from behind the mediocrity. It can’t be business as usual anymore. As the head of your brand you have to start showing your passion and spreading it among all stakeholders which include clients, employees and suppliers. Your positive attitude would be a terrific start. Nothing motivates a brand better than a passionate leader. People take notice and look for cues to react. There is nothing more satisfying than having your leads react the way you intended. When stakeholders get the message and deliver their business to your doorstep, your brand has succeeded in leaping the hurdles.

The one important message here is that once the brand strategy is in place, you have to continually nurture it. It can’t be allowed to grow on its own, it has to be guided. Getting it right is key to your brand’s success. There is no easy strategy, it has to be constant, consistent and contagious.

10 Confounding Branding Myths

The logo is the brand
This myth confounds me the most. If the brand was the logo, then there would be no brand problems. Got a problem, change the logo and presto! problem goes away. Not so much, because the brand goes right to the heart of your company’s existence. It is the entire essence of your company.

Our people make the difference
You gotta love this myth. Companies that use this position, must believe that they’ve cornered the market on brilliant people. Not a chance that the competition ( that causes them grief daily ) might also have great people. This is a head-in-the-sand scenario.

Follow the leader
Here’s how this myth goes: all you have to do to be successful is to watch the leader in your category and follow EVERYTHING that they do. The theory (laughably) is that if they are that successful, mimicking them will have that success rub off on us. This myth relies on rudderless CEO’s who lack the passion and vision to lead.

I’ll get a brand when I need one
If only it were that simple. Got a problem – kick that pesky brand to the curb. Since you have a brand whether you want one or not, it’s hardly true you could walk away from it at will. This myth results in you ignoring your brand allowing your competition to define you – never a pleasant thing.

Branding is all I need
Wouldn’t that be nice. But you’ve got to spread the word and so marketing and PR become brother and sister to branding. Your job is to keep the family together. Nobody wants an only child here.

Branding pays off quickly

This myth leads to bad feelings about branding or the sense that branding doesn’t work. Elements of branding have an immediate pay-off and parts of it develop over time. Since there are several touch points to every brand, there are then several levels of success and buy-in.

Only management should care about the brand
It’s lonely at the top. Branding is no place for introverts. All stakeholders impact your brand so all stakeholders have a stake in it. Leaving all brand views to management limits the scope of your brand.

The brand is all about what you say
This myth sounds good but misses the point. Brand is about relationships and actions (what you do). Brands are build on how a company handles themselves. They take a leadership position and then live up to that promise. Say it, live it, promote it.

Brand promotion is expensive
That depends on what channels are used to build your brand. There two ways to look at expense. Time and money. Branding involves both to varying degrees. What is nice is that brand building takes place over time. You decide the fit and extent of strategies to accommodate your brand goals. There is no simple answer to this myth.

Branding is for cows
That’s bull! (cheap joke). I’m sure this where branding got its name. Out on the range, eyeing the brand on a steer spoke to the viewer of the reputation and organization behind the mark. Perceptions are drawn on the spot. If Branding is for cows then call me Betsy!

Santa Brand!

Another great brand move is acknowledging your customers and advocates at Christmas. Ending the year on a high note is very motivating while you’re moving into a new period. Looking back over the year appreciating those who saw fit to trust you and bring you business. Every year I put together something I think will resonate with this supporting cast of players. For the last several years, I put out a quality calendar of my water-colour paintings ( a serious interest of mine ). They were well received as most never had any idea that I painted.

This year I took my motivating slogan “Lead don’t follow.” and put it on black mugs and sweatshirts. I will wrap this package up and present them. I didn’t want to just put on my logo which would be more or less an ad for me, and instead put a motto that my supporters could definitely live by. Having gone through my process, they ‘get’ that statement in a big way.

It is not so important what you give, it is the appreciation you show for their support that counts. It makes your brand shine that much more in their eyes. It’s all part of the big package. If you’re in retail, you can offer customers back a percentage of their yearly purchases. This has the added benefit of drawing them back into your location as a premium customer.

The reaction this effort produces will immediately resonate with you. Nothing feels better than giving back.

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