There, I've said it. I'll probably have my Ad Man card revoked, but if I can save just one small business, one start-up, one store owner from getting the "branding" pulled over their eyes it will be worth it.
In the history of marketing mumbo-jumbo the most wasteful term ever brandished about is "branding." Marketing experts like to tout "branding" because they think it makes them sound smart. Small business owners buy into "branding" campaigns because they want to be like the big boys. And advertising agencies love "branding" because it's like a free pass to do whatever they want, all under the guise of "branding." No accountability. Low expectations. And don't worry about any return on your advertising, your "branding" will pay off over time. Blah. Blah. Blah.
Here's the thing. Unless you have the marketing budget of a Coca-Cola you can't afford "branding." At least not the way these snake oil witch doctors are using the term. You've got to make things happen. Today. This month. Now. Your budget isn't big enough to spend getting people to think highly of you. You need them to act, to call, to come in, to hire you and to buy from you. Without selling anything you're not going to stay in business very long, no matter how warm and fuzzy your brand is.
The kicker is, everything you've done – and are doing – with your business is Branding your company. That's Branding, in bold-face and with a capital "B." How you answer the phone, that's Branding. Your product flyer, that's Branding. Your "March Madness" sale, your business card, your website, the condition of the paint on your building... Branding, Branding, Branding, Branding!
Your company's Brand is the sum of every communication, every interaction, every experience you've ever shared with your customers. It doesn't just happen in your advertising. I say stop spending your money on "branding." Instead keep building your Brand with marketing that moves sales, advertising that increases market share and personal experiences that make connections with your customers. That's a Branding strategy you can bank on.
Are you in or are you out?
I can spend my entire day on the intake… checking email, reading posts, absorbing big data, putting out fires, planning, revising, revisiting, Googling this and that. I bet you can too.
The instant access to opinions, experts and information is almost infinite. It’s wonderful. It's powerful. How did small business owners make it without the internet? But it's also a crutch that gets in the way of me doing what is going to generate insane amounts of income this year – creating something new.
I can input myself into inaction. Or I can make the decision to turn off the intake and start creating output.
Today, I'm going to make something happen. How 'bout you? Are you in or are you out?
Results. Heroes. Ego.
Your business doesn't have to deliver all three, but in 2013 you need to give them at least one. And to be honest, if Results is all you've got to offer, you better deliver Ego or Heroism as well.
Every single one of your customers wants Results. A return on their investment in you. A problem solved. Sales growth. An unclogged pipe. A delicious meal. This is where every business begins their day, and if you're going to survive until tomorrow, this is where every small business ends it. Delivering Results a good start, but it's expected.
Heroes in business are more difficult to measure, but leave a more compelling impression. This is the good stuff that gets shared. Shattering your customers' expectations. Throwing in floor mats with a new car purchase. Returning a call after hours or on the weekend. Not just going the extra mile, but working harder for your customer than they are willing to work for themselves (Kansas City Hospice and Palliative Care comes to mind). Heroism can take many forms, but it always makes a lasting connection and leaves a great impression.
The third thing Kansas City consumers want is to have their ego stroked. Who doesn't? More typically the playground of upscale companies, every business can profit from making their customers the center of the universe. Sometimes it can be as simple as always delivering a smile. Sometimes it's just enough to be associated with your company that strokes the ego of your customers (in Kansas City think Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts or Aristrocrat Motors). Ego can come in many forms, but it's always compelling, and memorable.
Most small businesses will focus their attention and efforts on delivering Results. That's an important, but a basic goal. If you really want your company to roar in 2013, commit to delivering Heroes or Ego or both as well.
Great ideas. Big ideas. Even brilliant, genius, super-duper ideas don't matter if you can make the sell. A great business is only great because there is someone willing to buy what you're selling. Great businesses either know how to sell, or they know how to find customers who are willing to buy their ideas.
So, how much is that great idea worth? Whatever someone will pay for it.
Every business is in a rush to get noticed. You want to stand out. So your marketing sings, and screams and puts on a show. But what happens when I walk into your store... when I talk with your receptionist... as I'm browsing through your aisles? Am I going to be delighted or feel duped?
I don't care if you're offering more, making bigger promises and saying it louder than the other guy if you're not delivering on the expectations you've set. Your marketing is creating a culture, a brand story and establishing expectations. A great advertising partner will help you tell a story that you can exceed and build on, and not just tell a tale to get my attention.