Written by: David J. Volk, Esq | March 13, 2017
Have a goal: The Brand in Demand. (Catchy or goofy? Doesn’t really matter. It makes you think. That is what you want people to do: think about you. And, it could be worse. I just read an article about rapper Rick Ross: he has a song that rhymes “Atlantic” with ……………… “Atlantic.”)
What is your brand?
Think of your brand as the "good will" you have earned.
Intangible. It has nothing to do with real estate, inventory, or vehicles. It refers to the reputation behind your company's name and logo. It can be worth more than all the tangible assets put together. The first thing you must do is decide how you want people to perceive your business, and then figure out what you have to do to get there.
Think of the businesses you respect and admire. Think McDonald’s french fries or the total customer experience of WalMart compared to their competitors.
Are you special in any way?
If you cannot explain it to yourself and your employees, you cannot explain it to others.
A brand is a company's face to the world. It is the company's name, how that name is visually expressed through a logo, and how that name and logo are extended throughout an organization's communications. A brand is also how the company is perceived by its customers -- the associations and inherent value they place on your business.
What is your goal?
- Define in writing what makes you special.
- Increase the public's awareness of your business name and logo.
- Build a strong "essence" that inspires loyalty and trust in your current customers and provides a level of familiarity and comfort to draw in potential customers.
- Consistent advertising and direct marketing. Decide what you can do for your customers that your competitors can't. Create a laser or elevator talk that quickly and intriguingly answers the question, “What do you do?” Hammer away at that in every ad or direct pitch.
- Customer service. Employees can make or kill your brand. Make sure each person understands his or her indispensable role. If you ignore or treat someone badly at the counter, on the phone, or on the sales floor, you've lost that person and everyone else that hears about it. Word-of-mouth is indispensible to building a brand. However, it can hurt you more deeply than it can help you. For some reason, people talk more frequently about bad experiences. Train, counsel, and then get rid of employees who won't cooperate!
- Honor The PR and Advertising. Keep your promises. Don’t disappoint customers once your advertising gets them through the door. Make it easy for them to make purchases and returns. They should leave smiling. If you tell your local Little League team that you'll provide team T-shirts, follow through. If you commit to a joint venture with another business, school or a group of any kind, keep up your end of the deal. Pay your invoices on time. Be a good citizen. Get involved with community projects where your business can do something positive (and maybe get some free press).
- Use the internet. A company with no web presence is archaic. Your customers are on the web. They expect to see you there, too.
- Develop a mission statement that shows your reason for being and the value you provide to your customers.
- Hire an advertising agency/branding company to bring your image and message under a brand. Develop all collateral and image materials (web, stationery, logo, tagline, mission statement, cards, postcards, brochures, elevator pitch, newsletters, letters, project sheets, resumes, bios, firm description, etc.) to coincide with the brand and your message.
- Develop a memorable tagline that expresses who you are and what you do.
- Make a matrix of all those you'd like to reach in the next year and the potential influencers on those people. Develop a timetable and calendar of outreach.
- Regularly write and issue press releases to the media.
- Regularly write and post press releases to your website.
- Regularly write and post press releases directly onto the internet.
- Regularly write articles for local or industry publications.
- Regularly write a blog article featured on your website.
- Regularly write and pitch feature story ideas to the media.
- Diversify all marketing, PR, and media to reach the markets where your clients are to be found (as opposed to marketing within your own service industry).
- Participate (attend, speak, host, present, show) in at least two national and local industry conferences.
- Create and issue an online or direct mail newsletter.
- Get known for niche expertise or specific industry knowledge. (speak, write, present, teach).
- Participate in professional internship programs.
- Participate and sponsor local charitable efforts; get your name in the program the charitable cause distributes; get your name in the press surrounding the event.
- Get to know all potential teaming partners in your new geographic area. Let them know your people, your areas of expertise, and potential for cross referrals.
- Develop collateral material with a regional bent; think what projects, services, people, or elements might be important to this new market and capture this regional tone in all collateral material.
- Develop tip sheets as to how your company is different than your competitors and why this makes a difference to teaming partners and to your end users—your potential clients. Include these differentiating tips as the basis for all your branding statements.
- Develop a calendar of local and regional events in your locale and make your company visible in the areas most related to your company and your potential clients' interests.
- Post your calendar of appearances and participation on your website.
- Plan a media release before and after each event.
- Hire an industry professional to conduct a survey on your behalf; post the results on your website. Publicize the results most important to your industry.
- Update your website to be informational based so that search engines can find you, and clients can read in-depth material demonstrating your expertise. Add informational website content a minimum of four times per month.
- Establish your brand by regularly updating the financial value or potential value associated with your brand. Quantify results achieved and add these results to your brand value. Communicate through all methods, the value of your brand to those associated with it.
Message Board Tips for Branding Your Business
The following is from a message board with eighty-five great posts on the topic. I boiled it down to a fine fifty. Big picture, your current and future customers need to know what you do, why you are great, and in many cases, like you personally.
- Remember Storytelling Basics Your brand has a story; tell it. Great stories have conflict. Ever solve a customer's problem? Be the hero with well thought out solutions that proves you really know your audience.
- Be A Hero to One Major Group Of Customers Don't try to save the world and don't try to be all things to all people. Focus on being a HERO to one major group of customers. Clarity & singular focus provide you with powerful, effective, and dominant branding.
- Branding Boosts Do something special for someone else's brand. There is no such thing as bad PR, and if you do something for someone else's brand, you get noticed, they get noticed, and they owe you a reciprocal favor.
- Keep It Simple & Readable When designing your brand & logo, remember the advice of the father of logo design, Paul Rand: simplicity & readability. Pretty but illegible or a screwy font may not help your image.
- Handheld Branding Update your business cards. They play such a big role in spreading the word, yet so many out there look the same. Shoot for memorable but not obnoxious. It's a chance to emphasize what's unique about your business right in someone's hand.
- Give Away the Farm! Don't be afraid to give your content away for free, at least while building your brand and your reputation as an "expert." Provide valuable content people come to depend on.
- Hit the Pavement! There is no better way of selling your company, yourself and your brand than getting in front of people and speaking to them directly. Search out local groups that have target markets for you.
- Social Proof Brings Power to Your Brand The best thing you can do to give any brand a boost is to use the power of social proof. To build social proof; garner media mentions, establish partnerships with respected companies, win awards, or simply post testimonials from satisfied clients.
- Giving My Brand a Boost Be ACTIVE! Post pictures, do videos, and blog, blog, blog. Active blogging and posting push people to your site. It is cheap and effective.
- Excellent Custom Service Is a Brand's Best Friend Spiffy logos and zippy slogans are well and good. However, if customer service is weak, the business doesn't stand a chance. Treat every customer like a V.I.P. and make sure orders go out A.S.A.P.!
- Free Free Free Stuff Product or marketing giveaways can boost traffic and sales. Always have some sort of promotion active on your website and facebook page, and add comments regularly.
- Target New Segments If you are selling a product and want to boost sales, try identifying new segments. Can your product be useful to segments other than what you originally targeted?
- Tell People What You Do Some of the most successful brands are also some of the easiest to understand because their names say it all. 5 Hour Energy and Vitamin Water come to mind. Keep it simple. Get to the point.
- Be the Brand Many are concerned with keeping themselves separate from the brand. Be the brand in all you do. People do business with companies and people they like, know, and trust.
- Be Consistent Evaluate your current brand consistency. Is your website modern, does your logo match on your homepage as well as your facebook page, twitter, blog, and your business card?
- Write a Blog Post When business is good, we're too busy to blog. If business is dragging, write a new post! It will go out to your feed subscribers and Google automatically. Add coverage by tweeting and posting to facebook. Post something appealing to your target.
- I've Gotta Be Me Be just who you are. Don't hide behind a name. You are the core of your business. Customers want the opportunity to know, like, and trust you. Let your personality shine through your work
- Come Alive Via Public Relations Brands go stale or undiscovered for one reason: no one is reading, hearing, or talking about them. Even small businesses benefit greatly from a focused, disciplined PR campaign. The right message reported in the right news media works wonders.
- Ride Some Coattails! Partner with a stronger, better-known brand on a project. Work with your partner to promote your collaboration. Repeat. Your brand enjoys stronger outreach and reflected credibility with each alliance, while your partners' networks grow. A win-win!
- Relate, Revamp, Rejoice Relate your brand to what your target customers are looking for in your niche. Revamp your branding efforts if they are not working to reach your target customer.
- Claim Your City Naming a local business is as simple as "city" + "industry" and gets the point across in a hurry. If you want to have a local brand that residents won't be able to forget, it never hurts to keep it simple.
- Target Your Creativity When you're getting your brand ready to go public, you shouldn't just be thinking in terms of what appeals to you. Think of what your ideal client would be attracted to. Do your research and tailor your branding around your target demographic.
- Rejuvenate Broaden your focus to see what else you can offer without losing what makes you great already.
- Strut Your Stuff! Brand YOU. For most small businesses, the brand is the business owner! Be creative! Be bold! Be outright outrageous! Put your face where others dare not go. Speak in memorable sound bites. Make 'em laugh--make 'em cry--make them remember your name
- Sponsor And Support We boost our brand by sponsoring events and then supporting them. Post about them on your social media.
- Get In Front Of People Give talks and write articles. Be a solo speaker or on a panel for an organization or group's meeting or expo. Deliver a workshop or seminar. Write articles that add to your credibility. Use press releases to let folks know what you are doing.
- Barnacle Branding Partner with other big brands tangential to your business. Let them give away a free in-depth report that you produce, or video training for something near and dear to your target audience. Your brand then gets introduced to a whole new audience with the implicit endorsement of the brand that they already have a relationship with.
- Hit The (Social) Streets Invest in building 2-way genuine relationships in top social communities: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Be observant of up and comers. PAY IT FORWARD without expectations and the dividends will follow.
- Article + Distribution = Expert Status Get your brand associated with your specialized knowledge. Write an article in your area of expertise and get it distributed. Nothing demonstrates your chops like a practical boots-on-the-ground application of your know how.
- Video SEO Load video testimonials onto your website. Videos get a high click rate and are also great for activating the search engines in Google.
- Freshen Up With A Facelift Everyone loves a revision. Get some new graphics done for the 'newly revised' edition but also, go through your material, add some new stuff, take out some old stuff, make it more appealing to more people. Change is good.
- Branded Newsletter - Sell Sell Sell! Build yourself a top-notch customer database from the last few years of correspondence. Be sure to include current, past, and potential customers. Plug the addresses into Constant Contact and create a 'Branded' newsletter to update, sell & reconnect.
- Change Your Voice One of the easiest ways to boost a brand is to change its driving force: the voice. If you've noticed your brand begin to plane off, try handing the reins to another capable individual or group. The change in voice will become immediately apparent.
- Publish A Press Release Press releases are one of the best kept brand boosting secrets when published through a quality service. You then have a piece for your press page and press kit.
- Notch Up The Color Notch up or dial down the color a bit. You don't want to lose all the work behind your brand. But you can get a little different tone. You change the impact of your message, without changing the message.
- Blast Off! Come up with a catchy promotion: a contest asking people to answer questions about the Top Ten facts about your brand. Email and tweet it to customers, prospects, referral sources, and media. The first ten people to correctly answer win something fun.
- Badge Yourself Wear a branded name badge versus imprinted shirts. People perceive the name badge as an authority status.
- Customers Are Selfish: What Is In This For Them? In this competitive marketplace, you have to get the customers attention. Creating/recognizing/defining and then publicizing a strong competitive advantage/edge will help you stand out. Remember that customers think "what is in this for ME?"
- Listen + Connect = Remember Listen and pay special attention for opportunities to make a referral or connection to someone in your network, or provide information to solve a problem.
- Get Face To Face! Nothing works better than meeting and asking for more business and referrals. Bring a promotion or reward too.
- Do Unto Others There are other experts who would love to get in front of my audience. Reach out to them and give them an opportunity to communicate with your audience.
- Fall In Love (Again) With Your Brand Like any long relationship, you need to find that spark, that new reason to fall in love with your Brand. Audit your customers, and ask them what they love about you. Chances are you'll hear something constructive and stimulating.
- GET PERSONAL! Selling my product is selling my psychological services. What that means is that my client-to-be needs to be "sold" on ME! The more honest, sincere and genuine I present myself, the more people feel safe to expose themselves to a perfect stranger. Lack of information about myself means lack of trust. You build a good brand by being funny, interesting, and genuine while being a fairly open book. This shows you have character.
- Behind The Mask Provide valuable information via social networking sites. The information provided should have real value to those you are trying to serve. In addition, it must be an accurate reflection of your company.
- Use Article Marketing To Increase Your Exposure Write articles about your topics; submit them to article marketing sites for back links.
- Interview A Mover And Shaker Interview a well-respected business leader in your community and write about them on your website. Whether it's a business anniversary, a new building, or a new project, celebrate their success.
- Tchotchkies Giveaways, spiffs, or tchotchkies (pronounced chochskies) are the key to making your brand visible. You can put your logo on everything: computers, ceiling tiles, and of course, giveaways.
- Spend Money To Make Money! Customers always want free things! Offer a low overhead service - a free lunch, a free tire rotation - in exchange for your customer posting a review on Yelp or a quick review tweet to their friends. Offer 15% cards to give their friends, too!
- Who Are You? When you are considering naming and branding a small business, keep it simple. People should be able to tell what you do by reading the name. Bigger companies may have enough going for them that an abstract name works. You can go that route after you are rolling.
- Jingle Bells Develop a jingle or a slogan that communicates your message in a few powerful, insightful, and intriguing words. “Volk Law Offices means business” is an example.
A Bit About Public Relations and Ad Agencies
How do you know how to find, qualify, hire, and monitor them? How do you know how much to pay and what you have a right to expect for your money?
What do you do when you've hired an agency, you're paying them a lot, and you begin to have strong suspicions of their value? How do you answer the nagging questions, "Is this working? Are they doing the right thing? Are they the right agency for me? Am I really getting my money's worth?"
- Is your agency working from a program or just winging it? Are there specific objectives, or is it just, "Stick with us, and we'll get your name out there?”
- Objectives must be clearly delineated. Public relations for a professional firm is different than most public relations. Name recognition alone will help a product or a corporation, but it rarely sells services. For example, if the objective is the standard Name Recognition, rethink the relationship.
If the objective is to project the expertise of the firm's individuals, then you may have something going for you.
- Is the program tailored to your firm, your markets, your expertise, and your needs, or is it simply a standard, one-size-fits-all program?
- What's the firm's mechanism for getting the gist for its public relations mill? This can make the difference between success and failure.
- What's the agency doing to educate you and your staff? You may know what the agency is doing, but do they explain what they need from you to do it? Do they explain clearly how it serves your total marketing effort? Do they answer you intelligently and patiently when you ask "Why?" which you should be doing regularly, anyway?
- How does the agency keep you informed? Is there a specified format? A written report? Planned meetings? Or do they just wing it, keeping you in the dark most of the time?
- Who does the agency have on your account? Who do you see on a day-by-day basis? Who does that person report to? What are the levels of professionalism of these people, relative to your program? How participatory, and how responsive, are the senior people in the agency?
- How's the ratio of client service to client relations? While it's expected that your agency will give you the same kind of service your clients expect of you, sometimes the bulk of the fee goes to meetings and correspondence with you, all designed to make you feel important and cared for, and the smallest part of the fee goes to actually performing for you. This generates a good, warm feeling, and the notion that the agency really cares about you. But it doesn't produce much in the way of useful marketing.
- Whomever the agency assigns to your account has got to be smart enough to understand what you're really about. How does a person publicize a new cash flow measurement system if he or she doesn't understand cash flow to begin with? How does a person publicize your capability in trust law without understanding some of its ramifications? Here, simple-minded press work won't do. Public relations works only when the PR firm is capable of understanding the nature of what you do professionally. This is another distinction, by the way, of professional services marketing as opposed to product or corporate marketing.
- Does the agency help you understand how to measure its own performance? This may seem a little self-serving. But if the agency says, "Look at how many clippings I've gotten for you or ads I have placed" then you should respond, "OK, but what do they mean in terms of practice development?" If the answer is, "Enhanced name recognition," then you've got a potential problem.
On the other hand, if the answer is, "It builds a case for your expertise in specific areas, and that case can be used as a selling tool," then cherish that agency.
- How is the agency on details? For example, you might want to check the mailing lists they're using for your press releases. You should know the categories and publications they're sending to.
- And finally, do you sense that the public relations agency is working for you -- to accomplish your goals -- or working for itself simply to get a fee? Don't mistrust your instincts here. They're more valuable, and accurate, than you think.
They're only as good as the people they put on your account, backed by a firm with high standards of performance. You can have a great firm but a poor account executive on your account (in which case, complain to management). You can even have a great account executive, but one who doesn't quite grasp the nature of what you do, in which case, again, ask for a replacement.
Ultimately, the best basis for judging a firm from another profession that's working for you is to judge them the way you want to be judged, in terms of service, performance, understanding the nature of the project, and so forth.
Stick With Me, You'll Get To Hollywood, Surviving In The PR Agency Game
Kathy J. Kobliski, Branding Your Business, Learn How To Make Your Small Business A Big Name. Entrepreneur.com, December 18, 2000
Leslie McKerns, Best Tips for Branding Your Company, 25 effective ways to increase your name recognition, McKerns Development
The Importance of Branding Your New Business, AllBusiness.com, March 17, 2009
Mike Michalowicz, 85 Tips For Branding Your Business, The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur.
The matters discussed here are general in nature and are not to be relied upon as legal advice. Every specific legal matter requires specific legal attention.
The law is constantly changing and matters discussed today may not be the same tomorrow. Legal matters are also subject to different interpretations by attorneys, judges, jurors and scholars. No attorney-client relationship is intended or created as a result of matters discussed here. You should consult counsel of your choice if you have any dealings in these areas of the law. Volk Law Offices, P.A. and its attorneys make no representations or warranties with respect to the accuracy or completeness of the matters addressed.