All Businesses Benefit from Clear Branding
Branding is the story of you. Defining your brand communicates the benefits of doing business with you (rather than your competition). After all, your clients and customers have unique needs. Brand messaging aligns their needs with your benefits. The goal of branding is to make the connection.
Shared Small Business Pain
I’ve worked with small businesses for over a decade. This includes thousands of print ads, marketing pieces, websites and targeted marketing design. The number one problem for small business marketing is lack of clarity. The majority of small businesses offer too many options to too many targets (at the same time). In an attempt to capture all potential business, an ineffective net is cast too wide.
Signs of “Wide Net” Marketing
- Offering too many product or service options – complex offers with several options
- Saying “Yes! We can do that!” to most inquiries and requests without a qualification process
- Experiencing workload logjams, peaks and valleys – inability to juggle requests
- Marketing procrastination
- Feeling like finding new business is overwhelming or confusing
- Haphazard or random marketing attempts
Brand Overview Example
A Brand Overview is a collection of lists that describe your business and help clarify your brand. A Brand Overview does not need graphics. Handwritten lists are just fine. Start where you like, jump around, there’s no wrong way. Most sections take as little as five minutes to complete.
Creating a Brand Overview
- Adds focus to your unique attributes
- Showcases your special skills and competitive advantages
- Improves recall when describing your services to potential customers and clients
- Identifies and eliminates unqualified prospects
- Emphasizes core business strengths
- Narrows the spotlight on key product and service offerings
- Pinpoints your target audience and key markets
- Clarifies benefits for customers
- Uncovers more customer needs
- Creates ready-made marketing verbiage for future use
- Motivates your team toward a specific vision
- Reminds your team of what not to pursue
- Organizes past experiences
- Simplifies marketing efforts
Your epicenter is the product or service at the core of your business. It’s your bread and butter offering. If you run a hot dog stand, your epicenter is hot dogs. Too much focus on ketchup, mustard and relish without a good dog is a waste of time. Until you’ve identified a solid epicenter, peripheral offerings are potential distractions. They can blur your message.
2. Big Idea
Imagine your retirement party. Your career was a huge success. Your Big Idea is your ideal version of what people are talking about. It’s the long-term picture that you painted while doing all the hard work. It can be a cause, family goals, personal aspirations, finances, etc. It doesn’t matter as long as your idea is big and long-term. Think “end-game.”
Where will your business be two years from today? What goals will be important to you? How will you measure success? To understand what’s important this year, you need an understanding of where you are now. And where you’re heading. A focused Vision statement focuses your decisions from the mid-term to day-to-day.
Your Big Idea is a long-term destination. Your Vision is how you see your business in two years. Your Mission is what you do day-to-day (and what gets you out of bed in the morning). If you’re on a mission, it’s a journey. What does that journey look like today? Odds are, it’s just like what you did yesterday and what you’ll do tomorrow.
5. Key Tools
What do you use to get the job done? If you’re a forklift operator, chances are a forklift is a key tool for you. The power behind identifying Key Tools is qualifying potential opportunities. If something requires you to adopt a new tool, you should pay attention to what that means. It may be an opportunity or it may lead you down a path you’re not prepared to take.
A Hedgehog Concept is a business’ core strategic road map. It’s based on three simple ideas: passion, skill and financial reward. There are a ton of images out there so I recommend a quick Google search for “hedgehog concept.” Do it now, I’ll wait.
I recommend the book Good to Great by Jim Collins. He goes into great detail about what a Hedgehog Concept is and why it’s valuable. Good to Great is a must-read for anyone trying to improve their business. It’s a business classic.
Your Guiding Principles are reminders. If you had a time machine and could go back and tell yourself your “secrets of success,” what would they be? What have you learned in your career that helps you stay successful and on track? If you were to give advice to a new business in your industry, what would you say?
Primary Products and Services
Which of your products and services are the most profitable? Where is the market demand? Do you have products or services that you can offer after you’ve made an initial sale? How do your products and services relate to your Key Segments? How are your products related to your services? Are you leaving anything on the table? Do your customers often request something specific?
Key Product and Service Segments
Product and Service Segments are categories for different ways your business makes money. Each segment represents a “kind” of customer that deserves individualized attention. The clearer you are on your segmentation, the easier it is for your customers to understand you. Segmenting your products and services gives everyone attention without creating confusion.
Audience and Key Markets
Your Audience is associated with a large group of people interested in your Epicenter. Your Key Markets are smaller groups related to your product or service segments. It’s important that your brand message speak to your Audience at large. You should only be targeting one or two Key Markets at a time with your marketing efforts.
Your Competitive Advantage not only gives you an edge, but it meets your customers needs. These are the benefits that your business offers that your competition can’t meet. What makes you unique? Why do people choose your product or service? What do you do that makes people’s lives better?
Proof of Concept
Your Proof of Concept is evidence demonstrating your ability to deliver on promises. It’s one thing to say that you’re the best, but it’s more powerful when you point to something tangible. For example, a wedding photographer can describe their work all day long. But you’re going to want to see their portfolio before hiring them for your big day.
Benefits Promises are the flip side of your customers’ needs. If you’ve been in business long enough, you’ve learned that meeting need is paramount. Benefits Promises are answers to known problems. If you take the time to discover the needs of your Key Markets, you’ll be able to develop Benefits Promises that address the demand.
Differentiation and Uniqueness
Some say that being different is better than being good. They’re right. If you can stand out and become memorable, you’ve got a better chance of sticking around. Besides, being is good is boring. We all want something new and unique that can enrich our lives. So what makes your business interesting? What’s different about it? What separates you from the next guy or gal?
A SWOT Analysis is a description of your primary strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. It’s a great tool to remind yourself that you can’t be all things to all people. Focus your messaging on your strengths and opportunities. Make sure you’re not marketing to audiences who overlap with your weaknesses and threats. That’s a bumpy road.
Sometimes failures are “field tests.” You try something, it doesn’t work and you move on. If you continue this exercise, you find yourself in a tricky situation. That’s why it’s a good exercise to list the items that don’t work. Regardless of how attractive an opportunity, if it doesn’t work you have to stop.