When you’re seriously involved in branding small businesses, one clear thing you recognize is that small to medium size enterprises are hungry for a new approach. They’ve heard of branding through their trade publications and on the street. Most have a mistaken understanding that a brand is simply their logo and marketing materials. Some understand it to be differentiating themselves. But all they can offer up is low hanging suit such as their people or their service. They fail to see that these are not differentiators because their competitors also have great people and services or they wouldn’t be a threat to them.
What a brand has to do to differentiate themselves is to make a bold statement about what they offer. I often say to owners, “If the position being proposed scares you a little, then we’re on to something.” Staking the high ground or becoming the leader in your category takes guts. Most businesses are perfectly happy to follow the leader. Most have absolutely no interest in bragging about what makes them great. They’re complacent and now they’re paying the price for that complacency. Addressing brands for small businesses is a great way to not only reinvigorate sales but it also reinvigorates the entire business.
Everybody’s business has a brand whether they want one or not. You have to recognize what your brand is and then you have to decide how to make it lead. Like the old adage, You can take a horse to water but you can’t make it drink—same goes here. As the owner of a business you have to want to control your brand. You can’t expect it to control itself. That approach only leaves the gate open for your competitors to define your brand for you. Of course most small businesses are doing exactly that. Even businesses that have been pretty successful to date can benefit from addressing their brands. I’ve never met a failing business who was interested in addressing their brands. They’re too busy bailing water to recognize any opportunity that might present itself. Successful companies often times see branding as raising the bar even further.
Of course those are the renegades.
Being a renegade allows small businesses to market and position themselves like the Fortune 500’s. Positioning allows you entry into the big leagues. Branding is every bit of that. Taking a position that resonates with the buyer is more powerful that a slogan that inspires or clever marketing that intrigues—great positioning opens doors. Once inside, your customer is exposed to everything you offer. Leads are the lifeblood of any brand. Understand positioning and see opportunities present themselves.
I’ve seen great positioning super-charge sales, make succession easier and give new direction to a slothful employee pools. Sounds a lot like snake oil, but it is simply taking what is rightfully yours, and throw in a little bit of bold and a dash of bragging. It’s the best recipe your brand will ever enjoy.
Of course I’m a little bias when I speak of branding because I help businesses rediscover their brands. But rest assured that everything I speak of I do myself to strengthen my own brand. As I help others with their brands, I absolutely love how it changes how they do business. It allows me to love what I do. Even the writing I do here and other places around the web adds cachet to my brand. I am forever looking for the opportunity to push my message out in front of the kind of people that want to learn something new and apply it themselves. Branding takes a lot of effort. But what worth achieving isn’t worth working hard to grasp? The best part of course are all the interesting people along the way.
Published: January 9, 2014