I can understand why many small business owners believe that their brand is just another term for their logo. In fact, I tend to glaze over when terms such as brand essence and brand voice get bandied around by agencies. But, if as a business owner, you fail to recognise what branding is really all about you are almost certainly missing a trick.
When we talk about branding we tend to think of big companies with even bigger budgets; so what can small companies do to build their own brands?
I received a fantastic, yet stunningly simple, example of good branding from a small local company today in the form of a basic door drop. The leaflet invited me to an open day at a local bespoke curtain makers. Here’s why I thought it was so great in terms of branding:
- The materials used for the invitation were in keeping with the brand – high quality card with a glossy laminate finish which oozed luxury
- The images reflected the product – professional and creative images which shouted ‘attention to detail’
- The overall design was clean and precise – much like the bespoke products they produce I expect
- The message was confident and clear – we are here, come and meet us and look at our work
- The trade body logo was displayed – telling me that they are serious about what they do.
By aligning every aspect of this simple piece of marketing material to their brand and really focusing on getting the detail right they have succeeded in getting their message across brilliantly.
It’s not often that a simple piece of card can actually give you confidence in a product before you have even seen it…I wonder if the open day will live up to expectations?
It doesn’t take any more money to create a great piece of marketing material that will really enhance your brand than to create a mediocre piece. It does take time, thought and attention to detail though; but isn’t it worth it?
It was with some relief that I opened the sixth, and final, direct mail piece from a certain Scandinavian book printing company today. You may be wondering why I have received no less than half a dozen different mailing packs from a seemingly unrelated business over the last two months – I certainly am!
I can at least take an educated guess. Though I have never had the need for a book printer, I did publish a magazine (until I sold the business some 6 months ago). My details have obviously been captured and ‘plonked’ into the generic category of ‘publishing’ and the data sold on to some poor unsuspecting marketer hoping for a list of relevant prospects!
Here are some of the questions you should ask before agreeing to rent or buy, what looks like, a relevant database?
- Where has the data come from and how is it kept up to date? Has the data originated from a legitimate source, has it been verified and on what basis is it kept up to date?
- Can you buy the relevant portion of the data and how can it be segmented? If you are looking to target businesses in a particular sector can they be easily identified?
- What level of detail does the database contain? It is essential that you have a named contact and you may also want a ‘phone number and email address.
- On what basis can you use the data? You can rent lists for one-off use or multiple use or you can buy the data outright. Be clear about what you need and what you are getting.
- How will the data be sent to you? The format in which you will receive the data is particularly important if you are using an outsourced mailing house. Make sure it is compatible.
There are lots of good databases out there – by asking the right questions you can make sure you choose the one that will work for you.
I made to a call to a company the other day and encountered a voicemail message telling me that the caller would return my call within 3 hours. I went away satisfied, able to get on with my work and confident that I would get a call back and didn’t need to make a mental note to call again.
In the same week I had an ‘out of office’ response to an email informing me that the recipient was working part-time this week as it was half-term and so may take a little longer than usual to get back to me. Too much information? I don’t think so. Again, I felt happy to be kept informed.
In contrast I ended up in an anonymous ‘phone queue the other day and, though I was probably only on hold for a minute, by the time I’d been blasted with ‘I’m in the mood for dancing’ I was in the mood for murder!
Unless you are operating in a truly time critical environment it seems to me that the best way to keep customers happy is to keep them informed. Think about what is an appropriate time scale to return a call or email in your particular business scenario, tell your customers when they can expect to hear from you and most important of all…stick to your promise.
Is it a trait of small business owners or something to do with British reserve? Recently I seem to have come across many examples of businesses simply selling themselves short.
Of course, I still see countless examples of overblown marketing copy hyping the next must-have product which sends me reaching for the delete key. Equally though, there are plenty of great businesses, brilliant products and wonderful services that could benefit from a few well placed superlatives in their web copy or adverts.
I was recently asked to write an advertorial piece for a client who was, if I say so myself, delighted with the outcome. I know this particular client, and their products, very well and so had no difficulty in articulating how good they are. The client in question felt uncomfortable ‘blowing their own trumpet’ but was quite happy for me to do it for them.
So why is it so hard to get the balance right? Try putting yourself in your customers shoes and think about what they would say about your product or service. Better still, get you customers to do the job for you. Genuine customers testimonials ( and yes, we can all see through them when they aren’t genuine) are worth their weight in gold. Don’t worry if they don’t say exactly what you would have said, this makes them all the more compelling, and they are likely to be written in the language that your prospective customers will understand.
So go on, ask a few customers what they think of your product or service and have a go at injecting some life into your marketing copy.