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.
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.
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.
Trust is an essential component in the success of any business. It's key to converting a prospect into a lead and turning a lead into a satisfied customer. When you are operating an online-only business in a high-ticket market, it becomes the single most important consideration.
For Carspring, this high ticket is a car, which, on average, is the second largest lifetime investment a customer will make after buying a home. Carspring launched in Spring 2015 and its main focus has been on building trust through transparency. Reaching that take-off point is dependent on building trusting relationships with customers.
This is undoubtedly a marketing cliché but a unique visual feel and voice helps guide people to the product you sell. Without a strong brand, people can't remember you and they'll struggle to trust you. All the usual suspects apply here: a great image, an emotional connection, brand consistency, reciprocal consumer relationships and memorable messages.
This is all about communication. Every single one of your consumer interactions has to help with establishing trust, whether it's a transactional email, your customer service team or your website.
Most importantly, it has to stay human. It has to feel like a personal one-to-one interaction. And if your product has a long research phase, great content that informs customers and institutes expertise in your brand is really crucial. FAQs and a blog, for example, help you reach your target audience early on in the purchasing journey.
An online business that sells high-ticket items has to work that bit harder to convince people to complete a purchase with you. One way of doing this is by creating some great USPs that go above and beyond those of the traditional offline players.
There's nothing more powerful than forging partnerships with big players. Being able to use a known brand to leverage your own business gives your brand legitimacy and credibility. Take a look at your wider market - are there any established brands that you can partner with? If so, try approaching them with ideas about how both of you can benefit from such a relationship.
PR is an essential tool for building trust, especially when you get positive mentions in reputable publications. When you receive recommendations from reliable sources, this builds belief in your brand. One big media mention can be more influential than multiple exposures across lesser-known titles. And, thanks to Google, this coverage is often discoverable when people search for your brand, giving your name a valuable stamp of approval.
There are an ever-increasing number of channels for customers to provide feedback. Facebook, TrustPilot and others are key in making your brand appear real and genuine. Customers love reading about other people's experiences. Shout great reviews from the rooftops, tackle negative comments head-on and use every bit of feedback you get for FAQs. It shows that you are a brand that listens and learns.
Sponsored post: copyright © 2016 Selin Burt, Carspring.
It's hard to overstate the importance of brand recognition, but how do you go about building it? And how do you do it on a tight budget?
One simple tactic for start-ups and small firms is pop-up marketing. The big brands call this experiential marketing and they do it because they value face-to-face interaction with customers and are looking for specific geographic focus.
But this type of promotional marketing isn't just for big names; it's accessible to all and can be one of the most effective uses of a tight marketing budget in terms of generating sales and building brand awareness.
Put very simply, any company can rent a small area of promotional floor-space at a shopping location and tell thousands of potential customers directly about their product or service. If you apply a little smart thinking to what you do with your space, then you can create a lasting impression.
You don't have to spend a fortune either; the space itself is usually great value and you just need to use it well to draw people into a conversation.
Say you run a local gym; you can offer passers-by a 30-second fitness test and a discount on their first month's membership. You're not just delivering a sales pitch here, you're talking about something you love and know a lot about and this will show. This face-to-face contact with customers is really important for building trust and a strong brand.
Aside from the personal contact with customers, the ability to target promotions geographically is one of the main reasons companies choose to run pop-up marketing campaigns. Arguably the geographic targeting with pop-ups is even more effective than social media and targeted adverts online.
Another great benefit of running a pop-up promotion is the association with the host venue. Generally, venues are fairly clear that they are not officially endorsing your product or service, but it certainly can look that way in the eyes of a customer.
This can be a huge boost for new businesses trying to make a name for themselves, and coupled with the face-to-face contact with customers, it gives pop-up promotions one of the best ROIs of any marketing tactic.
Sponsored post: Copyright © 2016 Emmanuel De Ryker, chairman and founder of Promotional Space.
It happens to us all at some time or other; you realise that your expertise and experience is worth far more than the prices you're charging. Or maybe you’ve absorbed so many increased costs in order to stay competitive that your profit margin has diminished.
It's time to raise your prices if you want to stay in business.
But the decision to increase your prices can cause a great deal of stress. How will your existing customers react? They have become accustomed to paying a particular fee, they've budgeted for your services or products and now they’re faced with paying more.
Here are four tried and tested ways to handle a price increase without losing many customers.
Of course, no matter how sensitively you handle the news of your price increase, you may still lose some customers - especially those for whom price is everything. Accept this - you can’t please everyone!
Perhaps the best advice I can share with you is to charge a fair price in the first place. If you start off charging a rock bottom price to bring customers through the door, it won’t be long before you become resentful that you’re delivering so much for so little. Trying to remedy this situation by dramatically putting up your prices will just alienate your customer base.
Copyright © 2015 Dee Blick, Fellow of The Chartered Institute of Marketing and an Amazon #1 bestselling author of The Ultimate Small Business Marketing Book and The 15 Essential Marketing Masterclasses for your Small Business.