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I can see the overwhelm on people’s faces as we talk about building their small business brand in ways they never thought they’d need to. I can understand. It takes a little discipline.
Your self-imposed plan to tweet once a day will slip. You’ll fail to write that weekly blog post. You’ll get the monthly newsletter out late. It happens.
You want to spend your time doing the work you’re meant to do. Read the rest of this entry »
If all you have is the desire to get picked, that’s not sufficient.
Wandering the aisles at a craft show a while back, I was surprised that the same styles and motifs appeared over and over. Most likely, each artist thought of himself as different. But why didn’t anyone want to stand out, especially in a creative industry?
It is said that there are very few original ideas. But there’s plenty of room for a different kind of originality. Put two or more existing ideas together to form a new product or service. Put a new spin on an old idea. Use your voice. If you’re an independent business owner and you’re not putting your unique voice to work, you’re overlooking the one tool you have that no one else does.
What is something more? Read the rest of this entry »
A recent article in the NY Times about branding your psychotherapy practice sent readers into despair over what they saw as a selling out and a ruining of the profession. They questioned the author’s quick fix solutions and her training and commitment. I might not have panicked as the author did after only three months with no clients, but most readers didn’t see themselves as business people. As if that would diminish the care they delivered.
Branding, at its core, is defining in a deliberate way what differentiates you from others, making it easier for people to find you and make informed decisions about buying your product or service.
Branding, by itself, doesn’t compromise ideals; at its best, it reinforces them.
People in professions driven by ideals can suffer from viewing their services as too precious to be tainted by deliberate business activity.
But in the case of therapists, in order to heal, they have to get people in the door. The care starts before a client walks through the door by making it easier for them to find and choose the best person to work with. The challenge then is to describe who you help and what your philosophy is in their terms, not yours.
The resistance is understandable.
A fear of new territory.
A fear of more work.
A fear of taking a stand.
It’s far easier to think your work should speak for itself. But if you really help people through your work, you have to put your ideals to work in ways you hadn’t considered before.
I went to a natural pharmacy I like very much and saw that flu shots were available. So I decided to get one.
Pharmacist: Do you want it subcutaneous or intramuscular?
Me: I don’t know. What’s the difference?
Pharmacist: One is under the skin, the other is the muscle.
Me: Is there another difference?
Pharmacist: One is a big needle and one is a small needle. Read the rest of this entry »
All change is not growth, as all movement is not forward.
The average person is growing more sophisticated in its sensitivity and connection to brands. This can either work in a company’s favor, or not, especially in the era of social media.
Today, I learned that my online savings account Ing Direct merged with credit card company CapitalOne. Gone will be the hip orange brand with its happy bouncing ball and overall inviting feel. In its place will be yet another inexplicably uninspired logo mashup, probably the result of boardroom egos that overlooked the power and success of a brand that was able to make saving money seem fun. Red, white and blue isn’t exactly a step forward. And few people, if any, like credit card companies, which is why the visual brand is even more important in a case like this.
CapitalOne has owned Ing Direct for more than a year. But most of us only found out today via a reactive instead of proactive email. That mistake caused an even greater backlash because it broke down trust. People feel duped.
Retaining the visual strength of the brand or developing one that resembled the spirit of the original might have eased concerns. Witness the blowup on the Ing Direct Facebook page.
But why the hubbub over the color orange or a thoughtless name change, you ask? Isn’t that a superficial detail?
Because that’s how we humans are. We have a need to connect to the companies we do business with. We expect businesses to know us. We bought into a hip savings brand with a certain look and feel. A brand is not just the amount of time it takes to reply to a customer service email. It’s not how easily the website functions. A brand is more than that.
The devil is in the details. It’s not always easy to know which details are bedeviled, which is why there should be a thoughtful person asking the right questions. Someone should have had the curiosity and sensitivity to remember what brought customers there in the first place. That would have resulted in a name not associated with people’s fears (credit card company) and visual image that fit the spirit of the original Ing Direct. Change is good but even non designers know that the arc/swoosh logo is, well, very yesterday. People are saving for tomorrow.
Knowing how your customers feel about you benefits you just as much as it does them (assuming you actually make improvements to fit their needs).
You can use that feedback to improve services, promote the results you offer and sharpen your marketing message. But it can also build good will…or not.
The key is being and sounding authentic — actually caring whether someone had a good experience dealing with you.
Recently, I had just such an experience with Voicebox, a karaoke place with personal party rooms. The day after a group of us celebrated a friend’s birthday, I received an email saying I rocked (I like to think I did.) and thanked me for bringing my party there. They like to reward employees for a job well done and asked if I’d like to comment. For an added touch, they included our playlist.
On the other hand, there are companies — whose products I use and like — that send surveys I’m initially happy to fill out, only to feel several pages in that I’m working too hard. The surveys smack of statistic gathering, and worse, a veiled attempt to tell me how great they are given the bias of the questions.
That’s when I quit these surveys and leave feeling worse about the company than I did before.
Two requests for feedback. Two completely different ways of connecting.
Sounding and acting as if you really care is also a good way to share your brand voice through your values. For small companies who remain vexed about what a brand is and how to promote theirs, this is one such tool.
(Image: Kevin Dooley)
When I was looking for a WordPress developer to partner with, I found several good people but ended up selecting someone who had a statement of values on his website. They happened to jive with mine so I hired him for a small project, and now we’re working together on a much larger one.
Not everyone does business this way. But many do. Many potential customers what to know what you stand for. Don’t be afraid to share your values. If they’re truly important to you, you’ll draw in the kind of people who you really want to work with.
This company delivers coffee, tea and food products for restaurants, cafes and institutions. Their values become their brand. But they go a step further than displaying their guiding principles; they tie each principle to tangible evidence, linking to specific pages on their website.
This kind of concise framework has an added benefit of keeping you on track and simplifying your efforts. The more clear you are on the core things, the less you have to talk about it.
To some, specializing spells fear of too little work or boredom doing the same thing day in and day out. But specializing is more likely to equal success (however you define success). And, far from being bored, you’re able to dig deeper into the vastness of your chosen niche (or the niche that chooses you).
Think about it, when you’re covering so many bases, you only scratch the surface of any one area, whether it’s a medium, an industry, a specific audience or a service you offer. It would probably take a lifetime even to realize all that you wanted within a niche. Your skill level and wisdom would continue to increase, making you even more desirable.
When you leave yourself too open, you drain your energy and you risk having others categorize you. This leads to, among other things, referrals not worthy of the work you really want to do. Read the rest of this entry »
That’s not an easy question to answer. For companies that have a deep understanding of how design can drive business, the choice of how much to spend and whom to hire is easier than for a small company minding a small budget.
One story making the rounds is this one on the cost of some famous logos. It’s not exactly instructive. Some famous brands spent $0 and others spent $100 million.
How then do you decide what to invest in a logo design? Read the rest of this entry »