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21 Replies Latest reply: May 19, 2009 3:00 PM by brandmanager RSS

Event:  Importance of Branding for Small Businesses

CommunityTeam Novice
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Your business may be small, but your brand doesn't have to be. Branding ensures that no matter what size your operation, your audience will remember you, talk about you, and recommend you to friends. More valuable than the hardest-working team of sales execs, your brand tells your story, gives your company instant validity and can even strike an emotional chord in your target market. A powerful brand doesn't just say you're the best choice - it says you're the only choice.

About Perry Sessions

Perry Sessions Design is an award-winning design firm located in Charlotte, North Carolina. From strategic marketing and branding, to development of brochures and websites, the company's overriding goal is to transform business messages into design that inspires action while maximizing return on investment. Learn more about Perry Sessions by visiting http://perrysessions.com/

 


About Karen

 

Karen Sessions founded Perry Sessions Design after having spent nine years at Wachovia, now Wells Fargo, as Design Manager in Corporate Communications. Prior to that, she worked for Luquire George Andrews as production manager and for Triangle Health & Fitness (a subsidiary of Campbell Soup) as assistant marketing manager.

 

Join us on May 19, as Karen Sessions addresses questions like:
1) What is a brand?
2) What should a new business start-up do to create and develop it's brand?
3) When do I take my business to a next level of branding?

Post a question now, and then join us on May 19 at 2:00 p.m. EST for a response. Or join us during the event and post a question. Karen will try to answer as many questions as possible, but may not get to all of them. Note, you do not need to register for the event. You simply need to be a member of SBOC to post a question. If you don't have a user ID, join now, it's free.
  • Re: Event May 19:  Importance of Branding for Small Businesses
    antiques4me Newbie
    Currently Being Moderated

    How do I cost effectively create a brand for my business if I'm just focused on making the bottom line day to day? We have a company logo and business cards. Each month, we also purchase an ad in our city magazine and I just use their graphic designers to create an ad. We never thought about needing to create a brand image. I thought branding was something that corporations did, never thought about it for my small business. What is a brand? And why is it important for my business?
    • Re: Event May 19:  Importance of Branding for Small Business
      brandmanager Newbie
      Currently Being Moderated
      Antiques4 me, great questions.
      Let me start by addressing your second question:
      "What a brand is and how it's essential for a growing business."

      Your brand is a powerful business asset. 
       
      A brand is the emotional and intellectual impression a person has of your company, its products and services. And although you can't control how a person feels or thinks about your business, you can strongly influence those thoughts.
       
      Your brand is projected through every interaction you have with your customers and clients - starting with your name and trademark. Your brand is then reinforced by your website; the person who answers your phone; your print communications: your office or retail space; your advertising; your employees; even the ambient music you play in your store.
       
      That's why it's important to give the best impression at every level of connection in your business. 
       
      Your brand matters. It's critical to nurture and maintain it. If you don't, no one will.

      So how can a small business afford this? Well, I like to think of your brand as an everyday occurrence. It's how you greet someone as they walk in your store. It's how you answer the phone at your office. It's the bottled water, fresh flowers or clean environment. These are small things that create and maintain your brand. And not too expensive to do.

      Which gets to your first question:
      " How do I cost effectively create a brand for my business?"

      As far as being cost effective, you must be willing to see branding as an integral part of your budget. Not a painful add-on. So create a line item. Also, commit time that you can focus on maintaining your brand.

      Not all marketing is expensive, but not marketing yourself can be detrimental. Selecting the lowest bidder to design your identity and marketing materials might guarantee you saved money up front. But a bad haircut is a bad haircut. So do your research, find partners you trust, and make good choices. As for specifics, here are some no-to-low cost thoughts to promote your brand:

      • blog, twitter, facebook
      • publish your expertise
      • networking
      • developing pr relationships
      • investing in branded clothing and merchandise
      • becoming a "leading expert" for professional associations
      • contributing money or product to a relevant non-- profit organization
      • judging in competitions or hosting your own contests
  • Re: Event May 19:  Importance of Branding for Small Businesses
    doughboy Newbie
    Currently Being Moderated

    Pls give advice on how a start-up should be creating and thinking about branding. I'd appreciate any specifics you have for those in the food industry too.
    • Re: Event May 19:  Importance of Branding for Small Business
      brandmanager Newbie
      Currently Being Moderated
      Doughboy, thanks for the question:
      "How does a start-up create and think about branding?"

      Start off by asking yourself
      1) What am I offering?
      2) What makes it unique? And
      3) Who will care?

      If you can answer these questions honestly and thoroughly, you are on your way to building your brand.

      More than anything, you need to know what makes your company different. Differentiation is essential to a great brand and financial success. People are hardwired to notice what is different. The same old-same old is quickly forgotten. So be sure your "different" is a benefit others can't offer. A promotion that makes your customers smile and tell their friends about.

      Without knowing more about your business I can't give you specifics about the food industry. However, since you're sign-on is doughboy these examples might be of interest.

      (www.calliesbiscuits.com) First, the product is delicious, the web site is nicely designed and easy to navigate, and they've done a great job promoting themselves by getting on The Today Show and Martha Stewart. They have an active blog on their website that supplies useful, unique content. And additionally they use Facebook to keep a social media presence.

      There is a bakery in Charleston, S.C. called Normandy Farm Bakery. The name evokes old-country, quality-made. Their logo reflects "French" roots. Their store environment is memorable. Fortunately too, their product is wonderful. But what is so special about their brand is the care they take with their ingredients - award winning flours, natural starters, no preservatives and filtered water. Who wouldn't want to buy their bread? Unfortunately they do not currently have a web presence. So here, a little modern mixed in with their old traditional would help their brand.
  • Re: Event May 19:  Importance of Branding for Small Businesses
    mrs.fabulous Newbie
    Currently Being Moderated
    It's so intimidating to make that final choice...to say, "Okay, this is the direction I will go." It's easy to get bogged down with questions like "What if the public doesn't respond?", "Is this brand only compelling to me?", "Is my brand relevant?"...is there a standard to use in launching one's image?

    Looking forward to hearing from the marketing guru...
    • Re: Event May 19:  Importance of Branding for Small Business
      brandmanager Newbie
      Currently Being Moderated
      Mrs fabulous, your questions about design are not unusual:
      "What if the public doesn't respond? Is my brand relevant?"

      A little doubt is healthy. It keeps you on your toes, and makes sure you don't get complacent.

      If you are having a hard time defining your brand, go back to the questions I posed to Doughboy: What am I offering? / What makes it unique? / Who will care?

      If you cannot answers these questions, you definitely must not proceed! As an entrepreneur, you have to whole-heartedly believe in what you offer. And in what makes your product/service different and unique. Your brand. Otherwise your customers, investors and employees will know. And they won't believe in it either. Will your launch be successful? That's the million dollar question.

      I spoke with an entrepreneur this week who has successfully launched her unique business: www.augustascreations.com. She's known since her first lemonade stand that she was destined to be in the food business. She pedaled her pimento cheese at local shows and eventually pitched a large grocery chain to carry her product. She said that through the process she's learned the importance of branding and how essential it has been to her business success. From website, to presentation, to packaging. And she doesn't believe in focus groups, just her gut feeling. She is her own brand manager.

      As to your second question: "Is there a standard to use in launching one's image?"

      I don't believe there is a standard in launching a brand in the sense that every successful launch brings something new to the market. The balance of your marketing mix -- product, price, place, promotion -- and how your brand is integrated into each one of these, defines your customized launch.

      However, if there is one "standard", it's that I like to encourage that a business introduces its brand with a splash. The benefits of momentum can be critical. It's tough to get noticed and get media attention, 'buzz' etc. So take advantage of the all-fronts method to marketing yourself. And for those re-branding, it's also important in a re-branding effort to not have two branding messages out at the same time.

      Best to you and let us know how it goes.
  • Re: Event May 19:  Importance of Branding for Small Businesses
    jenberry Newbie
    Currently Being Moderated
    I'm an entrepreneur. I'm thinking about developing and launching a product. What practical steps should I take to create and develop my brand?
    • Re: Event May 19:  Importance of Branding for Small Business
      brandmanager Newbie
      Currently Being Moderated
      Jenberry. Very exciting. In response to "What practical steps should I take to create and develop my brand?"...

      Start by reviewing these items.
      1) Your goals.
      2) Your audience. And,
      3) Your budget.

      (You can also ask yourself the questions I put to Doughboy.)

      Once you answer these questions honestly, by all means, hire a good designer! It might take a design firm, or product design group. Take the time to interview. Find someone who fits your needs, and will make a good partner.

      And, yes, a strategic partner. Not a supplier. Suppliers provide items from an existing inventory. This is perfect if you want bright white office paper just like the office next door. If you're looking for a creative and effective approach to your brand through strategic visual communication and problem solving, however, commit to understanding the process. Find an expert and develop a trusting relationship that will carry you through years of success.

      As an entrepreneur, you know that first impressions are critical. Design cannot be considered an accessory. You do not want to miss the opportunity to make your company, product, and service -- your brand -- visually distinctive to your core audience.
         
      A great place to look for a designer is through AIGA, the largest and oldest association of professional designers in the U.S. AIGA encourages an understanding of the history of design and continually explores the critical relationship between design and business. And the majority of designers involved with AIGA have attended university and studied design. Go to aiga.org. Click on Jobs & Community and select the AIGA Designer Directory. You can choose by geographic area and area of expertise.
       
      Bring in the designer as early as possible in the process. You'll ensure a strong presence for your business right out of the gate. If your audience isn't certain of your persona, they simply won't remember you. So put a line item for design in your budget and get estimates to find out what projects will cost you.
       
      As you're interviewing potential designers, think through all the ways you hope to connect with your audience. Of course, you'll need to be sure you know who your audience is and what they want. Figure out what makes your business distinctive. How will you stand out in a crowd of competitors? And is the name of your company or product really ideal? Many designers can help with naming. 
       
      As you build your brand, remember, it's a process. Like anything that has longevity, your brand will need to be maintained. Continually keep in mind your brand and the message you want to get across.  
  • Re: Event May 19:  Importance of Branding for Small Businesses
    CommunityTeam Novice
    Currently Being Moderated

    Please welcome Karen Sessions from Perry Sessions, an award winning design firm. Karen will be posting as user brandmanager. Karen is going to start off by answering some questions the Community has already posted. While we're doing this, if you have a question for Karen, please login and post now. If you don't see your question posted, you do not have to repost. We've received it in the queue and will have Karen repond when he gets the chance. Also, don't forget to refresh your screen often to see Karen's latest response. Thanks!
  • Re: Event May 19:  Importance of Branding for Small Businesses
    Howard Novice
    Currently Being Moderated

    How do you know how effective your brand is?
    • Re: Event May 19:  Importance of Branding for Small Business
      brandmanager Newbie
      Currently Being Moderated
      Hi Howard,

      You must first understand your brand fully. Knowing your product's primary benefits helps you differentiate your brand and understand the impact it has on your customers' lives.

      • Your brand should improve their lives: Does it save time, convenience, money?
      • Your brand should evoke an emotional connection: Does it make them feel comfortable, secure, smart, unique?
      • Your brand should enhance their identity or image: Does it make them appear to be sexy, rich, "green"?

      The latter benefits are more difficult to accomplish but build a stronger brand,

      From a more practical standpoint, you can analyze your brand in some simple ways:

      • Google yourself. What do the searches reveal about your product?

      • Buy your product. If and whenever possible, hire your services, experience your product, employ a 'secret shopper' or watch customers experience your services.

      • Talk to your customer. Mingle with your customers in a store where your product is and ask questions. People love to give their opinions. Go online to ask questions in a forum, tweet your followers, or get feedback through your blog.

      • Employ short-response marketing. Try to spark sales or leads through tradeshow offers, targeted email marketing that can be tracked with analytics, or throw customer appreciation events. This is not only a quick way to get a trackable ROI, but offers opportunities to develop a database of customers loyal to your brand.
  • Re: Event May 19:  Importance of Branding for Small Businesses
    caffeinated Apprentice
    Currently Being Moderated
    Hi Perry, thank you in advance for helping out today!

    In your response to antiques4me, you mentioned investing in branded clothing and merchandise. I like this idea. I already have branded napkins, cups and take-out bags. But my concern...is there such a thing as too much brand?

    -caffeinated
    • Re: Event May 19:  Importance of Branding for Small Business
      brandmanager Newbie
      Currently Being Moderated
      Caffinated: Thanks for the question: "Is there such a thing as too much brand?"
      Absolutely not, if it done right and is in keeping with your brand. I never get annoyed by seeing a quality brand's presence around me. Just make sure your visual brand is striking.

      However, if your part of your brand personality, for instance, is being environmentally friendly, then you might question how your branded packaging or accessories are being viewed. Are the materials you're producing an annoyance or ending up as litter in the street?

      Political campaigning is highly steeped in branding. And I'm sure nobody missed that brand. It was everywhere. Whatever your political affiliation, Barack Obama's presidential campaign is a perfect case study in a branding message that not only reinforced their primary value of "a new kind of politics," but took advantage of all media avenues. Including adapting to the times by adopting, in part, social media outlets that would reach a large potential audience.
  • Re: Event May 19:  Importance of Branding for Small Businesses
    CommunityTeam Novice
    Currently Being Moderated

    Karen - What are principles of a good brand?
    • Re: Event May 19:  Importance of Branding for Small Business
      brandmanager Newbie
      Currently Being Moderated
      I like to think of a brand as a living entity. Which is why I encourage our clients to keep it fed and let it get its exercise out and about, as much as possible.

      I develop and analyze all client brands with what we call our Brand Personality Profile. This consists of six primary personality traits that you'd look for in any relationship. And you definitely want your brand in as many profitable relationships as possible!

      1) Differentiation: What makes your brand unique?
      2) Simplicity: Can it be defined in a few simple words?
      3) Consistency: Does it present itself the same way in all media?
      4) Honesty: Does the brand reflect your product and service accurately?
      5) Character: Is your brand memorable and appealing?
      6) Flexibility: Are you willing to adapt as you grow?

      The stronger emotional connection a brand has with its audience, the longer that relationship will last. If it can tug at the emotions of your audience, all the better. Your brand should connect with their pressure points, their passions, their core needs. If you do that, your audience will go out of their way to reach you and your product or service. They may even be willing to share you with others.
  • Re: Event May 19:  Importance of Branding for Small Businesses
    Generation4 Novice
    Currently Being Moderated

    What do you think about all the new forms of marketing & media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter)? Do you have any feedback or best practices for how a company should start leveraging these?
    • Re: Event May 19:  Importance of Branding for Small Business
      brandmanager Newbie
      Currently Being Moderated
      Hi . This is a great question on Social Media.

      If you're looking to build your community, do business research, provide customer support, build a database and discuss current issues, the answer is by all means take advantage of these outlets.

      As you probably know, it's an arena that is constantly changing. Each business has its own uses for these outlets. Social spaces like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter all have valuable business potential. These are great tools that provide opportunities for business professionals, entrepreneurs and retailers who are looking for new contacts and communities. As well, there are tons of other networks to choose from, including ones outside the US, such as Hi5, Orkut and Bebo.

      We do not have a best practices that we can recommend. But we would suggest you explore the different options so you see how they function. Most have "help" areas, recommendations, and success stories.

      (If you haven't explored this Site, I highly recommend it. It's a wonderful community offering invaluable resources for small businesses. Start a conversation. Be an authority. Ask a question.)

      You can also search for blogs that cater to your audience. For more on branding, check out www.brandingstrategyinsider.com. We find this a great resource for learning more about brand building.

      Here's a great example of someone who's using Twitter to get exposure for his business. Kogi is L.A.'s hottest culinary obsession. Kogi's chef is Roy Choi, an alum of Le Bernardin and Culinary Institute of America. The craze is over his food that fuses the taste of Korean BBQ and the portability of tacos and burritos. And where can you find this tasty restaurant? You can't unless you follow their Twitter feed that announces where one of its two roving restaurants is. Yes, his restaurants only have wheels. And admittedly, there is nothing new about a taco truck, but Kogi has transcended those roots with his gourmet gastro-mobiles and has emerged, through a combination of phenomenal cuisine and social networking savvy.

      In fact, just today Kogi posted on Twitter that they are five people away from hitting 24,000 followers. That is huge.
  • Re: Event May 19:  Importance of Branding for Small Businesses
    CommunityTeam Novice
    Currently Being Moderated

    Thank you so much for sharing your expertise today Karen. If you'd like to learn more about branding and Perry Sessions Design, please visit http://www.perrysessions.com
    • Re: Event May 19:  Importance of Branding for Small Business
      brandmanager Newbie
      Currently Being Moderated
      Thank you. And I appreciate all your questions. I'd like to close this discussion by saying that in the twelve years since opening Perry Sessions Design, I have found that small business owners are the most passionate about what they do. We have been fortunate to develop projects for Fortune 50 companies, but there is nothing more exciting than seeing an entrepreneur's business vision flourish. I hope all of you find the right team to make your brand a success.
  • Re: Event May 19:  Importance of Branding for Small Businesses
    CommunityTeam Novice
    Currently Being Moderated

    What are some of the most common mistakes business owners make when attempting to create an image/brand for their company?
    • Re: Event May 19:  Importance of Branding for Small Business
      brandmanager Newbie
      Currently Being Moderated
      There are too many to count, but the same goes with raising a child. There just aren't classes in this kind of thing. However, to make the process easier, I like to encourage our clients to take positive steps when developing their brand. The same would apply to all small business owners working with their creative team. Here's a partial list:

      1) Trust us. We have education, experience and the resources to make great decisions for you. You are investing in us for these reasons.
      2) Remind us to trust you. I say this as a reminder to our clients that they are the true experts in their vision and goals. It is a partnership and we have to listen for their brand to be a success.
      3) Remember your Brand Personality Profile. It's too easy to get distracted from your vision. Successful growth is long term and comes from a cumulative process of being consistent.
      4) More is not always better. People are bombarded by thousands of marketing messages a day. Make yours memorable. Keep it simple.
      5) You are your own Brand Manager. It's your brand. You make the final decision. Don't let someone else drive your choices unless they know your brand fully.

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