Category Archives: Business Branding

Online Advertising Pros and Cons

According to recent reports by Chartbeat and Google, only 0.1% or less of banner ads are actually clicked on.  One-tenth of one percent or less!  Couple that with statistics showing that 56.1% of all, repeat all, website ads are not seen and you come to the realization that business owners need to rethink their online marketing strategies.

Roger Yu of USA Today wrote an article recently about how “some notable names in the online publishing business (are) starting to rethink the way they present their content and sell their ads, focusing on the amount of time spent on their content by readers.”  The gist of Yu’s article is that online users want relevant and/or compelling content.

Let’s look at the cons of online advertising first.

Banner, pay-per-click, and similar ads are not likely to produce new clients for your business, despite the number of people viewing the sites where you may advertise.  When you think about it, which is something we encourage people to do, users don’t want to be sold, so the only way someone is going to click on an ad is if they’re tricked into doing so or are supremely interested in what the potential offer is all about.

The site owner will tout viewers and length of stay on the sites you may advertise on, but when you measure the return on your investment, you are likely to find it’s a waste of money.

What you have to do is weigh the new clients you gain against the cost to acquire them.  For example, if you’re spending $600 a month in online advertising and only acquire one new client, the cost of that acquisition is $600.  Is a client worth that to your business?

Technology is changing rapidly.  What that means is consumer buying habits are also changing rapidly.  What you need to increase the likelihood of a sale is the reader’s time and attention.  That’s where the value lies for both the consumer and your brand.

Yu’s article reported that in December 2014, “…Google issued a report that said 56% of ads it serves aren’t ‘viewable,’ a term that suggests ads are too far down on the site or that readers aren’t scrolling down far enough.”

On the plus side, having a web presence for your business that is mobile-enabled is essential in this era of smart phones.  If a consumer can view your website on their phone, touch and call your business with a couple of thumb or finger moves, you have developed an effective online approach to advertising your business.

If you know where your potential customers are likely to be, such as shopping on or searching with Google, and you can afford to advertise your products there, it may be worth the investment.  Try it short-term to see if it generates results.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand



Business Card Etiquette

Your business card is a major component of your corporate marketing strategy.  It is a mini-billboard for your business and tells prospective customers how they can reach you.

How your card looks is critical.  How you present it to people is pivotal.  The information it contains enables people to contact you.  Let’s dig into the details.

Business card presentation

1)  The look of your card.  Your corporate logo should be prominent on your business card.  Call it brand recognition.  Your name is also critical, so make sure it’s spelled correctly when you proof the card (Yes, ask for a proof and proofread your card before authorizing printing).  Your title is less important than the information on how to reach you.  If you want people to call, make sure your phone number is there.  Your address is vital if you operate a retail store.  Your website and E-mail are important if you want people to contact you through those electronic channels.

On a side note, make sure your website reflects the image you convey on your business card to reinforce your brand identity.

2)  Presenting your card.  How you hand out your card is a key presentation element.  If you attend a networking event, having a good supply of business cards readily accessible is a key to success in discovering potential clients or referral sources.  Practice pulling out your card from your purse, pocket, or other storage place so you can grab the card without looking at it and present it properly.  Hand the card to the other person so the information is easily seen and creates a positive brand impression right away.  If they are good at networking, they will accept your card and look more closely at it to digest your information and ask questions to stimulate the conversation.  Be polite and ask for their card, too, and if you want to make a note about them afterwards, proper etiquette is to ask their permission to write on their card.  Note:  It’s not a good idea to start writing on their card without asking first.

3.  It’s about information.  Your card should contain essential information and not leave the recipient guessing how they can follow-up with you.  Even though your company may have a myriad of phone lines coming in, highlight the dominant number that you accept calls on.  The impression people get when they call the corporate number and have to wade through a robo-operator to get your extension and voice mail message is that you don’t want their business.  Callers like to talk to a real person right away.  The same holds true for an E-mail address.  Make sure the one you give people on your card is one you check regularly, and when you get an E-mail from someone you’ve met, at least acknowledge that you received it.  As much as we rely on electronic communication techniques in today’s business environment, people still like to interact with people.

Your business card is the leave behind you have to create an impression with someone you’ve met face-to-face.  It’s also a symbol of your brand identity, so present it properly.  Keep in mind it can also be used as a reminder when you mail a letter to someone.  It’s considerate to include two cards in a letter, one for the recipient and one for them to give to a potential referral.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand

How to Build Brand Loyalty – 5 Basic Steps

Building brand loyalty involves being able to attract customers, keep them coming back, and have them sing your praises to other consumers.  Their loyalty depends on how well you take care of them and lasts through the reputation you build for your brand.

Step One:  Produce and provide a quality product or exceptional service.  Quality is a major determining factor when it comes to the price equation.  Consumers will purchase an inexpensive product and remain loyal if it’s useful and offered in a consistent fashion.  French fries come to mind as an example.  Fries are relatively cheap to produce, yet customers develop a fondness for how and where they get their favorite fries.

Step Two:  Meet or exceed the customer’s needs.  Beyond food, shelter, and clothing, you should know what your customers need.  Do they want the prestige of owning your product or using your service?  Do they seek certain performance standards?  Do they need to fill a basic need or pick up a bit of luxury?  The deeper knowledge you have of your client’s needs, the easier it becomes to meet and satisfy those demands.

Step Three:  Deliver what you promise.  Failure to deliver what’s promised opens the door to lots of business headaches.  How does your delivery person deal with an irate customer when your order taker says the pizza will be there in 30 minutes and it takes longer than 90 minutes to get it there?  Does “Oops, I’m sorry!” help build brand loyalty?  The other side of this brand building step is to avoid promising what you can’t deliver.

Step Four:  Take care of your customers.  Customers will remain loyal to your company and its brands if everything about it provides them with more pleasure than pain.  If a customer likes how well your vehicle handles, how easy it is to get in and out of, how much storage space it provides, and how good it looks sitting in their driveway, the odds are fairly good you will cultivate a loyal customer who brags to others about your vehicle.

Step Five:  Ride for the brand.  Once you’ve settled on a brand identity and begun to implement the strategy that goes with it, stick to it!  Understand that it make take time to become ingrained in the consumer’s mind, so allow your advertising and other marketing efforts to work before pulling the plug and shifting gear.  When customers know you make the difference they’re looking for and remain consistent, their loyalty is easier to maintain.

These are five basic steps on the path to building brand loyalty.  There are others, of course, and we’ll share more in coming posts.  Keep in mind that what may seem simple can be rather complicated.  Your task, as a business owner, is to remain focused on doing what you’re good at.  Engaging a business and/or marketing consultant can be an effective way of growing your business and achieving your dreams.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand 

Making Changes

You’ve probably heard the analogy about large corporations being like an aircraft carrier or battleship while smaller companies are compared to PT boats or cruisers.  It’s the analogy that making a course correction or changes within a large corporation is more difficult and takes longer than the same action with a smaller vessel.

CVN-76 USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier

CVN-76 USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier

There’s an element of truth to the analogy, although you must remember that larger businesses have more resources at their disposal when it comes to making changes.  An aircraft carrier, for example, has the resources to protect the direction its been going while it prepares to make a course adjustment.  It has a much greater reach and a larger crew than the destroyer running alongside.  In fact, the destroyer can be part of the larger aircraft carrier’s entourage and thus help affect change more quickly.

Enough of the military perspective.  We’ve advocated for several blogs about the importance of constantly taking a step or two back and looking at your business from a different perspective.  We are against change for the sake of change.  However, if a change is warranted for whatever reason – economic downturn, cost inefficiencies, product obsolescence, poor performance, or lagging sales – the more rapidly and efficiently change can be made, the better off the company will be when it comes to survival over the long haul.

Smith-Corona once owned the market for typewriters but failed to make an effective transition to computers.  IBM, on the other hand, had a large market share with their Selectric typewriter and made a relatively successful change to the world of computers.  Similar comparisons can be made in other fields – Motorola with portable phones, for example.  The company once owned the manufacturing sector for portable phones and now has a smaller share of the market but is making a comeback.

Change is a constant in every business environment.  The key to staying ahead of change is to remain abreast of what the consumer wants and is willing to pay for.  How does a company do that?

First, at least some of the corporate culture needs to embrace the concept that change is the only thing that’s permanent.  Change is happening all the time as consumers age and change buying habits – purchasing online versus at the retail outlet, for example.

Second, engage strategic partners such as Brand Irons to put a finger on the pulse of consumers and more clearly define marketing direction or internal changes that may be a necessity to move in the right direction.  The slogan below links to our website.

Third, be pro-active in making changes.  Waiting, although it is a decision, can be disastrous if your competitors move more quickly and capture a big chunk of your market share.  It’s your business to gain – or lose.

Be sensitive and open to change.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand 

Getting Your Ads To Work

You should expect your advertising to generate sales.  If it doesn’t, it should at least build or reinforce your corporate brand image or create leads for your sales force to follow-up on.  Preferably, ads = sales.

A common refrain you hear from advertising sales representatives, whether cable, TV, radio, or print distribution channels, is:  “You have to give it time, or you need more frequency.”  That’s a veiled excuse to capture more of your advertising budget on a media that is not likely to produce the results you desire.

So, what’s the secret to getting your advertising to work?

Telling a Secret

Planning and taking the time to think things through.

Let’s look at an example.  A radio station claims it is the #1 station in its market, and is the place your company should be advertising.  Sounds great, doesn’t it?  Think about this for a few minutes.

First, what do you do when you’re in your vehicle and listening to the radio when a commercial comes on?  Odds are you change the channel, like most people.  If the majority of listeners does the same thing, what chances does your advertising message have of being heard … or acted on?  You have to pay attention to consumer habits when it comes to your target audience being receptive to advertising messages.

The same concept applies to targeting a younger audience with a television or cable TV ad.  Most of them record their favorite programs and play them back with the DVR (Digital Video Recorder) so they can fast forward through the commercials.  Your 30-second spot now plays back in about 5 seconds, if it’s noticed at all.

Similar considerations are relevant to newspaper or magazine ads, although various market segments react differently to classified, display, and insert advertisements.  And most consumers now go online to check out a company or product’s website before they make a call or head to a store, so relevant content is an issue with an online presence.

Everything seems so complicated, so what should you do?  We recommend engaging a professional marketing consultant to help with getting the most out of your advertising budget, which is a portion of your overall marketing strategy.  In lieu of an engagement that is proven to make you far more money  than you will invest, you can take the time to look at establishing a budget and then thinking through where it is best to invest those funds.

It starts by clarifying who falls within your target market zone.  If you claim “everyone” needs your product and/or service, you will waste your advertising dollars.  Even if you determine it’s women vs. men, hang on to your wallet.  The market segments most likely to purchase and use your product and/or service can be much more narrowly defined.

Once you’ve narrowed the field to your primary prospective audience, figure out what advertising medium is most likely to get those people to react favorably to what it is you offer.  It may be your website or social media, signs, a billboard, or traditional media.  Use that medium with the right attention-getting device and the correct call to action and you will greatly increase your odds of success.

Brand  Your Work – Work Your Brand

Business Plans & Branding

Developing your corporate brand begins with your business plan.

Circle B brand

Some professional advisers insist that business owners should complete their own business plan.  We agree – to a certain extent.  The business owner must provide the input to a business plan.  Without the owner’s commitment to completing and implementing a plan, however, the process is a waste of time.

A business owner knows what they want to do but may need the skills of a more experienced planner to compile the plan more effectively and obtain financing.  Many people in business also don’t know what they don’t know, which means having someone with the expertise in many different areas to assist can save time and money.  Expertise in leading a sales team may not translate well to budgeting and financial projections.  Being proficient in production techniques may leave something to be desired when it comes to choosing advertising channels or defining consumer markets.  Professional consultants earn their fees by having the knowledge that proves beneficial in a variety of areas.

The first step in starting a business involves some soul searching and market research.  When Brand Irons meets with a prospective client, it is essential to be open and honest in the discussion.  We look for commitment to the process of planning as well as to the long-term success of the business concept.  We also recommend a feasibility study to assess the economic and market conditions, potential profitability, and other financial considerations before deciding to proceed.

Spending a little money up front to know the idea has merit is a wise investment.

While the cost of a feasibility study may be daunting, if the results indicate a better-than-average potential for return on investment (ROI) and the owner decides to go forward, the foundation of the business plan has been put in place.  Assembling the rest of the plan and crafting a strategic model to implement is relatively simple once the decision is made to proceed.

What few people who want to start a business realize is that only one out of every 50 business ideas is commercially viable.  That’s a 2% success ratio!

With the proper guidance from business and marketing consultants such as Brand Irons, you can craft a brand identity for your business based on the foundation provided by your business plan and strategic model.  Your business is unique, which is one of the reasons you need professional assistance in compiling a brand strategy that is consistent with the unique nature of your business and capitalizes on your assets.  The result is a more focused approach to marketing your business and reaching your desired audience.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand

Sales Confidence

Once upon a time, there was a sales person who should have been in a different line of work.  At a trade show, they were standing in the aisle and as prospects walked by would ask, “You wouldn’t be interested in buying a web site, would you?”

Every answer was a resounding “No!”

Business man and meeting table background

This sales person, and many others like them, lacked the confidence to be convincing in their introductory pitch.  That’s a sign of either poor training or the need to choose a different occupation.  It was later discovered that the sales representative had clients who had never been asked to pay for the work being done on their website.  More later.

A sales person must have a thorough knowledge of the product and/or services he/she is offering.  With the wisdom comes belief in the product or service’s ability to meet the needs of the consumer.  That implies the sales person also understands what those needs are and how the company they represent can fulfill those needs.

Other elements that generate confidence in a sales person:

Empathy – Merely rattling off a sales pitch to a prospective customer is likely to turn off the potential purchaser.  People, in general, do not like to be sold, so the sales person who fails to ask questions or show concern for the prospect is bound to be viewed as pushy.  Some will get the sale through persistence.  Without listening, though, the chances of that sale falling through increase exponentially.

Presentation – The empathetic sales rep presents information to the prospective customer in a manner that appeals to what they hear the prospect saying.  Yes, some elements of the presentation need to be canned and rehearsed so they come out of the rep’s mouth with confidence, but the knowledge of how the product or service can be of value to the consumer is more important.

Closing Skills – One of the primary reasons that sales people fail is they lack the confidence to ask for the money, and close the sale.  Part of this involves being sensitive to the prospect.  If you can sense that the person in front of you is ready to make the buy, ask for the sale.  If you’ve dealt with all the objections, make it official and get the consumer on the way to enjoying the product or service you’ve convinced them is worth purchasing.

Back to our website sales person:  It was obvious they were not cut out to be in sales, so she was let go.  A week or so later, she came back in and expressed her gratitude for being fired.  Why?  She said it was the best thing that ever happened to her because it made her realize she wasn’t cut out to be in sales.  She found a job in technical support, which made her happy.

Do your sales people have confidence in marketing your products and/or services?

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand   




Branding Your Services

Smoking brand ironWe’ve blogged several times since 2012 about brand-related topics, yet rarely have we been specific about how to create a brand for services.  Here we’re going to show you the tip of the iceberg with the intent of encouraging you to contact us (Brand Irons) about going through the entire proprietary process.  We know you’ll find value in this, so we beg forgiveness – or at least temporary memory loss about trying to generate business.  You can contact Brand Irons by clicking on the link in the tag line at the end of this blog.

The first step in creating a brand identity for your services is to define what those services are, and what they look like to a prospective consumer.  If you believe you sell a tangible service, consider whether it may – in reality – be a product offering.  A true definition of a service is something that is intangible because it rarely involves a physical item that the consumer can use on his/her own.

An example might be a cleaning service.  Yes, the service provider has cleaning products – either cleansers and equipment they provide or yours – but the actual service they provide is a cleaner, healthier, and perhaps neater, more organized home or office.  That’s visible but intangible.  How well the cleaning company employees do their job is subject to your perception and expectation.  You see the tangible end result, but how the work is done can vary from cleaning person to cleaning person.

Enough on tangible vs. intangible.  What you need to define is your service in terms of what the consumer receives.  If you offer a motor vehicle service, it’s less about the qualifications of the technician or mechanic than it is about providing customers with safe, comfortable, and trouble-free vehicles to use on the streets and highways.

A second step is to identify your strengths.  What are you good at providing, and can that be a profitable aspect of your business?  This soul-searching process can be beneficial if you and your business are in a transitional stage as the answers provide clarity on direction.  This is an area where a consultant can help you achieve that clarity.  You may also think about the weaknesses of your services and phase them out of your business model if it makes sense.  Don’t throw out the baby with the bath water, though.

Keep in mind that these steps may take place in a different order when you engage Brand Irons for your branding strategy sessions or think them through on your own.

A third step is creating a strategy for your brand that can be implemented relatively easily and sustained for as long as you own the service, product, or niche market.  This involves identifying your target markets, geographic range (if applicable), and other variables to put the package together and get it in front of potential consumers.  The look and feel should reflect your strengths and the power of the services you offer that differentiate your business from your competitors.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand


E-Mail Etiquette

We’re going to share some thoughts about Electronic Mail, commonly known as E-mail.  It’s been around for a long time, in Internet terms, and it’s been the subject of controversy about it’s impact on the U.S. Postal Service and regulation of the Internet, among other topics.  Not long ago it was thought to be doomed and relegated to the scrap pile.

It’s still here!  Some thoughts on E-mail correspondence from the perspective of marketing your business and branding your products … along with some other thoughts.

Send E-mail button

Keep it short.  The nature of E-mail is the message should be brief.  Although wider bandwidth is now available to transfer larger files, the reader of your E-mail is expecting it to be a message that can be quickly read, digested, and responded to, if necessary.  If you have to elaborate, do it in the attachment and capsulize what is attached in a short message in the body of your E-mail.

If you find you’re exchanging E-mails back and forth with someone in a short period of time, pick up the phone and call them.  You can convey some emotion on the phone.

Identify the subject.  You undoubtedly have certain people – like family and friends – whose E-mails you open automatically, whatever the subject.  For everyone else, put the content of the E-mail in the Subject line.  Granted, it may mean they won’t open it if they believe it has no relevance but the odds increase if that subject line catches their attention.

Be proper.  All capitals indicate swearing or yelling in text and E-mail correspondence.  Take the time to use correct grammar and punctuation in your E-mails.  Think of it as though you were sending the recipient an actual printed letter mailed in an envelope – but also think of it as a reflection of your brand and your business.  Avoid run-on sentence structures.  Keep sentences short and readable.  Separate major points in paragraphs, so your E-mail is easy to read.  Recipients rarely read the entire E-mail.  Remember that.

It’s your image.  Create and use a signature for your E-mails that reflects the brand you want to create in people’s minds.  Provide contact information so they know how to reach you, including links to your websites and blogs and perhaps a phone number.  Add a disclaimer if you’re relaying confidential information, which means you may want more than one signature unless every E-mail you send contains confidential information.

If you’re upset and want to send a nasty reply to someone, we advise that you write your response but wait a day before you hit the “Send” button.  If you still feel the same way the next day and don’t need or want to re-write the E-mail, go ahead and hit “Send.”

Be careful.  E-mail correspondence may be used against you in a court of law, so caution is urged when using it in personnel issues, contracts, or other potentially legally damaging areas.  You should have an E-mail policy for your company and employees, and if you do, get it reviewed by your legal counsel or human relations consultant.  You can also use E-mail to market your products and/or services, and consultants can be engaged to help with this, too, but be wary of getting branded as a spammer.  Get permission first, if you can.

Keep in mind that hitting the “Send” button doesn’t always mean the recipient receives your E-mail.  Check your Spam filter every once in a while to see what we mean.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand 


Trade Shows Revisited

Back in April 2014, we offered five tips for trade shows in a blog post.  We recently participated in another business expo and noticed a few faux pas by exhibitors that are worth bringing to your attention as we revisit trade shows.

Trade Show Taboos

1.  Remember why you and/or your company are there.  If the person staffing your booth is responding to text messages or eating in the back of the booth or talking to someone on their phone, a prospective customer is going to walk right by.  That prospect will also have a negative impression of your company and brand because of a perceived lack of interest in them by your staff and in your company actually participating in the trade show.


You are exhibiting for prospective consumers to see your business and to learn more about your brand.  You are also participating to create potential leads and referrals for your sales force or to build brand awareness.

While a seemingly disinterested staff person can cause consternation with expo guests, the over-eager staffer can also turn people off.  Greeting guests as they pass your exhibit should be natural and not forced.  Standing out in the aisle trying to coerce people to come in and check you out usually gets them to step to the other side of the aisle.

Remember, people don’t like to be sold!  They prefer to make their own decisions without pressure from a sales person.

2.  Be positive.  Even though the traffic by your exhibit space may be less than you would like, griping about it to passers-by or other exhibitors can create a negative impression of  you and your business.  If you’re frustrated, find a replacement to staff the space and take a break.  Go have lunch or take a walk until you can come back with a better attitude.  That doesn’t mean an attitude adjustment at the bar!

If you’re a sales person staffing the booth, use the opportunity to create quality leads for yourself or, if nothing else, practice your people skills.  Work on listening to people and actually hearing what they say.  Ask open-ended questions instead of trying to pitch your wares.  Find out if the people you’re talking to have any interest at all in what your brand is all about.  Use it as a learning experience.  Try different closing techniques, but be gentle.

3.  Evaluate your success.  If the event fails to meet your established expectations, weigh whether it’s worth participating in.  If it’s been successful in the past, but isn’t this time, analyze why it failed.  Were there significant changes in the location, your booth space, or the format of the event?  Was there something you did different, including who staffed the booth?

Before you drop participation in the future, think about what you can do to replace the exposure and potential revenue this trade show has meant in the past.  Think, too, about how good it might be to engage a professional to help make your trade shows awesome.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand