Branding your Business

Branding your Business

Branding your business is about placing your product, service or the business itself clearly in the minds’ eyes of your target markets.

It’s about helping your potential and current customers to build an image of what your business, service or product represents in the market. Ultimately, branding is about making your product or service appeal to your target market, by differentiating it in an attractive, compelling manner and advocating its benefits and value.

We can readily relate to the branding work of major international businesses. Think of car brands, for example. We have an image of what a BMW represents, as we do for a Ford or any other well-known brand. Read this interesting case study of how Skoda used a SWOT Analysis to re-position its branding.

Read my thoughts on Applegreen petrol stations in this post.

When it comes to smaller, local businesses, achieving branding clout can be a little more tricky. Clearly, a local business does not have the luxury of a large budget through which it can emit positive branding messages.

Branding your business
Branding positions your product or service

This is where word-of-mouth comes in, supported by the increasing role played by social media.

Where once branding your business was predominantly determined by communication emanating from the business itself, increasingly it is subject to analysis and comment from the market. You might like to state that your brand represents X, but if the social media world has decided it’s really more along the lines of Y, then that’s it!

In today’s market, more than ever before, it’s the actual actions and delivered service or product that influence decisions of consumers and buying organisations alike. Your performance must match the branding message you are putting out. Do so and your market will react positively. Do not and the social media world will tell you quickly that your performance does not match your branding. In that scenario, the market will be only too pleased to tell you what your brand really represents.

“When your business says it, it’s just communication. When your customers say it, it’s branding”

So keep developing your brand and your message to convey its values. But also keep communicating in both directions with your target markets : listen and learn from them what their perception of your brand is.

Tweak. Repeat.

And get into video marketing.

Video is a wonderful way of communicating your ‘vibe’, an essential part of your branding. This is communicating your brand in a more personal manner. Stick your video up on your website and share it out across social media channels. As well as directly helping your branding, it’ll increase traffic to your site!

Branding your Business – A little on Colour

Of course, it is just one element and there are no hard and fast rules, but I think most of us get a little amusement out of what different colours represent when it comes to branding your business :

Blue : Trustworthy, dependable, secure, serene, universally well-liked.

Red : Aggressive, energetic, provocative, passionate, danger, indebtedness.

Green : Health, freshness, serenity, natural, calming.

Yellow : Optimism, positivism, light, warmth, creative, energy. Note that yellow is the first colour the eye sees [often employed in PoS].

Purple : Creativity, mystery, sophistication, spirituality, nostalgia, sentimentality.

Pink : Energy, youthfulness, fun, excitement, less expensive, trendy.

Orange : Cheerful, exuberant, fun, vitality, childlike.

Peach : Peaceful, enriching. [often employed in healthcare, restaurants, beauty salons].

Brown : Earthy, simplicity, durability, stability, dirty or hiding dirt.

Black : Bold, powerful, classic, sophisticated, expensive.

White : Simplicity, cleanliness, purity, health-related.

Keep in mind that branding your business is an ongoing effort – a two-way thing going on between you and your target markets!

Target Marketing – Visualise that Persona

Your Target Marketing Personae

In Target Marketing, for a business-to-consumer (B2C) enterprise, you should try to paint a picture of a persona that represents the actual real-life market you are hoping to develop.

Taking into account factors like family status, number of children, age bracket, income level, motivations, behaviours, etc., you should try to build a picture of that special person for whom you hope to solve a problem. Of course, your business might cater for more than one target market, in which case you build two or more distinct personae. The point here is that, if you want to communicate with the right type of person for your business, you need to be able to picture that person in your mind’s eye. In this way, you will more carefully consider your marketing content and the media across which you send out your content.

Target marketing
Pursue representative target market personae

This is not to say that you will refuse a sale of your product or service to somebody who does not precisely fit your established persona. Of course not. It simply means that you will direct your energy and resources solely at clearly defined target markets.

So your target market persona might be a 50 year-old single lady living in Dublin, who plays tennis and likes to lunch out with her lady friends. Or yours might be a young couple, with two children under the age of 6, who own a Volvo saloon and like to go cycling. Yours might have enjoyed the now defunct Mooney Show on RTE Radio 1, or might always have been more of a Moncrieff on Newstalk listener.

Target Marketing – Its Place

Don’t forget that target marketing comes third of the four elements that make up the Marketing Process. It is preceded by Situation Analysis, where you line up what you’ve got and what not, what you’re great at and what not, etc. A SWOT Analysis should form part of that step. Then comes Marketing Research, where you find out all you need to know about the market as a whole, competitors, etc. Only then does Target Marketing take centre stage, as you look at all your cards and realise which market segment(s) your offering will suit best. After all, marketing is about offering solutions to your market. Finally, the Marketing Mix is where you settle on your product, its pricing, distribution and promotion.

Marketing Research – Step Two of the Marketing Process

The Vital Role of Marketing Research

So you’ve carried out your Situation Analysis as the first step in the Marketing Process. Now it’s time for some Marketing Research.

Marketing Research is about finding out what you feel you don’t know enough about. That might be competitive offers, potential distribution channels, consumer behaviour, and so on. But it’s also about challenging and validating what you feel you do know. Or disputing.

Marketing research is about joining the dots. The dots between what you know and what you don’t. The dots between your customers’ wants and your planned project. Here are some ways of achieving this.

Marketing research

1. Focus groups.

Invite a group of people that might make up your one or more target markets to come and discuss their wants and needs. The idea here is to tease out what makes them happy and not-so-happy about providers in the market, whether that includes your business or not. The focus group is not about discussing your particular product or service. Rather, it is to talk about the marketplace as a whole and maybe you might spot some opportunities as a result of the session. Asking about your specific product or service will only result in skewed responses, as people will naturally give you the answers they feel you’re looking for.

2. Questionnaires.

If you have access to people’s email addresses, use a service like Surveymonkey to carry out marketing research through a number of questions. Vary the questions between yes/no, multiple choice and sliding scale types. Always leave an open “add your comments” box at the end.

3. Competitors’ online presence.

In today’s market, there is a ton of information readily available on your competitors, their offering and, indeed, their pricing. Dedicate some time to browsing their websites and social media platforms. Subscribe to their e-newsletters and go browse reviews of their businesses on third-party sites, like Tripadvisor. As a rule of thumb, I suggest you ignore reviews from people who’ve only ever posted one.

4. Government Agencies.

Depending on what sector you’re in, there’s loads of (often free) research available from the various industry-supporting Irish government agencies, such as Enterprise Ireland, Fáilte Ireland or Bord Bia. Go browse what they’ve got on sector- or market-focussed research, covering size of market, trends, players, etc. Know also that these agencies organise overseas trade visits, where you can learn a lot about what export markets require from your business and where opportunities may lie.

5. Get out on the street.

If your market is one that’s predominantly offline, then get off your seat and take a walk down the streets of your town or city. Go in to stores that are relevant and take a good look at what’s on display. Come back several times. What moves and what does not? Where are the pricing levels? What’s the branding saying to you? Marketing research does not need to be fancy stuff.

6. Anonymous shopping.

Whether on- or offline, work through a purchase with competitors. Learn how their process works and get a fell for the ‘vibe’ of shopping with other businesses. Learn where you could improve upon the experience.

7. Feedback forms.

Pro-actively request that customers complete feedback forms. Read and learn.

Marketing Research – Avoid Presumptions

There are lots of ways of gathering useful marketing research and many of them do not have to cost anything other than your time. Remember what a friend of mine once said : “Presumption is the mother of all f*** ups!”. Carry out research to make sure you aren’t guilty of making too many.

Situation Analysis : The ‘Now’ of Marketing

Situation Analysis – Where Are You At?

One of the bigger challenges facing any marketing trainer, like myself, is holding participants’ attention while discussing the role played by what we call “Situation Analysis”.

While carrying out a Situation Analysis should be the first step (and then regularly repeated), it can be so much more appealing for training attendees to jump straight to the exciting part that is the Marketing Mix – discussing product, price, promotion, and so on.

But it’s the Situation Analysis stage that should direct us along the path of the Marketing Process towards developing a marketing plan. This first step is where we learn about and evaluate political, economic, social, technological, legal and environmental information that might impact upon our plans. Essentially, it’s a critical review of our current business situation. We need to be able to identify internal and external forces that may influence the performance of our business and what strategies we might pursue. We equally need to assess our current and future strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and strengths, aka carry out a SWOT Analysis.

Situation Analysis
What to consider during a Situation Analysis

A Situation Analysis could unearth issues like legislative change coming down the tracks that might provide us with great opportunities or, perhaps, curtail revenue generation from some existing services. We can devote time to investigating recent trends and what might happen next. Perhaps we can spot possible future products and services that we could offer to the market that might just give us a head-start on competitors.

Situation Analysis – What’s Involved

Really, the Situation Analysis is all about looking at both the micro- and macro-environments that impact upon or potentially could impact upon our business. So, we might consider looking at issues under the following headings, while carrying out a Situation Analysis :

Company – What we’ve got internally and what not (resources).

Customers – Which type of customers we’ve got and which not. What other market segments exist?

Collaboration – The value we attribute to our suppliers, partners, bankers, etc.

Competitors – What they’re up to, good at, not so good at, etc.

Context – The environment in which we are trying to do business – legal, technological, etc.

All critical stuff.

SWOT Analysis – A Valuable Business Tool

Of all the business tools out there, the SWOT Analysis is perhaps the best known. More interesting, perhaps, might be to know how many business owners have ever actually sat down and objectively carried one out!

The SWOT Analysis is an integral part of the first stage of the Marketing Process. Knowing the Strengths and Weaknesses of your business, as well as being aware of and alert to the Opportunities and Threats in the market, can be of huge benefit to any business owner. This is especially true of the sole trader or micro-enterprise owner, as he or she may not have anybody else’s eyes, ears and opinions to fall back on in the early days.

How many pub owners didn’t notice what was going on over the past ten years in the Irish economy, or, if they did, failed to spot the opportunities to react to the threats and continue to trade well?

The SWOT Analysis looks at two internal factors in a business, namely the Strengths and Weaknesses. This might be termed the “easy” part of the exercise and they are as they are. Often, however, the challenge is to recognise and acknowledge them. Then external factors, represented by Opportunities and Threats, are considered. This is where it can get tough. It’s clearly much easier to spot one’s own strengths and weaknesses, but the real business value here is in the “what if” scenarios.

Spotting opportunities in a market is the hallmark of a great business owner. Seeing the threats coming down the tracks in time to adjust, equally so.

SWOT Analysis
SWOT Analysis looks at Internal and External Factors

Completing a SWOT Analysis

Given the difficulty that can be encountered in remaining objective while completing a SWOT Analysis, it is strongly advised that business owners get a second person to help out. And no, not a family member!

Look at factors such as resources (personnel, funding, etc.), facilities, location, product offer, branding, pricing levels, expertise within the team, innovation, legislation (existing and pending), market trends, competition, market dynamics, online presence, etc. Study the relationship between your business and its customers. Develop a picture of the whole and then steer in the best direction for you and your business.

Marketing Process – The Structure Behind Ideas

The Marketing Process

Play word association with ‘marketing’ and many will respond with ‘advertising’. Others might come up with ‘promoting’, or even offer up ‘Facebook‘ nowadays. Rarely will somebody utter ‘marketing process’.

And yet, as small business owners and marketeers, we should be thinking more about the Marketing Process as a whole rather than simply its exciting promotional element. So bear with me here.

In marketing jargon, there are four elements to the Marketing Process – the steps through which we should go when looking for direction, ideas and actions.

First, there’s Situation Analysis. Here, we look at the marketplace as a whole and what resources we have, how our business, product or service stacks up and what trends are out there that we could be taking advantage of. One part of this step is the good old SWOT Analysis. What are our Strengths and Weaknesses? What Opportunities and Threats are out there?

Second, there’s Marketing Research. Here, we carry out research into what competitors are offering, or what current and potential customers are looking for. Think of it as validation of what we’ve discovered during Situation Analysis, or as a means to answering the questions that will inevitably have popped up.

Third, it’s Target Marketing. Armed with the kind of good information that the first two steps will have furnished us with, we should now have a sound picture of the marketplace. It’s now time to pick and choose between the various market segments and home in on the one or more we feel we can best serve.

Fourth (and only having completed the other steps), it’s time to get to the juicy bit – the Marketing Mix.

Now, having worked methodically through those first three (less appealing) steps, we can make better decisions about product offers, pricing levels, distribution channels and promotional mix. Why? Because we’ve learned so much already.

I like to call these four steps “Now, Check, Aim, Fire”. Note how, along with the fourth, the first three don’t stop. They are not a simple once-off exercise; they are ongoing.

Marketing Process
The Marketing Process – Now, Check, Aim, Fire

‘Now’ signifies looking around and seeing where you’re at. ‘Check’ is about researching and validating what you believe to be true. ‘Aim’ is for finding your preferred target markets. Finally, you ‘Fire’ your mix of product, price, place and promotion at that or those target markets you’ve identified.

The Marketing Process

Check back over the coming months for more detailed posts about each step.

Video on Facebook Pages – Get into It

Updated March 2019

Now we all agree that posting text only on our Facebook Page is a total no-no, right?

Photo posts work much better, gaining greater reach and, critically, more engagement. However, you might be missing out on an even more powerful way to engage your audience. Video on Facebook Pages is, in fact, the way to go.

I decided to do some basic research into this and found, unsurprisingly, that the figures do indeed back up this notion. It really is ever more about video.

Source : Buffer.com

So what I did was check back over the last eight months of posting on six Facebook Pages to which I have access. These Pages are all from different, but consumer-oriented (B2C) sectors. Each Page is marketing to consumers, rather than business-to-business (B2B).

Now, knowing that organic reach on Facebook has been declining over the past year or two, I looked for a post on each Page that had a reach of approximately 1-in-6 (the oft-quoted figure for organic reach) of its fan base.

I allocated this random post a reach of 1.0 and proceeded to compare all the following posts’ reach to that figure. In other words, if a subsequent post reached twice as many people, it scored 2.0 and so on. Note that all boosted posts were ignored – I was only interested in the performance of organic posts. Then, I averaged out the performances of the 6 Pages, as if they were, in fact, just one single Page. Still with me on this?

Video on Facebook Pages
Get into the habit of posting video on your Facebook Page

Here’s how it panned out.

Baseline photo-only post :     score of 1.0

Average photo-only posts :    score of 1.3

Average post with video :      score of 3.6

Essentially, having taken some 500 posts into consideration, video posts can be seen to have reached almost 3 times as many people as photo-only posts. Shouldn’t you be posting more videos?

 Video on Facebook Pages – How To

With your smartphone, simply shoot video on it and upload it directly, without recourse to a laptop.

Indeed, these days you can even cut off the start and finish within your Gallery function, without needing an app. In this way, you can place the phone on a stand, hit the record button, walk to your desired location, do your thing, then walk back, turn the camera off and simply chop out all the tooing and froing afterwards.

However, if you’d like to brand the video, through a title, captions and credits, add music and backgrounds, cut and splice, etc, then upload your video to your laptop and create a proper end product, I’d recommend Wondershare Filmora*. It will absolutely satisfy the needs of most micro-enterprises.

And YouTube is full of video tutorials on how to use this wonderful tool.

By the way, one last thing.

Your audiences want to see you on screen, so bite your cheek and get used to being in front of the camera. Yes, you heard me!

*Last time I checked, a once-off lifetime license cost US$60.

The Value of No

When you’re out there in the market, trying to make sales for your product or service, it’s important to understand the value of no.

We’ve all experienced the slog of advancing a potential sale through the so-called ‘sales funnel’, investing time and effort as we go. While many prospects fall off along the way, through lack of effective and efficient communication or whatever, others progress nicely and seem worth the ever increasing commitment of resources. One of the more difficult skills of selling to master is the ability to recognise the difference between a prospect who has erected a barrier to buying and one who simply isn’t going to buy.

This is the value of ‘no’.

value of no

Listen to what prospects are saying to you. Are they saying that they’re not going to buy because, if they did, they would have to do ‘abc’ or ‘xyz’? That’s a long way removed from a straight ‘no’. Maybe, in fact, they would be perfectly happy to do ‘abc’ or ‘xyz’ and begin to use your product or service. Maybe they’re simply searching for a solution to their problem and maybe that solution might come from you. They might be looking for a ‘way out’ of some deal or contract they find themselves in currently. Indeed, they might be looking for a strong argument to bring back to the boss as to why they should invest in whatever it is that’s required.

Developing the sale to a point where you hear the word ‘no’ can actually be a deal maker as much as a deal breaker. It releases tension and brings the situation to a head. Even if there is no deal done afterwards, it is a resource liberator, allowing you to invest those scarce resources in the next target.

Think about it : that ‘no’ you’ve just heard could be a call for a solution. “No, I can’t use your solution because …” gives you, the vendor, the opportunity to nip that ‘because’ in the bud. Now that they have explained the ‘no’, you can offer your prospect a way out, an escape, a solution.

Either way, that is the value of ‘no’.

Selling is not easy, so be sure to have your antenna finely tuned, so as not to miss these type of situations, where a ‘no’ is often a cry for help.

5 Facebook Page Performance Stats

Given the ever-increasing kerfuffle about dwindling organic reach of Facebook Page posts, I decided to take a look at four Pages I have access to and check some numbers. Here are 5 Facebook Page performance stats I’ve produced, based on the 40 most recent posts from each of these Pages, averaged out *.

 

Facebook page performance
Facebook

1. Reach

The average reach of the last 40 posts from each of the 4 Pages (i.e. 160 posts in total) was 36% (of the Page’s ‘likes’).

2. Boosts

When boosted posts were discounted, the average reach fell to 27%.

3. Shared

When posts by these Pages were not shared, the reach fell further, to 19%.

4. Links

For posts that contained a link leading away from Facebook, the number decreased to 12%.

5. Questions & Opinions

Among posts that were not shared, those posing questions or seeking opinions did not perform significantly better than simple image or video postings, at 23% v 19%.

The Pages analysed were chosen because they would be typical of small businesses, often with no more than 2 employees, where posting is rarely more often than once a day, but equally unlikely to be less frequent than 4 times per week.

These Pages would all have between 800 and 2,000 ‘likes’. While I haven’t gone into the frequency of likes and comments, it can be taken that most posts would have a number of comments or likes, but would be unlikely to generate tens of either terribly often.

* Notes on Facebook Page Performance

1. This research does not claim to be a thorough representation of what’s going on with Facebook Pages generally.
2. All 160 posts contained at least one image or video – none was text-only.
3. No post was guilty of “click baiting“.
4. I haven’t taken into account the time of posting.

Facebook Page Performance Resources

The internet is jammed with resources on how to optimise your Facebook Page performance and listing some is almost pointless. Nevertheless, here are just 3 I frequently check in on.

Jon Loomer

Mari Smith

Social Media Examiner

 

Product Pricing – 5 Methods

For any small business, product pricing decisions can be among the most difficult. There is often a tendency to price one’s product or service low, in the hope of gaining quick sales, or through fear of rejection by the target market. However, the danger here can be that one prices the product too low. It is very difficult to raise prices afterwards, when the promoter, perhaps, begins to notice that the item is too cheap.

Five ways of pricing a product are as follows.

Product Pricing
5 Ways to Price your Product

Cost plus Margin

Here, the promoter calculates the cost of materials, production, transportation, etc and simply adds a desired margin to arrive at the level of product pricing wanted.

Example :

Costs – € 6.00

Desired margin – 40%

Charge to customer – € 10.00

Add VAT @ 23% (if applicable) – € 12.30

What the Market will Bear

Here, the vendor carries out research into the market, pays attention to what other suppliers are paying and makes a decision based on what he or she believes the market may be willing to pay for the item.

Example :

As above, the item costs – € 6.00

Competitor A charges – € 17.99

Competitor B charges – € 19.99

Vendor decides to price his product slightly lower – € 16.99

The margin is much higher in this example.

Premium Pricing

Here, the vendor deems his product to be of a higher quality than those of the competitors and carries out research that confirms this impression in the marketplace. He seeks a market that is willing to pay extra for something special – one that will be attracted to his top quality item.

Example :

The item costs are higher, due to superior elements – € 9.00

As above, competitor A charges – € 17.99

As above, competitor B charges – € 19.99

Vendor decides to price his product higher – € 24.99

Introductory Pricing

Here, the vendor carries out all the research as above, but then decides to make a special price, perhaps for the first period of time the product is on the market, or for a specified quantity. This is clearly communicated to channel partners.

Example :

The item costs are – € 6.00

Competitor A charges – € 17.99

Competitor B charges – € 19.99

Vendor decides to price his product slightly lower – € 16.99

Vendor then offers introductory pricing of – € 12.99

The vendor communicates that this lower price will last for a certain period only, in order to generate quick orders and gain a foothold in the market.

Return on Investment Pricing

Where a large investment in equipment has been necessary and where this investment will need to be renewed periodically, there is a case for adding a little “re-investment” allowance to the price and for ring-fencing such monies.

Example :

The item costs are – € 6.00

Desired margin – 40%

Charge to customer – € 10.00

Add VAT @ 23% – € 12.30

Round to € 12.50 and retain the net-of-VAT element of the 20 cent extra (16.2 cent) for repayment of investment outlays.

Product Pricing in Context

In the real world, no promoter’s product pricing policy can exist in a vacuum. It needs to be related to the quality on offer, market trends and is, of course, subject to negotiations with channel partners. Indeed, the channel partners with which one works also reflect upon the appropriateness of the pricing. Product pricing needs to be backed up by accurate branding messages – messages that the product or service in question lives up to.