Saturday, February 27, 2010

Why A Budget Brand Comes At Too High A Price!

At a recent event I had numerous exchanges with owners of businesses not unlike many networking opportunities. Of the dozen and a half business cards that I took back to the office with me I would have to say only three were professionally done. The rest were obvious design-it-yourself models or the very least done by "think they're graphic designers models."

In the pursuit of saving money, these business owners are putting professionalism on the sacrificial altar. Oddly enough, there appears to be no scrimping on office furniture, equipment or accommodation. These short-sighted entrepreneurs have to yet to recognize that a professional brand image sets a powerful impression in the minds of their target audience. You might accuse me of being self-serving in this observation, if you can also dismiss that most major players in any industry have impeccable brand images. Your logo is the first exposure to your brand. Let's just say it is the face of your brand. If it is miserably uninspiring it becomes one more hurdle to being taken seriously.

In this economy, competition is fierce (no news here). Smart companies are saving money to become flatter. Is scrimping on your brand image really the smart thing to do? I argue no. I take my brand image very seriously. My promotional materials are top drawer. Once I walk away from a networking opportunity, it is my brand that must carry me forward. When the individuals leave my presence and visit my website and blog, it is my brand image and support materials that they will use to draw further positive conclusions as to whether or not they want to start learning more about me.

People want to trust you and believe that you can help them. The last thing you or I want, is any impression that I may not be the person I present myself as. You have but one opportunity to make a powerful impression, at that point it is too late to regret putting a cheap price on who you are.

How much are you worth?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Reality of Brand Building

One thing I always tell people interested in pursuing brand building (versus simply marketing or selling their product) is that it takes time and money.

If you don't have time, you better have a lot of money; and, if you don't have money you better be persistent and give it time to succeed.

Guest post by: Edward Burghard
Retired Harley Procter Marketer, Procter & Gamble
Executive Director, Ohio Business Development Coalition

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

7 Reasons Why Sales People Love Uniquely Positioned Brands

Sales people are on the front line of any business. They get the crap when things go south, and they get praise when all is well. They are typically at odds with the marketing department, because they are not part of the loop. Campaigns are usually on the street long before they are briefed as to their intent. Branding done right means your brand can be a leader through unique positioning.

Sales people resonate with uniquely positioned brands because:

1. Sales people can sell from the high ground. They love to look down on the competition.
2. Differentiation that is genuine, is a powerfully honest story sales people can embrace.
3. Sales peoples' attitudes are invigorated by uniquely positioned brands.
4. Make the brand positioning a winning team effort when sales people are part of the solution.
5. Sales people have buy-in when the brand positioning reflects a reality.
6. Sales people enjoy the confidence a uniquely positioned brand delivers.
7. Sales people can make more money with a uniquely positioned brand because the value often extends to higher pricing equalling more commissions.

When sales people are included in the solution, the ROI with a uniquely positioned brand is swift and enlightening.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Brand Perception versus Brand Reality

Is your brand in tune with the reality that is the minds of your customers? If you're finding that customers have the wrong impression of your company then this is something that you are going to want to address. The problem with bad impressions is that perception is reality in branding. The fastest way to find out what a customer's perception is, is to ask them. Survey your stakeholders and determine what the popular perception is of what your company does.

Walk up to the first person you see at your company tomorrow morning and ask- "What is it we do here at ***?" Their answer will give you a basic read on your brand's perception. Is it reality or at least the reality you would prefer? If not, you have to start taking steps to generate experiences that guide your brand towards a more favorable perception. In this development it is key, to be sure that the experience is genuine and has authenticity. All great brands are build on this solid foundation.

You'd hate to miss an opportunity because of a poor perception of your competencies. Getting the story straight is one of the key stepping stones to landing new business.

Monday, February 22, 2010

How to Brand Yourself.

I'm asked this question from time to time. Of course my first reaction is that you already have a brand. You're not aware because you you are not paying close attention to yourself. You're like most small businesses and looking outward. You're looking for opportunities, and you're correct in doing so.

I would guess that if you're reading this post, branding yourself is something that's concerned you lately. Are you purposely building your personal brand, or are you letting it grow itself? Myself, I actively exercise my personal brand every day. I blog extensively, both on my blog, blogs I write for and numerous other places where I leave comments. I look for speaking and networking opportunities to get my brand out there. I contact other bloggers and authors I admire and get interviews from them with their take on branding (ie: the Laura Ries interview a few posts back).

One thing that is important to me is that I practice what I preach. I can't tell you how many businesses I see in my field that tell you to do something, they themselves aren't doing to get new business. It's like bad parenting. This affects their brand - but they seem blind to it. The point is your brand has to be genuine. As my slogan says, "Lead don't follow."

Do what you can to put yourself out there. Give back in your community, mentor young minds and generally help and give advice. Your brand will shine and be rewarded.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Arm Yourself With My 25 Item Brand Arsenal!

1. Business card
Your business card is your personal billboard. Use both sides and make it as professional as possible. This is your image, don't cheap out.

2. Business stationary
Hardcopy: envelopes, letterhead, checks, proposals
Digital: invoices, statements, proposals
Make sure each item has a consistent image with your business cards

3. Signage
If you have a bricks and mortar location your sign must match your business cards and stationary

4. Brochure
Professional full color paper presentation. Include pictures of people and express to your target audience what's in it for them. Touch on their pain points.

5. Postcards
These are great leave behinds. You can focus on individual pain points.

6. Presentation folders
Some businesses need these to submit RFPs and quotes. Make sure they match other materials.

7. Banner stand and/or trade show booth
For use in trade/consumer show, speaking engagements, networking etc.

8. Back banners
These are handy for charity events and small events

9. Digital presentations (PowerPoint)
For speaking opportunities where you can spread your message of the day. Be sure your brand image is on every slide

10. Resource website
A website that has information users can take advantage of. Not simply a brochure site. Have an email harvester on the home page

11. Blogs
Have your own blog speaking to your audience and also write for larger more established blogs

12. Digital email giveaways (ebooks, videos, white papers, podcasts etc.)
For use with the email harvester to build your opt-in email audience

13. Digital picture of yourself in various resolutions
You will need this to send to various media people for articles about you, for use on profile pages etc.

14. Canned digital ads
To submit to charity events, website banners and general marketing efforts

15. Canned bio
For publicity requests and linking back to you. Keep it up to date with current bragging points

16. Digital versions of logo in various resolutions
For linking, charity events, profile pages etc.

17. Belong to various social and networking media
Using vehicles like Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and others, you can constantly develop relationships with individuals

18. email marketing service
Keep your message in front of your audience on a regular basis

19. PayPal pay area on your website
Make it easy to get paid, removes some of the risk.

20. Join networking groups on and offline
Look for ways to connect with professionals in your target audience and build resources and co-op opportunities

21. Volunteer (give-back)
This is where you can give back to your communities. Great for personal branding

22. email signature
This is the bottom of your emails, be sure all your contact info is there as well as your slogan or positioning statement (like an ad in every email)

23. professional email address
Don't use anonymous email addresses like as this doesn't look like your a serious brand. Every connection on a professional level exposes your brand

24. Logoed swag
Good giveaway stuff for grab bags, keeping your brand out front, reminders

25. Logoed apparel
If appropriate, it can position you in environments where you are positioned as a product or the culture admires it

The number one rule of everything mentioned here is absolute and utter consistency to a fault. It will not only strengthen your brand image, but build trust and respect for you. You will absolutely recognize the power of a consistent brand image regularly. People WILL notice and tell you so!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Brand Positioning

This video is the visual presentation I use when I speak to groups on positioning a brand. The goal of positioning is to have your brand focus on what separates you from the competition. Based on differentiation, what can you embrace that makes your brand a "leader" not a follower? Even though I don't have a voice over explaining the finer points, I still feel this video may have some value in the direction it points you in.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Change … Are You Ready?

In today’s world, people everywhere are being held accountable – accountable to shareholders, bosses, other employees and most importantly .. to themselves. But we must remember one major thing ….. we are living an Age of Instability. The question is … how do we survive?

The winds of change keep blowing. They blow harder and hit more people resulting in the reshaping of organizations and altering how they operate. Business, government, educational institutions, not-for-profit organizations, the military – you name it. Change is as far reaching as it is rapid, cutting across all sectors of the economy. All classes of society. All continents. All cultures.

Just look at what’s been happening:
· Over 3 million layoffs have occurred in the last 5 years
· More than 45% of American companies have reduced their workforces every year since 1990
· 85% of all US organizations now outsource services once performed in-house
· Merger and acquisition activity has been rising steadily over the past several years and is currently at its all time high
· Business failures in the 1990’s have topped in excess of 400,000 more than doubling those of the previous decade

Some organizations will ride the winds of change, seizing the opportunity to go far … very fast … and sail past the competition. Others that are unprepared for the wind’s force, and that mistakenly think their safety comes in bracing themselves against it, will find their rigidity a fatal stance. They will be shattered. Devastated.

Your organization will be challenged still further by sharp economic swings, new competitive pressures, globalization of the marketplace, and continued reshaping of business and government worldwide. Expect many things – some good some bad.

Strong winds. Big changes. Organizations that refuse to change, or change too slowly, will have even bigger problems. They won’t survive in the Age of Instability.

Our research has found that some people within organizations cling desperately to the past – hanging on to what’s familiar, snuggling ever deeply into their comfortable routines to avoid the chilling thought they might have to change.

Others defend the old way of doing things to maintain personal stability or feel more in control. They battle against change out of fear of the future. A third group resist change as a way of getting even. They play “punish the organization” in retaliation for changes they don’t like.

Whether you know it or not, organizations are obligated to provide their employees with the best available training tools and techniques to adapt more favourably to the winds of change

Guest Blogger: Rick Nicholls from Nicholls Training Group blog
Rick is a Professional Speaker, Corporate Trainer and Coach
Contact Rick at (519) 351-9503

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Real Meaning of "Re-Brand."

The brand you have today, is the brand you had yesterday and it will be the brand you have tomorrow unless you change the promise you made to your customers. What the re-branders should be saying is they are updating their brand presentation. You would change your brand presentation to update your look to reflect current culture and changing direction your company is currently experiencing.

Great examples of companies who have changed their brand's presentation are:

Apple changed their name from Apple Computer to simply Apple to reflect the different areas they now dominate like smart phone, digital music etc. The logo was simplified to reflect this change.

Kentucky Fried Chicken updated it's name to an acronym (KFC) reflecting a young attitude. It's graphics are also bolder, more dynamic.

Pepsi altered their center white ribbon to one that "pulls" to the right representing future movement.

All of these three examples changed their image to reflect a current position. They did not change the essence of their brands. Re-branding would mean starting from scratch and throwing away what-ever reputation you have earned to date. You'd be wiser to shut the doors and come back as an entirely new company.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Joe IS The Company!

What if you were to die tonight? Would you company cease to exist tomorrow? If so, then it's obvious that all of the client relationships with key clients rests with you. This exclusive dependance on YOU can have a devastating impact on your brand. Since YOU are the brand - it all rides on your staying around forever.

All of your stakeholders rely on you and your exclusive relationships. As much as it gets you the billings you need to grow the brand, it is a ticking time-bomb. Maybe your long-term plan is to sell the company at some point and bow out. But what you may not have predicted is the fact that since clients rely on YOU, can you be so sure that they will accept being "sold" to another party. Chances are greater that they will walk. I have a colleague who had exactly this happen to them. It immediately killed their succession plans. It was a rude awakening. When they did sell, it was for "substantially" less, because the book of business was not assured.

All of your employees, suppliers and dependents will suffer needlessly unless you act now to bring on a lieutenant and instill the values and work ethics than each client has grown to love in you. Your brand needs another YOU to succeed long after you've departed.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Laura Ries Comments On Brand and Blogging.

Recently I have had the pleasure of interviewing marketing guru, best-selling author and mass-media commentator, Laura Ries. Laura shares her perspective with us here at Brand Corral.

Ed Roach: Laura, what impact on their customers do you think a company's CEO would have if they blogged and allowed comments?
Laura Ries: It depends on the CEO, the company and the category. What might work for some will not work for others. There is no rule that works for everybody. The CEO of Amazon or Zappos is quite different from the CEO of Procter & Gamble or General Mills. CEO blogs work best for a brand with a narrow focus, in a fast moving category with enthusiastic customers. The CEO also needs to be well-known or willing to become so.
Ed Roach: Professionals who wish to establish their expert profile are often frustrated by the fact that blogging doesn't harvest immediate results. Do you have any words of encouragement that if they embrace blogging it will deliver?
Laura Ries: Almost nothing gets immediate results. And compared to writing a book, a blog feels pretty immediate to me. What works best for a blog, a marketing strategy or almost anything is life is consistence and patience. Both of those are hard to come by in corporations.
Ed Roach: Does consistency in the tone of a company's brand message have any relevancy in their corporate blogging efforts? By tone I am referring to the way a company speaks to its stake holders in their on-going marketing vehicles. Apple's tone for instance is creativity, youthful and a difference.
Laura Ries: You said it. Consistency is key. But in order to be consistent a company must first decide what to focus on. What do they want to stand for? For BMW its driving. Volvo its safety. For category leaders they stand for the category. Google stands for search. eBay stands for internet auctions.
The real problem isn’t consistency. The real problem is that too many companies don’t even know what their brand stands for. Most companies hate to focus for example. They want to sell a wide variety of products and/or services with high quality and good prices to everybody.
Ed Roach: Should a corporate blog be consistent with the brand image or stand alone and look completely different?
Laura Ries: Again, it depends on the company and the CEO. But in general there should be a consistent look between the brand and the blog.
Ed Roach: In your opinion Laura, what is more powerful for the brand - one dedicated author of posts or numerous authors? Same goes for addressing comments.
Laura Ries: It is definitely more powerful to have one dedicated author which assures one dedicated voice. The same holds true for addressing comments. If possible one person should handle it.

Thank you Laura.

If you'd like to learn more about Laura Ries visit her blog or pick up her new book, "War In The Boardroom."

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Small Potatoes a Big Deal!

Is it just me, or do a lot of small business people have an email address that does nothing for their personal or corporate brand because it doesn’t identify them. For instance, does nothing for my brand other than to say that I am not professional. Many who use email addresses like this, do so (so they say) for privacy.

I ask you - “What are you afraid of?” Is it fear of being taken seriously? Do you really want to look as though, this business thing of your may not last, so why identify yourself correctly? It can’t be a cost saving measure as email accounts are pretty cheap.

The only rational I can think of for having an email address that is generic is for personal use web browsing. But honestly,
I think you should take every opportunity to push your personal and corporate brand. When ever I see this kind of email address, I immediately question my relationship with this person no matter how small.

What else is the small business owner short-changing themselves on? I was at a business expo a few weeks ago and remarked to an exhibitor that their display had the logo in three separate configurations. The booth back panel had the logo widely kerned (extra spaces between the letters), one on the T-shirts that they were wearing and another completely different looking image on their Power Point presentation. The only explanation given, was that they used three separate suppliers. This firm should have brand image regulations in place to be sure that their brand logo is consistent in every instance.

A pet peeve of mine, is as a viewer of the hit Canadian television show “The Dragon’s Den” and it’s sister show in the States “Shark Tank” - many of the inventers go in front of the camera with no website proudly emblazoned across their chests. Even if they have no hope in hell of getting any of the venture capitalists to invest in them they at the very least get to advertise their brands to a national audience for free. It just irritates me how many miss this simple opportunity.

When you do any Power Point presentations, do you put your logo on every page? You should. Don’t let them forget who is speaking to them.

I believe the little things can sometimes give you the best exposure. One business person asked if I was satisfied that 100% of my html emails are not opened? (my open rate is typically from 13 - 20%) I remarked that I was satisfied if they see my name in the subject line. That gives exposure to my name. That is why my subject line is set up that way. I’m not naive enough to think that
everyone will open my email. But everyone will at least see my name right away - that I can depend on.

Small potatoes? Perhaps, but a big deal in my eyes. Don’t let any opportunity to deliver yourself pass you by - no matter how small.

A Penny For Their Business!

Everyday at tills around the country, there lies a great opportunity to boost your brand in the eyes of your customer that frankly comes a very low expense to you the retailer. With almost every transaction tally is rarely a round number. many times that number is just a few cents over the dollar amount, such as $10.06. If you want that customer to leave your store talking
you up, tell them that the 6¢ is on you.

That small gesture will be huge in their eyes. Instead of getting back a dreaded hand full of change, you’ve just made their day. Brand building doesn’t have to cost a lot to make a great impression. It only takes a willingness to discover ways to honor those who make it possible for you to earn a living. It will even make Lincoln smile!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Watch ALL the Superbowl Ads In One Place!

Advertising Age has assembled ALL of yesterday's Super Bowl XLIV ads in one resource on their website for your viewing pleasure. I didn't realize there were so many of them. ENJOY!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Their Mad, They've said So & They love You!

Customer complaints! We've all been there - we're in a restaurant or store and we have a complaint about something. What do you do about it? A good many people just suck it up and leave. Others say something. Which customer do you prefer? Does your business make customers jump through several hoops to voice a complaint. Do they have to fill out a long form? Do you make them call a 1-800 number or go to a special webpage?

Recent research found something interesting about how people complain and their impact on doing business with you. It found that people who said nothing were typically not self-confident. If it was a restaurant situation, they felt uncomfortable about making the friends at their table uncomfortable as well. They sucked it up and left. The down side was the majority of this group never come back.

On the other hand, folks who had no problem voicing their dissatisfaction continued to do business with the guilty party. They saw the act of complaining as therapeutic.

These results prove that you should go out of your way to make it as easy as possible to accommodate customer complaints. How you handle the situation makes them into your best customers, and this builds a strong brand in their eyes.
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