Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with @bizbuild. Karen Carr-Crawford is an entrepreneurial driven professional with 18 years of documented success and experience in marketing management, marketing plan development, and marketing campaign execution and implementation, having successfully generated $22.5 million in revenues in B2B space by consulting with owners and senior staff on relevant business growth strategies utilizing marketing skills, branding concepts, and business process improvement tools. Additionally, Karen delivers goal setting, coaching, relationship building, and training to create quantifiable outcomes for 500+ businesses across industry sectors throughout tenure. For more info, visit thesmallbusinessbuilders.com
SmallBizLady: What does “Debunking the Branding Myth” mean exactly?
Karen Carr-Crawford: “Debunking the Branding Myth” means allowing small business owners (SBO’s) the opportunity to understand that branding a product or service is a bigger step that moves beyond a logo and image system, social media profiles, and a web presence.
The prevailing thought is often that online visibility alone will establish and create the brand. While these each are critical elements to supporting and growing the brand, the term “Branding” for some has become synonymous with those elements only.
Debunking the Brand Myth is about having the SBO understand the broader platform of marketing and the integration of business values to business strategy.
SmallBizLady: An online presence is often cited as a critical first step in launching a business. Please explain how an online presence could work against a small business.
Karen Carr-Crawford: An online presence is a critical first step, but only if the SBO has clarity regarding the customer profile.
My experience with SBO’s is that I always find that as new owners/startups begin launch, they are very eager to establish a solid image and logo system and social media presence as the first order of business. This becomes priority without identifying who their target audience truly is.
As a marketer I certainly recognize the value of web and social media for a variety of reasons. However, this mis-prioritization often leads small business owners down the wrong marketing path with starts and stops to strategy, various creative iterations, and undue expense.
It is important to remember that a brand is built!
SmallBizLady: How would a small business owner overcome the typical branding challenge or start Debunking?
Karen Carr-Crawford: SBO’s must first focus on creating their Business Reputation in the marketplace. The professional reputation supports the IDENTITY of their evolving brand. The Identity is an essential ingredient of a well place brand that has the ability to clearly speak to customer perceptions.
We hear the term “Reputation Management” in the social media space all the time. However, in this context the definition of reputation is a bit different.
SmallBizLady: Please further explain “Brand Identity”?
Karen Carr-Crawford: Marketer Lynn B. Upshaw writes in Building Brand Identity, “An identity is not what a marketer creates, but what consumers perceive has been created.”
The brand identity reflects the personal aspects of the product or service. These aspects are sometimes defined as “Benefits and Features”, “Touch Points”, or simply the “Vibe” that is generated when the customer comes in contact with the Brand. The connection may be either tangible or intangible.
Therefore if the customers’ perception is not met with a positive or engaging connection to the product or service; then the messaging is not effective, and it is likely that the IDEAL CUSTOMER is not being reached.
For a small business owner the Brand Identity translates as creating positive engagement for the customer. As a SBO you can only create effective engagement if you have clear definitions of who the Ideal Customer is!
SmallBizLady: What does Reputation Management mean in this context?
Karen Carr-Crawford: Reputation Management or “Business Reputation” in this context is really about the business’s Standard of Performance.
These standards should easily and readily translate into credible tactical business deliverables that assist in building a well-respected brand. (The word “credible” is used to suggest that the business owner doesn’t overshoot what she/he can deliver).
If a brand is credible, the business will successfully reach customers and will therefore sell products. Those product sales will be reflective of a specific demographic and psychographic as related to the customer profile. This demographic profiling will assist in identifying who the Ideal Customer is for the product(s) or service(s) that are sold.
Therefore, it’s really the Ideal Customer profile that should be priority when developing a marketing platform. The Ideal Customer is NUMBER ONE in terms of who the SBO’s should direct their creative and tactical strategies toward. The new business owner MUST get a handle on filling these needs as priority with relevant product delivery – i.e., Bundling, Discounting and Customer Loyalty Programs are example of strategies that may be considered. From there SBO’s should look at how to create image systems and on-line platforms with a specific customer profile in mind.
SmallBizLady: How is a Standard of Performance defined for Branding?
Karen Carr-Crawford: A Standard of Performance is essentially a charge that clearly states how products and services should be delivered, with the intent of creating engaging and positive experiences for customers. These directives are often articulated for example, as SOP’s – Standard Operating Procedures or Strategic Objectives.
What is most important is that a Standard of Performance should always be a direct outcome of company core values. The business or company core values are always expressed in the company Mission and Vision statements.
Businesses can utilize the core values to assist in create exceptional customer service policies; top tier quality control guidelines; and to recruit high caliber employees. Each directive lends support to the business reputation for the evolving and growing brand.
Although not developed as a marketing application, the Baldrige Program Standards are an example of tools and assessments that can be used to create best practices and/or standards in business.
SmallBizLady: What happens when the SBO is a micro enterprise, or 1 or 2 person operation – How can this process of evaluation help?
Karen Carr-Crawford: For a microenterprise this review presents even more of an opportunity for growth!
Micro businesses are always challenged with tighter budgets. This process of work can assist in developing clear customer profiles and utilizing marketing tools that are very specific.
The process will also assist in getting rid of customers that are not suitable for the products or services sold. This leads to much more efficient management of limited resources within the microenterprises’ operations.
SmallBizLady: How can SBO’s Debunk?
Karen Carr-Crawford: SBO’s can reevaluate their current marketing strategy and marketing plans to determine if they are in alignment with their own company Mission and Vision. This also means that the Mission and Vision must reflect more than just nice sounding words on paper. The Mission and Vision exercise requires that business owners revisit each piece critically with the assistance of their leadership team and/or staff members, or board members to gain clarity.
Also, I always recommend that a business start-up launch with a BASIC image/logo system. Try to keep the system clean and simple with basic styles, fonts, and color schemes. Also consider utilizing one of the user friendly templates based marketing programs like Vistaprint or Go Daddy as a start. These turnkey programs also help save money in the early stages.
SmallBizLady: There are references to Standards of Performance, Business Reputation, and Mission and Vision – Please clarify how they all intersect to create the desired brand experience?
Karen Carr-Crawford: In summary -The Customer is Still King in business! Why? Because the SBO must know how to reach the customer in order to ultimately sell more things to that customer. Thus the term – “Ideal Customer” surfaces as the best place to start defining the marketing platform.
SBO’s can develop business Standards of Performance to assist in creating the desired business reputation. The business reputation should manifest to create tangible “Can See” “Can Feel” credible and positive extensions of the product or service. Those extensions should always be based on the company core values that are found in the company Mission/Vision.
The feeling of engagement that results with the customer is what Brand Identity is designed to capture, thus further defining the Ideal Customer. Identifying the customer is the first step to creating an effective marketing platform and branding strategy – this is how we Debunk the Branding Myth!
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