A Prescription for Starting a Healthy Business

Starting a new business is an exciting time. With so much information available today, how is a person to know what will work for them? Everyone should know that having a plan is key to business success. Developing a plan is the part that scares, confuses and eludes many emerging business owners. We recommend that business owners treat their plan like a Prescription; Think of each step forward as a dose of medicine designed to give you a healthy business.

Before you start a business there some key decisions that must be answered;

1. Who are my customers?
2. Where are my customers?
3. How will I attract my customers?
4. How will I delivery my product/service to my customers?
5. How will I manage my finances?
6. Can I afford this?

Within each of these questions are the building blocks of a healthy business. To many, these questions seem out of order, or are not all inclusive of what is needed to start and maintain a healthy business. We could not disagree more as these questions are the Prescription for a Healthy Business.

Who and where are my customers?

No business can be successful without customers. To not know your customers is one of the biggest mistakes small business people make. The consumer is becoming more educated and has more buying opportunities today than ever in the past. Additionally, the consumer has become more cost conscientious and uses a more thoughtful buying strategy today than ever before. Knowing what your product or service does for your customers is the easy part, understanding that customer and how to attract them to your product or service is the harder part.

Most of the time, new business owners come from a business where they dealt with customers using the particular product or service that will be the breadwinner for their new business. Profiling who these customers are will help the business owner gain the insight needed to knowing who the customers are. It’s important to understand your company’s position on competition. Make sure you are not bound by a non-compete or some other non-disclosure or confidentiality agreement prior to profiling customers.

Business to Business Branding Principles and Techniques

Branding is of huge importance in marketing. Companies that own big consumer brands are worth billions of dollars, not just because of their plant and machinery, their intellectual property,or the skills of their workforce and management but because of the value of their brands. When we think of branding it is usually consumer brands that are the first to come to mind, but their is no reason why business-to-business marketers cannot use the same principles to power their businesses. Why bother? Because customers are willing to pay a premium price for a branded product compared to a generic one or a commodity.

But what is a brand? Most people think of a brand in terms of names, logos, trade marks or packaging. While these are extremely important for a successful brand, a brand is so much more than just facets of its outward appearance. Brand identity emanates from the totality of outward appearance, product or service attributes, character, personality, promise, recognition, customer psychology, customer emotion, and the history of the brand. The promise of the brand to a purchaser is a certain perceived quality and value.

The process of building a brand can be broken down into two broad steps.

Step 1

The first step in the branding process is to thoroughly understand your business’ brand. Your organization has a brand whether you realize it or not, the question is, what are your brand’s values? How do customers’ perceive your brand? What about employees and management, how would they describe your brand values? In asking the question it may be better to not use the word: ‘brand’ as people will naturally associate the term with consumer products. Rather, ask what your business stands for, or how are your products or services different from those of your competitors. Ask how you would like your products or services to be different from competitors and what potential opportunities are to differentiate the business.

Brand With Vision – 5 Reasons to Create a Brand Board

“Your word is your brand; your bond, your signature, it’s your way of establishing yourself in the marketplace.”

There are many people who are unconscious about their brand and that is a big problem. How in the world are you going to be effective in your industry if you have not established your brand?

There are 7 steps to developing your brand; however, our focus will be on only one step and that is the planning step and the development of a brand board.

For your records, the 7 steps to building an Incredible Brand are See (the Incredible), Inspect (the Incredible), Attract (the Incredible), Speak (the Incredible), Plan (the Incredible), Expect (the Incredible) and Do/Unleash (the Incredible).

Again, for the purpose of today’s article, focus is to be placed on Step 5 – Plan (the Incredible Brand). The planning process is used to recognize that writing your brand image and concepts down give it validity. As long as the concept stays in your mind, it has the potential to dissipate because we are bombarded with thoughts every second of every day that come and go as quickly as they came or went. But what gets attended to gets done so if we take the time to write down what we want our brand to represent, it is more likely to occur.

The key to an Incredible brand is strategic thought-provoking concepts and images that clearly articulate the personification of your brand. So for all intents and purposes, the planning process of building an Incredible brand will be realized via a branding board.

Not to be confused with a vision board, a brand board is similar and equally important to the purpose minded person, that is whether you run your own company or work in someone else’s company but have a vested interest in ensuring that the image your portray speaks to the brand you are establishing for yourself.

We all know that our thoughts become things and the things that we think about and/or visualize happen in our lives whether we focus on them or not. So if we strategically use that energy in our favor the production of our brand will be Incredible!

Now, here’s the thing: branding starts in your mind. In the conception phase of brand development, your thoughts create power and power is transformed into the representation of who you are and/or want to be viewed as in the marketplace. Also remember that branding is personal; you cannot find someone else’s brand and copy it because then it is not authentic and people will be able to see right through that. You must follow the 7 steps to building an Incredible Brand and find your message, because you alone have a message that is yours and yours alone. Truthfully, if I try to steal someone else’s brand, it won’t work for me anyway because what God has for you is yours and no one else can have it. At best, you can only be a good copy of someone else or you can be the original, which is worth far more when inspected for intrinsic value.

The Evolution of Branding and Its Future As a Driver of Change Towards Sustainability

This article examines the way that brands have evolved from well constructed and manicured facades to fluid and independent values spaces, what I call ambient brands, where consumers gather to transact. It addresses the demise of traditional branding and the opportunity that new branding represents in driving transformational change towards sustainability and socially responsible business practices.

Branding has been in rapidly evolving state for the last few years. For a long time, since the emergence of consumerism in the 1950’s, branding was an exercise in fantasy and fiction for the purpose of creating the greatest possible product appeal. Several iterations of change have occurred since the advent of the Internet and the emergence of a savvy, super informed and newly conscientious consumer.

The fantasy factor was first to fall prey to technology in the mid 90’s. Google came along in September of 1998 and search engines and the persistent enquiries of the newly tooled consumer forced corporations to be, at least, wary of making untrue claims. To be fair, it wasn’t so much that marketers were innately dishonest but more a case of consumers not asking a lot of questions. That changed as technology fed growing consumer awareness and then this awareness pushed the use of technology in checking up on corporate behavior. This interdependent cycle of information and awareness caused the huge explosion in the debate about corporate responsibility and drove a rapid innovation in technologies that map and measure impact and create transparency and accountability around consumption. Consumers quickly got accustomed to asking questions and getting answers and their interest in and response to brands went beyond product and into process. The brand narrative changed to incorporate powerful new themes including sustainability, environmentalism, free trade and so on but corporations were still able to manage, to a large extent, the way in which they represented themselves relative to these themes.

What happened next happened incredibly quickly and put a decisive end to traditional corporate brand management and the very notion of the brand itself. Social networking and viral media eclipsed the corporation’s ability to fully own and represent their identities and brands moved out of the corporate and into the consumer realm. Tools like Wikipedia skipped nimbly past ads and PR and modified the search return definitions of companies and products to what customers, and not corporations, were saying about them. People used peer reviews, blogs and amalgamated shopping sites like Amazon to get around even the most honest brand promises. Quality, design and emerging consumer values rose to replace traditional name-brand equity and status symbolism (flash) as evidenced nationwide by trendy hipsters lining up to trade in BMW’s for a Prius. An “economy” car and a famously ugly one at that.

Viral social media marketing was like “word of mouth” on steroids and opened up opportunities for gutsy start-ups like Tom’s Shoes and Ethos Water, allowing them to succeed with big ideas, a social conscience and virtually no paid advertizing whatsoever. People purchasing those products were not just picking up another pair of shoes, as it were. They were buying into an idea and a set of values. The idea was social responsibility and conscientious consumption and that ultimately became a brand in itself. This was pretty revolutionary. A fluid and contextual brand not associated with any one company and with a huge community of loyal consumers and a strict code of entry. Now, instead of companies creating brands and hanging them up like so much window dressing, they had to apply for membership of newly independent, consumer defined brands with names like Green, Fair Trade and Organic. They did this by aligning themselves, or pretending to, with the values that those brands represent.

Online Promotion – What Your Brand Is

In the consumer product market we know that brand refers to how, for example, electronic manufacturers differentiate themselves (or try to differentiate themselves.) One car manufacturer may promote safety as its brand while another may promote its economical price.

And when it comes to personal brands, we may be clear about some elements of brand. For example, some dinner guests are known for never arriving on time, while others always knock on the door at the exact moment the invitation calls for.

When it comes to the online promotion of your book or business (whether online or offline business), the concept of brand may not be as clear. For example, there are many online book marketers. Can you think of which ones have individual brands that come to mind readily?

And this cyberspace universe of similar businesses is precisely why working to establish online a clear brand for you and your company is so important – you want to stand out from all the others.

One additional point I’d like to make here before going on about brand. In the past, with less resources easily at hand, we would often stick to one service provider for everything connected to that service. Nowadays we have many more options – we can pick from a menu, using several service providers to each provide a piece of the whole.

And often these several service providers promote each other’s services because these providers do understand the menu choice of today’s business world.

It’s this knowledge that makes it easier for us to establish our own brand. We no longer have to be THE internet marketer and spend thousands of dollars of ad revenue trying to convince everyone that one size fits all and we’re that one size.

We can now create and establish a brand to a specific niche market – and thanks to the Internet that niche market can be quite huge.

I just read a post on a private Yahoo blogging group to which I belong. The author said that the next time she promoted her horror novel she wasn’t going to promote it to the horror-reading audience because there were so many thousands of horror books out there. Instead, she was going to market to people interested in books about jinns, which is an important element in her horror novel.

I thought about this post comment – she realized she had to have a specific niche brand for her horror novel rather than get lost drowning in the general horror novel category. And I agree with her that I think she’ll have more big sales promoting to this much smaller but much more targeted market.

Branding – 7 Important Questions and the Straight Answers

Consider these important questions about branding and the brutally honest answers that could help you sell more and save you lots of money that is typically wasted on branding. If you sell yourself as a branding expert – you might not like these answers. These are frank answers that demystify branding.

1. What is branding? Branding is the ongoing process of creating and enhancing the brand. The brand is the emotional connection that encourages your clients to cling to the organization, product or person. It is important for you to understand that branding is an emotional connection. And emotion is devoid of logic.

2. Why is branding important to business? Effective branding builds that emotional connection. The more emotional that your clients are about you, your company and your product – the easier it will be for you to sell to those clients. You can appeal to emotions instead of logic. Emotions, although more complicated, are easier to influence than logic.

3. What mistakes do companies make with branding? Many entrepreneurs get confused about branding. They believe that branding is about logos, fonts and pantone colors. That happens because graphic designers and advertising agencies, masquerading as marketing experts, claim that branding is about image.

Often bad marketing decisions and wasted money are justified with the phrase, “It’s good for branding.” Branding is not the goal – it is a tool. The goal is to sell more.

Many corporations fall into this trap. The corporate branding police insist that every PowerPoint slide be a particular color, including the company logo and in the company fonts. Readability and purpose are thrown out the window by the branding police because they lose sight of the purpose and focus on the tool. Maybe they should be fired.

4. How can business build a strong brand? A strong brand is about feelings. First you need to decide the feelings that you want to evoke from your customers. You need to be clear on your intended message and the mindset of your best customers. You can build feelings by the way you treat your customers. You need to treat them in a manner that stands out from the competition. Southwest and WestJet airlines demonstrate this well.

5. Give an example of successful brands. Nike and Coke are companies that built strong brands because of huge marketing budgets and mass marketing over time. That’s the most common way that most well-known brands were built. Unfortunately it’s too often emulated by small business as the only way.

The Importance of Business Branding

“To study a subject best, understand it thoroughly before you start.” Anonymous. This is an excellent approach to business, especially at the beginning. Before you do anything, you must choose your branding, your identity.

There are many elements that must be a part of the foundation of your business’s branding. If you lay your foundation properly, you will begin the life of your business with a well-rounded, comprehensive, effective identity, and one that is sure to succeed.

An effective way to attract customers to your business offerings is by having compelling content. Your content should go way beyond being well written. It should be exciting, fascinating, thought provoking, an engaging. Your branding is part of that story. Without it, your business doesn’t have a true voice.

You absolutely need a brand

Every single business, no matter the size, needs a brand. Your brand is the voice of your business. It communicates to your customers and potential customers exactly what your business offers and delivers. Your customers and potential customers are not drawn to your business by advertisements. Your customers will become loyal and dedicated to your brand over time because the quality of the products and services that they buy from you is extremely high and that is exactly what makes your business valuable.

The core and benefits of a brand

Your brand is how your customers perceive your business. The more effectively you present your products and/or services, the more your customers will get to know you through your brand.

Your brand leads the way to numerous opportunities for your business. If your brand is well established, you can expand on that and create other business opportunities. The stronger your brand image, the more easily your business’s brand will be recognized. The more positively your customers feel about what you are offering, the more successful your business will be.

Your brand will help you to jump into the business world with both feet

You don’t need to spend a great deal of money to be able to start a business. The money is certainly not what will make you stand out. What makes you and your business stand out are the values that you communicate. With social media being as hot as it is, it is very easy to advertise about your business on many different social media channels without spending very much money. Money will never give you an edge over your competition but a clever and unique branding strategy certainly will.

A logo for your business is essential

Your logo is your business’s identity. When people see your brand, whether it is through traditional marketing or online marketing, they will think of your business and what you are selling. You should absolutely consider a logo for your business as mandatory.

When it comes to the online aspects of your business’s branding, your logo is extraordinarily powerful. Your logo communicates your business’s voice and value. You should never underestimate how important your logo is to the success of your business.

Surrogate Branding and Consumer Reaction

Brands perhaps are the most valuable assets an Organization can have. Brands create an image for themselves through the constant attention and nurture given to them by the organization. Over a period of time some of the brands become the bread winners for the organizations. In case of profit organizations to call them bread winners is not enough, they need to be called gold winners. Any damage to the reputation of these brands can really change the scenario for the organization.

If the brand is a Corporate brand assuming the role of an umbrella brand the dependence of the organization is hundred percent on the brand as the organization is itself the brand. Since the brands are associated with tangible and intangible benefits, the logo and the trademark, they require a legal watch as well, and need to always stay within the frame work of business regulations and law in many areas like safety to consumer, consumers interest, making claims, any side reactions and information regarding the impact the brand consumption can have. This list is long.

Corporations spend huge sums on the promotion of brands in many ways. One popular and widely practiced method is advertising which is very expensive as it reaches huge numbers. Even when an organization spends about five percent of the sales revenue on advertising a brand the amount in absolute terms is substantial. Having nurtured the brand for years if any regulation bans advertising the brand in public interest it can be a serious problem for the brand owner. How to keep the brand in the minds of the consumer becomes a major issue.

It is to be expected that the brand owner will not just surrender but will need to find a creative alternate way to keep reminding the consumer. One such way is to create another product that can be advertised legally and name the product with the same name of the brand that can not be advertised. These brands have been called surrogate brands because they are growing in the womb of another mother.

We find in the market several such brands, for example mineral waters and sodas carrying the banned alcoholic drink names. Retail outlets are being given the names of cigarette and tobacco products. This is done by the owners of the brands to make sure that the consumer recollects the brand that could not be advertised and develops an urge to consume the brand. Governments are worried about this practice as there is a possibility that the very mention of the name may raise the urge with in an individual to consume an alcoholic product or a tobacco product which is not in the interest of the public health policy. So often Governments get into a dilemma on how to deal with such products.

For the Corporation that owns such brands, the worry is not limited to how the regulatory bodies react but how the public, the consumer would react. Any serious ethical protest from consumer side can damage the brand more than what the Government could do as the consumer would dismiss the brand and the related products from his mind set and perhaps develop a negative attitude towards the Organization itself. This can have a domino effect on the other products that come from the same organization.

The strategy of using the brands name on other products that can be advertised seems to be working. It appears that the consumer is liberal and ignores that the name can be given to other products without causing any damage or the consumer is unaware of the history of the brand’s name. The products that can be advertised but named after the products considered injurious and harmful to health and banned from advertisements in some countries seem to assume a “transformational” role. That is, they are peace ambassadors and subconsciously mitigate the public hostility towards the other product.

Branding Your Company – A Vital Strategy in Keeping Customers

We’ve surprisingly often worked with people and companies that prior to working with FIT Design, had no idea what branding is, or what it does. Most times, there is the process by which they’ve crafted a product or service that is unique but overall inexplicable by even their most astute salesmen. Sometimes, 40 years have passed and the 3rd generation of company leadership has little idea or only a vague concept as to why their brand is so important in the marketplace. That’s where the importance of brand comes in. A skilled brand consultant can shed light on why and how their product or service gives clarity in their business or everyday existence. The reasons why longtime customers are still customers, and how this passage of time is brand equity at its height, are most valuable qualities to a company. The brand name embodies the positive qualities of the company and also the manner by which it does most of its business.

Correlating histories and accomplishments of a company help to market the brand when we extract the brand identity. Most companies have had neither a good idea what brand strategies accomplish, nor a full comprehension of how powerful their end-results and eventual communications can be to their audiences. Until recently, the most successful brand strategists and brand managers only belonged to multi-national conglomerates; yet, with the rise in popularity of so many influencing agents of communication, the dissemination of that knowledge has led to an explosion of avenues by which brand marketing becomes a mainstream, and a necessity for companies rather than an afterthought.

Branded products are easily recognizable components of everyday life that lend credibility, familiarity, and most importantly, trust of a company to an audience and consumer. The brand becomes the company and visa versa. Consumers tend to make judgments and ally themselves with brands that have connotations of qualities that they themselves strive to achieve and become, ideals that the company and brand perceivably espouse to be. The brand strategy for a company runs parallel to the marketing plan in unique ways in different aspects of the business, but all point to the essence, the soul of the brand, for the consumer and audience.

Should You Brand Your Business?

If the question “Branding – should I or shouldn’t I?” has ever come up in your mind, I would like to take a few minutes and explain to you what branding is. Branding is not for everyone, but it is for the business owner who wants to rise up above his competitors. It is the difference between obscurity and recognition. Your brand is an image that makes its way into your customers’ heads that influence how they think and buy. It is based on the promise people believe about you, and the reputation they link with your name and products as the result of all the times and ways they have come into contact with you, your name, your logo or any aspect of your brand.

1. What is a brand?

A Brand is a promise that you make to the consumer. There are three very important things that you need to remember when entering the branding arena.

• Your brand is created when you build trust in the unique promise about who you are, what you stand for and what distinctive, significant benefits you deliver.

• Your brand is built by living up to this promise each and every time your customer comes into contact with your name, your message or your business.

• Your brand is strengthened when you constantly reinforce your brand promise.

Brands create relationships between the customer and the product which withstand price wars, rise above offers from new competitors and in some rare cases forgive the slip in product or service excellence.

2. Why is a BRAND a big deal?

• Brands unlock productivity

• Brands prompt consumer selection

• Brands build name awareness

• Brands increase the odds of business survival

3. The BRANDING PROCESS consists out of a circular process (imagine a circle) that involves the following actions:

• Defining the Product

• Positioning the product

• Your Promise

• Presentation of the product

• Persistence

• Perception Analysis of your product

Based on the results of the perception analysis, the brand owner begins the branding cycle again, but only now he will adjust his product definition and positioning based on this perception analysis. He will also strengthen the promises, update and tweak his presentations and once he has done this will closely monitor the perceptions in order to guide his ongoing brand realignments.