A Branding Opportunity

Recently I promised to give you some great information about branding. I asked a colleague and branding expert, Jay Blumberg, Partner, The Deciding Factor in Mason, Ohio (near Cincinnati) to provide some insight on what small businesses and non-profits can do to solidify their brand while maximizing their marketing budget.

I expected a three sentence (maximum) answer. After all, Jay’s a busy guy running his marketing agency, he has three kids involved in lots of activities (some of which he coaches), not to mention a million other things to manage. I should have realized after working with Jay (on and off) for well over 10 years that he never does anything halfway.

Here’s the question I posed:

What advice do you have for a small business when crafting a brand identity?

Here’s Jay’s answer:

Gain a very good understanding of the personality of your company. The brand personality of a small company is often reflective of the personality of the owner. Don’t fight it. Use it as a strength because your employees support it and your customers have responded to it. For instance, if conservative is comfortable, a conservative, but classy and professional brand personality will be stronger for that company than going zany, fun and crazy using a wild color pallet.

Become crystal clear on what makes your company different than the competitor. No cop-outs. Find that nugget of information that makes your company different from your competitors. You must dig deep. What makes your company unique may simply be the personality of your brand, your fresh approach to the business, your innovative thinking, or your unique process that helps you solve your customers’ problems. Therefore, no cop outs. Every company I’ve ever worked with on establishing their brand and what differentiates them has given me the top six cop-outs, which are:

  • Our people – No, your people used to work for a competitor
  • Our facility – No, your building was built by the same company who built the building for your competitor

  • Our customer service – No, good customer service is part of the cost of entry. Every company should have great customer service.

  • Our product – No, your product is most likely very similar to those of your competitors. Producing a good product is also cost of entry. Without a good product, you have no company.

  • Our technology – No, the technology used in your company is most likely not proprietary. Having the latest in technology and remaining ahead of the technological advancement curve is definitely a good support point.

  • Our value – No, if you don’t provide good value for the money, people will not buy your product.

Dig deep and determine what you promise to your customers. Be sincere and be unique. Branding starts with your values. Tide promises to keep clothes bright and clean them better than competitors.

Be consistent with your branding efforts. This does not mean that you have to spend a tremendous amount of money. Start with the basics, but invest the proper amount of money. Don’t take short cuts. Work with the professionals to develop your logo and the materials that will represent your company in the marketplace. The two most important branding tools are your business card and your website. Your business card should be created to reflect your personality. It should represent your logo and your contact information in a professional and memorable manner. Make your customer remember your business card. Also, don’t scrimp on the paper. Have your business cards printed on a heavy weight stock and only include pertinent contact information. Don’t make your business card into a capabilities brochure. It will become too cluttered and it will dilute your brand. Your website is where your prospects will go next to determine if you are credible and legitimate. Your site does not have to be comprehensive. It needs to be professional, easy to use and convince your target audience that you can handle and solve their problems.

Remember, your company is only as strong as the brand behind it. Without a trusted brand, your company will struggle. Brands are the first impression and you know what they say about first impressions – you don’t get a second chance.

This advice is applicable to any kind of business - real estate, political campaigns, consultants (like me), non-profits, interior design - this list goes on and on. A huge thank you to Jay (and all those other fabulous people at The Deciding Factor). Start today applying Jay's branding genius to your business. Opportunity knocks. - AMD

"I was seldom able to see an opportunity until it had ceased to be one"—Mark Twain

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