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Branding

It Takes A Village

What does it mean to build a brand? And more importantly, how do you actually create a valued brand? There are no shortcuts.

Nicholas Haralambous

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It’s easy to find something that someone else made, buy it in bulk at a discounted rate and sell that product at a profit. That is the easy part, believe it or not.

The tough part is getting that customer who just purchased something from you to remember your company name and come back to buy from you again.

At my previous company we tried extremely hard to gain a userbase by spending money on adverts that drove people to our website and then attempted to get them to sign up, hang around and pay us. The problem was the premise; if you buy an advert and people visit your site, you are building a brand. I just don’t think that’s true. I think people click ads to buy products, not to invest in brands.

Related: Target Your Market… Or Die

There are many things I’ve learnt through many, many failed attempts at building a brand. Here are a just a few observations.

An amazing product

Before you even consider talking about your brand, spending money on adverts and trying to get customers to tell their friends about you, you need to have an amazing product or service to sell.

If your product isn’t the best it can be (and that means it needs to be amazing in the market) no amount of advertising, marketing or PR will keep customers buying. People will see your adverts, read your marketing and buy your product once. What keeps them coming back, what keeps them talking about you first and foremost is an incredible product. Without this, there is nothing else.

Once you believe you have the best product you can at the time, then start selling. I like to sell to three ‘F’s’ to begin with: Friends, Family and Fools. If these people support you and continue to do so then you might be onto something.

When they start telling their friends, family and other fools about you, then you’re definitely onto something. When you’re walking down the street and you see someone you’ve never met using your product or talking about your service, you’re doing it. You’re building a brand off the back of a great product.

Time

Nothing worth doing can be done quickly. If you are building a brand to last and your plan is to hang around through good times and bad then don’t rush. Don’t force your message down the throat of potential customers. Let them find you, discover what makes your business amazing and then tell their friends.

This type of organic, genuine and transparent growth can only happen over time. Even the most viral businesses in the world grew over time. Facebook took years to reach the mass market and break out of universities. Why would you be able to do it in a month? Be patient young grasshopper.

Related: Are You Sure Your Business Is Profitable?

Fantastic customer service

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Even the best brands in the world will incur a hiccup every once in a while (some more frequently than others). The key to a bad customer experience is fantastic customer service. Incredible brands understand that they sell a product or service but that their main goal is client acquisition and retention.

The fastest way to erode your brand is to treat customers badly. Hell hath no fury like a customer scorned. With social platforms like Facebook and Twitter turning everyone into a publisher with an audience, it’s easy to destroy a brand with a single bad experience. This is probably going to happen at some point and you need to be prepared to resolve the issues that arise swiftly and effectively. An unhappy customer is a marketing tool. Treat them well, win them over and they’re yours forever.

Community

For the first two years of Nic Harry —my daringly bold, premium sock and style company — we spent no money on marketing. I built our brand on word of mouth and traditional PR. Everyone around me was telling me to make use of the advertising platforms currently available. I bucked the trend and focused on finding and building a community of sock lovers.

I dedicated my time to talking about socks passionately to anyone who would listen. Invariably I found ‘that one friend’ that everyone has who loves socks. I spent more time cultivating relationships with those people, getting their feedback and building a loyal community of sockaholics.

Related: How To Build A Brand That People Care About

Today this community is the biggest part of my brand building. When I open a new store, they come and visit, they share the news and they send their friends.

The key is to work all of the steps together. Without a good product the community would not talk. Without taking my time I wouldn’t have found the community and without incredible customer service I would never keep the community and customers that I have.

Nicholas Haralambous is the founder of the style company, Nicharry.com. He is an entrepreneur, speaker and writer who likes to tell the honest, brutal truth at every possible opportunity.

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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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