Branding Your Business

The history of branding for small businesses goes way back, all the way to painted signs in the late 1880’s – creating a differentiator between small businesses who wanted to ‘stand out’, and to display how you want your business to make people think or feel about your business.  There is a deep psychological connection to brands, and it is not by accident.  Some of the greatest brands have used academic studies, information gathering, and extensive surveying to come up with a brand that works for their company.  By processing all this information before you launch your brand, your chances of success can be boosted before you even open your doors on the first day.

For small businesses, it’s important to have a good picture of the perfect customer – and to keep driving your brand towards pleasing that customer.  If you want to grow your business, try to build out your brand identity using your logo, brand message, business cards, vehicle graphics, uniform, and other promotional ‘swag’.  These items help imprint the image of your business into the minds of potential customers – allowing your company to jump forward at the moment when a customer needs your services or product.  If your door squeaks – you think of WD-40.  If you have a small cut, you think of Band-Aid.  If you are thirsty, you think of…  well, it could be Pepsi or it might be Coke. Both soda makers are spending millions of dollars every year to compete against one another, and both understand the value of their brand in the global marketplace.

Another featured the competition between Nike & Adidas in the basketball shoe industry, where they both slipped a bit – didn’t establish their stranglehold, and along comes Under Armour – which, only several years in – has become a well-known brand, with an extremely high recognition rate.  Under Armour could reach the highest peaks, to ‘come play with the big dogs’ – but it was not by luck alone.  They saw an opportunity, and leaped.  That opportunity, was that the basketball shoe industry was heading into a very brash, flashy, nearly obnoxious territory with shoe designs, and Under Armour wanted to create shoes that were more conservative.  The professional brand was inclined to believe that they could release very plain, sharp designs – without focusing on being too bold with colors, patterns, and textures for the materials.  This choice paid off, as the consumer market was more willing to buy shoes that could be worn without gathering too much attention, but still had all the new design and comfortable features as the designs released by Nike & Adidas.  Again, Under Armour saw an advantage, studied the data – and made that leap to leverage the data against the bigger companies.

The lesson to be learned here, is that sometimes more established companies are too busy trying to continue their current rate of profits to stop and think about where they are losing money.  Your job, is to capitalize on them losing money and turn it into your brand advantage.  Find a company like Starbucks – who has a global brand, unbelievable market share – and think about how they could be doing things better.  How is their brand struggling? Is there a thing that Starbucks does that could be different – but it seems like they “don’t care” because of their size?  I can name one right off the top of my head.  Starbucks is a retail COFFEE establishment, but they sell frothier, iced, frappe, latte, etc., drinks than when they first started the business.  I’m a bit of a coffee-nut, so when I say that their black coffee tastes bad – I’m not saying it to offend Starbucks, as their focus is on ways to continue their current rate of profits.  That is their BRAND.  Inventing new drinks that are based loosely around coffee to turn a profit.  When a new drink hits Starbucks, it goes viral on the internet – with people writing blog posts, snapping selfies with the drink – and conversation happening about the drink at workplaces across the country.  These are key elements to a very successful brand.  So – back to the leveraging point…  If you were to start a small coffee shop right next to Starbucks, with better coffee (better beans, better processing, better brew altogether) – I’m not saying that you’d take down Starbucks, but you’d be able to make a sizable profit.  Think of Peet’s Coffee – which has risen over the last couple years.  They do sell a couple specialty drinks, but their focus is on creating the best cup of coffee you can buy.  They source their own beans, they brew it in the store – and take their time to ensure you have a great cup…  every time.  Their brand is focused right alongside Starbucks – and many times you’ll see that the Peet’s is gathering more of the business professionals who don’t want to wait in line with teenagers trying to buy the Unicorn Frappe.  It will be very interesting to see how this whole situation turns out – as Starbucks originally grew their brand out of the business heavy streets of Seattle, creating the ‘best cup of coffee in the Pacific Northwest” – but has turned their focus, while Peet’s is sneaking up to leverage themselves into the place where Starbucks was around 10 years ago.

As you can see – brand strategy isn’t just about your logo or letterhead, there is a lot of background noise that you must contend with, and quite a bit of data/information that you need to gather to help yourself create a brand for your company.

The individual methods of ‘branding’ your business is broken down here – but by no means is this a complete list.  For more information on new methods to promote your brand identity, follow me online using one of the social networking links on this website – or contact me using the information on the “Contact” page.  Thank you for reading, and stay tuned for more posts in the near future!

Small Business Management Consulting – Elkton, Maryland

According to a book I read a while back (The Brand Gap – by Marty Neumeier), nearly 60% of Coca-Cola’s valuation is based solely on brand recognition.

This is a great example of a company that has been around for many decades, but we have to be honest with ourselves – our small business brands account for less than 1% of our valuation. If you were to sell your company, and it was re-branded with a new logo, website, online presence, social networking accounts, etc. – how long would it take a ‘brand-new’ company to reach your levels?

I’ve spent the last ten years trying to get companies to expand their brand – but I’m fighting an uphill battle. I haven’t paid enough attention to the other 99%, which accounts for 100% of your focus.

As of today, I am working on a plan for small business management consulting – which will expand our services to aid/assist in your every day tasks, tracking, project management, and many more individual support services. Having trouble keeping your projects on schedule? We have an answer for daily operations scheduling. Need a task board to quickly add to-do’s? There’s a bit of software that will work perfect for your needs.

Because… truthfully?

None of us are worrying about the 1%, if the 99% isn’t working.

Published Author… A Review

Recently, I took it upon myself to gather all my digital marketing tips and advice and get them in book format.  Although this wasn’t an easy task, I chose to get it done – for myself mostly, but I had a little idea to actually get it published – so that people who need the advice could purchase the book for a reasonable cost, and i’d make enough money to get some equipment for my next step – which is either doing some short YouTube videos, or doing some audio clips that would be short enough to ‘absorb’ on the drive to work for most people.

The book is titled “Small Businesses NEED Digital Marketing” – and describes all the tips and tricks that i’ve gathered while helping small businesses get moving online.  I attempt to cover a wide variety of digital marketing topics, from website design, search engine optimization, search engine marketing, creating advertisements, branding your business, business listings, setting up your Google My Business page, and several DIY options available for each of the above topics.

After proofreading my book, I went online to look for a place that could publish the contents and/or print the book for me – so I could sell it on my website.  That’s when I stumbled across Kindle Direct Publishing.  I can’t say how I got started, whether I had to sign in – verify any agreements, or if the first step was to choose options for the book (glossy/color/etc).  What I do know, is that there was a time when I was able to see royalties – and was given an option to choose a higher individual royalty per book, or a lower royalty – and have the book available globally.  I chose the higher royalty, and went along on my merry way.

(Note: I’d like to apologize for the rest of this post – as I had to vent a bit, and hopefully – someone at Amazon reads this review and fixes the process they’ve created.)

The next steps involved me sweating over page layouts, as I had originally written the book in Microsoft Word – which had to be converted to a 6″ x 9″ paper size, which threw all of my images out of whack.  I also noticed that the layout provided by Amazon didn’t allow for page numbers, or headers on each page – which would have been valuable information to have – since I spent quite a bit of time on the table of contents, which references the missing page numbers.

All 172 pages – no page numbers.

As I went to go check on the manuscript and see if I was able to get the page numbers added for the “Second Printing – Now with Page Numbers!!” – I noticed the royalties report.

I was only making $2.11 per copy – on a $25 book.  I’m not greedy by any means, but I had to figure this out – so that I could recommend the service wholly for others who are interested in being published.  The fine print of the agreement says:  “Royalties are calculated after printing and shipping costs.”  Apparently, it costs $21.48 to print and ship my book.  I had the price set at $25 – in the hopes that I’d make $10/copy – and feel good about my contribution to small businesses, as they would have some more information about digital marketing, websites, SEO/SEM…

This is a bit discouraging to say the least.

Amazon sets the price for printing, shipping, and takes a healthy cut of the profits – and i’m left with less than 10% of the cover price.  I had to write the entire book, design the layout, market the book on social media – and the kicker is…

Amazon doesn’t pay royalties until 60 days have passed.  On the end of the second month – they will pay out the first month’s royalties.  I understand this has to do with their policies for returns, printing, shipping, etc. – but it’s a bit frustrating when I have to work so hard to sell the book that they are gouging with their printing/shipping costs off the top, and then gouging me again for the actual profits of the book.  To counter this – and to ensure that I make a little more than peanuts on the work that I already invested – I had to raise the price to $45 (which will take effect sometime in the next 72 hours – so hurry and grab a copy while it’s still $25)

My official review of Kindle Direct Publishing?  

Find another way to get your book published, unless you’ve exhausted your options – or simply don’t care about how much you make for your work, or how long it will take to get paid – or the fact that you’re basically doing all the legwork for a major corporation to bleed you dry.  I don’t get it…  if they set the printing/shipping costs – isn’t that enough?  They have to take more off the top once they’ve established profit?  I mean, Amazon is pretty amazing – but I didn’t think this would happen!

Learn from me – and get your book published another way.  Maybe on a future post, i’ll go over all the alternative options for ‘self-publishing’, so you don’t have to.  : )

Thank you for reading my review – if you’d like to get more inside information on new products online, make sure to come back often – or follow me on social media.


20 Steps to Succeed in Small Business

1. Choose a business that is very profitable.
2. Ensure adequate cash reserves.
3. Clearly understand your market, your customer, and their habits.
4. Build a remarkable brand.
5. Price your product or service properly.
6. Anticipate cash flow.
7. Treat your employees like family.
8. Research competition, technology, and changes in the marketplace.
9. You can’t please everyone – don’t try.
10. Focus on your strength(s).
11. Don’t become dependent on a single customer or customer set.
12. Control future growth.
13. Make sure you can be found online.
14. Delegate tasks.
15. Make sure you have adequate management.
16. Keep your door open for employee suggestions.
17. Spend your time wisely.
18. Ask your customers how you can improve.
19. Create “Key Performance Indicators” to measure your gains.
20. Don’t just sell what you can make, make what you can sell.

These rules are incredibly important to remember. Don’t flex to the point where you are trying to please a specific customer – just to get them on board. Diversification of your portfolio aside, if you attempt to handle everything for everyone – you’re simply making ends meet (and making it very difficult for yourself in the process).

Find the product that your customers need, and your customers will find your product. Remain focused on what makes your business better than the rest, as that will be the shining beacon when you describe what you provide for your customers.