If you have competitors and you take money for your products or services, then you are a brand.
But lots of the pub and food brands that we work with say that they are not a brand. They say "we're not big enough" or "we don't have the money for that" or "we can't afford to act like a brand".
But if a small business is your brand (or at least a brand that you look after), then you have as much right to define and promote it as the next company.
The word brand can have expensive connotations as it is usually closely followed by the word agency, communications or the c-word … consultant.
But with some time and the right structure, you can develop your brand yourself and beat your immediate competitors.
I coach and mentor pub groups on this very subject and I try to get across that the process of defining your brand and acting like one can be extremely simple. And it applies to businesses of all types and sizes. What you are searching for is your brand DNA.
Start by choosing four people from your team, ideally those from different departments, with different levels of seniority and length of service. Choose a facilitator and set aside time to have some in-depth conversations.
The questions that the group must answer are:
Describe your business as if you were describing it to your grandmother. No corporate jargon and no waffle. A pub yes, but what kind of pub?
If you could only have one type of customer for the rest of your business life, who would that be?
Think of all of the possible reasons why customers would use your product or service. List as many as possible, and have a vote on the main reasons.
Take three competitors that are keeping you awake at night. Ask members of your team to pretend that they are in charge of those companies and list all the reasons why they are better than your company – be honest, brutal and factual. You then have the chance at the end of each presentation to say why you are better than the competitor. Four or five unique selling points or competitive advantages should be clear after this exercise.
Take a range of recent magazines (travel, music, gossip, home, food, photography, sport). Pass these out to the group and ask them to find one picture each that encapsulates the personality of your company. Ask people to present their pictures, and words that describe them, to the group. Write up the main personality words and then narrow all the collated words down to four that describe your brand.
Once you have agreed on your brand personality keywords, select supporting words for the main brand personality words. For example, if brave is one of your main brand personality words, it could mean that pioneering, confident and spirited are good supporting words for your tone of voice. This is then how you sound on all communications, from your website to social media posts.
Now pull all of the answers together. Start with a positioning statement such as: "Our role in the life of our customer is …". A generic example could be: "Our role in the life of our customers is to serve a curated range of craft beers and ales, fine wines and high end seasonal dishes using fresh, local ingredients in a warm and friendly environment."
Then weave in what you do, who the customer is, their motivation and how you do it. This should be a tight paragraph that has no waffle in it. It will be packed full of everything that you have discovered over the session.
Finally, take your brand DNA statement and sum it up in two words. Think of this as a shorthand version of your longer brand DNA statement, for everyone in your business to keep in mind at all times.
I would thoroughly recommend spending £14.99 on your brand by buying Winning in Your Own Way by Robert Bean - this will talk you through the importance of brand and how to go about acting like one.
Copyright © 2016 Mark McCulloch, founder and ceo of WE ARE Spectacular.
Do we need it? Will it cost a lot of money? Do we have enough time? These are the questions swirling around the heads of marketers when it comes to marketing automation.
Everyone’s talking about it but there are a lot of things to be unsure about; and that means business owners often end up avoiding marketing automation altogether. But are putting your business at a disadvantage without it?
Marketing automation has been shown to increase sales - even for smaller businesses. It unlocks you from the tedium of managing a sales pipeline by putting a process around it and automating some of the stages. And that can quickly turn more leads into sales.
It can also help you to get more sales from existing customers. Research from Gleanster has found that those using marketing automation see 50% more sales coming from existing customers while those that don’t see only 30%.
Marketing automation also improves your customer service by enabling you to create a consistently great experience for your customers. By using segmentation, automation tools allow you to send targeted messages and give your customers personal attention based on their behaviour and interests.
Email auto-responders offer an easy way into marketing automation. Sending personalised emails to your customers on the right topic at the right time is a great way to activate (or reactivate) them - and automated emails are perfect for this.
You can start off with the simplest of auto-responders - a welcome message that's sent when somebody becomes a new customer. This is a key opportunity to briefly explain what you offer, and signal to new customers what they might like to do next.
You can add further messages as the customer continues on their journey with you. For instance, the "thank you" message after a customer has purchased your product is an obvious next step; and the "keeping in touch" email not long after they’ve first interacted with you can keep customers engaged and encourage a sale.
Marketing automation can unlock new sales opportunities and encourage loyalty from your customers. As a result, it's now an important part of the marketing toolkit for every business, especially as it can save time without costing the earth.
These are just some of the things marketing automation can do for your business. To find out if it’s right for your business and how to get started on a shoestring take a look at our downloadable guide here.
Copyright © 2016 Christina Richardson, co-founder and CMO at Openr, start-up mentor and entrepreneurship speaker and author.
To beat your competition, you just have to be 1% better than everyone else.
Don't believe me? Usain Bolt's nearest competitor was just 1% behind him in terms of time, yet no-one remembers who came second.
That is what a leading sport psychologist said at the Web Summit in Dublin in 2014 and it has stayed with me ever since.
I've also been inspired by the words of David McDowall, Brewdog's retail ops director. Speak at the Casual Dining conference in February, he nailed it when he said if you are not the best at what you do, then why do it? You've got to focus on what you are world class at, and you will outstrip everyone.
But how do you do this? You could spend your time becoming obsessed with all of your competitors, watching their every move, and then setting out to beat them in all areas. But this could be a long process.
Alternatively, waste no time and just dive in. You know who the best in your market are. Look at your business in comparison and focus on making every single person you hire, everything you make or serve and how you communicate 1% better than anything you have ever seen elsewhere.
Before you do this you must have your brand in place. Ask yourself:
Add this all together to create a statement that describes your role in the life of your customers.
Once your brand is defined, this is the lens that you look through and how you approach strategy for all areas of your business – people, price, place, product and promotion. Be open and honest; you'll have to interrogate every inch of your business to find your 1%.
But once you get into your stride, you can turn that marginal difference into a landslide.
Copyright © 2016 Mark McCulloch, founder and ceo of WE ARE Spectacular.
The way businesses and customers interact is changing - and graphics, photographs and videos are making a bigger impact on consumers than ever.
If you are launching a campaign, looking to strengthen your marketing materials or raise brand engagement, you should consider whether you are making the best use of visual marketing methods. If you want to get a great return on your advertising, it might be time to up your game with visual-based marketing content.
Today's brands, big and small, are faced with the challenge of appealing to easily distracted viewers. Many consumers will look at an advert or web page for just a few seconds before moving on - if you don't capture their attention right away, you could lose their interest for good.
To build a loyal and engaged client base, pick your images carefully. That image is likely to be remembered and perhaps even shared by viewers. Studies show that we remember 10% of written information, on average, but when illustrated with a strong image information retention rises to 65%. An image helps to connect your audience with your message, and will strengthen your brand moving forward.
Many social media campaigns use image-based platforms such as Instagram, Pinterest and even Tumblr to showcase their products; and the use of well-designed graphics can really enhance these marketing efforts. Studies have shown that for 80% of consumers, bright visuals are more attractive and lead to more conversions than text-based or simple image posts.
We've seen a dramatic rise in consumer engagement when presenting information in a visual style rather than as a textual piece. Employing a graphic designer to help with your campaign could also make a huge difference.
A recent Superbowl advert released through Snapchat by Gatorade received over one million views in its first 24 hours. This is similar to the audience reached by TV ads during the game - but the cost is significantly lower.
Businesses can make big savings on marketing while reaching the same audience - and online ads can be watched again and shared, increasing reach.
Adverts and marketing pieces that are accompanied by a relevant and appealing image are 94% more likely to be viewed, according to recent research. This means that the right image is more eye-catching than a headline and is the key to getting noticed.
Studies suggest that people are more likely to respond to pictures they can relate to, so images of people are usually effective. But graphics are also important as they can deliver a lot of information in a simple format.
You also need to understand your audience when choosing images. Instagram, for instance, has a young following that like bold, bright images; short clips and infographics also perform well in this environment. Facebook has a much broader market, with only 33% of users in the under-30 age bracket. On this platform, strong visual content works best when it’s accompanied by word-based content.
Copyright © 2016 Swapnil Kulkarni, Marketing Analyst at VoucherBin.co.uk. He understands business objectives, and tries to stay informed on market trends and implement right practices by using web analytics and market research tools.
In this podcast, Chloe Thomas talks to Dominic Irons, owner of Bureau Direct an award-winning mail order stationery retailer.
A focus on design, great products and excellent customer communication has enabled Dominic to grow his online stationery business and now he's getting up to 3,500 orders per month.
Dominic and his team want to make their customers feel part of the family and the communication strategy includes a weekly e-newsletter which, says Dominic, really embodies the values of the business and "has taken on a life of its own".
In this interview, Chloe also finds out how Dominic is growing the traffic to his website using SEO and pay-per-click advertising.
Tune in to Chloe's latest podcast below to hear from this successful online entrepreneur.
A strong brand drives growth but many marketers complain that business leaders don't understand what branding actually means for their business - and research backs this up.
The recent Brand Experience report from the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) reveals that two-thirds (67%) of marketers believe their leaders fail to fully embed their company's identity and values throughout their organisation and in relationships with customers.
For a company to understand and implement brand values, I believe the motivation needs to start at the top. But this is not just an issue for large companies - it's important for businesses of all sizes, including small firms.
Spencer Hannah, co-founder and director of Herdy, strives to ensure that brand is integrated throughout his company and believes it's a necessity for leaders to not only present the importance of the brand vision, but to make it one of their top priorities and really live it and breathe it.
In practice this means recruiting people that show a passion for the Herdy way of being. Employees, customers and social communities are all part of the Herdy family. In order to maintain this family atmosphere, Spencer holds weekly informal meetings where everyone has an opportunity to share what they are working on.
This ensures that the Herdy brand vision is aligned across the company and provides its leaders with an opportunity to engage and hear the views of members of the team and make sure they feel that they are working towards a common goal.
Marketing is not just about the external selling of a company's products or services, it is about creating a brand that can be communicated to customers through all of their interactions with the business.
For me, it is really important that small business leaders take responsibility to ensure that their company's values are integrated across the organisation, to help ensure their brand isn't superficial and to unlock its full potential to drive value for the business.
Copyright © 2016 Steve Woolley, head of external affairs at the Chartered Institute of Marketing.