Monthly Archives: April 2013

Ride for the Brand

There’s a lot of sense in James Owen’s Cowboy Ethics that relates tomodern business ownership, such as living each day with courage, taking pride in your work, and always finishing what you start.  Make sense?

Your entrepreneurial spirit and drive to succeed gives you the courage to greet each day, and that belief in your product or service imbues that sense of pride.  Napoleon Hill writes about winners never quitting and quitters never winning, so finish what you start.  A half-hearted effort is just that, half-hearted and hardly worth doing at all.

Other aspects of the cowboy code were/are to do what has to be done.  If a fire has to be put out before you leave for the day, put it out.  If you’re in the food service business, you clean up the garbage whether you want to or not.  It has to get done.

Circle B brandAlong the same line, a solid principle is to ride for the brand.  As the business owner, you live, eat, and breathe your brand – your business, products, and services. You represent your brand.  You are selling it, even when you don’t think you are.  The vision you create for your employees and customers should convince them to ride (act and be loyal) for your brand as well.

Think of Harley-Davidson as an example.  Harley owners ride their motorcycles because they love the bikes, and they are extremely loyal to the H-D brand.  Dealers and employees perpetuate the concept of riding for the brand.  It’s the brand loyalty every business owner aspires to, or should want for their products and services.

Cowboys were hired on by the trail boss to ride for the owner of the cattle they were herding; the brand.  Their life, in many ways, depended on their loyalty to riding for the brand.

The cowboy way of life and sense of ethics may seem archaic in a high-tech world, but the values these pioneers in the expansion of our country held still have merit.  What follows is Owens’ entire list:

  • Live each day with courage
  • Take pride in your work
  • Always finish what you start
  • Do what has to be done
  • Be tough, but fair
  • When you make a promise, keep it
  • Ride for the brand
  • Talk less, say more
  • Remember that some things aren’t for sale
  • Know where to draw the line.

Happy Trails!

What’s In A Brand Name?

Okay, here we go with the marketing analysis of what constitutes a successful brand name.  Is it the identity or the product behind it?

Allow me to start out with a professional football team that has made a least one Super Bowl appearance.  For many years after that early appearance, the team compiled an unenviable losing record.  A former client who played for the team provided some insight that relates to the team’s brand.  When he signed with the team, the attitude of the players was more about when they were collecting their paychecks than if the team was winning.  The end result was the team rarely won and was losing its fan base.

When the attitude began to change that if they played well, fielded a competitive team, and won more games, there would be more fan support and their pay would be greater, lo and behold, they started making the playoffs.  They are now a serious contender consistently in their AFC division.

In this case, the product behind it was influential in the success of the brand.

Changing to a different product and a current client situation, there are many people who like to drink strong alcohol.  In a lion’s share of cases today, the identity carries more influence in consumer patterns than the product.  Significant advertising dollars are spent to create an image of the product that attracts consumers to drink and purchase the product.  Think of the pirate concept behind a certain brand of rum.  If you like, drink, and purchase that brand, are you buying the marketing concept or the rum?  A discerning palate with an acquired appreciation of rum is less likely to consume that product when there are better rum products out there.

In these two examples, one is more about the product and the other more about the identity, or brand.  The more closely these two can be married for your product or service, the greater likelihood you are to successfully market it and build your brand to the level it is capable of achieving.

How do you do that?

First, you must know your product or service from a different perspective; the viewpoint of your end user, the customer.  You might think you sell camouflage hunting clothes, but in reality you are selling the ability of a hunter to blend into the surroundings where they hunt to increase their odds of bagging their prey.  Your customer, therefore, is looking for a pattern similar to their hunting ground in a garment that is comfortable, quiet, and offers them the best chance of success in the woods.

Second, the better you know your customers, the more you can motivate them to use your product or service.  Once they’ve bought, you want to keep them as customers and build loyalty to your brand.  You want them to identify with your brand name and recommend it to others because of what they love about it!  McDonald's LogoEven though it may not be the healthiest fast food restaurant on the planet, consumers flock to McDonald’s because they a) recognize the brand; and, b) know the products will be fairly consistent in quality and price wherever they see the golden arches.  Brand loyalty strengthened by an identity that is reinforced by the product quality; you know what you’re going to get when you order at McDonald’s.

Third, build your brand.  If you have started a business and sales are lagging, it may be your identity – the perception consumers have of you – that needs to be adjusted.  Make the adjustment, but only after you’ve had someone help you with viable consumer research.  Talking to a couple of friends is market research, but comprehensive research and analysis goes a bit deeper.  Do some test marketing.  Get people’s perceptions of your product and the identity you put forth; it may reveal you simply need to change the color scheme to increase sales.  Get feedback from your customers.  What do they like or dislike about what you provide?  Some answers may enlighten you – what I refer to as a BFO (Blinding Flash of the Obvious) – while other suggestions may be of little merit.  You have to make the ultimate decisions.  Your brand is your ticket to adding revenue to your bottom line.



Does Social Media Work?

If you’ve wondered whether you should engage social media for your business, the April 17th edition of USA Today shared the results of a study you might find interesting.

Here are some of the key elements of the article by Oliver St. John for you to consider as a business owner:

The CEO of Manta, Pam Springer, is quoted as saying the negative impression business owners have about using social media is “…probably because they don’t know how to launch a successful social-media campaign…”  She recommends connecting with other business owners to get advice, but only 36% of businesses do this.

There are resources available for business owners to connect with other owners and discuss topics such as social media.  In Green Bay, there’s a networking group consisting of only business owners that meets the 1st Wednesday of every month at the Green Bay Yachting Club.  There are other networking organizations for business owners as well.

The CEO of Crackerjack Marketing, Stephanie Schwab, is cited in the article as saying many small businesses “…just don’t have a place in social media.”  She’s right in the sense you need not put your business in the social media environment because of peer or media pressure to be there.  What she adds is that you need to know what you’re trying to get out of a social media campaign.

That’s common sense when it comes to marketing your business.  Far too many business owners lack a strategy for marketing their products and services.  If the only reason you advertise on TV is because the sales representative talked you into buying the time, you will either stumble into success or endure costly failure.  You need to strategize and, as Schwab adds, use “…marketing techniques already proved to work, such as having a website.”

One of the business owners covered near the end of the article said social media hasn’t helped her business, which sells $5,000 to $40,000 pool jobs.  She added, however, that out of the 200-300 jobs she does every  year, three or four come from people online.  Even at the low ($5,000 level) end, that could be as much as $20,000!

She gets most of her customers through referrals.  That is the preferred way to get new business for most of us, and what business owners fail to realize is that they should have a strategy for that aspect of marketing their business as well.

I always find articles such as this one fascinating, especially when 61% of small businesses fail to see any return on their investment in social media.  A similar article in Advertising Age, a marketing trade publication, a few years ago cited a study that showed roughly the same percentage (62%) of advertisers were dissatisfied with their agencies.  What I’ve discovered and believe strongly in is that, as a business owner, you must take the time to think through what your business is all about; less about where you’ve been and more on where you want to be.

When that picture is clear, how you need to market your business also becomes clear.  The proprietary process used at Brand Irons can walk you through the process, save you money over the long run, and add to your bottom line if you’re willing to change the way you’ve always done things.

To answer the question posed in the headline:  Yes, if you have a strategy that is designed to reach your target demographic.


Fresh Perspectives

head-scratcherStop and think about this for a minute:  How has the market for your industry changed in the last five years?

Did your target demographic age out of being able to use your products or services?  Has the target audience gotten younger without you realizing it because you’ve been mired in “the way we’ve always done things”?

Every six months, and maybe more often depending on your business, you should take a step back from your business and get a fresh perspective on it.  Take a good, hard, long look at it.  Consider how well your marketing efforts have been doing.  Your sales should be driving production and keeping inventory low or at a level you can fill orders for 15 or 30 days, depending on demand.  Advertising should be introducing you to new customers and, at least, hitting the break-even mark on the return for your investment.

Remember to take a look at your products and services.  Have they remained relevant to your customers and appealing to your prospects?  Crunch the numbers for which of those products and services generate the highest profit margins for your bottom line.  Think about whether one of your products has reached the end of its life cycle.

The idea here is to avoid change merely for the sake of change, but if the offering has served its purpose and the profit margin continues to shrink, it may be time to shift your corporate emphasis to other products to meet emerging markets.

Ah, emerging markets!  This is probably the most prolific reason to take the time to get a fresh perspective and think things through.  A recent meeting with a professional in the HVAC (Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning) business drove this point home.  The market for HVAC services amongst the 55 and older demographic had become stagnant.  The audience had, in essence, become arthritic and uninterested in change when they’ve had the same HVAC company for their entire home-owning life.

This professional sought a new perspective and did some market research.  Lo and behold, it was discovered there was an emerging market being woefully underserved.  You may be able to guess the demographic, but out of deference to my friend’s research and marketing efforts, I will abstain from divulging secrets that would aid the competition.

The more I see business owners searching for answers to keeping their company alive or expanding their culture and growing the business, the more obvious it becomes that a fresh perspective is essential.  When you engage a consulting firm such as Brand Irons, you get a different, customer-oriented viewpoint backed by research that can be critical to your long-term survival.

AGD’s – Attention Getting Devices

How long does it take you to check your smart phone when you hear the familiar “ding” that you’ve received a text message?  If the phone is in your hand already, only a few seconds.  If you have to find the phone, perhaps 30 seconds.  And who knows how long if you have it on vibrate or can’t remember where you put it?

The point is that little “ding” is a very poignant and effective attention getting device, or an AGD for those of you into types of acronyms, like F2F for meeting someone face-to-face.  That “ding-y” AGD is part of the reason text messaging is growing in popularity for business owners, and why texting has such a phenomenal response rate.  Unless a text correspondence has ended, the sender or receiver is likely to continue responding until it does.  And the end result is likely to stir one of the parties to action.  Hence the effectiveness of flash mob.

Jamie's Baby

This banner from’s website is an example of an Internet attention getter; the client wanted more carpet cleaning business.

In more traditional methods of advertising, AGDs are as important, if not more so, than a strong call to action.  Think of a direct mail piece that blends in.  It looks like all the other direct mail correspondence in your mailbox and, most likely, gets recycled before it hits the countertop.  We could spend an entire blog on direct mail, but as it relates to getting someone’s attention, that piece must stand out from everything else, be delivered at the right time, and pique the receiver’s curiosity enough to get them to open it and see what it’s all about.  The odds are still in favor of it getting recycled, but if the offer is strong enough, it may survive.

Watch some television commercials, if only to see what grabs your attention.  This can be important to you as a marketer and business owner if your target demographic matches your profile to some extent.  Is the AGD a recognizable celebrity?  A cute pet?  Someone doing something silly or scary?  Does the AGD tug at your heart strings, make you cry, or cause you to salivate for some reason?  Most TV commercials, while they may seem longer, are only 30 seconds.  That’s a short time to get a viewer’s attention, pitch the product, and call the observer to do something about it.

Music and humor can be attention getting devices for advertising your product or service.  Beautiful images and sexual innuendo can also work, but the key to your success is using AGDs that reflect your image and convey your unique selling proposition to the targeted audience as clearly and succinctly as possible to GRAB THEIR ATTENTION … like yelling in an E-mail.

The fun part is that you’ll know yours when you discover it.