brand en-US Why Brand Image Is Important to the Tiniest of Businesses <div class="field field-type-link field-field-url"> <div class="field-label">Link:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="" target="_blank"></a> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/small-business/why-brand-image-is-important-to-the-tiniest-of-businesses" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="170" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>A few months ago, a promising independently-run business shut its doors within a couple of years of startup. Though I enjoyed its product offerings, I had a hunch that it would not survive, not because of operational mismanagement or sloppy customer service but lack of a well-defined and relentlessly-communicated personality or brand.Though some happily embrace and <a href="" target="_blank">effectively use branding to differentiate their businesses</a>, many entrepreneurs are unconvinced of its value. Some rationalize that branding is counterproductive to a small business, especially a tiny one.</p> <p>Skeptics may think that narrowly defining a target audience and its ideal customer <i>limits</i> revenue and growth possibilities. Reluctant owners might wonder if spending time and allocating resources to developing and managing a branded presence <i>detracts</i> from profitability. However, conveying an image that is in sync with a viable brand strategy can not only help even the tiniest of companies but can be a major driver of its success.</p> <p>Branding touches and intersects with all aspects of a business: marketing, operations, sales, and more. Consider how effective integration and consistent portrayal of a brand image can benefit your business:</p> <p><b>Your ideal customers will recognize that they are being wooed. </b></p> <p>The small shop aimed to please a variety of people, primarily those within a ten-mile radius. These seemed to represent an appropriate target audience, homogeneous on a superficial level. But their lifestyles and consuming habits were wildly divergent, increasing the difficulty of winning favor among various segments.</p> <p>Nevertheless, in its seedling form, the brand held promise of reaching this audience with its similarities in demographics despite dissimilarities in consumer behavior. However, the branding concept was minimally developed and focused on product offerings and an occasional special event. Infrequent mentions of the brand message were contained in its website, in-store signage, social-media messaging, and face-to-face conversations.</p> <p>All aspects of the brand image should resonate with your target audience, letting them know how their quality of life could benefit from connecting with your business. Ideal customers should understand and want the emotional connection and tangible benefits that differentiates your company from competitors.</p> <p><b>Your customers will know what to expect from your products and services. </b></p> <p>The types of products and services offered, along with their respective price tags, are influenced by the brand strategy. In the case of the failed small business, the primary message was generally consistent in terms of purchasing; that is, items procured for the business roughly matched brand criteria.</p> <p>The message that needed more clarity, however, was how these disparate items were part of a more cohesive whole from the customer&rsquo;s point of view. Unless they evaluated the business premise and, frankly, stretched their imaginations, most would not see the connections among boutique-style offerings and seemingly basic items and folksy product lines.</p> <p>More intentional messaging with greater frequency could have better portrayed the brand image and helped endear the customer to the business and its unusual assortment of offerings.</p> <p><b>Customers will know who to tell and what to say about your business. </b></p> <p>Customers spread the word about the tiny business, telling others about its presence and encouraging visits. But, other than espousing the convenience of its location, they really didn&rsquo;t know what unique benefits to promote or what points of distinction to emphasize. Initial interest was high, but then traffic seemed to flounder.</p> <p>Given a clear brand message, both newly enchanted and long-time customers will know who to tell about your business and what they should say. They will intuitively insert the salient features and benefits of your products and services in conversations with friends, family members, professional colleagues, etc.</p> <p><b>You will know what to say in social-media and face-to-face conversations.</b></p> <p>The shop owner shared information that was useful but not relevant to the ideal customer. Over time, social-media messages, marketing campaigns, and face-to-face conversations became more and more disassociated from the original brand image. Promotional efforts and conversations began to resemble those of area competitors, further eroding the possibility of brand loyalty.</p> <p>Endless possibilities for engaging audiences, educating customers, promoting key products, and showcasing special events through social media and daily interactions can overwhelm many business owners. But a brand strategy can serve to shape and channel this content so that the image is accurately conveyed and continually reinforced.</p> <p><b>You can charge prices that support business profitability. </b></p> <p>The lack of a narrowly-defined brand image caused price issues for the fledgling business. Pricing strategy seemed inconsistent as some items were bargains while others were marked up considerably. Worse, while some customers understood the benefits of premium products and unquestioningly paid store prices, many were confused about their value and were resistant to pricing.</p> <p>Owners of the tiniest companies find that a properly expressed brand can not only reach target audiences, set expectations, and streamline business decision-making, but also help the business command desired pricing. Ideal customers understand, appreciate, and are willing to pay for unique expertise, specialized services, distinctive products, and one-of-a-kind experiences.</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="">Julie Rains</a> of <a href="">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-9"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">250+ Tips for Small Business Owners</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">How to Find Freelance Clients: Part Two</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">The 5 Best Credit Cards for Small Businesses</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">Best Business Travel Credit Cards</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">The 5 Biggest Mistakes Freelancers Make</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Small Business Resource Center brand brandning communication image marketing small business Wed, 28 Dec 2011 22:18:56 +0000 Julie Rains 835744 at 7 ways to spot a social media snake oil salesperson <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/7-ways-to-spot-a-social-media-snake-oil-salesperson" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="Confused Beauty" title="Confused Beauty" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="348" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Technology has given <em>you</em> plentiful opportunities to better your life. Especially if you're looking for work, even amidst the economic slump of the omni-stated recession, there are knowledge worker jobs opening up that didn't exist but a decade ago. Unfortunately, that's not to say all of these jobs are actually useful: just like pyramid schemes attract the greedy and fad diets interest the desperate, <strong>many social media snake oil salespeople are out there, ready to sucker you</strong>.</p> <p>Social media is about people being able to talk to each other easier through computers. Yes, Wikipedia has a <a href="">much more extensive definition</a>, but part of a slick sales strategy is dressing up what's old in new clothes. That's why even though there's an immense amount of value in word-of-mouth networks and empowering good causes through our machines, <strong>the tough thing is in distinguishing who's genuine from who's a quack</strong>.</p> <p>If you take a quick look on, well, <em>any</em> social network &mdash; Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, you name it &mdash; you may have run across packs (appropriately) of people who dub themselves social media consultants, gurus, strategists, etc. All claiming to help you improve your online presence. Other variants like &quot;lifestyle designers/architects&quot; (derived from the teachings of one Tim Ferriss who in turn <a href="">repackaged</a> the Pareto Principle) and other very trendy-sounding titles exist. They exist to sound impressive and sell <em>to</em> you, but as <a href="">B.L. Ochman astutely declared</a>:</p> <blockquote><p>How many of them have actually created a successful campaign for clients using social media tools? I bet you'd be hard-pressed to find half a dozen with real track records.</p> </blockquote> <p>That's why, like sound science, it's important to do the research, be skeptical, and debunk fluffy claims before buying into the bull: <strong>substantiate <em>who</em> are you dealing with here?</strong></p> <p>Like so much self-help hogwash which obscures <em>actual-but-not-so-fast </em>solutions, the <a href="">Kevin Trudeaus</a> of the social media world are here to sell you a false dream. Those scammers hate to hear it, but it's true. And here's <strong>7 ways you can spot them</strong>:</p> <h2>1. Buzzword-laden pig slop</h2> <p>If a hotheaded social media <em>whatever</em> comes to sell your company a &quot;comprehensive transparency strategy&quot; consisting of &quot;Web 2.0&quot; <em>this</em> and &quot;personal branding&quot; <em>that</em> and <em>can't</em> explain what they mean in simple English, they're full of it. And by &quot;it&quot;, I mean lies. It's unfortunate that scammers make the good souls look bad &mdash; just as a lot of crackpot pseudoscience misuses the established formulations of quantum physics. Like pig slop, it's a mess. And you deserve better.</p> <p><strong>Always insist on <em>substantiation</em></strong> &mdash; focusing on actions, disproving the fallacies behind the words, and showing there's followup to grand announcements. For example, if a social media usability firm (they really exist) is brought about because they say they can greatly enhance how your customers experience your product, don't just let them give you a feel-good keynote presentation and glossily-designed PDFs with &quot;The Master Plan&quot;: work closely with them to carry out small, lightweight tests and assure whether it <em>actually</em> has an effect. This may seem obvious; not so much if they're baffling you with buzzwords.</p> <h2>2. Lack of diverse interests</h2> <p>Case in point: I believe in the power of <a href="">personal branding</a>. But like &quot;social media&quot;, it gets thrown around a lot in an <strong>ironic attempt to camouflage <em>lack</em> of personality</strong>. There's now a cottage industry of of &quot;personal branding consultants&quot; who talk starchy like bad 80s cartoons; they try to sell &quot;Brand You&quot; packages on their websites and are shockingly one-dimensional. Specifically, they can't show what they've done for themselves outside of, well, elevating their profiles by trying to take your money. (It's like being <a href="">famous for being famous</a>.)</p> <p>I'm not asking for a &quot;I got rich and these are my beautiful women and houses&quot;-type deal, although Donald Trump is a master of that &mdash; and what I'd consider a real personal branding &quot;live by example&quot;. He trumps (heh) some of it up to make it look more glamorous than it really is, but he's definitely one of the strongest personal brands without using that buzzword. Like how <strong>repeatedly calling yourself &quot;cool&quot; negates itself</strong>. If you find Trump disagreeable, how about Richard Branson or Felix Dennis? (Wild hair seems to be a commonality.)</p> <p>People who have interdisciplinary skill sets and&nbsp; unorthodox fields of interest are a great asset because they possess perspectives no one else does: there's <em>no</em> substitute for that variety of firsthand experience. There <em>are</em> legit personal branding helpers out there, but they don't sit around all day blogging about how to improve your personal brand. They involve other elements in the mix.</p> <p>If you're interested in getting a personal branding expert to help you, find out what else they do. Outside of work, as well as odd jobs they've taken on. But don't just rely on their friends, because of&hellip;</p> <h2>3. Inbred testimonials</h2> <p>Strength in numbers, right? It's no secret that when social media yahoos are struggling to attain credibility, they'll vouch for each other. One will write a foreword for another's book they haven't really read, and yet another still will put forth glowing praise that can be inserted in the author's blog sidebar.</p> <p>Again, like everything else I'm saying here, there are earnest examples of this being done, but they're rarities amidst all the soundalikes in the so-called <a href="">echo chamber</a>. Reverb gives a musical instrument space, but do you know what happens when there's too much of it? The signal becomes washed out and indistinct, and nothing stands out.</p> <p>I'm all for friends helping each other succeed, but the problem with &quot;imbred testimonials&quot; is that they don't include any <em>external</em> perspective, such as that from satisfied customers (like resume references you can verify).</p> <p>Even though Seth Godin (whose tight style has been copycatted from here to Mars) said, &quot;It's not about you. It's about them&quot; &mdash; <strong>it's really about <em>us</em>, meaning you <em>and</em> them</strong>. After all, it's not a relationship, and definitely not &quot;social&quot;, unless it goes both ways.</p> <h2>4. No failed experiments declared</h2> <p>Yes, no one likes to put their dirty laundry in the same place as a job pitch. But social media is unique, since <em>being human</em> (authentic, transparent, etc.) is at the heart of it. Since personality can be measured in qualitative and quantitative ways, you don't know until you test: social media snakes like to proclaim case studies of how X company did a great thing while Y company sucked, but how many risks of their <em>own</em> have they taken, then trumpeted about it &mdash; even if it was a miserable failure? And <strong>how can you trust someone to help you or your company's reputation who won't put themselves under the microscope?</strong></p> <p>This doesn't mean false modesty. It <em>does</em> mean acknowledging those mistakes as valuable data to be used towards future gains, as <a href="">Jim Kukral</a> and <a href="">Rohit Bhargava</a> have.</p> <h2>5. Long lists of stuff they haven't done</h2> <p>This one's a relevant tangent: ever see those blog posts that go &quot;50 Must-Have Social Media Tools&quot; or &quot;100 Must-Do Tips to Improve Your Personal Brand&quot;? Mostly, they're baloney. Lists are a popular blogging format to catch people's interests, but let's get to the core: <strong>ask the author if they're really tried all the tools/tips/etc. and can vouch for them directly</strong>. Probable confession: &quot;Uh, no.&quot;</p> <p>Understand it's great to compile info from different sources, and I grok flavor in headlines, but it shouldn't be sensationalist drama that gets you high on a social media sugar rush, then plunges you back down into despair. That's like those supermarket magazines that sell you a different diet every month. (If it was so good, why keep switching?)</p> <p>There's <strong>much more usefulness in <em>empirical context</em></strong>: someone who notes &quot;I haven't tried this yet&quot; or &quot;I got great results but only after I stuck with it for awhile&quot; while recounting <em>how</em> they're applying a tool or tip to their life.</p> <p>If the social media &quot;expert&quot; you want to hire has been spotted making thoughtless lists, beware.</p> <h2>6. Stupid simplicity</h2> <p>Whenever a trend exists by name, you can bet unscrupulous folks will try to capitalize. Ever heard of Shaolin Kung Fu? Whether it's through <em>Kill Bill</em> or Wu-Tang Clan, it's been a hot martial art term. Problem is, if someone wants to learn &quot;Shaolin Kung Fu&quot;, they first need to understand <a href="">there is <em>no</em> single style</a>. Any &quot;teacher&quot; who insists otherwise is being deceptive.</p> <p>There is <em>no</em> single style to social media success. Some people can work it in a suit and tie, while others have to wear chicken suits. Some speak louder than Jim Cramer, others have a calming effect. And hey, it's okay to be low-key! Personal brands aren't for everyone, and personal brands are as diverse as the people behind them. This is why <strong>I hate seeing people forced to join social networks and mingling but getting no substantial benefit out of them</strong>.</p> <p>A <em>bona fide</em> social media maven (always look beyond labels) <strong>must be able to teach you how they get results, and how this will be applied to you</strong>. How concepts, even simple ones, are expanded into day-by-day actions. A programmer who creates cleanly-commented code is more prized than one who arrogantly dismisses the value of showing others the path, and fails to make their peers better.</p> <p>Mantras (and buzzwords) can boost confidence, but they're a mere hint of effective results. Like a map is not the destination, a word is not what it refers to. <strong>Don't rush into any communications plan without understanding </strong><a href=""><strong>Wiio's laws</strong></a>.</p> <h2>7. Unshared egos</h2> <p>Social media is all about exchanging resources, be it knowledge or tangible goods. And notice how I didn't say &quot;big egos&quot; &mdash; if you're going to be a social media rockstar, you may very well have a big ego! I've a fave saying:</p> <blockquote><p><strong>If I'm good, it's because I've made you better.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Consider <a href=";ex=1188964800&amp;en=c39103cf9c12a7a8&amp;ei=5087%0A">Rick Rubin</a>, who recently produced Metallica's return to form, <em>Death Magnetic</em>. With his unkempt beard and piercing eyes, and stripped-down essentials approach to music, he's definitely got a distinctive personal brand. Yet he doesn't cast a shadow over the bands he works with: he channels them like a shaman so they are <em>better!</em> One specific way he does this is getting them to consider stylistically incongruous options. It may make the band temporarily uncomfortable, but as Rubin's landmark bridging of hip-hop and heavy metal has shown, he's a uniter, not a divider.</p> <p>Someone may be blasting out dozens of tweets a day on Twitter, but if they're not sharing their ego to brighten other human beings' day &mdash; and this comes <em>before</em> selling their services &mdash; then their motives are in doubt, because they want to succeed at your expense. That is an <em>opposite</em> of social media.</p> <h2>Snakes on a web</h2> <p>Perhaps it was a &quot;customer-centric research analyst&quot; your company brought in, who blathered on (with empty buzzwords as mentioned above) but left you no richer in financial and happiness terms. Maybe it was a &quot;pro blogger&quot; who sold you training DVDs on how to sell yourself on the Internet, only for you to find out their steps were too convoluted and impractical to follow. These are the snakes among us.</p> <p>One of the most beautiful things about social media is how it empowers <em>you</em> &mdash; if you choose to use it &mdash; with a voice you wouldn't have had in years previous. Just like the Wise Bread Team draws attention to consumer problems you should be aware of, the same awareness needs to be extended to those promising solutions, but are just full of&hellip; snake oil.</p> <p><strong><em>Have you ever had to deal with a social media snake oil salesperson? Do you have your own ways of spotting them? Let us know in the comments.</em></strong></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="">Torley Wong</a> of <a href="">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-9"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">The vicious Home Rental Scam – don’t get conned.</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">Get the Job You Want With the Right Professional Image</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">6 Easy Ways to Improve Your Online Reputation</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">The Jury Duty Scam – coming to a phone near you?</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">8 Career Mistakes New Grads Make</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Career Building brand branding buzzword cheat consulting expert fraud guru lie media personal scam snake social strategy Sun, 15 Mar 2009 01:10:45 +0000 Torley Wong 2931 at