Why Bother Branding Your Small Business?

In this post, Why Bother Branding Your Small Business?, Malla Haridat shares the revelation that she, “…never realized how important branding was to small businesses. Especially those struggling with a clear and powerful answer to “why should I buy from you?” This is part of our guest blogger seriesMalla is an entrepreneur, strategist and Brand School graduate. Read more about Malla at the end of the post.  If you would like to be a guest blogger for BrandTwist contact Jamie@BrandTwist.com for more information.

Big fish, little fish
I always thought that branding only made sense for big companies.  I visualized an executive team strategizing about the vision and look of the company to ensure that all employees operated with one voice to give a consistent “feel” for customers.
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I never realized how important branding was to small businesses. Especially those struggling with a clear and powerful answer to “why should I buy from you?”
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I am a strategist for small business owners and help women entrepreneurs in the making take their talents to the bank.  You can visit my blog at mallaharidat.com for advice with a no BS approach.  I have been blessed to work with amazing clients who hired me to build small business camps and workshops.  But after years of serving corporate and not for profit clients, I realized there was a market I really should be serving – individual women entrepreneurs.  However, it has been a challenge for me to convey how I can impact individuals after years of focusing my marketing on the needs of large groups. I enrolled in the Fall ’12 Session of Brand School by Brand Twist and it gave me several insights on how to build my business.
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I learned that branding is so much more than creating a tag line or choosing your color scheme. It is an opportunity to craft a clear identity for your company that allows you to focus on what you deliver. And once you tackle this challenge, it’s much easier to communicate to prospective clients, the media and even your friends and family about what you deliver and why your company is better than others.

I also learned how to design a clear framework around my services – what I would focus on and what I would leave off the table. For a solo entrepreneur who is often enticed to take on all types of work that sounds interesting – it’s critical to have this boundary so that I don’t lose focus from my company’s core strength.

So here are the top branding lessons I learned:

1.   Creating a brand proposition is critical for a small business.  Yes, it’s hard work. And yes, you’ll have to spend valuable time creating and testing your brand while  you’d rather be finding new customers. But the payoff is INCREDIBLE. The clear verbal message I have about my business is making it much easier for prospects to “get” me.  And it really paid off recently as I was awarded a finalist spot in a business pitch competition!  I never would have been able to hone my message into a 2 minute pitch that was clear, compelling – and won me a coveted spot.

2.   Incorporating the values of brands you love into your business can be a fun and enlightening way to engage new prospects. I examined two brands that I love  – Embassy Suites and Trader Joe’s – and found themes that both companies use that have helped me to clarify my own brand.  What’s so cool about that activity is that you examine companies that are not in your industry to better strengthen your own company. I found that their focus on over-delivering on value yet charging competitively was an idea that I could incorporate in my own brand.

3. Get clear on who you serve.  It’s amazing how many times I have heard other entrepreneurs share that “I serve everyone” in my business plan camps. It’s impossible for even large multi-national brands with huge advertising budgets to reach everyone in the market.  And yet, when I first started looking at my target customer, I almost started to do the same thing. Yes, I knew that women entrepreneurs were a target but I hadn’t spent time in their “shoes” and really living and understanding  their concerns, needs and values to better position my product. It’s about getting to the core of what keeps them up at night and the language they use to describe their problems. And while I am clear that understanding my target customer will be ongoing in my business, I am happy to say I’ll spend less money on marketing because I have a deeper understanding of the copy and language I can use to attract her and the groups that I can start targeting.

Branding isn’t just for the big guys. In fact, I think its even more important for small businesses because we have to stand out, and make sure that every single dollar spent on marketing and client acquisition pays off. A strong brand with a clear message can help a small business achieve big things.

Brand School, our highly effective, premier branding program, delivers the tools and steps you need to grow your brand and your business’ connection to your market. Get our free brand-building tips and receive immediate updates about Brand School’s exclusive programs when you sign up for our newsletter at BrandSchoolOnline.com.
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“I received huge value from Brand School. You can’t put a price on that experience. I loved the integrated learning experience and that we walked out of the series with a working brand strategy.” - Rachel Watkins, Brand Development for Large Businesses
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MallaMalla Haridat is an entrepreneurship strategist and founder of Mom and Daughters Inc. As the founder and CEO of New Designs for Life, Malla is a nationally recognized expert in the specialized field of entrepreneurship education and has trained over 1,000 students. Her company was awarded the 2005 New York City Small Business Award of the Year by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and has been featured in publications like The New York Times and on Martha Stewart Radio.

How Lululemon Athletica Stretches its Brand Touchpoints

Check out “7 Bewitching Brands,” an article featuring an interview with BrandTwist founder, Julie Cottineau, in the April issue of Entrepreneur magazineShe addresses how Lululemon builds a community of brand ambassadors and uses all of its brand touch points (from tags to tote bags) to build its brand.

Despite the recent setbacks Lululemon Athletica has had with its recall of see-through yoga pants, we are still a big fan of this brand. We believe that all brands make mistakes, but in general, Lululemon does more right than wrong and we think they will weather this setback.

Read about Lululemon and 6 other bewitching brands HERE. This is a great issue of Entrepreneur – dedicated 100% to brand. A must read.

What brands would you put on the “bewitching” brands list? What’s missing? We’d love to hear your twist.

“Julie’s active participation in Brand School and feedback was amazing and helped a LOT. I received great value from this program.” - Leslie Hughes, PUNCHmedia 

Get  information about priority registration for the next session of Brand School, our highly effective, premier branding program and receive free brand-building tools and tips when you join our mailing list.

Please also visit us on Twitter and Facebook for more insight and inspiration on branding.

Necessity is the Mother of Brand Invention

“Necessity is the mother of invention.” That expression is as true today as it was when Plato first wrote it, circa 450 BC.

Here is another catchy term, “evergreen topic.” Meaning, a subject  that will always be of great interest to people. One of the biggest evergreen topics is health. If there is such a thing as a health bandwagon, it sure seems like EVERYONE is on it. Now, let’s take all of the above and create a little equation: Necessity + Invention + Evergreen = Brad’s Raw Chips.

Brad’s Raw Chips are a gluten-free, organic, vegan, kosher snack food. Founded by Brad Gruno, who had no experience what-so-ever with baking, cooking or nutritional health products. In fact, he had worked in the telecommunications industry for over 20 years, was 40 pounds overweight with high cholesterol, and was depressed… you get the picture. When Brad decided to get on a healthier track by following a raw diet, he found what he missed most was the flavorful, spicy taste and crunch of snack foods. Out of sheer desperation he began to “play” with kale. He made a kale “chip” and shared samples with friends and family and ta-da… Brad’s Raw Chips were born. Now, he’s expanded the line with other veggies, crackers, and even a snack biscuit for dogs.

It was Brad’s personal quest which led him to focus on a single product that made him stand apart from the thousands of snack foods lining the market shelves. Sharing his story and mastering one specific, singular niche, actually ended up enabling product development and market expansion.

Don’t be put off by taking a look at your own life. What you might want or need may be just the thing to fill a gap in the marketplace, too.

Your target market may have a lot more in common with you and your story than you think. When you share your story you add a deeper dimension to the user experience. You open the way for your customer to identify with you and feel a genuine connection with your brand.

Necessity may be the mother of invention, but identifying your specific niche and honing your brand’s story takes strategic cultivation. Brand School, our highly effective, premier branding program, will give you actionable steps and strategies that you can use to grow an evergreen brand.  Receive more information about Brand School’s next session and get free brand-building tools and tips when you join our mailing list.

This post is part of our Brands That Twist series celebrating innovative brands. Read about other breakthrough brands and more ways to grow your business and brand here

“I was starting my business from scratch and was all over the place when started the course. Brand School really helped me focus. I came out of it with a foundation for my brand that I know will work. Without Brand School, it never would have happened.” - Nicole Lesser, Entrepreneur

Polling is a Blast!

A few weeks ago I wrote a post called Research Polling Finally Enters the World of 2.0.

It’s about a cool little widget called Urtak.

I’ve installed one of these on my blog (see side bar just under upcoming appearances).

So far the results have been fascinating.

I’ve received over 1,000 responses.

Some interesting tidbits about the BrandTwist readers:

- 30% of your Moms are on Face Book
- 67% of you have fired a gun
- 90% describe yourselves as happy
- 74% spend more than 2 hours a day goofing off online
- 71% would like to work for Don Draper
- 100% say you like this Urtak widget

I’ve just added about 40 new questions.

A sneak peek:
Keep reading »

Research Polling Finally Enters the World Of 2.0

Read this post and check out my BrandTwist Urtak poll on the sidebar.

There’s a fundamental flaw with the majority of research polls.

By their very design, they make assumptions on what questions are relevant and/or predictive.

In other words, the poll results are only as good as the questions that have been asked.

But what if the assumptions on what’s important are wrong? Then the data is not so useful.

For example, I could do a survey on airline travel satisfaction and ask lots of questions about seat comfort.

However, maybe I didn’t think to ask about food quality, which might be the key driver for a lot of respondents.

In this case, the relevance of the data is limited by the assumptions and bias of the researcher (me).

My friends at Urtak have set out to change this.
Keep reading »