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What Is Branding?

What Does It Mean – Branding –

and

How You Can Establish One For Yourself

Infinite Profit

Branding is one of the most important aspects of any business, large or small, retail or B2B. An effective brand strategy gives you a major edge in increasingly competitive markets. But what exactly does “branding” mean? How does it affect a small business like yours?

Simply put, your brand is your promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from your competitors’. Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be.

Are you the innovative maverick in your industry? Or the experienced, reliable one? Is your product the high-cost, high-quality option, or the low-cost, high-value option? You can’t be both, and you can’t be all things to all people. Who you are should be based to some extent on who your target customers want and need you to be.

The foundation of your brand is your logo. Your website, packaging and promotional materials–all of which should integrate your logo–communicate your brand.

Brand Strategy & Equity

Your brand strategy is how, what, where, when and to whom you plan on communicating and delivering on your brand messages. Where you advertise is part of your brand strategy. Your distribution channels are also part of your brand strategy. And what you communicate visually and verbally are part of your brand strategy, too.

Consistent, strategic branding leads to a strong brand equity, which means the added value brought to your company’s products or services that allows you to charge more for your brand than what identical, unbranded products command. The most obvious example of this is Coke vs. a generic soda. Because Coca-Cola has built a powerful brand equity, it can charge more for its product–and customers will pay that higher price.

The added value intrinsic to brand equity frequently comes in the form of perceived quality or emotional attachment. For example, Nike associates its products with star athletes, hoping customers will transfer their emotional attachment from the athlete to the product. For Nike, it’s not just the shoe’s features that sell the shoe.

Defining Your Brand

Defining your brand is like a journey of business self-discovery. It can be difficult, time-consuming and uncomfortable. It requires, at the very least, that you answer the questions below:

  • What is your company’s mission?
  • What are the benefits and features of your products or services?
  • What do your customers and prospects already think of your company?
  • What qualities do you want them to associate with your company?

Do your research. Learn the needs, habits and desires of your current and prospective customers. And don’t rely on what you think they think. Know what they think.

Because defining your brand and developing a brand strategy can be complex, consider leveraging the expertise of a nonprofit small-business advisory group or a Small Business Development Center .

Once you’ve defined your brand, how do you get the word out? Here are a few simple, time-tested tips:

  • Get a great logo. Place it everywhere.
  • Write down your brand messaging. What are the key messages you want to communicate about your brand? Every employee should be aware of your brand attributes.
  • Integrate your brand. Branding extends to every aspect of your business–how you answer your phones, what you or your salespeople wear on sales calls, your e-mail signature, everything.
  • Create a “voice” for your company that reflects your brand. This voice should be applied to all written communication and incorporated in the visual imagery of all materials, online and off. Is your brand friendly? Be conversational. Is it ritzy? Be more formal. You get the gist.
  • Develop a tagline. Write a memorable, meaningful and concise statement that captures the essence of your brand.
  • Design templates and create brand standards for your marketing materials. Use the same color scheme, logo placement, look and feel throughout. You don’t need to be fancy, just consistent.
  • Be true to your brand. Customers won’t return to you–or refer you to someone else–if you don’t deliver on your brand promise.
  • Be consistent. I placed this point last only because it involves all of the above and is the most important tip I can give you. If you can’t do this, your attempts at establishing a brand will fail.

 

John Williams

Entreprenuer.com

Brand In Social Media – Easy Steps

Tapping the vast audience of the social Web is a low-cost way to catapult a small-business brand onto the global arena. Building your brand using social media allows you to develop new (and strengthen existing) relationships, which often leads to everything from brand awareness, loyalty and word-of-mouth marketing.

Infinite Profit

While perhaps initially daunting, the trick is to break the process into manageable pieces. From creating your online destinations to connecting with influencers, following these five steps will get you on your way to building your brand and boosting your business.

1. Create branded online destinations.

This is the first step to raising brand awareness and loyalty. Companies with the most successful social media branding surround consumers with online experiences that allow them to select how they interact with the brand.

Consider using popular, free options like blogs, TwitterFacebookLinkedInYouTube, and so on. Of course, for small-business owners without the manpower to effectively manage too many destinations, you should consider testing each of these to determine which social media service you’re most likely to stick with over the long haul. This will become your core destination. All your other online destinations should link back to the core.

2. Establish entry points.

One of the most important aspects to accomplishing this with your branded online destinations is to continually publish meaningful content that adds value to the reader’s experience. The goal is to publish useful information that people will want to talk about — and then share with their own audiences. This creates additional ways for people to find your branded destinations and it can lead to higher rankings from search engines like Google.

Here’s one way to think about it: If you have a website with 10 pages of content, there are 10 ways for search engines to find your site. If you attach a blog to that website and write a new post every day for a year, you will have 365 more ways for Google to find your site, and your brand.

I call this the compounding effect of blogging. You cannot buy that kind of access to a global audience.

3. Locate your target audience and bring them back with you.

Where does your target audience already spend time? You need to spend time in those places, too, and engage in the conversations happening there. Get started by conducting a Google search for keywords that consumers would be likely to use when searching for a business or products like yours. Follow the paths that those consumers would follow and you’re likely to find them.

Join relevant online forums and/or blogs, and write posts, publish comments and answer questions. Once that audience understands that you’re there to genuinely offer useful information and not to self-promote, you can start leading them to your own branded destinations — particularly your core branded online destination.

4. Connect with influencers.

As you search for your target audience, you should identify online influencers in those communities and get on their respective radars. To do so, leave comments on their blogs, follow them on Twitter and retweet their content. You can even email them to introduce yourself.

The key is to make sure they know your name and understand that you add value to the online conversation. This also exposes you to their audiences.

5. Give more than you receive.

Success in social media marketing depends on being useful and developing relationships. If you spend all of your time promoting then no one will want to listen to you. It’s not a short-term tactic, rather a long-term strategy that can deliver sustainable, organic growth through ongoing, consistent participation.

A good rule of thumb is to apply the 80-20 rule to your social media marketing efforts. Spend no more than 20 percent of your time in self-promotional activities and conversations, and at least 80 percent on non-self-promotional activities. In time, you’ll see your business grow from your efforts. And it starts with leveraging these fundamentals.

 

Susan Gunelius

www.entrepreneur.com

Customer Loyalty: Earn or Buy?

Are You Earning Customer Loyalty, Or Are You Buying It?

We can all agree that having loyal customers is fundamental to the long-term success of a business. However, there have been numerous studies that have been done that show that loyalty amongst customers is decreasing.
One such study by research company fast.MAP in late 2013 reported that:
• 20% of consumers will switch loyalties if offered a better loyalty programme by a competitor brand;
• 33% use loyalty programmes to try out and buy from brands they wouldn’t normally use; and
• 96% of consumers would be tempted to switch loyalties to a competitor by a good price promotion;

Given these statistics, it’s clear that having a ‘loyalty programme’ is no guarantee that your customers will remain loyal.
In these cases, loyalty programmes are nothing more than bribes.
Sure, people like things for free. Or, more for less. Who doesn’t?
The challenge is that many loyalty programmes are not delivering customer loyalty.

 

Infinite Profit

 

So, if everyone is trying to out discount and out ‘loyalty’ programme everyone else, what happens when you can’t discount or out do your competitors anymore? What are you left with?
Nothing? Or, at best, a commodity based business? Who wants that?

Therefore, if we really want to foster loyalty from our customers, don’t we need to re-examine what loyalty and being loyal really means?
Loyalty, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is the ‘quality of being loyal’ and loyal is ‘giving or showing firm and constant support or allegiance to a person or institution’.
From these definitions, would you say that a loyalty programme is a good way to foster true loyalty?
No?
So, what to do?
Well, rather than giving up on customer loyalty, perhaps it’s time to re-examine what loyalty really means and what it takes to foster real loyalty.
Experience and history shows that loyalty can be bought. However, it also shows that loyalty that is earned is much more robust, powerful and sustainable.
Therefore, if we want our customers to be loyal to us then do we not have to first take a look at ourselves? After all, don’t we align ourselves with people and things that are like us or embody what we want to be like?

Loyalty that is earned has a number of elements to it, including:

1. Having a shared cause or interests that are aligned;
2. Doing what you say you are going to do when you say you are going to do it;
3. Showing up regularly;
4. Being able to forgive when someone makes a mistake;
5. But, also being willing to punish someone when an error is made;
6. Admitting when you are wrong and then apologising; and
7. Always acting in the best interests of the people whose loyalty you are trying to earn.

There may be more elements but how many do you have in your business?
We cannot force a customer to be loyal to us. But, if we would like to earn rather than buy their loyalty, we, first, we have to become the person or the business that people would want to be loyal to.

Adrian Swinscoe

Forbes

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