Tuesday, December 30, 2008

(Snatch Your Coin) Follow up...

The web is a great thing. One of my regular readers from down-under, Robert Kingston commented on my "How To Snatch The Golden COIN!" article over at Small Business Branding Blog, and brought to my attention - Zentact - an automated service that does exactly what I am discussing in my article. Although I do this effort manually, Zentact is doing it using your address book for the basis of whom is contacted. Filling out a profile of each contact, gives Zentact the data it needs to flag information that might be of interest to that contact of yours. Here I thought I was being clever :) From the reading I've done on Zentact, it is a great tool for your brand relationships.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Snatch Your COIN!

I just wrote an important little article on the importance of COIN (Circle Of Influence Networking) over at Small Business Branding. Essentially I discuss why it is valuable to your brand to keep an eye out for opportunities that might benefit your clients and other contacts. It's easy to do and is a great way to stay in touch with clients. Personally, I enjoy the concept of clients doing business together. You become a conduit or a "Connector" as Mark Brand so nicely put it in a comment on my article.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

How To Make Your Blog Mobile!

A quick note if you'd like a fast way to get your blog on mobile phones.

First off, I bought the domain, "TheBrandCorral.mobi over at goDaddy.com and then forwarded it to the feedburnerlink of my existing blog.

Now when a reader enters www.TheBrandCorral.mobi in their mobile phone, up comes a list of my articles. Clicking on an article (in my BlackBerry) gives them two choices. View Description or Read Article. Choosing Read Article, gives a terrific mobile friendly version of my blog including graphics and all my side bar information.

That's it.

Friday, December 19, 2008

5 Steps To The Motherlode!

That next telephone call or email could be the mother lode of opportunities. If you're anything like myself, you're fiercely proud of what you've accomplished to date. The relationships built over the years have not only delivered happy customers but rewarding business friends that have turned into advocates for you.

Of course, if the mother lode is to fall into your lap, it would come not by happenstance, but a concerted effort. You know as well as I, that you can never take your eye of the goal.

Put together a "Re-Acquaintance Package". This is a program that has you sending out promotional correspondence to past customers that have dropped off your radar after many years. You'd be surprised how many would love to reconnect and benefit from your accumulated experience.

Develop a "Referral Kit". You know that many of your customers are indeed advocates for you, but you have no control over what they are saying about your brand. By putting together a little package of materials to hand out and a story outlining the types of business you are looking for, they will be more effective in generating more profitable leads for you. The kit should contain branded items such as pens, notepads, business cards and of course the letter of intention. Make sure your kit is as professional as you can to make it. Be sure it compliments your brand image. Send these to advocates that have the greatest influence among your target audience.

Participate in open networking events sponsored by various groups in your business community. This gives you the opportunity to exhibit a presence locally.

Getting involved in online promotional efforts that position you as an expert. Things like bogging and social networking are great avenues to spur opportunity. Blogging especially has a huge impact from a business perspective. Chance are good that the mother lode of opportunity could hatch from this effort alone. Very powerful.

Building an opt-in business email database. Email marketing puts your message directly into the hands of your target market. Because they are opt-in, your message is welcome. A great place to nurture your brand. It is also a great opportunity to provide valuable free advice. Become a free resource which leads to a paid resource.

What the heck - one more. Be sure that what ever you do, you are extremely consistent in tone and brand image. Consistency pay dividends. Opportunity only comes to those who are willing to earn it and ready to accept it when it calls. "You've got mail" - this could be the one - brace yourself!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Did You Get My Latest Newsletter?

I just released the 53rd issue of my FREE newsletter,
. In this month's issue the articles are:
• Santa's Branding Checklist
• Advertise Your Online Business
• Joint Venture Benefits
• Great Meetings Are No Accident
• Networking Follow-up Tips
• The Power Of Packaging

Regular features: • Guess the ICON • Interesting links • Novel website

If you're interested in getting on my list, JOIN HERE!
I'd love to make all this information available to you each month.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Brand Called You

I'm reading a pretty good book on personal branding called, The Brand Called You. So far it's filled with pretty good information and action plans. I'll deliver a proper review when I'm done. I thought if you were considering it right now, I think you'll find it useful.

The link above will take you directly to Amazon, where you can look inside the book.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Billboards as Distribution Vehicles

Here is a great idea that puts your products directly into the hands of the public by using Billboards as you point of distribution. Austrian outdoor fitter Northland Professional did this to great effect. Apparently the public went to great lengths to get at the free goods. In total the campaign gave away 1,000 items. Very clever indeed.
Try this brilliant idea!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

How To Keep Customers Happy.

The holiday season is upon us. One thing about Christmas, it gives us time to think about what we are thankful for on a personal and business level. From a business perspective, we should all be thankful for our customers. 'Tis the time to take stock and see what needs improving with regard to customer experience with your brand.

Rate the following Five Experiences from 1 to 10. 1 being lousy and 10 being the best. Rate each three ways, Past, Present and Competitive Experience.

1) Communication to Customers:
• Courteous and friendly
• Clear accurate information
• Prompt attention
• Open to criticism and complaints

2) Responsiveness
• Custom solutions
• Fast action to requests
• Immediate followup
• Pleasant greeting
• Reduce service barriers

3) Competence
• Address customer's needs
• Well trained staff

4) Convenient
• Easy to access your company
• Convenient location/parking/accessable
• Prompt payment of bills/fast delivery

5) Reliablitiy
• Keep your promises
• Provide a quality product
• Reputation

One last item you may need to add is a check box if something needs attention. Going through this simple exercise will help you prioritize tasks to strengthen your commitment to superior customer service. I would enlist others who have a stake in your company to go through this together, as this will assist in getting a more true result.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

"Need Bigger Markets" Breakfast Event

Here's some positive news...

AIESEC (AIESEC currently has Local Committees in 103 countries around the world. As an international student organization, AIESEC promotes global understanding through international exchange.) is pleased to present their latest breakfast seminar, "Need Bigger Markets" on Friday, December 5th in Windsor, Ontario.

Keynote speakers are Sandra Pupatello, Ontario Minister of Trade and Investment, David Offenbacher, Senior Account Manager for Export Development Canada and Frank Olaya, Vice President of Corporate Relations AIESEC Canada.

AIESEC Windsor cordially invites you, and other members of the business community to attend a breakfast meeting to determine the why and the how to enter new global markets. The event will answer questions on topics relevant to:
• Why expand into global markets?
• How to lower risk when entering new markets?
• What organizations are available to help expand into international markets?
• What are the benefits of having a more global mindset?

For more information, check out NEW BETTER MARKETS BREAKFAST EVENT.

I'll see you there!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Here's A Chance For Your Blog To Shine...

Over at Chuck Westbrook's Blog, there is the unique opportunity to jump in on the ground floor of an initiative to help the blog's unsung heros get the traffic they deserve. Chuck is NOT doing this as part of any lead-in to a sale, but in an honest attempt to build traffic for everyone, who through no fault of their own, have blogs less travelled.

The concept is simple. Everyone joined up, visits blogs in unison, on a regular coordinated schedule. As your turn comes up, it should increase your opportunity to garner new subscribers and show off your site immensely.

Even big wigs like Rowse are offering their support of the idea. Jump over to Chuck's site and sign-up. It really is FREE and no strings are attached.

Friday, October 24, 2008

How To Avoid The Meltdown Mentality.

Over the years I been through economic downturns and recoveries and a great deal of small businesses traditionally roll up their rugs and hide in the dark until its over. Marketing budgets being one of the first things that got cut.


The severity of this downturn, has actually invigorated many in the small business community. Fearing that they may not have the resources to weather this one, many are getting smart and have decided to not give in to negativity and are looking at ways to get more aggressive or upgrade their existing efforts.

In a recent meeting with one customer, they remarked that a note came across their monitor alerting them that a competitor had bitten it. Bad for them, good for our market share.
The reality of the event wasn't lost on them however and they recognized that the time is 'right now' to strengthen their corporate brand position. Dark clouds always hold opportunities, so long as you have the foresight to take advantage of the situation.

Now is NOT the time to stare at what "might be" on the horizon. Develop a positioning strategy right now that absolutely differentiates your brand and benefits your prospective customers. Take a hard look at your brand, put yourself in your customer's shoes and ask yourself - "what's in it for me?" If you have a hard time answering this one question - you've got some serious work to do. Ignoring the question will put you directly in the cross-hairs of the meltdown mentality.

Take time right now to strengthen your brand. You need every weapon in your arsenal. You can no longer rely on good will and happenstance to succeed. The minute you let down your marketing efforts, meltdown mentality will over-take you. Stay positive, ride a strong brand and keep negativity from your door step.

It's your brand's job to create your own bright spots and wins, even while it seems the marketplace is broiled in its own self-fulfilling prophesy of gloom.

Don't wait for the turn-around. BECOME THE TURN-AROUND!

P.S. You might be interested in an article I wrote featured over at SmallBusinessBranding.com that outlines several ways to assist in corporate brand awareness. The article is entitled - Why The World Isn't Listening.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Does Size Matter?

I ran into an acquaintance yesterday and we got to talking about business. He made the comment, "It's important to look big - don't you think?"

It's an interesting question. In our culture we equate big with success. Big houses, big cars and trucks, big business, big names etc. I remember when the the web finally took off, one thing that stood out for me, was the statement that the web was the great equalizer. Now anybody could "look" as big as they wanted and nobody would be the wiser. Now you don't need the expense of bricks and mortar prove your worth. Now you just have to look big. Image is said to be everything.

I think my friend's comment is a little off. I don't think it harms anyone to look big, but the bottom line is to behave correctly in a big way. If a potential customer is attracted to your front door, once they cross the threshold, they will quickly see your worth. This harkens back to the truth in your brand. A brand can only thrive if it lives up to strong brand values. It is not enough to look big but your brand must walk the walk.

We as a society enjoy associating ourselves with success. The goal is inspirational. Your foundation must be sound, whether big or small. The important word in the comment was - look. Your brand must have substance. It must be more than an impression. To benefit from a strong brand it is more important to be big on strong values, big on personality and image. It is also fantastic to have a positive outlook. To be the best is to lead - in a big way.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Blog your Enthusiasm!

Here's a great blog that focuses on enthusiasm. In these edgey times, we all must work harder to stay positive and not let negatives bury us.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

It's Time to Re-Charge.

Everyday we stress the ups and downs of the marketplace. To keep your brand fresh, it's important that you stay in shape physically and mentally. You can't have the visionary of the company coming unglued. For the physical - go for extended walks or join a gym. You'd be amazed at how many great ideas are born in sweat. I find it a great way to start the day.

For my mental health, I paint. I'm a watercolourist. (That's snob for a watercolour painter). Painting is a very personal thing, and I find it a fantastic way to keep my mind on things other than business. I also teach painting to select students. Reading is another great way to stay grounded.

Anything that you can do to distract yourself from the business world will re-charge you. It keeps you positive and frees you from any negative energy, that may be dragging you down. It allows you see the positive around you.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

One Solution to a Scary Economy.

Unless you been away from the planet, you may be unaware of the situation with the financial markets. As bad as it is, we still must make a living, and dwelling on the negative isn't going to get you anywhere. Our initial reaction to is to pull back, take cover and HOPE to weather this storm.

The problem is, recoiling from the situation does nothing for your attitude but have you focus on stress. Take this slowdown as an opportunity to market yourself more. Chances are your competition is cutting marketing and everything else. Step back and look at how you can increase your awareness.

One answer is blogging. Blogging effectively increases your expert profile and in turn attracts publicity and leads. It focuses your attention at your growing audience and helps to keep you positive. The effort you put into your blog will be rewarded if you stick with it and aggressively cast your comments on associated blogs far and wide. These comments draw an audience back to you.

It takes minutes to establish a blog and contributes to your success. Stop letting the economy drag you down and shout your message from the blog. Your audience is waiting for you.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Packaging Your Brand

Once you're happy with your brand positioning, it's time to take careful consideration as to how you package your brand. You want to develop a brand image that compliments your brand values and personalty. Since differentiation is the key, your first step is to look to your competition. Analyze their color use. Discover what the color opportunities are. I use a spectrum chart and I circle the location on the chart a company's brand palette resides. The open unused areas are your opportunities for color. Choose from these open areas, keeping the psychology of color in mind. Color is a very powerful icon.

Next in brand packaging is your brand logo. Keeping in mind the demographic you are selling to, your logo wants to appeal to them. It must resonate with them. A professional image exudes trust, and it also exhibits your brand values. Keep in mind that this image has to exist on many items, both large and small. When you use your brand logo and brand palette, you must be sure to be consistent in their use.

Brand packaging also involves your brand's personality. Understanding this aspect of your brand, you show what flavor your brand image has. It involves the types of photos you use, what the tone of the writing is and what fonts are appropriate. This comes in handy when you develop your websites, blogs and print materials.

Done correctly you will go a long way in strengthening your brand image. This in conjunction with the rest of your brand elements, results in a very powerful proposition to your target audience. Over time it will represent you in the conscienceness of your customer.

This is exactly where you want to be.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Get The Media To Quote You.

Here's a great brand builder. Peter Shankman has a fantastic email service that sends out opportunities that connects you with a journalist looking for professional sources for articles or books they are writing. It's called Help a Reporter. You deal directly with the writer. I use it for myself and I forward opportunities to clients. My hat is off to Peter for such a great idea!

It's free to sign up, and it is great for your customer service and your professional brand.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

FREE Weekly Branding tip Podcasts

I have just launched my FREE WEEKLY BRANDING TIP podcasts on my website. I will also be showcasing new ones here on my blog as they come out. If you would like to subscribe to my FREE WEEKLY MAILING OF BRANDING TIPS click this link, then click on the blue subscribe button.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoy producing them. I produced the podcasts with the assistance of Chris over at Forge Infinity.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Raising the profile of product: YOU!

If you happen to be in the service industry, chances are your brand product is you. You are the sole provider of the service and as such you are also the brand. Even if you go by another name, it is wise to enhance your expert profile. You can do this effectively in any numbers of ways. Here are a lucky seven to consider:

1) Public Speaking. This is a great way to not only boost your expert profile, but to pick up new leads. Speaking on a topic you are passionate about positions you nicely. It gives your audience a chance to witness your personality. It is also your opportunity to give something free. In this case, it's advice on a broad scale. This shows your confidence and a willingness to offer help.

2) Corporate Blogging.
For my money, this is even more important than a website. It provides you with a portal to help businesses with no strings attached. A properly maintained blog, keeps readers coming back. Replying to comments and browsing other blogs and leaving comments there is a remarkable way to build an audience for your opinion. The business press frequently browses business blogs looking for experts to interview or inspire stories. These unsolicited opportunities happen more than you might think. Every time it happens to me, my traffic increases.

3) Social Networking. Another very personal opportunity. You can start your own business community and invite the world in. Many businesses treat these networks as genuine communities and are loyal to its members.

4) Email Marketing. A terrific way to keep YOU in front of your audience. Timed releases keep a consistent message out in your marketplace. When they say, "out of sight, out of mind" they knew what they were talking about. You want your brand top of mind.

5) Regular newsletters also keep your brand in front of your customers. It also gives you a chance to brag and inform, much like a blog. It is one more opportunity. I use all of these avenues to promote my brand.

6) Harvest email to build a valuable opt-in list of business contacts. So long as you are providing valuable information to your audience, you are consistently building an honest relationship with them. This trust in you will eventually translate into new business

7) Make your website a content rich destination. This gives users a reason to linger and thus exposes them to your brand and service offerings.

Anything positive that you do reflect favorably on your brand. Be sure that everything you offer whether it is free or has a fee attached has the same level of quality. Great brands are not built on crap. Be sure your brand image is consistent and reflects who you are. I've seen plenty of free product that looks like it's free. My attitude is that my free material is another form of marketing and as such, its production values must be as powerful as the paid product. This is what will strengthen brand YOU.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

I Made America's Best Magazine

The cover story for the July/August issue of America's Best magazine is on "Branding Your Business". I was interviewed for this article. In it you will find lots of great common sense solutions for branding your business. Other branding professionals are also quoted to help get the message out. Small Business Branding also gets a great mention. Following the link above will take you to the online version of the article.


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

eMarketing - an effective solution.

I've just released the 50th issue of Useful Information, my FREE monthly eNewsletter. That means that I've been sending this out to a select group of businesses for over four years now. Some would suggest that it is very difficult to maintain a newsletter. I some what agree, but I approach it as a marketing effort and as such, I am constantly archiving potential articles and resources that I put into each monthly issue. I believe a newsletter is an effective way to constantly put your name in front of a group of businesses who readily accept it into their monthly reading. It takes me about 4 hours each month to assemble and make ready for distribution.

Other ways that I market myself is through email marketing. This is those email you get that look like a mini web page. Every business that receives my emails are what are known as opt-in emails. Those are people who give me their email addresses to get something - whether it is an eBook, newsletter, digital product or consulting. As I get each new address, they are deposited into labeled folders. I have just started using an email service that automatically builds my database as each new email is added (or deleted).

Starting last Wednesday, I've initiated a weekly branding tip promotion that will get sent out weekly to my master list automatically. Besides getting a weekly tip, the recipients also get exposed to a group of links promoting my services. These service links are all cross referenced so that there is every opportunity to make a sale. The levels of promotion are quite extensive, but it will be interesting to see when they bear fruit.

I've been pretty successful generating business off the web and I have expanded my efforts to this end. Blogging has proven to be the most effective means of increasing my expert profile which has resulted in business opportunities throughout Canada and the United States. A number of my clients have followed my lead and are themselves turning to blogging and email marketing. As I type this I have contracted the services or a production studio to assist me in turning my weekly branding tips into audio podcasts. These will be available for FREE on my website and blog. This studio is also assisting me with generating inspirational branding videos which will also be available to my readers in the video area of my website. Content increases the length of stay on my site and blog. The longer they stay the better the chances they will contact me or make a purchase.

Next month (October) I will be speaking to the Christian Radio and Music Industry in Nashville on the topic of branding. I got this opportunity from blogging. I also network whenever the opportunity arises. My attitude is never stop the promotional wheels from turning. All around us are naysayers - economic revelers in gloom. I keep my positive attitude by surrounding myself in positive energy and constantly looking for and implementing resources to promote myself. Ed Roach is a product. Like this newsletter, I give myself plenty of time to allow the marketing to work. Blogging took a year and I half to generate income. I could have given up early on, but I know nothing happens quickly when you are building a brand. More times than not, businesses give up their marketing efforts too soon. They want instant gratitude. It just doesn't work that way.

When I utilize the email marketing tool, I am able to see just who opens my email promotions and who clicks onward from there. Try that with traditional marketing avenues. Talk about Big Brother - not only do I know if you received my promotions, I now know if you actually read it. I will use this advantage to test messages with my audience in the future - I never stop promoting - getting it right.

Friday, August 22, 2008

I Won! I Won!

Well I laughed out loud when Judy "the foodie" Asman emailed me saying that I had won the first of a series of challenges over at FohBoh. The challenge was to dream up a catchy name for a new food service website. FohBoh™ is the first, leading social-business network for the global restaurant industry. My entry was "DinnerForAte.com". My personal favorite was another entry by another author - "EatYourHeartOut.com".

Well my burst of creativity won me $50. and 1,000 FohBoh points. I was quite honoured by this. Who'd a thunk it eh?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Respect Your Own Brand.

I attended a birthday party for an old friend the other night. There I met a young entrepreneur who has been in business for maybe 3 1/2 years but wondered why she's not realizing her dream. She told me how passionate she is, loves working from home considering the responsibility of a small family and she is flush with work. What could she be doing wrong?

Essentially she wondered why she's not making the dollars she anticipated.
Her husband was standing nearby listening. He is a union guy making good union wages working in a factory setting. He mentions that she makes a pretty good rate for the amount of experience she has.

That got me to asking what she charged for her services and specifically what hourly rate she based her services on. Her answer was an eye opener. Only 20 bucks an hour. While on a shop floor this may seem pretty good, in the professional world it's a problem. Her time calculations were an assumption as she doesn't use a timer to track jobs so she can't accurately know what her profit OR loss might actually be. A passionate professional shouldn't rely on their memory to calculate time. As she stands today, her market is project based and as such, the existing rate was worth less and less as the hours mounted on a fixed project price. In many cases, her end hourly rate was less than minimum wage.

My advice to her was to stand back and take a hard look at her brand. At that moment in time her brand stood for cheap - plain and simple. The customers she has, loves her because they get good work - cheap. This is the kind of customer her brand attracts. If she wishes to grow she will have to strengthen her brand and that means drastically increasing her rates. I mentioned that when she does this one of the reasons she will get more business is simply because she is proud of the price she commands. She must believe in her brand FIRST before great customers are attracted to her.

I didn't recommend the highest fees in the industry, just something that will allow her to grow and make the income she deserves. With her productivity, her customers will still be getting great value, quality and service. Her biggest hindrance to her own brand succeeding was her self-esteem. She lacked the confidence to see her true value. I did my honest best to pump her up and get her re-aligned. Her end comment was, "Yes Ed, I should do this!" to which I replied, "NO, not should - you either do it or don't do it, there is no should."

They say, we are our own worst enemy. All I can add is next time you are having challenges in your business share you concerns with others. There may be a solution in your next conversation. One of her comments spoke to the fact that she didn't know there was anyone she could talk to about it. Opening up is the first step to strengthening your brand, listening is second.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Ed Roach LIVE

I'll be presenting "The Merits of Properly Branding a Christian Radio Station" at the Radio & Records Christian Summit in Nashville on October 27th at 4:15 at the Sheridan Music City Hotel. If you are a member of this media community, I look forward to speaking with you.

Picked Up by HP

HP asked to re-print an article of mine called "5 Tips To Branding A Powerful Presence" that appeared originally at Small Business Branding.Check it out HERE.

Distractions Are Good For Your Brand

I define distractions as what you do to take your mind off of business. As I write this, my Mastermind Group (previously identified as my MOOB group) is readying to begin our quarterly meeting - this time being held at the member from Toledo's cottage on Pelee Island, Ontario in the middle of Lake Erie. We know each other very well and we were discussing distractions last night. Myself I enjoy watercolor painting, (Ed Roach watercolors) and I try to have at least one non-business book on deck. Marcia from Covington Kentucky enjoys her book club and has recently gotten back to art. Marcia from Toledo loves spoiling her grand children. Lastly, John enjoys hitting the links.

We often need to recharge ourselves. When ever I have a dry spell, I immediately look at materials or situations completely unrelated to my business. I also exercise, to get ideas. (to be clear - I am not Adonis, mostly it's cardio to tone the innerds) The effort is so self-absorbing, it has a tendancy to clear the mind and the ideas start flowing freeing. I often have a recorder handy to capture these gems.

Many guys I know love golf as a distraction. I am not suggesting business golf, but golf where the player is on the course with just themselves and their thoughts. Other friends sail, play hockey, fish or simply get in touch with their inner selves through yoga or tai chi.

We all work to exploit our passions. All that effort is to make our lives and the lives of our loved ones better. Taking the time to smell the roses is most important. It makes you feel alive and it regenerates your passions in business and pleasure. Many times, your distractions are often shared by customers and a new deeper relationship forms. Focusing on your distractions and sharing your experiences with those you are in contact with shows everyone how much you enjoy life, and this draws you all closer.

People who, while passionate about their work and do it 24/7 are often pitied not admired. We often wonder, if they we to retire, would they simply wither and die or become hopeless couch potatoes because they never learned to enjoy why they were working in the first place. They assumed their challenge was to make another buck, when in reality, the challenge was to keep the world from passing you by.

What distracts you from your business passion? What will you do today when you leave this blog and sit back and gaze into your world you have built for yourself?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

My first eBook unleashed!

You may have noticed the new promotion to our right. This the my eBook, The Reluctant Salesperson: An introvert's guide to selling. It is the result of a discussion I've had through blogging with introverts from different parts of our planet who find it stressful and unenjoyable to sell. Many must sell as part of their job function. The tips and discussion in this book, hopefully will help others in a similar situation better tackle their sales efforts and get more business.

So far since it's release less than a day ago, I've had about 75 reluctant salespeople request their FREE copy. That's right, it's free for the asking. This is one time you want to overcome your shyness and get some real help. I can assure you that you will get at least one great technique to help you.

It was a lot of fun putting this information together. Click on the button to the right to get your free copy.

I hope you enjoy reading it.

Friday, July 18, 2008

When the cat's away, the mice promote.

Summer is in full swing. It's hard keeping clients focused when they've got golf to play and families to take to the cottage. Deadlines are pushed out and your sales are slow due to this desire for pleasure. Go figure!

What's a person to do?

Well it's a terrific time to turn your efforts inward.

• Update the website. Are there any new links, users would appreciate knowing.
• Develop new networking connections to join efforts with. Plan joint promotional activities for when client's minds are focused on business again.
• Develop new products you can use to entice new opportunities.
• Finish writing that eBook.
• Finally start that blog you put on your to-do-list.
• Back up your systems.

Grab a bit of R&R yourself. Hit the hammock with a cool beverage :) and a good book (unrelated to business). Myself, I like to paint in watercolour.

What do you do when the cat's away?

Friday, July 4, 2008

What To Do - What To Do?

All around us the sky is falling or at least it appears that way. Even the best among us have days where it is tiring to keep the wheels spinning. Where is our next opportunity, when can we take a break and enjoy the weather? Of course, the truth is that most of this is a mind set.

Business strategies should be set up much like fitness strategies where you have to change up how you do things from time to time, just to keep your attitude hot and ready to recognize an opportunity. So long as your respect your brand values you stand a great chance of keeping motivated and not getting burned out.

As much as you're taking the time to read this post, can you really admit that you've taken the time and had a hard look at what your promotional materials are saying about your brand? Currently, you are probably running professionally "designed" ads that have a powerful graphic and make a strong sales message. Or so you think, because this is the way you've always approached it.

Stand back.

Look closely.

Could you take your hottest competitor and drop his logo onto that ad and still have it make sense? If the answer is yes then your offer while good is no different from their offer. What if you could sell from a position of 'a difference'? I mean a real substantial difference where you can be the leader, or where your offer positions you with something so compelling that
it would not only excite your audience but yourself as well. When was they last time you were excited by your marketing? I don't mean satisfied, but truly excited - you couldn't wait to spring them on the world. Differentiation delivers that motivation.

Conventional strategies often deliver the message using proper channels but the message is soft or follows the leader. I want you to stand out - be different. It is hard to take this approach sometimes because we are conditioned to follow the leader. We spend our youth trying to fit in. Now I'm asking you to break free of that mind set and lead not follow.

And to do that you must be different, and that is where your opportunity lies. Isn't it time you got to be excited by your position - YOU BET IT IS!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

You're Better Than That!

Branding is all about market niches. To say your uniqueness is your great customer service or that your employees make the difference is simply not compelling enough. Take a good hard look at ALL aspects of the delivery of your product or service. Most companies try to be all things to all people, thinking this is the best route to getting all the business. It only puts you in a line with all the other companies taking the exact same strategy. That being the case, you are now just a price to the customer - a commodity.

Discovering that niche, positions you as something more important or compelling. It gives your customer a reason to view you differently. If you target a specific industry you can become the leader in that category. People like to deal with specialists or experts. It only stands to reason - if you lead - your not following.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

5 Tips To Branding A Powerful Presence.

If there is one thing that many small businesses love to mess with, it is their brand image. Perhaps it is their chance to get creative, in an otherwise numbers oriented existence. It is also the one area that gets the greatest abuse in regard to the "holy Grail" of brand - CONSISTENCY. One area I'd like to address is your web presence.

Does your website reflect your brand accurately? Let's take a look at 5 cyber-consistency challenges:

ONE: Over-all brand image of your website.

If I met you at a networking event and you passed your card on to me - when I got back to my office and went directly to your website - would I see something familiar when the opening page appears?
Your business card is my initial exposure to your brand image. I begins my journey down Brand You. If upon opening your web page, I am faced with an entirely different esthetic, then you are doing your company/brand a HUGE disservice. Your visitor now has to adjust their interpretation of your brand from another perspective. Ideally, you want their brand experience to reinforced from their initial exposure to Brand You. Don't get tempted with the urge to get overly creative if it means moving away from what was already established on your business cards.

TWO: If your brand is information oriented, your website should reflect this.

Let's say Brand You, has established itself as an expert, then your site should be focused on delivering information on your category. It should give the visitor the distinct impression that Brand You is indeed that expert. It should show that you are there to help them. Outside of the web, your collateral material should also portray this.

THREE: Your promise should be the same on AND off-line.

Whether your customer meets you at an event or on-line they should hear only ONE brand promise. The power of consistency goes a long way to getting the trust of a potential customer when the promise they hear is repeated at every point of contact. Also be sure that the promise is acted on, not just a hollow statement.

FOUR: There is more to a domain name than you think.

Your URL. Is it specific to your brand. Ideally it is the same name as your brand name. So if your company is called - The Acme Company then ideally the URL would be The AcmeCompany.com. If that isn't available don't be tempted with acronyms like TAC.com, while representational, it does nothing to make them think of Acme. If I called your office, you now answer the telephone with. "good morning Acme", not good morning TAC. A good alternative would be something descriptive of Acme. Maybe something like, "TheAcmeAdvantage.com". Now we're thinking something positive about Acme.

FIVE: Is your website presence passive or pro-active?

Determine how your website can be an asset to your brand. If it is strictly informational, then it is a passive tool. Get the information out and make it easy for the customer to contact you. If it is to be pro-active, then you want your customer to stay around your site longer. Give them tools and information that they can use. Become a valuable resource for them. Which ever of the two strategies you follow, be sure that it is in sync with your brand.

CONSISTENCY - there is no more powerful word regarding your brand experience. With it, each element builds on the next. It leaves confusion in the dust. Without it, it is a harder, more expensive route to take. Never compromise. Take a hard look at your brand as it exists right now. Are there any loose ends that could use a tweak or two to assure that everything you do is consistent?

Saturday, May 31, 2008

How to Compete with FREE!

Over the past few weeks I've been observing a common situation that continues to get the blood boiling among Graphic Designers world-wide: Logos done fast 'n cheap!

A company I have an association with tried their hand at using those cheap logo factories on the web. You know the ones that promise a logo for a few dollars and a limitless number of versions until they get your approval. Well, the owner of this company wanted my opinion on some of the samples they submitted. Most were pathetic from a design perspective but a few were interesting. But the bottom line for me was none hit the mark because they just didn't get it. They were not designing to communicate a brand message they were just designing a compelling graphic.

Another case was a discussion on David Airey's logo blog LoveDesignLogo relating to pricing of logos and the feeling of many designers that cost reflected quality. It was a spirited discussion. But all of this boils down again to brand. If a lead views you as too expensive for them, then your brand has no value with them. That is not to say that your brand is bad, it is an unknown quantity to them. All they have left is commodity. You leave them no choice.

Graphic Designers will always have this disagreement because their individual and industry brands are weak. They have been reduced to a commodity. If they were to concentrate on their brands and develop a compelling positioning strategy, the discussion above would not rile them so.

For myself and logos, I compete with free and still come out on top. Many times I have seen companies use logos done for them by local publications or printers just to get their business. I still have customers who want to pay me substantially more to work on the brand image. Why - because I give them a compelling reason to do so. It always astonishes me how many start-ups, pay little regard for their brand images, opting for the cheapest possible solution. That's not to say that high price = high value.

It's been pointed out that Nike paid $35 for their swoosh and now look at them. This isn't a case where the company was a success because of the logo but the logo was a success because of the company. The point isn't your price really, it is your brand. I could design a logo that communicates a brand and charge nothing. That doesn't make that mark any less effective.

It's all about your brand. Are you an expert in your field? If so, and if your message is compelling you can rise above price. Customers will value the relationship and their ability to profit from it. You get to charge fairly. What price you charge is of course up to you. The goal is to have a customer respect your price because they value your brand and want what you can offer them.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Small Business Branding Interview

In case you are unaware, I also write weekly for Small Business Branding, and they honoured me with the first in a series of interviews with their business writers. You can find it here. We will also being doing podcasts in the near future.

Forget The Logo, It's The Brand That's Costing You Money!

To a lot of graphic designers and advertising agencies, brand and logo are interchangeable. To be clear they should be referring to your brand image or your brand logo - there is a difference. A logo is just a small part of your overall corporate brand. Simply put, your brand is essentially your reputation in the marketplace. It is affected by all of your stake holders (customers, employees and suppliers).  If I stop a person on the street and ask them what your brand is, I am looking for them to tell me what their understanding of your company is. If I were to ask you what you feel about Detroit and you reply, "Murder City". That is it's brand. The brand may or may not be true, but it is the perception at this point in time. 

The same is true with Detroit's brand. It may not be true that it is the Murder Capital, but over the years the city has allowed it's brand to be determined by outside forces. Movies, comedians and the media in general have used Detroit as their whipping post for all that is wrong with urban blight in America. Your ultimate job is to constantly have your finger on the pulse of your brand. You simply can't afford to allow the marketplace to define you. The goal is to have a strong brand - one that makes you money.

Cities have what is called a 'place brand'. It's been said that our own community has a poor brand. You don't have to agree with the assessment, but you'd be a fool to ignore it. We have allowed the marketplace to define our city's brand. Windsor has to address it's poor brand directly, it can't be 'spun' out of existence. The root causes must be addressed.  The problem with a less than accurate brand story is, the very audience you want to become advocates, feel betrayed and become ardent critics.  

All of these scenarios are brand issues and are why smart companies are sitting up and taking notice. Any smart company who brushes off branding as merely a buzz word is passing the baton to their competitors. It has been said that the fasted way to kill a bad product is with great advertising. You can't fool 'em twice no matter how pretty a face you put on it.

In the industrial heartland that is southwestern Ontario, smart companies are engaged in initiatives that position their brands as leaders. In discussions with Peter Berry, President of OB1 Consulting, a respected Risk Management Expert, it was pointed out to me that companies who want their brands recognized as leaders in Green Initiatives, Compliance issues and Cross-Border Efficiency are also companies who are serious about taking control of their brand and how it is used. Many of these risk initiatives are used as effective differentiators when promoting the the corporate brand image. These pro-active companies are not waiting for bad things to happen to their brands, things that will cost them an enormous amount of money to fix and in some case cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in potential lost revenue due to hits on their brands. They are reducing risk now and reaping the brand payoffs. Having a strong brand in the first place will determine if these storms can be weathered. 

Here are 10 things you need to do to gain an insight on your brand:

1) Resist changing your brand logo. The problem is much deeper than that.

2) What are your stake holders saying about your brand? Ask them. Stake holders include employees, customers and suppliers.

3) Tomorrow morning ask the first staff member you see, "what do we do here at...?" Their answer may startle you.

4) Do a risk assessment to determine if there are areas of compliance and opportunity that might increase your brand strength among your market.

5) Are you suffering from any brand negatives? Are these issues keeping you up at night?

6) If you are currently putting a happy spin on your marketing, make sure it reinforces your brand values. 
7) You do have brand values don't you?

8) Do you have an effective differentiator? (this is key to branding properly)

9) Do a visual analysis to address brand issues with inconsistencies.

10)  Strengthen your brand. It invigorates staff and makes them passionate advocates for you.

Remember you have a brand whether you want one or not, your goal is to define yourself.  If you don't, your competition will do it for you - and that's never a good thing. Where do you fit in, in all of this?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Do You Have A Magical Brand?

I just spent the last week with my wife walking the theme parks of Disney World. We haven't been there in many years and a lot has changed. I have to admit that the Disney brand is alive and kicking in Florida. Where else do you see grown men and woman walking in public wearing various themed mouse ears and Goofy hats? At Disney World it seems perfectly suited to the atmosphere created there.

The Disney experience is essentially the audience immersed in theatre. The resort we stayed at welcomed you "home" upon entering the grounds and the entire cast consistently wished you to "have a magical day". I was very impressed by this brand experience. One morning my wife and I went for a walk around the grounds and came upon the main gate from the outside. The guard came out, asking to see ID and once we were identified promptly "welcomed us home". Are your staff as fine tuned to a consistent brand message?

In all of the attraction areas, is music playing the "soundtrack" of the park. You quickly recognize that everything you see and experience has been "created" to best position the Disney effect. It got to the point where my wife Rose, asked me if the birds in the trees singing were the real thing or a recording? All of this control over experience really does make you forget the real world outside. The effect is absolutely convincing. You forget you are walking around an enormous set. You really want to believe. My wife was actually excited to get her picture taken with Mickey and friends. (I thought it was pretty cool too)

I took away a lesson in how to make customers love you. Give them a consistent message and over deliver on everything you do for them. I loved the experience so much, I was willing to pay $8 to $10 for a Manhattan (my favorite drink). Back home in a restaurant I would shell out half that amount. Everything cost more, but the brand delivers and so I was smitten. When you love something you are willing to pay more to prolong the experience. Are your customers willing to pay more for your experience? Maybe it's time you have a hard look at how you deliver to your audience.

Many people might say that they resent the manicured experience at Disney World, but I would challenge them to show me any successful brand that doesn't succeed by delivering their product on an emotional level. The Disney Brand conjures up a deep heart felt desire to believe that the world is a good place where everyone wishes you a magical day even if for a moment. Even if that belief lasts only a week, it is good for the soul. But what is important to note from a business perspective is, every time I see the Disney name I will be reminded of the great feeling that I felt at Disney World. That brand experience translates into major dollars for the Disney Corporation. It allows them to sell me on many product offerings based on a brand promise that is magical.

We could all use a bit of that magic.

Disney doesn't appear to ever be sitting still. New attractions and resorts keep adding to the magic. Are you continually delivering new services and products to your audience? Don't sit still and let grass grow under your brand's feet. The magic is in your brand - this is your opportunity to control it's delivery.

Monday, April 28, 2008

'Shroomming is NOT a Spectator Sport!

I attended an interesting annual general meeting of the Canadian Mushroom Association in Toronto. The speaker's presentation was promotion oriented. I was very impressed with the marketing efforts of the CMGA. They had assembled an excellent media program involving the web and traditionl media. Much of the work was done in-house, but they were savy enough to use the branding rule of consistency. They used their logo and brand message effectively. There was a call to action on every item driving the audience to the web site where they were lured into getting free recipes for registering with their emails. I was very impressed with the results of this effort - 10,000 emails in their first year. That is outstanding. Every commercial whether radio or TV ending by driving home the web address. All print and digital efforts did the same. The diagnostic data gleamed from their websites, revealed a remarkable ability to hit their target audience.

All and all the CMGA should be patted on the back for their efforts and it was refreshing to hear that the mission continues. The only blip in the evenings presentation was at the expense of the mandate of the organization which is to "move more mushrooms". It was reported that mushroom sales remained flat. Absolutely no movement in sales performance. To the few members I talked to in attendance they saw the marketing efforts as disappointing, since sales didn't go up.

I think this to be short sighted. As marketers we are well aware of the time it takes to see a return on marketing efforts.

This is a common tendancey of many in business who simply don't appreciate how marketing works. Their attitude is understandable though, as they are the troops on the front line. They take their few hard earned dollars and trust that the results will bear fruit tomorrow. But in reality they are only planting the seeds (spawning if you will). To get 10,000 emails is remarkable and a gold mine in opportunties since the targeted audience signed up for mushroom info. That 10,000 will multiply with any recipe sharing between friends and family.

The only missing component I don't recall seeing in the marketing mix was a co-ordinated effort to have each grower member do their part with co-oping the drive to the website on their marketing and corporate materials. For instance a number of member's business cards I saw showed no drive to mushrooms.ca. Every stake holder in the Canadian mushroom industry has a stake in the success of this effort. Let's see who steps up and takes a leadership role. Marketing shouldn't be something to watch from the sidelines - it is NOT a spectator sport.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

20 Questions To THE Perfect Customer!

We in business have tendency to want to leave no stone unturned when it comes to generating income. Are you targeting your efforts to reach your best target audience? Are you aware of just who this audience is? A good exercise would be to identify this person. To perform this task you have to build a demographic profile. Remember - the profile is of the person that you make the most money from. Once identified, you will want to locate more like them.

Here are some questions to ask yourselve regarding your most profitable demographic profile:

1. Are they male or female?
2. How old would they be?
3. What income level?
4. Are they philanthropic?
5. Are they married?
6. Do they have kids? (if so, what age are the kids?)
7. Are they community minded?
8. Union or non-union?
9. Are they American or not?
10. Republican or Democrat?
11. What vehicle do they drive?
12. Visible minority?
13. Aggressive or passive?
14. Introvert or extrovert?
15. Do they read the local newspaper?
16. Are they joiners?
17. Are they handy around the house?
18. Do they own a single family dwelling? or a condo?
19. Are they a sports fan or culture fan or both?
20. How much money do they spend with us?

Answering these questions will give to a solid base to determine your perfect customer. Using census data or a market research source, identify more of this demographic profile within your community. If you charted the outcome on a map, you will typically see clustering of locations. This is because similar demographic groups tend to live close to one another. Market to these target locations. This will save printing and distribution costs by avoiding areas not identified as a target group. Now you not only know your perfect customer but where they live too.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

How To Present Your Brand Professionally.

I can't tell you how many times I've seen competent people stand up in front of an audience, speak intelligently, pick up their clicker and proceed to walk through a miserably amatuer digital presentation. I witnessed this exact situation in Detroit a few months back. The presenter was a local motivational speaker. Very engaging personality BUT the digital presentation was embarrassing. I even had notes passed my way, suggesting I have a chat with the presenter afterwards. There are some simple things you can do to make what you present visually more powerful. The high school quality of this evening lowered my expectations of this presenter. His brand was tarnished. It told me that he didn't entirely get it. If he wanted to be considered one of the players in the motivational arena, he has to put a better shine on his overall package. Other comments I heard later was that he was a hack. He could have done so much better with a keen understanding of how much damage he was doing to himself.

Try these pointers for your next presentation:

1. Pick an overall brand colour scheme. Stick with it. Consistency builds confidence. It is very comforting for an audience to see a consistent colour and direction.

2. Bring banner stands or banners that push the theme of your presentation. Remind your audience of what they are about to enjoy. Just like a movie poster.

3. Distribute materials that either promote other products you have or your service. Be sure that they reflect your brand image. Don't just leave them in a stack on a table by the door. Put one at every place setting. It also helps to distribute your colours through out the room.

4. In the digital presentation itself - DON'T USE BORDERS! You don't need them, the edge of the screen is fine. Border just close information in.

5. Make sure that your Brand logo is at the bottom of EVERY page of the presentation. Never let your audience forget who is speaking to them. A nice touch is putting their logo next to yours, this is of course if your audience is from one source or you are presenting to a potential client.

6. Insert video clips that compliment your message. They set a powerful tone and helps to break up the pace.

7. (This is a preference thing) I prefer to NOT work off of a script. You should know your subject so just speak to the screen. Use the screen to keep you on track, speak to what it is referencing. Don't read the screen - if you resort to that technique, what is the point of having you there? Off-script also allows you to constantly keep your eyes on the audience - more engaging.

8. Input music where appropriate such as the intro and exit. It is a feel good tactic.

9. I usually have the second last screen show text asking for questions.

10. Your last screen should be a "Thank you for coming!" screen. You can leave this up as the audience applauds and they start to mill around you for discussion. Your brand logo is also large on this screen.

Another idea might be to have the audience look on the back of the materials you initially left on the table and they will notice a number, hold a draw for one of your products or some nice prize "related" to what the topic was. Everybody loves FREE. It is a happy ending technique.

Following the above principal will go a long way in developing your expert brand. Your personal and corporate brand will be more powerful. Even if you don't fancy yourself a professional speaker, you will ooze confidence in the professionalism of your presentation. I also generally use pictures of people through out my presentation as people like to look at people. I find a lack of humanity very cold. Charts and graphs have their place but putting relevant people in the frame is engaging.

If I had to pick one tip out of the ten, that would be #5. Putting your logo on every screen is key. Doing this consistently will do wonders for your message.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Yap, Yap, Yap!

It's time to start talking with customers.

Technology has made many of us lazy communicators. One of the things that makes a brand great is communication with your customers. You can't have a relationship if you're not talking. It's not enough to just do a great job, you have to connect as well. Connecting is more than seeing your name in the in-box of their email program. If that is where it's at for you, you allow your competition to take the personality advantage. I can't tell you how many times just picking up the phone or personally dropping in has gotten me additional business - just because it all started with the phrase, "Hey Ed, let me pass this idea past you."

Once you have their ear, you have every opportunity to tell of some new product or service. It is cheaper in cost and sweat to get additional business from existing customers. Technology has its uses, but nothing beats old fashion shoe leather. It also gives you a chance to be known to the front office. It puts a personality to the name. Over time you are part of the overall team. You are an employee in a sense too. Everyone is on board to making thew company successful.

Most customers are so busy. A regular check-in gives them a chance to get you to focus a bit on you and hopefully a chance for you to make their lives easier.

There is no downside that I have recognized from personal attention. Even long-distance customers see value in the regular dropping in - it shows that they are high on the food chain with your company. They are worth the effort. What it does for your brand is immense.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

What makes a great brand logo?

Before we even discuss any of the creative aspects of a logo let's see how your logo works with your existing brand. Assuming you know what your brand values and personalty is, you are going to want your brand logo to reflect these attributes. These two elements would help set the tone of the brand logo.

Who is your logo speaking to? Male, female? Young or old or somewhere in the middle? At a gut level how do you want your prospective customers to react to seeing your logo for the first time? Do you want to be perceived as an older established firm? Maybe, you need to relate a younger skew. How young? What are their trigger points?

How is the brand logo to be used? Is it appearing on large vehicles? Will it have to look great on a postage stamp or pen? What other physical restrictions must be considered?

When is the projected launch date for the new brand image?

Now we can get creative. Base the logo colours and themes on things that differentiate you in you market. Take into consideration colour trends and colour pshycology. Are the any colour triggers to consider? Ie: The Chinese reverence for red.

Choosing fonts properly to reflect the brand personality mentioned earlier. Make sure that you hire a professional who understand why the things mentioned here are important to developing an effective visual solution that will make you money. Actual creativity is truly in the mind of the designer. Being a qualified design professional, this person have the insight and skills to deliver an image that reflects your brand. Remember the brand shouldn't reflect the logo - but the logo SHOULD reflect the brand.

I BELIEVE that you should not request a rational to explain the logo. Your buying audience doesn't have this luxury so why do you need one? You should get it or not.

When I typically present a new logo I enjoy the initial reaction from the customer. I believe they must love it straight away. They are marrying this image so they must be satisfied from the outset. I don't try to talk them into it. If the fit isn't there we move on. Designing logos is one of the most interesting things a designer works with. It can be the seed that inspires everything else. It becomes the face of your brand.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

What is your Impression of Graphic Designers?

Graphic Designers. They are the talented people who bring your marketing materials to life. They are the people responsible for selling your products or services from a visual perspective. They are communications experts.

Those are my words. How do you feel towards graphic designers? What if any are their value to you? I am asking this question to assist a young design professional over in Ireland who is doing a paper on the subject. I offered to help because honestly it interests me. It will help gage the perception of the graphic design brand from the viewpoint of a business audience. If you use the services of graphic designers, do you feel they are worth what you pay them? Many companies, do a lot of their graphic design in-house. The work is usually assigned to administrative or IT staff, (this would include website deign). Has it ever crossed your mind to get this done by a professional? If not, why not?

To sum up - if you could spare a few moments - tell us what you think of graphic designers, you'd be helping a young student with valuable real-world research.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

How Branding is Relevant in a Slow Economy

If you understand your brand and are passionate about it, then you have a better than average chance to weather the storm of a slow economy or recession. If you've been addressing brand issues and have built your company on values that are rock solid, then there is every reason that you will come out smiling at the other end of this down-turn.

Take myself - I rely heavily on referrals to grow my business. To even hope to benefit from the value of a good referral, my brand has to be like a shiny nickel. Brand being reputation, I continually do what I can to drive home the message that my service is as good an offering as it can be. I have to continually grow my list of contacts and tirelessly try and get my message out there. I've found that blogging is an exceptional tool in this regard.

A referral brings a smile to my face, not only for the obvious benefit of potential new business, for the fact that an individual felt good enough of my brand to recommend me to a trusted peer. Nobody goes out on a limb and refers someone who may bring disrepute back on them. We all want to make sure that our network of businesses are professionals who will do an outstanding job for those seeking their services. This quality result reflects back on the individual who gave the referral as a person who is connected to quality people.

While business is challenged to a huge degree during an economic slowdown, if your brand is strong and focused, you will have much to build on. Even a small independent retailer, has a better than average chance if their brand stands for something that differentiates them.Success does breed success, and if in your market, that retailer brand is considered a leader, then what income is disposable will be steered their way first. It is then up to that company to recognize the opportunity and make the bold move to over-deliver on the services desired. Smaller companies are flatter than large competitors and therefore can twist and turn faster to take advantage of these opportunities. Nothing is of course guaranteed, but a strong brand makes your battle easier.

Every positive experience reflects on your brand. Don't take any chance meeting for granted. I can't tell you the number of times I've dragged my butt to an event that I was reluctant to attend only to get into a passionate discussion on branding and develop a new lead. Listening to businesses explain the hardships they suffer at the hands of a slowing economy gives me resolve to stay positive and to spread that positive vibe when ever I can. How you face your challenges speaks to the power of your brand.

If your brand is weak, it is time you put concentrated effort into shoring it up. Don't delude yourself into thinking that what I am talking about is changing your logo and slogan. As a matter of fact ignore those items. They have cache. Concentrate on your reputation. Get your face out there. Contact past customers and show that your brand is still relevant. There is nothing that I am suggesting that is rocket science, as a matter of fact it is things that is in every book on sales out there. The fact of the matter is, if your brand is weak, it is because in the course of doing business - it got lazy! You relied too heavily on technology to deliver service and forgot the basics.

It's time to make your brand shine again. Get out there and tell your story. Tell them them all why you are relevant, and why you matter. Make your brand the best it can be.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

10 Key Questions to consider in Developing an Effective Brand Logo.

My background is that of a graphic designer. Being in the industry for over 25 years, I have developed several hundred logos. As a matter of fact it is something I never tire of doing. After all of that time you come to recognize that many companies don't take full advantage of all the opportunities that come with designing a brand logo that accurately reflects their brand AND differentiates them. Most other graphic designers (or less) design logos based on personal taste and colour psychology - and that's it. Shame.

When I meet a new customer and we discuss the brand logo that is needed, I try and get to the heart of what the intended goal of the image is. Some of the investigation covers items such as:

1) What does the company do?

The logo has to reflect the industry. You don't want to have an image that is too artistic for an industrial environment. It has to be that industry, provide a comfort level to it's audience.

2) How old a company do they wish to present?

This is important if they are in an industry that relies on trust such as a legal firm. The public wants to work with a firm that looks like they have the years of experience to handle the issues. If the company is an IT company, young and progressive are key attributes.

3) What are the colour opportunities to differentiate the company?

I like to choose colour based on what their competition is NOT using. Many in their industry play follow the leader or make obvious colour choices based solely on the psychology of colour. While this is a colour consideration it is the not the most important.

4) How will the logo be used?

Is the image just going on stationary and an outdoor sign? What about advertising specialties such as pens? How about large vehicles?
Useage is very important as it may limit you with regard to shape or complexity.

5) Are there an peculiarities that I can identify with the customer that would be a waste of time presenting to them?

As much as one of my mottos is: "I don't give them what they want - I give them what they need," there is nothing to be gained by beating a dead horse. Get these items off the drawing board immediately.

6) What is the demographic profile of the target audience?

There isn't much point in delivering a feminine brand image to a macho audience. As well, if the skew is young, don't deliver an image a 50 year old will relate to.

7) Are there any budget constraints?

If they are a start-up, it might be wise to design to a one or two colour palette. A logo with four colours, metallics and specialty colours may blow their socks off in the board room, but it will blow their tops off when they see the numbers to launch on printed materials. You have got to be practical.

8) Does the brand logo accurately reflect the brand personality of the company?

If the company is made up of young visionaries and all their staff are known within their industry as the brightest minds, the logo should reflect this.

9) Does the logo adhere to the company's brand values?

For the same reasons as the personality. Certain design styles can contradict a company's brand values. Since the values are the foundation of any company's brand, it vitally important to reflect those values in the design.

10) Does the log excite the customer?

Let's face it the company has to marry the design of their logo. The can't simply like it - they must love it. It must excite them, it should motivate them and make them proud.

These 10 items are part of what it takes to develop effective brand logos. Over the years, you work with countless situations that hone your design and sales skills. Essentially I see myself and the customer as a team. We are looking to develop a solution that sells. I do not look at designing logos as art. It is selling visually, pure and simple. When the intended audience views one of my logos, I hope that they correctly visualize the company it represents. When this happens it is a compliment to it's brand and to myself, which I take very seriously.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Compliance Branding

For a lot of companies who ship cross-border, handle dangerous commodities, or have a manufacturing facility to name a few must adhere to certain compliance regulations. These compliance issues assures your customer that they are not exposed when they do business with you. As we all know, your brand is essentially your reputation, a considerable amount of damage can be incurred if your company is found to be deficient in any circumstances that require compliance to proceed.

In discussions with Peter Berry, a Risk Mangement Expert, Peter tells me that you'd be surprized how many companies flirt with compliance. Many would simply like to wish it away. It takes a great deal of due-diligence to be sure that your company is compliant. A great benefit of compliance, is the brand story. As much as it takes a concerted effort and financial commitment to be certified compliant, you can use this good business practice to your benefit.

Orchestrate some decisive public relations and inform your customers and trade media of your company's pro-active approach to doing business. One company with whom I have been assisting with brand issues for a number of years - Joycor, actually went one step further and anticipated a future compliance issue and became the first in their industry to become C-TPAT certified. This has to do with exporting to the U.S.A. - making sure that the plant of origin is secure from manufacture to the loading of the truck. Joycor took this message public and secured some media attention for their efforts. This , as you can imagine boosted their brand even further as a leader not a follower.

If you are not used to bragging about your company and how it cares about how it does business, (even if it must through regulation), there is something to be said about how effective it can be to increasing business for you. A footnote on Joycor, was because of C-TPAT they secured new business, solely on the fact that they were compliant with this up and coming regulation and a few companies liked the fact they they too could now brag that they were security minded in "everything" that they do. Everybody's brand image takes a boost due to your efforts.

Every where that there is positive stories there are brand boosting opportunities. Find them and exploit them to your benefit.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

How email can cost you business!

At the risk of sounding like a Ludite, I believe that technology can be a hinderance to effective business practices. I believe being in your customer's face is more important than responsive email. The web while a massive benefit to customer relations is also a service spoiler. If a customer calls with a concern or a new piece of business, we immediately respond in email. Many sales people even take the order or resolve the problem with email. I suggested that you re-think your conventional wisdom and consider "personal service"

There is nothing better in my opinion than getting face time with a customer or potential customer to help build a strong relationship with that person. When I get a call, my first question is: "I think we should get together and discuss this further, when are you available?" When I have something to present, I could sent PDF's, but I'd prefer to show it initially in person. Face to face feedback is so much more productive and effective in selling the idea.

One thing a technology contact does is make you nothing more than a name to the person you're selling to. If they have no personal relationship with you, then you are essentially a number. You are vulnerable BIG TIME. With no personal relationship you are very easy to replace. Someone else who puts their bum in front of your customer will win. A face to a name connected to a personality benefitting from a relationship is such a huge advantage for increasing sales. Just consider how it is benefiting your personal brand!

I can't tell you how many times a customer has told me it isn't necessary to visit only to enjoy the meeting and send me away with more work. Email has no emotions. Never try sarcasm in email, but face to face it has it's place. The next time you are tempted to say, "I'll email you a quote by tomorrow morning - stop yourself - and set up a meeting instead. You won't regret it. Your customer will reward you also. We all like to be treated well. They recognize that time is valuable, so your willingness to give them some of it will come back at you in positive ways.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Pain Points Determine Your Need for Help.

I came across a great list of branding pain points that may assist you indetermining when to call in a branding professional. This excellent list was assembled by Derrick Daye from "Branding Strategy Insider". Derrick is a fine associate of mine who has terrific insights on branding, especially place branding.

If any of Derricks points are something that keeps you awake at night, it could be the reason you need to call in assistance.
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