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Building A Brand On A Budget

You’ve got your big idea, you’ve developed your business plan, and now you need to develop your brand. Here’s how to get started — on a budget

Jason Ankeny

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Before you start, keep this in mind. The average SME doesn’t need to worry too much about SEO or spending money on a web consultant. If you’re out there and relevant to your audience, that’s as much search engine optimisation as you need. There are plenty of opportunities to build a strong brand on a small budget.

Regardless of how the message is articulated and distributed, the core mission of branding remains the same: Communicating to customers who you are, what you do and how you do it. The web is the simplest, most direct channel to convey that information.

Online presence

Every company should have an online presence, and the cost of developing a site has come down significantly in the past few years. Organic search can still drive traffic.

People go online looking for a firm’s service or product, and all you have to do is get found. It doesn’t matter if you’re a single retailer and can’t afford the time or don’t have the expertise to drive traffic. Most people are just looking for directions to your store anyway.

Websites serve different purposes for different companies. Sometimes the goal is generating new business, sometimes it’s about relaying messages to clients and other times it’s defining or even redefining the firm’s image. If someone wants to find out more information about you, they go to your website. It’s the convergence of all your marketing messages. It’s easy to create an identity because it’s virtual.

Getting your brand message right

The challenge is getting that identity across in quick, broad strokes. Businesses have just moments to succinctly communicate their purpose and value to consumers before they click away for good.

You’ve got to be bold, you’ve got to be provocative, and you’ve got to be daring. Create a language and vocabulary that allows people to get that.

Branding is what sets you apart – it’s a natural magnet.

If people come to your site, they need to say, ‘Yes – this is who can answer my problem.’ If you make a bad impression in the first five seconds, you’re toast.

The most essential component of successful online branding is the human element. People are craving a story. They want to know something about who they’re buying from, and they feel like they need to like and trust you.

You’ve got to shout what it is that makes you special and makes you different. Our personalities are what drive our brands. Look at Richard Branson – his personality is embedded in all of the Virgin brands. You need to put a face on your business.

Perhaps no tool is more effective at putting a human face on a firm than social media – and no tool is less expensive, either. In addition to utilising social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, you can also introduce your own blog as a means to pass along content that underscores the company’s knowledge and expertise, with an emphasis on local information that directly affects customers.

Make sure you’re regularly adding fresh content. Not only are you providing value, you’re also adding pages to your website – that’s more pages for search engines to index, and more opportunities for customers to find you.

All businesses have information to share, regardless of vertical. Not enough companies take advantage of the opportunity to tell a story that’s bigger than the company itself. There’s always a story you can tell. Maybe your merchandise is made from local products or from sustainable materials. You’ve got to find that unique angle.

Social media outreach also lets businesses keep tabs on their online reputations and interact directly with fans and foes alike. Don’t make the mistake of ignoring the ratings and review sites.

There’s no hiding from that. If you’re getting a bad review, you need to fix it and think about how to encourage good reviews. No longer does the general public believe in ads – they believe in what is said on Facebook.

Related: The Secrets of a Strong Branding Message

Branded for life: Boosting your online image

Although experts agree that an engaging online presence is a must for any business, a user-friendly website and compelling products and services aren’t enough to distinguish your brand from the rest of the pack.

Getting your brand out there and setting yourself apart should be easy, but it’s not. You’ve got to be fearless, and you’ve got to live out loud – make yourself unmistakably unforgettable.

Here are some suggestions for making it happen:

Establish an identity. 

If you can’t work out what the unforgettable, differentiating spark is, you’re a dead brand walking. It’s a matter of working out what you want to do and working out the attitude of your brand. Your brand has a behaviour and a tone. A brand likes to show off and have fun. It wants to come out.

Be easy to find.

You want to make sure you’re not invisible to search engines – that’s why some people avoid all-Flash websites. Make sure you’re represented in all the local directories. Go to GetListed.org, type in your business name and see where you come up on searches.

Steal good ideas and make them your own.

It’s important to create a look and feel that represents your business in the best way, but not everyone has a design aesthetic, so you might need a little bit of help along the way. I recommend that people look around and see what speaks to them.

If you can identify that, then track down the person who worked on that website. But be accountable, give the designer some benchmarks, and be clear about how you want to express your business.

Related: Read These Three Tips Before You Rebrand

Watch for opportunities.

Lots of people miss the boat in terms of call-to-action. Once you get people to your website, it’s not always clear what you want them to do.

Make sure there’s a clear path of motion through the site. The goal is to get customers to convert. Insert subtle cues throughout the copy, and give them some incentive to make that initial contact.

Remember other marketing channels.

Don’t forget about basic digital tools – email marketing still works. Email can feature posts from your blog; repurpose content you’re using elsewhere.

Also, leverage your offline promotions to complement what you’re doing online. For example, list your Yelp page on your business card and encourage customers to go there to let you know how you’re doing.

Lighten up.

Some people are so intense about their brand, but it shouldn’t be a struggle. People like people who are friendly and relaxed. So have fun.

Chicago-based writer Jason Ankeny is the executive editor of Fiercemobile content, a daily electronic newsletter dedicated to mobile media, applications and marketing.

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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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Branding

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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