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The 5 Small Business Marketing Pillars

Enjoy this guest post from Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Patrick Giammarco

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photo credit: Sam Beebe, Ecotrust via photopin cc

It’s no secret. These are challenging times for small businesses. We’re all searching for the answer to the question: “What can we do to win our share of business and escape the struggle?”

This time around branding seems to be the latest marketing trend small businesses are looking to for relief and to help ease their pain.

For small businesses, branding can be a savvy marketing initiative, but only if several important questions are answered first.

Questions like:

  • What are your company’s business goals or “end-game”?
  • What is your point of differentiation and core message?
  • Who is your Ideal Client?
  • What is your current position in the marketplace?

Branding is something you do after you’ve figured out what it is you’re trying to brand and should be fourth among five linked small business marketing pillars: strategy, differentiation, positioning, branding and marketing communications.

  1. Strategy - This is where branding should begin. All the goals of the branding program should align as closely as possible to the overall business strategy. This is also where critical marketplace questions need to be answered. Questions like: What business are we in? What service(s) do we provide? Do we provide significant benefits to our clients? What is our end-game or strategic goals?
  2. Differentiation – I talk a lot about differentiation because I believe that a clear differentiation strategy is the foundation of real competitive advantage. Prior to developing a branding strategy, small businesses must understand the ways in which they are uniquely valuable to their customers.
  3. Positioning – Don’t confuse positioning with branding and differentiation. Positioning is a separate principle that relates to a firm’s placement on a client’s mental map. Before creating a branding program, a firm should know what “spot” it holds in the marketplace today and whether or not their strategic objectives anticipate their customer’s future perspectives.
  4. Branding – I’ve said it before… branding is more about fulfilling an intangible emotional promise than about a logo or color scheme. Everything a firm does and says will be conformed to build a customer’s expectation.
  5. Marketing Communications – Perhaps the most familiar pillar. Many small businesses haven’t fully aligned resources to effectively communicate branding promises through carefully crafted messages and images. Consider carefully the words and visuals that will most effectively communicate the strategies identified above.

Small Business Marketing Takeaway:
Branding is crucial to the success of small businesses, but be careful not to let branding initiatives drive strategy. The reason some small business branding efforts fail is because firms don’t first understand where branding fits along the continuum of other marketing initiatives. You don’t need millions of dollars to address the five marketing pillars above. Many small businesses are able to do the most relevant strategic work first and develop sophisticated branding strategies on a modest budget.

21.thumbnailAbout Patrick Giammarco: I’m a marketing consultant and digital technology and Social Media coach. I am also the owner of PWG Marketing. As northwest Ohio’s only Certified Duct Tape Marketing Consultant, I bring focus, control, clarity and confidence to small business marketing by installing the Duct Tape Marketing System. Visit www.pwgmarketing.com or email me at patrick [at] pwgmarketing [dot] com to schedule your complimentary Signature Brand Audit.

The Brand Personality Test

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is from Bob Bare – Enjoy!

Does Your Brand Pass The Personality Test?

Consumers often seek out brands they like, know, and most importantly, trust.  A brand’s functionality is crucial, but the emotional benefit attached is equally important.  Marketers help cultivate this consumer-brand relationship by aligning their brand’s identity with what consumers aspire to be.  This job is not always easy and must be nurtured over time.

What is brand identity and how do you create one?

The best way to distinguish your brand’s identity is to fully understand what the term really means.  Your brand is what your company stands for and what it is known for.  Think of it as a lifestyle, embodying the characteristics of a particular person, group or culture.  Luxury-based brands such as Louis Vuitton and Chanel are often associated with a lavish lifestyle, so consumers who purchase these high-end products might like to feel sophisticated or elite, whereas a brand like Campbell’s is often associated with family and comfort.

Creating a solid personality for your brand is something that takes a lot of consideration, time, and commitment.  Marketing experts use a number of tools, tricks, and techniques to define a brand, but it is not always easy to keep the consumer-brand love affair alive.  They can expect that today’s price conscious consumer will shift between brands to find the best deal of the day.

So as a marketer, how do you keep the flame alive and stop consumers from finding someone new? It’s simple.  Offer them just what they want, when they want it, in a manner that appeals to them, and you can be sure that they will stay.

Brands with Benefits:

Start by defining your brand’s strengths and unique benefits.  Is your brand fast-paced and energetic? Stylish or practical? Casual or professional? Marketers sometimes use the car analogy to get the descriptive words flowing. If your brand were a car, would it be a minivan or Maserati?

Keep them coming back:

Next, determine what makes consumers return to your brand versus going somewhere else. What added value do you offer, or could you offer, that would attract new customers and keep the current ones interested?  It is crucial to stand behind your brand and deliver on what you promise.

Experience is Everything:

Also remember that your brand is the experience customers take away when doing business with your company.  Was their experience easy and gratifying?  Did they feel well educated with their purchase?  Was the checkout process safe and secure? 

Make Messaging Memorable:

“Just do it” is a slogan that resonates with consumers beyond the sports enthusiast. Memorable messaging will help you create a feeling just as Nike did with this powerful message.  Equally important is an impactful logo and great graphics.  Remember a picture is worth a thousand words.

Consistency is Key:

Once you determine the look and feel of your brand, keep it consistent across all channels.  Every detail matters, from your packaging and website to your press material and social media initiatives.   Remember that continuity is key and repeating those elements throughout your entire marketing campaign will help garner a greater impact with your audience.

Repetition is a Must:

Experts talk about “The Rule of Seven,” the number of times a prospect needs to see or hear your message before they take action.  It’s time to put your message out there and take the noise level up a notch.  Remember that you need to shout it loud and clear for potential consumers to take an interest, remember who you are, and buy your brand!

It’s time to take the personality test: 

  1. Do you have a powerful and unique reason why your potential clients should invest with you instead of one of your top three competitors?
  2. Can you articulate your brand clearly and concisely without hesitation when asked?
  3. Can your employees and/or friends correctly describe to you what your branding strategy is?
  4. Does the message your brand expresses inspire loyalty and trust among your current customers?
  5. Does the message your brand expresses attract and comfort new clients?

If you answered yes to these 5 questions, your brand has passed the personality test!

Image Credit: Flickr Creative Commons aditza121

About Bob Bare

Bob Bare is an author, speaker and founder of More Power University, an online business school and community for entrepreneurs looking to start, build, and grow their companies to the elusive seven figure sales mark.  A 40-year serial entrepreneur, Bob is known for his ability to create, grow, and turn around a successful multi-million dollar business while keeping his vision and values in sight.

Purpose as Brand

There was a time when I mentioned the word brand to small business and they would shrug their shoulders at the idea. We don’t have a brand, that’s big company we stuff. We have a business and we busy ourselves trying to build some name recognition, sure, but we don’t really worry much about branding.

small business culture

Image Infusionsoft via flickr

I suppose with the advent of social media small businesses have come to realize they do indeed have a brand – it’s not that anything has really changed – it’s that it has become much easier to hear it. The days when the collective perception around a brand was kept to the neighborly chat across the fence have given way to mentions that can be tracked, filtered, scored and aggregated to create a very vivid picture of the existence of a brand. Even the smallest of companies can now turn to Twitter, for instance, and turn up mentions and conversations about their brand from prospects, customers, competitors and journalists alike, all in real time.

This fact, combined with our market’s ability to freely publish and distribute content, comments, ratings and reviews, both good and bad, about any product or service they like, has given new life, meaning and importance to this word brand for businesses both large and small.

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Stop Trying To Be Better Than the Competition

stand outAnd start figuring out how you can be different than your competition.

So many business owners or would be start-ups sit around this time of year trying to figure out how they can be better than the competition – better product, better service, better features, and, the real killer, better price. Heck, some even strive to be “best” in class. What they should be doing is figuring out how they can simply be different than the competition.

I’m not against lofty goals – the problem is creating a better product or service is hard. Prospects often won’t take the time to understand the subtle differences that make your product or service better and you might spend all your time and energy trying to educate them on better when all they want to know is the price. If you’ve even wondered why prospects are choosing your competitors over your obviously superior offering, you may have just a hint of appreciation for what I’m saying here.

Better than the competition is the enemy of different than the competition, and different is where the money is! Instead of trying to be better or exactly like, build a strategy around a simple way that your company is different from the pack. Again, this is sometimes a place where companies will say, “well, we are different we have a better product, or we offer better service.” Really, and do your competitors all suggest they offer crappy service?

We can debate the countless intricate ways that companies can use to create a strategy of difference, but it all pretty much boils down to:
1) Better product
2) Better process
3) Better relationships

In my opinion focusing all of your strategic thinking, goal setting and actions on building a better process or better relationships is the surest and maybe simplest way to create a true competitive advantage that someone might care about. Would you rather lean on your 5% better product or price or on something so totally outrageous and innovative that people can’t stop talking about it?

Creating your own special way to treat customers, creating an experience that’s unique, or creating a totally new and frictionless way for people to get a result is how you stand out from the pack, it’s how you create a difference that can’t be easily copied, and it’s how innovation comes to small business.

Instead of spending your precious R&D time on product features, spend it on creating branded intellectual property, a distinct way of marketing, or on developing people and culture inside your organization that enables you to be seen as different.

I’ll leave you with two powerful questions to pose to your organization to help you get started.
1) What are we doing that our competitors are not?
2) What are we doing just like our competitors that we could change for good?

Image credit: Laenulfean

34 Online Reputation Management Tools

Radically TransparentAndy Beal, co-author of Radically Transparent, stopped by the Duct Tape Marketing podcast to talk about monitoring and managing your online reputation.

People, products and companies today all have two brands – online and off. The problem with this is that the online brand may or may not sync with their offline marketing messages.

User generated media, blogs and discussion forums have changed the flow of information about your company forever.

A new emphasis on reputation management, even for the tiniest of companies, is essential.

Manage Your Identity

claimID.com – Works along with openID to verify your identity on multiple websites.

FindMeOn.com – Link all of your networks together and verify your identity so people know it’s your profile.

FreeYourID.com – Uses .name address to sign you up for sites.

Garlik.com – Searches the web looking for mentions of you that might involve identity theft.

MyOpenID.com – Use one username to verify your log in on sites that use OpenID – great for sites where you might otherwise have multiple log ins.

Spyshakers.com – Identity Management System that allows users to access their websites and passwords remotley.

TypeKey.com – Another provider of the OpenID standard.

WordPress.com – Sign up for a free account and use as OpenID

Manage Your Reputation

Naymz.com – Sign-up and invite your invite people to write reviews about you and your work.

Rapleaf.com – Look up your reputation, rate others, and they will be invited to rate you in return.

RepVine – Reference and reputation management combined.

ReputationDefender.com – A service that attempts to help you get things being said online about you removed

TrustPl.us – An online reputation service that ranks based on trust scores.

List of message board tracking services: BoardReader.com, ForumFind.com, Big-Boards.com, BoardTracker.com, iVillage, Yahoo Message Boards, MSN Money

Places to find groups to track: Yahoo Groups, AOL Groups, MSN Groups, Google Groups.

Monitor This allows you to monitor and track keywords over multiple search engines.

Keotag.com A service that allow you to search for tagged blog posts across multiple blog search engines.

Manage Your Online Profiles

Comwat.com – Put your online identities in one place to make it easier to show and find profiles

onXiam.com – This site lets you link all your online identities into one account making it easier for people to find you across the Internet.

OtherEgo.com – Another way to display you online profiles.

ProfileBuilder.com – Very function heavy profile builder that shows off the parts of your profiles you select.

ProfileMat.com – Pull all you profiles together and allow commenting on your profile mat page.

SimplifID.com – One ID for all your online profiles

SocialURL.com – Simple URL to show all your profiles

Venyo.org – Lets you add all of your online activities, including blogs and comments to one page.

Zoolit.com – A landing page to show all your social networks