BrandCraft 1: Why You Have to Build a Brand to Grow Your Business

You will never create anything big unless you make it a brand- whether a bank, musician, university, toilet paper, politician, search engine, fast food restaurant, Computer, soft drink, charitable organization, media house, clinic, law firm, athlete, church, etc.If this is a fact why do so many entrepreneurs and SME Business owners work so hard to grow their business without trying to make them brands? They invest time, money and effort to develop innovative and quality products, systems, hiring the best sales people, selecting the hottest business names, tag lines, company colours and creating logos.But is this not what brand building is all about? Yes and No.Yes because this is the first half of building a brand and a big NO because this is the smaller half. In a three step brand development continuum where the lowest level is a commodity, second step a label and the highest a brand when you have the best you can achieve with all these efforts is a label.A commodity is an undifferentiated product, service or company. A label is one has identity that is differentiates it from others businesses or product offerings of same kind. But a brand has emotional and psychological connection with a sizable market segment. There is a form of love relationship between the brand and its target customers.Every human being by the mare fact that he has unique finger prints, name, DNA, mannerisms and behaviour is a label. He has an identity. He is different from other men. But Nelson Mandela, Barrack Obama, Billy Graham, Michael Jordan are brands. As long as you define your uniqueness using the physical and biological characteristics you will always be a label. You may be a brand but only to a few. That also applies to businesses.Many entrepreneurs and business owners are working very hard to build labels. They want to bake the sweetest cake, sell the highest quality of furniture, be the consultant with the most tools, be the best doctor in town etc. They talk in terms of lowest price, best quality, good location, fast service etc. They wonder why their business doesn’t grow and hope that by working harder things will be different. The sad truth is that unless and until they are able to make their business brands they will remain small.They need to come to the realization that the vehicle that will carry their businesses to growth is making brands of their products and businesses.Building brands has many advantages to a business but I want to focus only the ones that play the biggest role in driving revenue and profit growth.1. Help Create a Monopoly for your Business: Everyday there are many businesses started and products rolled out in the market with the aim of offering the customer variety of choice. In essence the market is out there for everyone to fight it out to for. Fighting out to be seen, considered and be bought. With a label you have to keep on trying many things to achieve one or more of these objectives.The market forces are always seeking to push any product or company to the lowest level of a brand continuum – a commodity. They push brands to labels and labels to commodities. That is why some brands of yesterday are just labels.Whatever business you are in, you should know it is easier to multiply your profits and revenues if you are a brand rather than a commodity or label. You should therefore look for a way to deal with the market forces that want to push you down. You could either ask the government to declare you as a monopoly or you use the only other alternative of creating a form of monopoly power – create a brand.A brand becomes a tool that aids you in creating and owning your market segment. It helps you become friends with this market. You develop an emotional connection with it. When you own this market then you can unleash the business multiplier machine on it. This multiplier machine operates on the logic that you can only grow your business profits and revenues by getting more people buy more of your products, more often.Labels and commodities have to spend so much to win a new customer, spend even more to keep them and get them to buy more. It is harder and more expensive to unleash the multiplier machine on labels and almost impossible on commodities.2. Growth through new productsIt is very difficult to grow any business beyond a certain point just on one product offering or product line. At some point, even for those who own a particular market for a certain category of products, you will need to add something new in your fold. The reason being that the market tastes, preferences and circumstances are always changing hence they will require new products. Competitors will pursue your customers with a better value propositions. To respond you will need to create new products and services.Majority of SME Owners are innovators who have brought into the market something new. They appreciate the effort, resources and time required to make a new product succeed. Even for large organizations with massive resources it is never easier and there are no guarantees. That is why they build brands which are better equipped to launch a new product. Brand offer some level of success assurance.Without a brand they will have to go through the pains and overcome the countless challenges of new product launch whenever they need to introduce a new flavor, launch a new product, complementing service, open a new store, and add a new feature etcetera. Every time you do this the customer sees you as new. You don’t have a point to leverage on your business experience, market knowledge, capacity, supplier networks etc which you have invested in over time. This heavily limits you chances of success. A brand ensures you the benefits of being an old friend.’NEW ‘as a selling proposition works only for trusted brands. For them NEW is considered innovative and progressive. For labels and commodities ‘NEW’ is viewed as risky and inexperienced. Anything new has to be sold, and as a sales expert I understand selling is tough work worthy doing only when you have to do it.If you are in the technology business you appreciate how fast you have to generate and deliver new products to the market. Without a brand as a vehicle through which you have to deliver your new innovations you are doomed from the start.3. Build Business for the Long TermCommodities experience high rate of ‘child’ mortality. Labels usually a have a life expectancy of their creators. Brands have a life of their own.Every entrepreneur I know starting or running a business has a desire to see his business outlive him. To do this lawyers recommend you register your businesses as limited liability companies and management consultants tell you to create business dependent on systems. This is wise counsel but only to some extent because they help separate your business from your body and mind but you still share the soul.When you give up your soul the body and mind of your business will not live too long after.A brand is the soul of business. It makes it alive. It stops being a robot supported by a legal document. It becomes an organism that can have relationships of its own; it can love and be loved. It has connections with its market, employees, suppliers etc.Many of the big brands today are growing strong without the entrepreneurs who founded them because they are brands not because they are limited liability companies or they have great systems. A branded business is the only form of business that can grow on its own. Any other form will require the passion and genius of the founder to grow it.If you really want to leave an inheritance to your children then need to make your business a brand.These three points are not exhaustive but, if they would push you to be more determined to build brands or even to add a little knowledge on the subject then am happy.Wait for Part 2 where we will discuss how SMEs try to build brands the wrong way and how they can do it right.

Don’t Get Burned By Web Designers

If you bring up the subject of web design with small business people, it wouldn’t take long to find someone who has been burned by a web designer. Perhaps they have even come to the conclusion that a web site is not worth the expense. Let’s look at how and why that happens, and outline some success principles that will help you when you need web design services. Since so many web designers get it wrong, the web design principles that actually work may surprise you.One of the problems with web design is that software programs have made it seem easy to create a web site. If you have the software, it would not take you long to build a web site. There are an abundance of inexpensive templates available to make it even easier to put together a web site. Getting a professional looking web site is not difficult at all. So you may wonder, why is that a problem?The process of creating a web site does not end with making it look professional. In fact, that could very well be one of the least important aspects of a web site design. Let’s face it, there are ugly web sites that make a lot of money. Since life is not fair, there are great looking web sites that make little or no money. I’m not saying the professionalism of your web site is not important; I am saying it’s not enough.There is a serious flaw in the web design industry, and small business owners are especially prone to fall victim to it. The problem is that usually, very little business planning goes into a web site design. Too many web designers are more concerned with selling web design than taking the time to build an effective web site.This deficiency stems from the fact that very few web designers are marketing people. Small business people do not have big advertising budgets, so they are easily attracted to the low rates of average web designers. Good marketing means setting priorities and effectively using your resources to accomplish goals.The one element I find seriously missing in web design is the very thing that is fundamentally important; that element is uniqueness. A Unique Selling Point (USP) is one of the basic tenets of marketing. You must answer the questions: why should I buy from you, and, what makes you different from my other choices? If you fail in this area, your web site visitor will not be kind to you. They will leave and not come back; they will probably not tell you why they left either.Read your web site copy to see if it contains another common error. Does it say, “We this,” and, “We that?” Do not “we” on your web site visitors! Your web site copy should speak to the visitor, address their needs, and solve their problem. It must compel them in some way. You need to draw them in and sell them on your solution.When you take notice of how many web sites violate these basic marketing principles above, you will begin to see how you have the opportunity to rise above your competitors. Just think, if the majority of business web sites are violating even these most basic principles, how much more could you benefit from hiring a web designer who understands marketing?There is a lot of emphasis placed on search engine optimization (SEO), and there should be, because this is very important if you want to have your web site found by people using the search engines. For most web sites, search engines account for 80% to 95% of all visitors. However, as important as SEO is, if you have a web site that is not creating sales with the visitors you are already getting, SEO is the wrong priority.The next principle is the one you will probably find the most surprising. People actually read web sites! Yes, they do have a short attention span, and we will look at that point next, but they do read. There have been many studies done to document the way people use web pages. Even though so much attention is given to graphics, the studies show that well over 75% of the time, web page users read the text before they notice graphics.This does not mean that graphics are unimportant. Visual elements are one of the many advantages a web site can provide. When you consider that people use the Internet to seek information, then it does makes sense that they will read your web site’s content. Providing the right information can mean the difference between winning a customer, or surrendering them to your competition.I also promised to cover the short attention span issue. It is often called the 3 second rule. According to web studies, if you cannot capture the attention of your visitor in approximately 3 seconds, that’s how fast they usually leave your web site. I suspect the reason is because so many web sites are such a horrible waste of time, that people’s patience has been worn down. The solution is to have a fast loading page that quickly clues them in that you can solve their problem. If they can “skim” in a few seconds, and you grab their attention, you have successfully drawn them in so they will stay a while.Statistically, it takes 7 visits before you make a sale. If your web site is not done correctly, you will have dismal results because you can’t get them to come back seven times. That is why so many web site owners are disappointed with their success. That is why some web designers provide what seems to be a bargain, while other web designers have to charge more to give you a better value. It takes more time to plan and create a good web site design.The good news is that most of your competitors will go for the bargain and suffer the same fate as everyone else who does not realize the value of an effective web site design. Very few of them will invest the resources needed for success. If you do, you can win. This does not mean you need the big budget of a major corporation, or that it has to be expensive, it just means you need to be willing to do better than average. The rewards are much greater when you stretch beyond the norm.

What Are The Greatest Changes In Shopping In Your Lifetime

What are the greatest changes in shopping in your lifetime? So asked my 9 year old grandson.

As I thought of the question the local Green Grocer came to mind. Because that is what the greatest change in shopping in my lifetime is.

That was the first place to start with the question of what are the greatest changes in shopping in your lifetime.

Our local green grocer was the most important change in shopping in my lifetime. Beside him was our butcher, a hairdresser and a chemist.

Looking back, we were well catered for as we had quite a few in our suburb. And yes, the greatest changes in shopping in my lifetime were with the small family owned businesses.

Entertainment While Shopping Has Changed
Buying butter was an entertainment in itself.
My sister and I often had to go to a favourite family grocer close by. We were always polite as we asked for a pound or two of butter and other small items.

Out came a big block of wet butter wrapped in grease-proof paper. Brought from the back of the shop, placed on a huge counter top and included two grooved pates.

That was a big change in our shopping in my lifetime… you don’t come across butter bashing nowadays.

Our old friendly Mr. Mahon with the moustache, would cut a square of butter. Lift it to another piece of greaseproof paper with his pates. On it went to the weighing scales, a bit sliced off or added here and there.

Our old grocer would then bash it with gusto, turning it over and over. Upside down and sideways it went, so that it had grooves from the pates, splashes going everywhere, including our faces.

My sister and I thought this was great fun and it always cracked us up. We loved it, as we loved Mahon’s, on the corner, our very favourite grocery shop.

Grocery Shopping
Further afield, we often had to go to another of my mother’s favourite, not so local, green grocer’s. Mr. McKessie, ( spelt phonetically) would take our list, gather the groceries and put them all in a big cardboard box.

And because we were good customers he always delivered them to our house free of charge. But he wasn’t nearly as much fun as old Mr. Mahon. Even so, he was a nice man.

All Things Fresh
So there were very many common services such as home deliveries like:

• Farm eggs

• Fresh vegetables

• Cow’s milk

• Freshly baked bread

• Coal for our open fires

Delivery Services
A man used to come to our house a couple of times a week with farm fresh eggs.

Another used to come every day with fresh vegetables, although my father loved growing his own.

Our milk, topped with beautiful cream, was delivered to our doorstep every single morning.

Unbelievably, come think of it now, our bread came to us in a huge van driven by our “bread-man” named Jerry who became a family friend.

My parents always invited Jerry and his wife to their parties, and there were many during the summer months. Kids and adults all thoroughly enjoyed these times. Alcohol was never included, my parents were teetotallers. Lemonade was a treat, with home made sandwiches and cakes.

The coal-man was another who delivered bags of coal for our open fires. I can still see his sooty face under his tweed cap but I can’t remember his name. We knew them all by name but most of them escape me now.

Mr. Higgins, a service man from the Hoover Company always came to our house to replace our old vacuum cleaner with an updated model.

Our insurance company even sent a man to collect the weekly premium.

People then only paid for their shopping with cash. This in itself has been a huge change in shopping in my lifetime.

In some department stores there was a system whereby the money from the cash registers was transported in a small cylinder on a moving wire track to the central office.

Some Of The Bigger Changes
Some of the bigger changes in shopping were the opening of supermarkets.

• Supermarkets replaced many individual smaller grocery shops. Cash and bank cheques have given way to credit and key cards.

• Internet shopping… the latest trend, but in many minds, doing more harm, to book shops.

• Not many written shopping lists, because mobile phones have taken over.

On a more optimistic note, I hear that book shops are popular again after a decline.

Personal Service Has Most Definitely Changed
So, no one really has to leave home, to purchase almost anything, technology makes it so easy to do online.
And we have a much bigger range of products now, to choose from, and credit cards have given us the greatest ease of payment.

We have longer shopping hours, and weekend shopping. But we have lost the personal service that we oldies had taken for granted and also appreciated.

Because of their frenetic lifestyles, I have heard people say they find shopping very stressful, that is grocery shopping. I’m sure it is when you have to dash home and cook dinner after a days work. I often think there has to be a better, less stressful way.

My mother had the best of both worlds, in the services she had at her disposal. With a full time job looking after 9 people, 7 children plus her and my dad, she was very lucky. Lucky too that she did not have 2 jobs.