Category Archives: Business Branding

Owning A Business – Part Six

Business owners often struggle with financial issues. Examples are finding additional sources of revenue to keep cash flowing, and controlling cost factors that can prove crippling. In some cases with owning a business, the vicious cycle is unending.Revenue streams

Consider soft drink companies that discover revenue streams with certain products or market areas. They carve niches in those areas and pursue market share against their competitors. At some point, market saturation occurs and while the revenue stream doesn’t dry up, it doesn’t produce at the same level consistently. In fact, it may slowly ebb.

The solution is to look for alternatives. This is where professional consulting advice can prove valuable in assessing market acceptance. Adding new consumers in different markets is one option. Adding different products is another option that involves the risk of diluting the existing market. Instead of owning 40 percent of market share, the company has divided that percentage into – perhaps – 30 percent for one product and 10 percent for the other.

The company has also incurred the cost of developing an additional brand, adding production capacity to get the product into the consumer’s hands, labor, and the marketing expense of advertising. Those costs may be justified if market research verifies the need to diversify and identifies consumer demand sufficient to warrant the effort. The hard decisions come when market research shows the demand doesn’t exist or diversification is not a viable option.

If a business owner has commissioned sales people, cutting back on those costs is often one of the first considerations, when it should be the last. Remember how revenue is generated: Sales! Look instead at more efficient production or distribution methods. Consider changing processes or procedures to trim waste and enhance margins. People should come before profits, and most business owners realize that – but without profits it’s hard to stay afloat.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand

Owning A Business – Part Five

Now that you know who your customers are, what they’re buying, and the value you offer them, it’s time to consider the message delivery channels. This is generally considered to be the area where you advertise your business, and it is one of the most challenging aspects of business ownership.

Get your message through

Choosing the right method to deliver your message is important.

Where do you spend your advertising dollars? You need to know what you want your ads to do:

  • Create exposure
  • Increase brand awareness
  • Get paying customers in the door
  • Generate a return on the investment
  • Build brand loyalty

Modern advertising theory holds that customers must first know you exist. They will then investigate and vet you to determine if you’re legit and how you’re different. Then they purchase. Age, gender, lifestyles, and other consumer demographics determine how best to deliver your message.

When you think about texts, most people respond almost immediately when they hear the text message alert. Whether it calls them to action on your behalf is another matter.

Consumers will vet your company by checking out your website or social media presence, so take care to ensure it achieves your goal and purpose of being relevant to the message.

TV commercials can build brand awareness and create a sense of urgency, but remember most consumers with a DVR (digital video recorder) fast forward through commercials.

Direct mail and other print channels can be effective if targeted to specific consumers and delivered with a definite call to action. Newspaper and magazine ads can work if the message resonates with the readers and are designed for maximum impact.

As the business owner, consider engaging a professional marketing firm to manage your advertising, but you must make the ultimate decision on how much to spend and where. If your ads fail to achieve your objectives, make the necessary changes.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand

Owning A Business – Part Four

When you have clarity on your products and/or services and know your target audience, take the time to go back to the reason you wanted to own your business. This is the foundation of the value proposition you, your company, and its products and/or services offer to consumers.

What is your value proposition?

Clients want to know what makes you different.

Your value proposition identifies what makes your business different.

One of the most common questions business owners are being asked today: What makes you different?

What the consumer is asking, in essence, is why should I buy from you?


Let’s look at the example of what a value proposition might look like for owning a storage facility as your business venture. In most communities, there is usually more than one storage facility because we humans have accumulated stuff we don’t have room for in our homes.

So what are distinguishing features of your facility that appeal to potential customers?

Do you offer 24-hour access? Is it lighted outside and in each unit? Is it paved or gravel? Are there concrete floors? Are units insulated? What do you charge per month? Do  you offer discounts for longer rental periods? Are pallets available to raise items off the floor?

Once you have answers to questions your prospective clients are likely to ask, compare your facility to the competition and you should wind up with a fairly solid value proposition that differentiates you from those competitors. Maybe it’s location and convenience or ease of access for trucks and trailers.

When a prospective customer asks what makes you different, you need to give them a succinct value proposition. In the case of storage units, it might be that you offer clean, safe, and economical protection for their assets.

Take the time to think it through, and when you have your proposition, see how it resonates with customers. Modify it if you must. We’re here to help if you need assistance.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand

Owning A Business – Part Three

You’ve had some time to evaluate your products or services from the perspective of your customers, so now you have a much better perspective on what owning your business means to them. This third part of business ownership involves consumer demographics: How well you know who your customers are, why they buy from you, and what may or may not bring them back to your business.

Owning a business involves knowing your clients

How well do you know your prospects and customers?

You would be amazed at how many business owners, when asked who needs their product or services, answer “everyone” can use what we offer. Banish that thought!

Sure, everyone needs to drink water, but why should they drink the water you produce when there are several brands on the shelves and some that comes out of the tap in their home? They ask, before they purchase: What makes you different?

The secret lies in knowing your customer demographics as well as you possibly can. Are they women or men? What ethnicity? Young, older, or more mature? Where do they live, primarily? Where do they work? What are their hobbies or interests? Are they active in the community as volunteers? What hits their hot button? If they’re a couple, who’s most likely to make the buying decision?

This laundry list about your customers can be rather extensive, but as you’ll see, it’s important to know so you have perspective on how to reach them. If they purchase clothes at outlet retailers, they may be more likely to listen to country radio than if they shop at higher end retailers.

How do they get around? Do they take public transportation, walk, or drive a vehicle? Signs in train stations or billboards along the highway may be avenues to reach them.

Do they listen to the radio, and when? What genre, and how many different options are there? Sponsorship and advertisements become possibilities, and the same holds true if they watch television programs. Keep in mind that certain generations use a digital video recorder (DVR) and fast forward through commercials. Viewing preferences are constantly changing, which merits considering professionals to assist in identifying prospective customers and appropriate channels to reach them with your message.

Engaging a professional marketing firm can save you money and help you wade through the swamps of advertising possibilities. The focus needs to be on getting returns from your investment.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand 

Owning A Business – Part Two

Once you’ve taken the time to think about why you want to own a business, and considered corporate structure, legal, and accounting issues, it’s time to think about your products or services as they relate to your customers. That should come sooner, but as you will find out, the knowledge about your customers is vital to profitable business ownership.

First, consider this: What are you selling?

Business ownership means knowing what you sell.

Does the customer buy what you’re selling?

It’s not as simple as selling your landscaping service or furniture. That may be what you intend to market to consumers, but where business owners come up short is in believing that’s what the customers will buy. Far from it.

Let’s get specific. Owning a landscaping business can range from mowing lawns and plowing snow to designing landscapes for new homes or commercial properties and everything in between. The skills and expertise of you and your crews are essential to the brand your company portrays to the public and convey a certain value to the proposition.

So flip the coin to the customer’s point-of-view: What they’re buying is, in one case, more time they don’t want to spend mowing their own lawn, raking leaves, or shoveling snow. The other extreme is having landscape design (and implementation) that matches their lifestyle, whether it’s where they can entertain friends or showcase their home in the neighborhood … or whatever other reason.

Owning your furniture business involves products more than services, although design and delivery are aspects that involve customer expectations. So, do you sell couches, love seats, beds, mattresses, chairs, dressers, and shelves? Yes. Is that what your customers come in to purchase? Yes, but …

Are they purchasing functional pieces with certain styles that fit their decor or color schemes? Or do they insist on mid-century modern? In either case, it’s more about the lifestyle they want to have. Price certainly comes into play, but your success and profitability as a business owner lies in being able to learn and know what appeals to your customers.

As you can begin to see, there is considerable thought that needs to go into business ownership, and we’re just getting started. In part three, we’ll spend some time on how to identify your customers.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand


Get the Facts!

One of the most critical elements in making a business decision is having the facts.  Put aside the emotional aspect of starting, buying, expanding, or selling a business.  Consider the logical information that’s available; the business side of the deal.

A recent project involved a competitive market analysis for a client that wanted to expand a high margin portion of its business to a different market segment.  The investment involved millions of dollars, so it made sense to spend a couple thousand to learn if it was a feasible project and whether there was a significant enough volume to warrant the expansion.

Yes, this type of research takes time.  If it’s an emotional decision, the time factor can put undue pressure on getting the facts.  As we have discovered in conducting numerous market research studies, the path to a decisive outcome often takes many diverse turns.  One bit of information may indicate the choice is quite clear, while the next piece of data spins the decision in the opposite direction.  It requires all the facts to provide a clear picture, and that takes time.

In the recent effort, what looked like relevant information turned out to be at least two years old.  While it may still be pertinent, further research is required from additional sources to verify the validity of the information.  Some sources are more reliable than others, so as professionals, we are required to double check and, at times, triple check the resource to determine the accuracy of the data.

As you should assume, the world of business can change quite rapidly.  For instance, we determined that a major international company had a subsidiary that looked promising for the client’s expansion project.  Digging deeper, we learned the subsidiary had been sold to a group of private investors and re-branded under a totally separate corporate umbrella.  Despite the potential for change, the time eventually arrives when a decision needs to be made.

Get the facts, and you have a higher percentage chance at success.  Then, when you’re ready to market your new strategy, you can bring the emotion back into the equation and move forward.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand


Missionary Zeal

If you lack passion for your business, it’s time to give some thought to why you’re doing what you’re doing.  Missionary zeal is essential for business owners to ingrain into their company or organization.  It becomes the defining element of their corporate culture, the reason for your existence.

150px-USS_Benfold_DDG-65_CrestThere is an excellent book on leadership by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff called It’s Your Ship and sub-titled Leadership Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy.  Abrashoff created the best ship in the United States Navy by realizing that the destroyer he commanded, the USS Benfold, was more than “his” vessel.  It belonged to every sailor on board and the standard military protocol of command and control was less than ideal as a management technique.

The captain found that the more every member of the crew knew they had ownership of their ship and that he cared about them and their role on it, the higher the level of performance could be expected from everyone.  His vision was to reinforce that the ship’s mission was combat readiness.  Pure and simple.  That vision was communicated with the expectation that every sailor on board was important to achieving that mission.  It was, without a doubt, their ship!  The fact the USS Benfold became the best damn ship in the Navy proved his approach.

Does that same missionary zeal apply to your organization?

Do your “sailors” feel as though they can help accomplish the mission?  Do they even know what the mission is?  Do they care?  If they don’t, the reason may be that they don’t believe you care about them or what they do.  Do you listen to their suggestions?  Do you implement those recommendations, or sweep them under the rug?

More importantly, do your sailors understand the corporate mission?  Do you, as the business owner or CEO, convey your vision for the company’s success?  If you are unsure or unclear, it may be time to seek professional counsel and re-visit your corporate culture.  It’s okay to embrace change if it is warranted.  Insanity has been defined as continuing to do the same thing and expecting a different result.

Your mission needs to clearly define your reason for existence, cutting through all the verbosity.  Are you in business to provide a service or a product to consumers?  Or to make money?  It should be both, but if you answered “Yes” to only making money, you need an independent third party to help you figure out how to do it.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand



Communication: Critical

Communication is critical to business success.

When you look at business plan formulas and study different models, there are two key ingredients woven through every one of them,   One is the reason for existence, or the corporate mission and vision.  Without a mission, success is hard to define and largely a matter of luck.

The second essential that is critical to whatever plan is put together is communication!Communication Diagram

Communication is the thread that is woven into and through the success of any organization.  If it is weak at any level, the message can be lost and the consequences will be seen on the bottom line.  If lines of communication are strong throughout the company, substantial profits can be gained.

Communication starts with the corporate mission.  It should be clear why the company is in business.  This falls on the owner to know the reason for the company’s existence and to communicate that vision throughout the entire organization and to the consuming public.  If the ownership has a hard time defining that vision, imagine the impact that has on everyone else involved with the company.

A consistent message must be communicated within and throughout the company, from management to employees and back as part of the culture.  All levels of the organization must sing the same song.  Managers must be open to suggestions from staff, especially those on the front lines of production or customer service.  Staff, especially those involved in sales, have a direct line of communication with customers, so their voices must be heard.  What they can communicate to the organization as feedback from consumers can mean the difference between long-term profitability and going out of business fire sales.

Everyone is part of the same ship and can make the difference between sinking or sailing.  The owner’s vision also defines his or her leadership style.

The company must communicate clearly with its customers and potential consumers.  If the customer is getting conflicting messages, often generated by word-of-mouth from other consumers, the likelihood of continued sales goes down dramatically.  Consistency is important in the message delivered to the public, but so is the value of consumer perception, whether it matches the company line or diverges.  Despite what business owners may think, people do talk about companies and ask what makes them different.

The key is to facilitate open and honest communication throughout the organization.

Perception vs. Reality

Perception vs. reality in marketing your brand.

With as many blogs as we’ve posted about marketing, it’s puzzling why this is the first time we’ve addressed the topic so basic to marketing.  Does the consumer’s perception of your business match the reality of your company?

Here’s a little test:  Imagine your dream vehicle, the car or truck you’ve always wanted to own and drive.  With that image firmly in mind, see if the picture at the end of this blog matches your ideal.  Does perception match?

You’ve probably heard the phrase:  Marketing is perception.  There’s an element of truth to that because every company and business wants to have top-of-mind awareness for their products and services with the largest consumer base they can capture.

An analogy would be that Cadillac is the top-of-the-line in American automobiles, the “Cadillac” if you will.  Keep in mind it has taken years, lots of advertising dollars, and various trials and tribulations to achieve and maintain that image for General Motors.

You, too, must have that commitment to your brand to ensure its position as the leader among your competitors.

It’s a marketing process wherein you craft the ideal, then work toward matching reality to that perceived image.  Once it’s achieved, the focus shifts to maintaining a sustainable corporate brand identity.

One of the first steps is to assess what perception already exists for your products or brand.  You can engage professional services to perform this analysis or do it yourself with the pain-staking effort of talking to customers and non-customers.  Customers can tell you what they like about your products and services and your company overall.  Non-customers can give you the perspective of individuals who a) may not be aware of your products yet, or b) have an adverse opinion of what your products or services entail.  Either way, you need to know the perception.

Another step, and again, professionals can assist with the process, is to determine how closely the perceptions are to where you want them to be.  Coupled with that is delineating the steps to bring the two more closely into alignment.

Changing perceptions is difficult.  Consumers generally remain loyal to certain products and services, hence brands, they know, like, and trust.  Getting them to change to something else is a challenge, as much as it is to convert customers of a competitor to your brand.



Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand


Old School Advertising

Once upon a time, people looked for information about a business in the yellow pages of their local telephone directory.

Yellow PagesIf a business placed an advertisement in that directory, it was wise to be the first company listed under the desired category.  The “old school” method of naming your company, therefore, was to have a title such as All American Plumbing or AAA Heating & Cooling.  The idea was that the consumer would dial your number first because you were first in your category.

In a sense, they were following the #1 immutable law of marketing;  The Law of Leadership.

Fast forward to 2015 and the world of electronic communication.  Searching the phone directory for a business listing has been following the path of the dinosaurs for a number of years, with the end not too far away.  Today it is much faster and more efficient to look for a business using a web browser on a smart phone, laptop, tablet, or similar electronic device.

In many cases, the listing enables the online user to call the business directly from the listing, view the website, or discover the hours of operation among other choices.

So, although the old school theory of using the first letter of the alphabet to lead the way in a business listing is passe, the law of leadership still applies.

If a potential consumer does not know the specific name of your product, business, or company and chooses to search by a generic category such as “plumber” or “Italian restaurant,” it is critical that your business comes up on the first page of search results, preferably leading the way by being first on the page.  Search engines are intuitive enough to know your location, so searching for an Italian restaurant when you’re in Chicago is not likely to return a result for Poughkeepsie, New York.

The bottom line:  You want to be on the first page of search results!  Statistics have shown that 74% of users will not go beyond that first page.  If your business is not there, you are out of the picture, and will wonder why your website isn’t generating the results you expect.

How do you do it?  One way we recommend is to work with a consulting firm with a proven track record.  Just building a web presence is not enough in today’s competitive environment.  You need the right key words and strong page descriptions, but you also need to understand your market segments – not everyone needs what you offer – and provide relevant content that entices your ideal audience members to use your products and become loyal to your brand.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand