Our clients are small businesses, owned and operated by individuals, usually started with little more than desire and a decent idea. If you’ve run a small business, you know the feeling of watching every dollar; only wanting to act on very necessary things with a direct impact on the bottom line.
Nearly all my clients intuitively know they need to include marketing in the pool of very necessary things; some more than others.
Marketing. If you just ponder the word while wearing your business owner hat, what does it mean to you? I will tell you that it means many different things to many different people in many different situations. Marketing means a lot for a word it’s size and for good reason.
But for all the recognition and categories of Marketing in the minds of business owners, branding seems the red headed step child. I’ve heard “We’re not building Apple Computers over here” more than once.
I wrote about where branding fits into the overall Crossroads Coaching approach here.
With this post I’m sticking to your need to work on branding. It doesn’t matter how small or how large your business; you own a brand.
Forbes.com contributor Jerry Mclaughlin says “Your [name] exists objectively; people can see it. It’s fixed. But your brand exists only in someone’s mind.”
As consumers we act on our perception of brand every day; choosing a lunch place, selecting a gas station, calling a service technician for our home. These are not global Fortune 500 conglomerates we are patronizing but small businesses where our minds hold a brand impression.
Branding Is Where Marketing Starts.
I’m pretty easy going and flexible with client inertia; if someone is pulling hard in a direction, I try to leverage that energy into progress. A big exception is when someone wants to spend money on traditional marketing activities without putting the work into proper branding; please don’t do that.
How can you make wise and strategic advertising or promotional decisions if your brand is poorly defined? You are as likely to miss your target market or message as you are to hit it and you’re paying for a shot in the dark without aiming.
I know many of you feel you understand your brand without having to write it out and some do. But the details matter when you start spending money and taking specific actions. How?
What Your Brand Includes:
- Your target market (customers) and what that market thinks of your business
- What specific value your business is capable of delivering to your target market
- Why your business is uniquely qualified to deliver that value to your market
When you consider the elements of brand listed above all together, it’s easy to see how you might drift off target with any marketing planning not tethered to specific brand guidelines.
Advertisers like to grab consumer attention for impressions. A well-defined brand will ensure that impressions produce qualified valuable leads. You want to spend promotional expenses attracting customers who may want to use your products or services over just having everyone recognize your name. Do you see the critical difference? I don’t care or want to spend money for everyone to know my name; I spend money wisely so that my targeted potential customers know my name and think favorably of me.
And don’t miss the favorable impact of attracting your target customer over just any customer. Most businesses are tooled up and prepared for a certain type of customer. You may accept orders from non-target customers at the expense of higher costs in filling the orders, strain on your ability to meet the customer expectations or declining margins. Sometimes a perfect storm may actually produce a financial loss on some orders leaving you wondering what happened. Know your brand.
What Your Brand Should Do For Your Business:
- Well defined brand will support strong strategic planning
- Proper branding will accurately target advertising and promotion
- Good branding supports effective sales execution
The fine point is that brand investment is just as important for small business as it is for large corporations and should be done before you incur other marketing expenses.
It’s never too late to define your business brand and if you haven’t done so, do it.
Defining your brand will pay for itself multiple times over through improved marketing impact, sales effectiveness, overhead utilization. So Happy Branding and of course reach out if you’d like to talk brand.