We all know it’s tempting to copy the competition. There’s safety in conformity, a certain “comfort factor”in being similar. After all, the other company knows what it’s doing, right? Not always.
Firstly, remember that branding is about differentiation – emphasising your company’s differences, not similarities.When you copy the competition, you’re reminding customers of them, not you.However, there’s a difference between exact imitation and creative inspiration.Use creativity to leverage an existing idea, but avoid replicating its every detail. So when is it okay to follow someone else’s lead and when isn’t it?
Of course, plagiarism is out, and it’s illegal to copy anything that’s patented or trademarked.
Listed below are some other less obvious things you may be tempted to copy but shouldn’t:
1. Don’t imitate the design/layout of sales materials
Copying a competitor’s materials is never agood idea because instead of differentiating your business, it makes you look more like your competitor. It’s fine to imitate basics of their material like “lots of white space” or forced-perspective product photos (just don’t use the same perspective!). But avoid choosing similar colours, graphics and layout.
2. Don’t imitate the content or style of your competitor’s copywriting
Do so, and you’ll sound just like the competition. Instead, create your own unique “voice” and messaging. Good copy has a consistent, strategic tone to it (as in conversational, direct and humorous) that reflects the personality of the company and product. When done correctly, copywriting is an integral part of branding.
3. Don’t imitate the primary colour your competitor uses
Select at least one unique colour to associate with your company – use it in your logo, on sales materials, product packing and signage. (You can use a Pantone Matching System or PMS book to help you choose the exact colour. Always specify the exact PMS number to your printer.)
4. Don’t imitate the name of your competitor
Make yours as different as possible. Also, try to avoid using the same first letter as your biggest competitor. You may like the fact that “AAA Towing” puts you first in the phone book, but it sounds too much like “ABC Towing” to help with your branding.
If you have to, imitate a competitor’s marketing strategy or sales incentives only with extreme caution. Make sure you understand the underlying assumptions first. For example, if a competitor’s sales materials feature an upscale design, maybe there’s a good reason behind it, maybe not. Is there a market for premium-priced goods? Or does the CEO simply prefer an expensive look? Sometimes companies, even bigger ones, have no sound strategy behind what they do. They’re just catering to personal tastes or imitating somebody else themselves.
3 Mind Hacks For Overcoming Your Fear Of Marketing Yourself
Take it one step at a time. You get nowhere until you put yourself out there.
When I first started my business, I was so uncomfortable about marketing myself and putting myself out there. For most of us, that’s not something we were raised to do or taught in school. Many of us are taught the opposite.
These days, I see many of my clients struggling with this same challenge. They aren’t sure what to say when asked, “What do you do?” Or they’re afraid to go out and market their product or services.
They’re afraid they don’t have enough experience, or are not an expert and people won’t want to hire them.
The only way to get experience is to get some business. And that requires marketing. So what can you do? The key is to get yourself in the right mindset. Here are three mind hacks to help you overcome your fear of marketing yourself:
1. You only have to be one or two steps ahead
If you are offering a service, you only have to be a step or two ahead of someone to be able to help. If you’re offering a product, you only need to know a little more about the product than they do to help them make an informed choice.
It’s also okay to tell people that you’re just starting out or to say you’ve reduced pricing for a limited time in order to build your new business and gather testimonials.
Keep reminding yourself that you don’t need to be at the finish line – whatever that may be for you. You only need to be a little ahead of the people you want to help. Everyone starts somewhere. As Lao Tzu said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Take that step.
2. Get clear on your message
When you have a clear message, and you know it inside and out, it can give you a much needed boost of confidence to get out there. That confidence has the added benefit of drawing people to you.
Obviously, your business evolves as you evolve. Your message might change with time, but it’s important you start out with one that is clear and consistent – something that gets you excited so others can feel your excitement and confidence.
Create a statement about what you do, and make sure it aligns with your values.
Distinguish yourself by including the following info:
- The issue or complaint your ideal client is facing
- How you can help them
- The shift – the benefit or outcome of your product/service
Here’s an example. You know how some people are living a life others want for them, instead of doing what makes them feel good? I guide people on how to ask themselves powerful questions to figure out what they truly want, what fuels them, so that they can be the CEO of their life and business.
I could just say what I am – a coach. And so could you. But when you say it, people will just think of the last person they met who does something similar. A clear, consistent and exciting message makes you stand out.
3. Get your feet wet
“Do. Or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda.
These words may have been uttered by a fictional character, but their meaning is very real.
If you want to get into the mindset of doing something, do it! It’s okay if you’re uncomfortable initially. You’re doing something out of your comfort zone.
Welcome to entrepreneurship. As an entrepreneur, you will always be doing something out of your comfort zone. That’s what keeps your business moving to new levels. You are always trying, testing and trying again. It’s not about the failures or missteps. It’s about the doing.
Go to networking events, go where your target clients hang out (online or offline), join a group or just start speaking to one person at a time about what you do. It truly does get easier and easier.
It’s the same when it comes to selling your product or services. Reach out to one person or one company at a time. You’ll start out with one client, then two. And with each client, your confidence builds.
Take it one step at a time. If you have a fear of speaking in public, go to Toastmasters to practice speaking and overcoming objectives. If you have a fear of contacting someone by email or phone, commit to just one a day, then five a day, then 10 a day. Take it step by step. It doesn’t have to be a big step, but it does have to be a real step.
Whatever fears come up, remember they’re normal. This is something totally new for you. It takes time to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. Those thoughts in your head that prevent you from moving forward, the ones that want to keep you safely in your comfort zone, you need to identify them and reprogram them with thoughts that will help you create the successful life and business you want.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
The Real Value Of Building A Brand
Young people today are likely to join or stay with a company, even if the pay is less, if they feel they belong and are part of the team.
What is your company’s brand? That may sound like a strange question and the answer could range from thinking about your logo or colour scheme, or the values you frame and put on the wall in your reception area. But that is not what your brand is.
Let me ask you another question: what do customers and employees think when your company’s name is mentioned? Do they think you are a great bunch of people who go the extra mile to deliver on your promises, or do they think you’re a bunch of incompetents who always deliver late and below standard? Do employees think their company is money driven and couldn’t care about people?
What do these people feel when your company is mentioned or when they see your logo? Do they have positive feelings about the company and certain employees they deal with, or do they cringe and hope not to have to deal with you again?
The answers to those questions is your brand. It’s the ability to articulate and deliver on the promise your company makes to the market. It is the integrated result of the values the company leaders hold and the values they inculcate into their employees through their actions. It’s the quality and usefulness of your products or services, and how you deal with customers. And it’s how you promote and operate the company. All these things are your brand.
While the company’s executives are key to developing the brand and all it stands for, the brand promise is the who, what, where, when and how of all you do; the sum of all the company’s interactions with the market and internally with each other. Gartner indicates that companies that prioritise the customer experience generate 60% higher profits than their competitors.
Who you are and what you stand for is critical to companies in today’s market where trust is a rare commodity (86% of US and European customers says their trust in corporations has declined over the last five years). Your promise to the market and your ability to fulfil it again and again engenders that trust, which puts you at the top of the pile when it comes to competition.
Related: Are You A Commodity Or A Brand?
When it comes to your product or service, are you the first name that comes to mind because you are a trusted partner? Do your employees deliver on time and to or above the standard expected as far as is possible? Do your employees represent the company in a natural, proactive manner because they are invested in the company and its culture? Or do they do the minimum to get by and collect their pay at the end of the month?
There’s much talk about company culture in the media, but most of these articles miss the most important aspects of culture, buy-in and commitment. When your employees value the culture they are part of, when they feel they belong and are valued, it shows in their commitment to the company, each other and to their customers. Did you know that between 60% and 75%of customers will do business with a company again if it deals with a customer service issue fairly, even if the result is not in their favour?
In fact, young people today are likely to join or stay with a company, even if the pay is less, if they feel they belong and are part of the team.
Customers are the same. While everyone wants to pay the least possible for a product or service, your brand and the associated value (and positive feelings) customers associate with you means you don’t have to cut margins to the bone to get the job. Customers will pay a bit more (within reason) to ensure they get the full package – product, service, support etc.
So your brand, its value and standing in the minds of people includes the marketing and brand building you do, but the promise you make (sometimes unknowingly) to each customer and each employee is what is critical to success. That promise is made up of the products and services you have on offer, if you are meeting the real needs of the customer. It depends on your culture and how valued and appreciated your employees feel, which extends to how they value and treat your customers. And finally, all that impacts customer service, how you react when there is a problem and what you do to keep your promise and develop and maintain their trust in good times and bad.
Brand enthusiasts are welcome to follow Kyle Rolfe’s latest thoughts on brand building in South Africa and his analysis on relevant global trends and issues via Twitter @kylerolfeSA or on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/kyle-rolfe-brand-engineer.
Why You Should Prioritise Brand Image
Just because you’re a start-up doesn’t mean you can ignore the importance — and power — of brand image. Here are four simple and cost-effective ways to get noticed in a competitive space.
It’s surprising how many entrepreneurs pay very little attention to their brand image even though the image is the first thing that customers see.
For most start-ups, the focus is the quality of their product or service — as it should be.
However, awareness is critical during the start-up phase of a business. Awareness is made possible through marketing that focuses on the brand image of the company. During the start-phase, entrepreneurs often exclude the marketing function because they perceive it to be a luxury expense only enjoyed by medium and large enterprises.
The problem is that many entrepreneurs have a limited view of marketing and believe that it must include extravagant television, radio and print campaigns. This is especially true for companies that provide more scientific products or services; those operating in accounting, IT, engineering or similar practical fields. Owners in these fields are usually not familiar with the benefits of marketing or how to effectively critique and implement their marketing plan.
On the other side of the coin, marketing or public relations firms tend to neglect their brand image despite it being their core function. Often, marketing specialists are so focused on the work they are doing for their clients, they forget that how they market their own company is the billboard for what they can offer clients.
Here’s how to get started.
A good quality logo is the starting point for the marketing of any business. Entrepreneurs often tend to put the logo on the back burner.
Your first logo will not be your logo forever. Throughout the lifespan of a business, the logo will probably go through multiple amendments.
A good quality logo is worth investing in. It’s your business signature, and will be used across all marketing collateral. The logo should be visually appealing, versatile and memorable. The best logos are clear, simple, easily recognisable, and unique to the business.
Once the logo is developed, the other basic marketing collateral can be designed, including the e-signature, business card, letterhead, social media graphics with a cover photo and profile photo for all social media accounts, as well as website graphics. These are the only items required in the start-up phase to launch the business with a professional and cohesive look and feel across all public platforms.
2. Social Media
Social media is an opportunity for businesses to become part of their audience’s lives by engaging with them. Business owners know their company needs to be on social media, but simply having a profile and cover photo on multiple social media platforms is not effective.
There must be a social media plan that details the platforms that will be used, the objectives for each profile, the type of content that will be shared on each platform, and how often and when content will be shared.
Business owners often make the mistake of being on every social media platform — this is not necessary. It’s important to select platforms that are used by the company’s target audience and which complement the company’s brand personality.
For example, there is probably not much benefit for an insurance company to be on Instagram, which targets a younger market, but it would make sense for a clothing company to be on Instagram as their product is visual and fashion is of interest to the youth market.
Social media should help the company achieve one or more of its overall business objectives. For example, if the business goal is to reach a new audience, then the social media content must be of interest to this audience.
Social media can be time-consuming, and once the platforms have been selected, companies will have to create tailored content for each platform and have a consistent weekly schedule. Business social media profiles that are rarely and inconsistently updated can do more harm to a brand than no profile. There are many free and affordable social media management tools that can help entrepreneurs easily manage their accounts.
3. Personal branding
When a new business is launched, trust will drive the business forward. With few or no employees in the start-up phase, the entire business is run by the founder and the founder automatically becomes the face of the business. The credibility of the business is therefore initially determined by the credibility of the founder. Many entrepreneurs grapple with the task of marketing themselves and focus solely on marketing the business.
Below are some cost-effective techniques that you can use to boost your personal brand:
Optimise personal social media accounts
Share your constructive opinion on your personal social media accounts. Some people find it difficult to publicly share their opinion, especially with the legal liability that comes with using social media. Courage and responsibility are required to publicly share thoughts and ideas. Both are sought-after characteristics of entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurs can educate their target audience and peers by contributing to their industry as guest bloggers, speakers, vlogging, contributing to academic research and blogging on their company website. By sharing your unique insights, you can prove that you are knowledgeable about your products or services.
Seek organic word-of-mouth
All client projects must be treated like gold — word-of-mouth about a start-up’s work is invaluable. Be bold and ask for recommendations after the completion of a project.
Ensure that the projects you say yes to complement your brand image, and be willing to say no to projects that don’t, despite the financial loss. There is power in the word no. Saying no can help to differentiate your company from your competitors.
4. Direct marketing
Nothing can replace the value of face-to-face communication. List the companies you want to work with and where you have identified a need that your company can address. Contact them, set up a meeting and tell them about your business. Even if the companies visited don’t signup, awareness has been increased and it will help you to become comfortable marketing yourself and your business.
Pulling it all together
These are just a few of the cost-effective marketing tactics you can use to increase awareness about your business. When meticulously executed, these marketing basics can help a start-up enjoy growth and success.
Smart and free
The truth is that marketing does not need to be an expensive exercise. Here are four marketing basics that can be implemented by every entrepreneur to give their business a solid foundation from which to grow, and which require limited or no funding.
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