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Stand Out from the Crowd

Personal branding and marketing in recessionary times.

Donna Rachelson

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There’s much talk of an ongoing recession and the possibility of a dreaded double-dip. Growth is slow for those fortunate enough to be experiencing business growth at all. In times like this, personal branding and marketing is especially important to businesspeople in client service based businesses.

In recessionary times, your competitors are working even harder to lure your clients away; and even those who might not previously have been deemed competitors may widen their nets and set their sights on your clients. Competition will increase exponentially, even among colleagues at the same company.

In tough times, you need to prove that you add value. You also need to be inventive in finding ways to stand out from the crowd.

Personal branding

Creating a strong personal brand and marketing it effectively is a good way to differentiate yourself. In this way, you will become memorable and be perceived as a value-adding brand.

Here are my top strategies for developing and marketing a personal brand in recessionary times:

1. Understand what your personal brand represents and what it doesn’t.

Think about your greatest strengths and talents and about how you would like to be perceived by people. Keep your personal brand focused on those things. Often, in tough times, we try to be everything to everyone. Resist the temptation – trying to spread yourself too thin will dilute your impact

2. Be unique in the way you do things.

By challenging the way things are ‘normally’ done, you can stand out from the pack. For example, if your colleagues normally send clients a bottle of wine, rather take your best clients to the first wine tasting of a boutique wine that no-one has been exposed to yet. Doing things in a unique way doesn’t mean that you need to spend money – it means thinking creatively about ways to interact with your clients that add value for them.

3. Become an invaluable resource.

Go beyond what your client requires of you in terms of the service you provide. For example, every once in a while, send your client useful white papers, special reports, articles of interest, links to useful websites, industry trends and developments that help your clients to think of you as more than just a service provider. You need to demonstrate to your client that you understand his business and want to help him make it successful.

4. Plan strategically and be prepared beyond what is expected.

It’s important to do your research thoroughly before meeting with a customer, prospect or networking contact. Think of questions you should ask or questions that will be asked of you.  Package what you are delivering in the best way possible and ensure the benefits of your service are well articulated.

5. Spend time marketing your personal brand.

I’m the first to admit that marketing your personal brand is not a natural activity. This is why you need to set aside time to make sure that it happens. There are huge benefits to increasing your personal visibility. Understand your strengths and start getting visible – write articles; engage on social media; develop presentations or join key associations and industry bodies.

6. Take time to build and leverage yours kills and knowledge.

You are your greatest asset and there is nothing more important than enhancing your competitive advantage. Make sure you build your knowledge. Read more; attend talks and seminars that elevate your position. For example, I recently attended the Discovery Invest Leadership Summit week and listened to Ricardo Semler give an outstanding address. I picked up one awesome tip: ask ‘why?’ three times. I have started applying it in my business and with my clients’ businesses and the value it has added is incredible.

7. Prioritise connecting with clients.

Marketing is a contact sport and when your competitors are talking to your client in tough times, you have to up your game and make sure you’re top of mind to avoid losing business. If the last time your client heard from you was when you emailed through an invoice a month ago, you need to pull up your socks and start connecting. Touch base frequently and use the channels available to you, like face to face meetings, phone calls, emails, SMS, bbm, social media interaction – whatever works for your client. Be careful, however, to ensure that your communications are purposeful and that they add value. Nobody has time for fluff, so make sure your connections are useful to your client and that they build relationship.

Building and enhancing your personal brand is an effective way to take on challenging times, but it does require discipline and focus. Start today and be consistent in making time to develop and market your personal brand.

Donna Rachelson, branding and marketing specialist, is the author of three books.She has held marketing director positions in blue chip organisations and has a solid business education, including an MBA and is a guest lecturer at GIBS .As a successful businesswoman and investor in businesses, Donna is passionate about empowering entrepreneurs and women, uplifting them with her unique brand of inspiringly practical, strategically results-driven guidance. She is currently Chief Catalyst at Seed Academy- a training and incubation ecosystem for entrepreneurs.

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Branding

Brand And Marketing: Finding The Balance For SMEs

For some entrepreneurs, this can be quite a sobering thing to do whilst for others it reinforces that they are on the right path to success.

Gary Harwood

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Being in business is about more than just hitting the bottom line. Sure, financial growth is imperative to continued success. But if nobody knows about you, then your achievements will be limited to the short-term. Enter the world of brand and marketing.

To the uninitiated, these concepts might seem interrelated. And to a certain extent they are. However, branding revolves around delivering on a promise, it is what defines you as an SME and what makes you different from your competitors.

Marketing is about how you do it – your tactics and your strategic goals. It is about promoting a product or service to sell and earn revenue.

Both are equally important, and no entrepreneur can afford to ignore one in favour of the other. But how do you balance a limited budget and resources to finding the right balance? In some ways, it is best to take a step back and view your business from the perspective of your customers.

Related: The Secret Ingredients to a Successful Branding Strategy

For some entrepreneurs, this can be quite a sobering thing to do whilst for others it reinforces that they are on the right path to success.

Emotional versus rationale

Cynics might argue that branding is all about emotions while marketing is a more rationale (and logical) pursuit. After all, how do you ‘know’ your customer? How do you analyse the effectiveness of your brand promise?

It might be an easy thing for large organisations to measure, but for a business just starting out, it is quite a challenging prospect. Given how data has exploded in recent years, organisations have a wealth of information at their disposal to analyse, scrutinise, and draw insight from in getting to grips with the effectiveness of their brand promise.

And while this might seem daunting for your SME, it does not have to be the case. While there are more than enough models to measure brand equity, most are challenging (not to mention costly) to implement and they all require extensive research.

Fortunately, things like internal staff surveys (questions like what do your employees think your brand identity and promise is), how integrated your brand and marketing efforts are (do your tactics reflect what you want to achieve), and how you compare to the competitors, can be reviewed relatively quickly and cost effectively.

Related: The Economics of Branding

The business of marketing

Marketing can add a dynamic component to this mix. By focusing on the tactical elements of how to achieve business growth (specific to your brand promise), the SME can develop a more nuanced strategy that factors in both emotional and rationale elements.

We all want to make money but that hardly has the makings of a solid marketing strategy. In fact, marketing is less about flashiness and more about implementing solid business principles.

Sure, the sexiness comes in some of the tactical executions but it all revolves around delivering value to shareholders, marketing to the strengths of your business, and setting yourself apart from your competitors.

A successful marketing campaign revolves around bringing customers to your business. And this is where the brand promise is so important. You must understand what the customer requirements are if you are to deliver tactics that fulfil them.

Business today requires branding and marketing to work together. By compromising the one in favour of the other will not result in any significant long-term gains but risk your SME losing ground to competitors.

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5 Steps To Building Your Personal Brand From Scratch

Whenever you engage, shine a light on your values.

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What would you like people to say about you?

As Jeff Bezos (founder of Amazon) famously said, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”

Your personal brand is the sum total of what you do, how you do it and why you do it. It’s not something you can fake. It’s authentic and deep-seated.

If you get it right, your personal brand will make you stand out from the crowd, shine a spotlight on your expertise and enhance your value. You’ll have an energy and a buzz about you that people can’t help being drawn to.

So how can you build your personal brand?

For starters, don’t make the mistake of thinking your personal brand is all about you. It’s not. Your personal brand is not about your work experience or your personal accomplishments. Your personal brand should be about other people, specifically what you can do for other people.

Start by asking yourself a few questions: What needs can you address? What are the areas where you can offer the most value? What makes you different from the rest?

Related: 6 Personal Branding Rules To Being Popular And Profitable

With a little thought and planning, you can build your personal brand from scratch. Just follow these five steps:

1Discover your opportunity

Passion is not enough. You might have a passion for rock climbing, or playing the ukulele. But having a passion does not automatically translate to recognition and success.

Instead of focussing on your passions, study the needs of the people in your circles. What are they trying to achieve? What are they struggling with? What are their frustrations?

Think about how you could best help these people.

Dig deep into who you are. Identify what you can bring to the table. Evaluate not just the skills and experience you’ve acquired but also the values that guide and inform you.

Study your competition. Can you serve a need that in an area that doesn’t have lots of competition?

If there’s lots of competition wherever you look, don’t be discouraged. Can you serve a need in a way that’s distinctive and noteworthy?

You’ve identified your opportunity when you’ve found a significant need that you can serve, in a way that sets you apart from the competition.

2Know your audience

personal-audience

Everything starts with your audience. Find out as much as you can about them. This includes standard demographic data such as what jobs they do, how much they earn and where they live.

Equally, if not more importantly, you need to know what their beliefs and values are, their hopes and dreams and the challenges they are facing.

Talk to your audience. Take them out for a coffee or set up a Skype call. Study them by reading what they’re saying on relevant social media, forums and review sites.

Is your audience more interested in quality or value? What’s more important to them, making a difference or making money? What public figures do they admire?

How much do your audience know about what you can offer them? Will you need to educate them for them to appreciate your value?

Identify who your core audience is. Don’t try to appeal to everyone. Identify which audience segments are most likely to become long-term customers and advocates. These are the people you should focus on.

Related: Personal Branding Pitfalls Women Should Avoid

3Craft your message

In Hollywood, budding filmmakers learn to prepare an “elevator pitch” to sell their movie ideas to busy studio executives. The key is to summarize their idea in a short, memorable phrase that could be pitched even if they had to do it in an elevator.

For example, the movie Alien was initially pitched as, “Jaws in space.”

You want to tell your audience about what you do, about what makes you different and exciting. But they probably won’t have time to listen to your life story.

Instead, you should create a short message that sums up what you’re about in a way which connects with your audience. Keep it simple and memorable. Think of it as your elevator pitch. Your message should reflect the people you serve, the values that you embody and the results you achieve.

If you have any testimonials, study them. What were the things about you that people valued the most? Observe the exact phrases people use when talking about you. Often, these are the precisely the phrases you should use when describing yourself.

Use your message to brand yourself on your professional profiles. Most importantly, embody it in everything you do.

4Hone your uniqueness

Maybe you can do something highly useful that very few people can do. Well, that’s your unique quality, and you should tell your audience about it.

But perhaps there are plenty of people who do what you do, and you’ll be competing for the same audience. Being able to demonstrate a point of uniqueness is your key to success in a competitive market.

The most obvious point of uniqueness is to be the best. There are many ways of being the best. Find out which way plays to your strengths. Are you the most experienced, most creative, most efficient? Do you excel at customer service?

Related: [PODCAST]: Listen To Rich Mullholland Share Tips On Building Your Personal Brand

If you can’t be the best in some way, becoming more specialised can make you unique. For example, instead of offering a marketing service to small business owners in general, you could offer a marketing service targeted at chiropractors.

And don’t be afraid to be controversial to stand out. If you hold different opinions from the others, don’t be afraid to voice them. Just stay away from topics that are likely to cause offense, like religion and politics.

5Define your values

Authenticity is the cornerstone of personal branding. Your authenticity is what allows your audience to trust you, to engage with you, to tell their friends about you. Being authentic is about having stated values and being true to them.

So what are your values? You should include business values, such as driving innovation or personal accountability. You might also add ethical values, such as care for the environment.

How you speak and write is also a reflection of your values. Are you serious or informal? Do you address the layman or expert? What are your cultural reference points?

Guard against inconsistency, such as saying one thing and doing another, as this will cast doubt on your values and undermine your brand.

Keep your values at the heart of everything you do, as you interact with people, network on social media, or publish blog posts. Wherever and whenever you engage, ensure you do so in a way that shines a light on your values.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Branding

Wrapping Up Profits With Niche Vinyl Wraps

Marketers always want to grab consumers’ attention while business owners may want to differentiate their company’s fleet.

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Marketers always want to grab consumers’ attention while business owners may want to differentiate their company’s fleet.

Cars are used as form of self-expression, and some individuals will pay a small fortune to make their wheels unique. All of this can be achieved with speciality vinyls, which allow a range of attention-grabbing special effects.

Robbie Fuchs from World Signs said that these unique effects are sought after and that matte black finishes are popular, and are being used in some campaigns to tone down shiny chrome.

Popular requests include partial wraps for select sections of cars, such as: mirrors, stripes on the sides of vehicles, bonnets and high gloss black vinyl on roofs, which gives a panoramic look and feel.

‘There are a handful of people who will spend a lot of money on a car and then spend more money on making it look fancy,’ he says.

Related: Celebrating Women In The Signage And Printing Industry

Fuchs added that vinyls for home owners and private use is a niche market. ‘We have also had requests to wrap toilet seat covers, fridges and kitchen cupboards.’

Different textures such as chrome, wood grain, carbon fibre and a variety of metallic effects, glitter, ultra matt finishes and ‘sandpaper-like’ non-slip surface finishes are also available. One can also create pearlescent effects and even velvet, while colour changing vinyls also provide really unique wraps.

‘Vehicle advertising is good for any business size, and some small-business owners feel it legitimises their company by getting their brand and logo out where potential customers can see them,’ said Rakesh Rosen, Midcomp.

‘When smaller businesses use vehicle wraps, it puts them on the same playing field as franchises and companies that are large enough to maintain vehicle fleets. Vehicle vinyl wrapping is definitely on the increase in South Africa and will continue to grow.’

Henri Robert from Sign Wonder, said, ‘Vehicle branding is an effective promotion tool because it combines the key elements of marketing, advertising and branding into one convenient and proven solution. It is high impact, cost effective and they work for all types of businesses. Vehicle branding allows a vehicle to serve as a low-cost mobile billboard seen everywhere a vehicle typically goes.’

You can see vinyl wrapping solutions and business opportunities at the FESPA Africa and Sign Africa Expo at Gallagher Convention Centre from 13-15 September.


Visit http://www.signafricaexpo.com/wraps for more information. 

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