What Branding Really Is For Local Business

When I was in college, I took ONE, count it ONE, philosophy class at the University of San Francisco because it was a graduation requirement.  Catholic Jesuit education prides itself on producing well-rounded students.  I certainly enjoyed the breadth of my education… just not philosophy.

It’s really, really hard to grasp something I found so nebulous and confounding.  Go look up metaphysical, ontological, epistemology and coherentism. You’ll be ready to pull your hair out like I was.  Somehow religious faith is easier for me to grasp than philosophy though I admire its philosophy hitmakers like Aristotle, Plato, Hobbes, and Aquinas.

Which brings me to branding.  I find it in the same category.  I often get asked by local Bay Area business owners if I do branding.  My pat answer is no.  I can help you create a logo, a website, find the right thing to say and help capture and promote the uniqueness of your business.  But, I don’t do branding.

Why?  Because branding isn’t a formula or a puzzle. Branding isn’t a THING, it’s a way of being.  Basically, it’s your business’ personality and essence.  It often results in feelings from your customers, the best one being loyalty.  See! I’m starting to wander off into philosophy.

One key element of branding is customer service.  That’s out of my hands.  That’s up to  you, Mr. and Miss Business Owner.  Then, there’s your values, your philosophy, your mission, your approach.  So, the relationship of local business owner and marketer is to get your brand identity created and then, promoted to get you customers. Marketers can only help your local small business marketing so much.  The rest is up to you.

Staeven Frey of QCMG Agency in Nashville, TN does such a good job describing Branding 101, I’m sharing it here and bowing down to his great description.

The entire article, Brand Messaging 101: How Do I Do That? is available at this link.  From Staeven Frey:

First, before I can share with you what http://acorncentre.co.uk/events/family-workshop brand messaging, I want to share what its not.

http://amastic.co.uk/wp-json/oembed/1.0/embed?url=https://amastic.co.uk/about/ Brand Messaging is not a formula. Ever.Brand Messaging is not a formula

Melville Brand messaging is not some formula you can put together to execute seamless communication tactics…blah blah blah…those fancy words don’t mean anything. And while this is a “1-2-3″ kind of post, we’re talking about principles and big ideas–what I would call Millville variables, but not prescription items that go into a formula. A better term altogether is “equation,” since everyone’s equation is different–and one size does not fit all.

Brand messaging is the voice you use

Its the combination of tone, message, verbals, non-verbals. Its the complete verbal + visual equation of how you express yourself. Most people use their voice in person, but when you’re an organization, you use other things too. Brand messaging is the full range of “stuff” that you use. Its business cards to print to your building–everything that shares yourself with the world.

I write this to dissuade you from believing that if you just get the right logo or the perfect business card, your branding woes will be over.  Do do those things and, then, just be really great at your job.  Help get the word around and create the brand that you are proud to own.

Local Marketer Nails Her Marketing of Girl Scout Cookies

Genius Local Marketing

This is Danielle Lei.  Ms. Lei may be a future genius marketer.  Danielle, with her parents’ blessing, and her dad in tow, set up her table outside The Green Cross Medical Marijuana dispensary in San Francisco and sold 177 boxes of Girl Scout Cookies in TWO hours on Presidents’ Day.  Her mother contact the dispensary prior to setting up and many of the Green Cross’ employees made purchases.

From my perspective, Danielle nailed the 4P’s of an excellent marketing mix.

Product – Ms. Lei recognized that she had an excellent product with a stellar reputation, prized by many.

Price – While the prices rose in the Bay Area this year from $3.50 to $5.00, most consumers are willing to pay a premium for Girl Scout cookies, knowing that the proceeds help so many and they make delicious flavors.

Placement – Putting your product directly in front of your potential customers makes it extremely easy to buy your product.

Promotion – Certainly, the strategic location combined with attractive packaging and an engaging young lady made it very easy for her to sell her cookies.

A basic understanding of your customers, their behaviors, likes and dislikes led to many successful sales.  Congratulations, Danielle!

Selling The Invisible – Book Review for Local Small Business Marketing

3d illustration

A Loving Review of Selling The Invisible by Harry Beckwith
A Field Guide to Modern Marketing

An empty box. That’s what most of us sell. A service is like an empty box. Financial planning, insurance, marketing consulting, legal advice, medical services are examples of pure service where there’s nothing to touch, taste or smell. The buyer is relying on you delivering a service that’s mostly out of your imagination. So an empty box contains air and that’s what many of us sell.

With that in mind, I can’t possibly tell you how invaluable the book Selling The Invisible by Harry Beckwith is to me and how it’s an essential for your local small business marketing education.

Can I ashamedly say that I saw this book for years, ignored it and, then, purchased it two years ago? Going through my bookshelf the other day, I decided to revisit it and share some of the brilliance of Mr. Beckwith with you.

Published in 1997, this is an incredibly quick read with short, short chapters and approachable examples outline the unique challenges of selling a service (the invisible) as opposed to a product that you can touch or see. Many of the companies and examples he cites are no longer the way they were 15 years ago. I find it funny when I comparing what he says then to how it is now. Yet, it doesn’t diminish it’s impactful ideas uniquely associated with selling services.

3 Invaluable Insights From Selling The Invisible

1) Service Marketing Is About Great Service and Not Much Else

Great service is defined differently from profession to profession. Investors want profits returned on their investments. Massage therapy clients want to feel better than when they arrived. Insurance clients want to feel proud that they paid for something they may never use or never benefit from. And, great service carries you a long way, if you can’t get it right the first time. Nordstrom’s legendary service is vastly different than 20 years ago. But, it’s an impression that sticks and sticks, making them every profitable, even in hard times.

From the Getting Started chapter section entitled The Greatest Misconception About Service Marketing

In a free-association test, most people – including most people in business- will equate the word “marketing” with selling and advertising: pushing the goods.

In this popular view, marketing means taking what you have and shoving it down buyers’ throats. ” We need better marketing” invariably means “we need to get our name out”-with ads, publicity, and maybe some direct mail.

Unfortunately, this focus on getting the word outside distracts companies from the inside , and from the first rule of service marketing: The core of service marketing is the service itself.

2) Eliminate Your Clients Fear of Hiring You

Since you’re selling air, your client is worried you’ll have his money and he’ll have nothing but air. You have to change the perception. You have develop trust. Most of all, you don’t have to the very best choice, just the one that comforts your client.

From the Anchors, Warts and American Express chapter section entitled How Prospects Decide: Choosing “Good Enough”

Looking for Good Enough happens repeatedly in business, too. So whenever you make your pitch, ask yourself, “What risks might a prospect see in hiring us?” Then, without reminding the prospects of those risks-which will only remind your prospects of their fears-eliminate the prospect’s fears, one by one.

In my case, I needed to eliminate two fears. Because I was an expert, they feared I would be prohibitively expensive and compromising. And because I had worked for larger clients on larger projects, they feared I would not consider their project important.

But I never addressed those fears (in my proposal). I got so carried away telling them I was a superior choice that I forgot to assure them I would be a good choice.

Forget looking like the superior choice. Make yourself an excellent choice. Then eliminate anything that might make you a bad choice.

3) Make The Invisible Visible

When a prospect can’t see your product, you have to make it come alive. Use vivid stories and compelling pictures on your website and your marketing materials to woo your customers.

Mr. Beckwith relates how Richard Melman, co-founder of Lettuce Entertain You Restaurants that includes Maggiano’s Little Italy chain, Scoozi’s, Ed Debevics and about 70 other restaurants, understands he’s in the entertainment not the food business. Most of understand how critics evaluate food. But, we are more likely to eat in restaurants that are an experience and NOT the height of culinary achievement.

When we go out, it’s more than just the food that we experience. Starting with word of mouth or a review, we want to go to a restaurant. Then, it’s the outside parking lot and building exterior that start to lure us. Once inside, the atmosphere, the hostess, the server and the menu combine to give us an experience.

For me, I like BJ’s Brewery because it’s energetic, the food’s satisfactory, everyone can get what they want, they have great home-brewed root beer and it’s easy with kids. My mom kinda hates it. But, when we want a casual family dinner, I think it’s perfect.

Most of the impression we have of our experience is visual. Restaurants are a tad more visual than insurance or investments. But, what makes you want to come again is how you felt. And, that’s NOT visible. Your visible clues are your website, your appearance, your marketing materials, your actions, your words. They all add up to the “experience” clients have with you.

From the Communicating and Selling chapter section entitled Our Eyes Have It: The Lessons of Chicago’s Restaurants

Like good restaurateurs, service marketers must create the visual surroundings – from the parking lot to the last page of the proposal-that will enhance the client’s perception of quality. Offer quality without creating that perception quality and you have failed the client, and yourself.

Everything visual associated with your service sends a powerful clue about your service. The influence of these visual clues is not superficial; they go the very heart of your “product” and your relationship with the client.

Watch- and perfect -the visual clues you send.

I can’t possibly relate every delicious tidbit from this book. Go buy it. See for yourself.

It’s The Message, Not The Media, That Matters

message in a bottle

Message Is Not The Media

A Great Local Marketing Messaging Cuts Across All Media Channels
It’s tempting with all the new marketing channels created by the Internet to get caught up in the hype of the latest and greatest toy.  Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Pinterest, Reddit, Instagram, SnapChat seem like huge engines to get your local business notices.  No doubt, your social media toy is shiny and cool. Everyone, and I mean everyone, is talking about Facebook and Twitter. You cannot turn anywhere and miss the conversation about them.  But, those are the media channel from which you communicate.  The media is the means to get your message out, the way to interact.  Your MESSAGE is why they engage with you.

Without your strong relevant message and/or noteworthy activities like client successes or new products, it will not matter what media you choose for your marketing. Think of it like the news. While the news can be crazily sensational, it constantly piques your interest.  You can pique prospects’ interest if you have a great, interesting, compelling message.

In ancient times, storytellers told tales and lessons from ancestors.  The town crier delivered news of the day and messages from the leaders.  In some cultures, there were drums delivering information.  Stone tablets were another favorite from the Bible.  Then, we evolved to pen and paper.  That guy, Guttenberg, changed the whole world with a printing press, creating mass media nearly overnight.

Throughout the evolution of communication from the stone tablets, printing press to Internet-driven citizen journalists and content publishers, it’s the story, the substance, the essence that have mattered most to the recipient of the message.  The method (AKA as the media) of message delivery is not doubt a big deal.  While television networks, radio stations and networks, newspapers (until recently), printers and Internet companies are HUGE businesses, they only deliver news and messages created by others.

The Truth of Messaging

Your local business marketing message has to pique a prospect’s interest. They are not robots. They want to be excited. They are curious. They want to feel safe. Message matters because however a prospect encounters you, they want to know what you do, what you think and how your business can help them.

It is ESSENTIAL for a service-based companies to have a strong message. You have no product that your prospect can hold and they really, really have to trust you to buy from you

Think about your own experience. What’s the last thing you bought? How did it catch your eye? Why that product? Why not something else? Why are you spending your money there? Use that experience to think about what message “they” sold you on and use it to influence your message

Worried about scaring them with a “negative” message? Study after study shows that humans respond to problems better than goals. You won’t be negative or scary if you come from a genuine place of help.

3 Ways To Develop A Strong Message

Answer one of these questions. Write out your story. Cut it down to a few lines or just one. Tell that story to everyone.

  • What problems do you solve for your clients?
    • List them out
    • See if you can consolidate them into several major themes
    • Keep in mind that clients will pay for results.  So what results can you deliver?
  • What successes have your clients had from working with you?
    • Along the lines of results, what numbers or statistics did you clients achieve.
    • Think of what happened when they came to you, what you did and what happened from working with you.
    • You can deliver that story in about 3-5 lines.
  • What is the most passionate, core idea of your business? What motivates you?
    • You probably give free advice.  That’s your passion.
    • Your passion drives the free advice – a belief that everyone deserves….(fill in the blank)
    • What would you stand on a soap box and tell anyone who’ll listen about your profession.

With a strong message, you’ll find others responding to you and trying to help you because they understand you. After all, isn’t that what we all want? A little understanding.

What’s Their Sign? Dog Horoscopes Friday, Feb. 21, 2014

Rockne Duck Dynasty photo

This is my sister’s dog who I walk twice a week.  All boy and purebred Beagle.  Here’s his horoscope for today.  Yesterday, he played on the “Big Dog” side of the dog park.  He gets rolled…a lot by the big boys but he doesn’t mind.  Those you ignore him get barked at, incessantly.  He refuses to not be the object of desire.  He really doesn’t bark at home but in public, a bit obnoxious.  Goodness.  He’s fun.  Did I tell you how he cries and howls in the car on the way to the park?  Makes me laugh every time.

Capricorn (December 22 – January 19)
You have no sheep to organize, only your friends. They might not take to being herded around, but they’re your only real option. The humans are out, it goes without saying. Make sure they know it’s not about power or prestige, but simply about following your instincts every now and again.

Want to find out your dog’s horoscope?  Check out Yahoo!Shine.