Side-by-Side Comparisons Can Be Helpful

Branding is not a once-and-done activity.  Rather, branding is a process that is constantly enhanced, refined, monitored, and adjusted.   Previously, we provided an article entitled:  Perform an Annual 5-Step Brand Wellness Checkup.   We suggested making this activity a New Year’s Resolution . . . and we still believe such ongoing monitoring is useful.  That said, we are now suggesting a second fairly simple activity that can help keep you on-track.

Side-by-side comparisons can be very useful in identifying strengths and weaknesses.

Specifically, we have found periodic side-by-side comparisons to your nearest/greatest competitor to be very useful in identifying your strengths for future branding efforts and self-promotion while simultaneously enabling you to spot weaknesses for necessary remedial attention.

For instance, we suggest that you, several members of your staff, and perhaps even a few key influencers from your local audience complete a simple 14-point checklist.

Obviously, honesty and objectivity are essential in conducting a meaningful exercise.  Once done, count up the number of “x’s” in the Your column compared to those in the Competitor column to see how well you fared.  Frankly, a properly conducted exercise should go a long way in telling you the reason you landed in the #1 vs. the #2 position.

Then, use the categories in which you excelled to build your list of strengths and plan to feature those qualities in future promotional efforts.  Similarly, use the categories in which your competition defeated you to identify items requiring attention and develop strategies aimed at improvement.

We think you will find this Branding Self-Check exercise helpful in keeping your efforts on target.

However, we do want to add a cautionary note.  After completing such an exercise, you might be tempted to build advertising and promotional material that does a direct comparison between you and your named competition.  We strongly advise AGAINST giving into the temptation.  (As Christopher Columbus was once warned before sailing to the edge of the map – Here be dragons!!)  The potential risks of this ad strategy far outweigh the potential rewards.  In addition to encountering the possibility of being sued, numerous laws exist that govern the handling of such comparisons.   Furthermore, these ads can easily create an unfavorable impression of the party offering the advice unless handled properly.   Doing such a task well (i.e., getting your point across without appearing to complain or protesteth too much) is extremely tricky and requires expert market research as part of the process.  That said, perhaps we will dedicate a future article to this very subject.  Until then, we hope you find this current suggested activity to be useful.  If so, use the comment section below to let us know.

Free Template:  Want to access a copy of our checklist template to customize to your needs?  Click this link.

May 1 – 7:  Celebrate National Small Business Week

A few weeks ago, we told you about National Small Business Week in 2022.  (See Today’s Tip: Bridge Building and National Small Business Week 2022 – Brand Building for Small Business.)  Today, we’re just reminding you that the time is NOW!

The statistics supporting the importance of small businesses are always compelling.  For instance, smallbizgenius.net (using a variety of recognized sources) notes:

  • There are 32.5 million small businesses in the US.
  • 48.9% of small businesses survive five years or more.
  • 77% of small business owners say they feel optimistic about the future of their companies.
  • 50% of all small businesses are operated from home.
  • 82% of businesses that fail do so because of cash flow problems.
  • Small businesses account for 44% of US economic activity.

See 40+ Small Business Statistics: The Ultimate 2022 List (smallbizgenius.net) for more.

With small businesses forming such an integral part of the economy in the United States, we should all take time to celebrate the importance of our local business community.  

What Local Business Owners Can Still Do Now

While National Small Business Week will be underway shortly, a small business owner still has a number of ways to participate.

  • Write a press release about the celebration and your business, announcing upcoming events, sales, celebrations, etc. (See our article about writing our own in 2020.)
  • Send customers and staff a thank you note, letting them know that you appreciate their importance to your success and reminding them that their support also helps keep the national economy strong.  (Check out our “How To” piece on creating your own thank you cards.)
  • Use your social media to call attention to National Small Business Week and share some of the many resources available.
  • Participate in and support other National Small Business activities in your region.  To help you identify relevant events, go to the SBA web site, which provides an easy-to-use tool.  All you need to do is provide a zip code, and you will get a list of functions in an area up to a 200 mile radius. [See National Small Business Week (sba.gov).]  You just may find a quick and easy way to support this cause. 
  • And . . . while you are at this site, check out all of the many very useful tools the Small Business Administration (SBA) makes available, including a virtual summit May 2 – 5.

With the week’s observance about to get underway for 2022, you have no time to waste.  However, you can also consider any time spent now a great long-term investment in your early planning for National Small Business Week 2023!

Press Release Generator – Sample Press Release Announcing a New Hire

In an earlier article, we discussed Press Releases as Another Opportunity for Branding.  Specifically, we addressed some of the basic criteria needed to produce a successful PR piece, including discussions about:  Topics, Voice, Audience, Outlets, Format, Quotes and Photos, and Post-Submission Follow-up.  In a second article, we wrote a Press Release to Introduce Ourselves as Part of National Small Business Week (in 2020).  In yet another article, we provided a general Press Release Generator – Identifying Your Content.  At that time, we promised to begin providing examples of the specific kinds of press releases we have mentioned just in case anyone happens to still be sitting staring at a blank page after having crumpled up a dozen failed efforts.

In getting started, the rule of the 5 W’s still applies, so we encourage you to review our earlier articles.  We also want to remind you that voice matters – you must write as though you were a totally objective journalist preparing the story.  Similarly, the content must be of interest to the audience of the intended publications.

That said, the announcement of new employee hires and/or promotions are among the most common press releases and the easiest to place – assuming the publication has a section for including such pieces.  (Many do – particularly trade magazines and papers.)  However, be aware that some outlets might be willing to include all or most of the information you provide . . . but many will reduce your words to a skeletal, bare-minimum sentence or two.  If that is the standard practice, a quick glance at past issues will let you know whether new hires and promotions are featured and the kind of space devoted to each one.

To make sure the same press release works for most circumstances, you just need to be sure the essence of your PR article is in the opening sentences with all other less critical information following (realizing that much could be cut by certain targets).  Also, plan to include a head-and-shoulder photo of the featured employee.

Below is a fill-in-the-blanks-template:

_________________

PRESS RELEASE – For Immediate Release

CONTACT INFORMATION:

[Company Name]

[Contact Name]

[Phone Number]

[E-mail Address]

[Date]

[HEADLINE ex.  NAME (of the New Hire) JOINS COMPANY NAME]

[CITY, STATE, MONTH DATE][COMPANY] has announced the addition of [EMPLOYEE FULL NAME] as the new [TITLE].  In this new capacity, [EMPLOYEE LAST NAME ONLY] will be responsible for [BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DUTIES].

Note:  Body paragraphs then follow this opening (i.e., background information, quotes, company description, etc.)

Before joining [COMPANY], [EMPLOYEE LAST NAME ONLY] served as the [TITLE OF OLD JOB] for [NAME OF OLD COMPANY] from [START DATE OF MOST RECENT OLD JOB] to [END DATE OF MOST RECENT OLD JOB].  Specifically, [he/she] handled [MENTION DUTIES]

Note:  Add the next paragraph when the past history of employee includes multiple jobs.  Repeat as needed to encompass complete work history, incorporating the most relevant and recent positions.  (Typically, no need to go back to part-time jobs while in school!!)  You can also choose to insert any education and/or licensing credentials that might be useful once past jobs are addressed.

Prior to that position, [EMPLOYEE LAST NAME ONLY] was also employed by [SECOND OLD COMPANY] as a [TITLE] from [DATE] to [DATE].

According to [NAME OF NEW SUPERVISOR OR OTHER HIGHLY PLACED OFFICIAL WILLING TO BE QUOTED], “[COMPANY] is very pleased to be adding an individual with the skill and experience needed to successfully enhance our operations and meet our goals for growth and customer satisfaction.  We fully expect [EMPLOYEE FULL NAME] will be an asset in the years to come that allows us to provide our customers with the high-quality products and services they deserve.”

Note:  Optionally add contact information.

“While[EMPLOYEE LAST NAME ONLY] will be reaching out to constituents soon, [he/she] can be contacted before then at [PHONE AND EXTENTION] or [E-MAIL].”

Note:  Your “boiler plate” company description that outlines the products, services, history, location, hours, etc. then gets added.  See our Style Guide for further information.

Also, please be aware that this “new employee” template can be easily adapted to address employee promotions.  We plan to provide an example of that kind of press release soon.

_________________

As always, we welcome any thoughts or feedback, and we encourage you to comment by using the space provided below.  While we intend to provide other sample press releases in the coming weeks, we would be happy to receive special requests. 

Want a Word document of this example? Just click!

Good luck!

Happy New Year . . . Time for your Annual Checkup!

As the glasses clink, remember the important task that awaits you — your annual check up. No worries; you don’t need to see your doctor (or maybe you need to do that, too), but the check up I’m referring to is the one that keeps your business’s brand on the right course.

Perform an Annual 5-Step Brand Wellness Checkup: Take a few, quick steps each year around this time to determine any needed changes for your brand and implement accordingly. Click here to revisit the original article that explains the process in detail.

Have any questions? Post them in the ‘Leave a Reply’ section below, and we’ll be sure to get back to you!

Hope 2022 brings you much happiness and success!

A Key Executive:  Your Brand Manager

Every company, large or small, should have a single individual who holds the role of Brand Manager.  The ideal candidate will be part security guard and part prophet/visionary, historian, designer, and statistician.

Furthermore, this person must be ready, willing, and able to get involved in operations and well as marketing/advertising and high-level strategic planning.  According to salary.com, this job commands a national six-figure average total cash compensation.  That said, I’m guessing that you, like most small business owners, serve as your own Brand Manager – just one of the many roles you must perform (and perform well!) to make your small business successful.

Why a Security Guard?

As a Brand Manager, you are ultimately responsible for compliance with all of the visual branding elements you have put into place.  You make sure the correct logo is used as well as the right by-line, color, font, type of images, etc.  You must constantly and vigilantly be on the lookout for improper style elements and usage . . . and you must intervene when infractions are found.  Furthermore, you must proactively put brand safeguards into place to keep misuses to a minimum.

Why a Prophet/Visionary?

Successful branding does not happen by accident.  Someone must be sitting back and looking at a company’s performance, future goals, current inventory of products, customer services, expectations, and growth objectives to make sure the operations and graphic branding elements are in place and in sync to link all aspects of your brand.  Both short-term activities that implement annual business plans and long-term initiatives designed to fulfill three- and five-year objectives must be defined, implemented, and evaluated to encompass brand.

Why an Historian?

Successful brands build upon the foundation that has been laid in the past.  When making brand plans and strategies, you must align your efforts to the work and past investments done before . . . or risk losing those time- and effort-saving resources.

With branding, smaller incremental adjustments to the work done in the past are typically more effective than complete overhauls in producing successful changes embraced by the public.  Keeping ties to past branding and a connection to your history is smart business.

Why a Designer?

While the Brand Manager will not necessarily be the person who created the original visual branding elements in use by a company, that individual will supervise or at least be a very active participant in all marketing/sales/advertising activities.   As a result, the ability to conceptualize and/or execute campaigns that reflect the style, content, and goals of the brand will be crucial.

Why a Statistician?

While branding decisions will always be somewhat built upon intuition, research data has begun to play an increasingly critical role in branding.  Therefore, the Manager must be familiar with and able to initiate and/or evaluate research activities such as surveys, focus groups, and other vehicles for the collection of information that determines which elements of a brand have been successful . . . as well as those that have not.  Data mining of this kind also suggests future sales initiatives . . . and must be incorporated into the daily operations of the company and evaluated on an ongoing basis.

The Good News

Obviously, the role of Brand Manager is not a simple one.  This multi-faceted job requires a diverse skill set as well as a tenacious, slightly obsessive-compulsive personality that is part creative, part analytical, part technical, and more.  The good news is – you’ve probably been filling this position for a very long time (and probably quite well!!) without the title or extra pay.  While some aspects of this job will come quite automatically and are already in place, the goal of this article is to share the full extent of the duties to help identify any omissions that can be addressed on your way to building a better brand.

Another Tip:

Since the current year is rapidly winding to a close, now is the perfect time to pause for some self-reflection and introduce new strategies aimed at change for the better.  Perhaps even enclose a short survey in that Holiday/Thank You card you send to wish your customers a safe and wonderful holiday season as well as a Happy New Year!!

As always, we welcome any thoughts or feedback, and we encourage you to comment by using the space provided below.

Nicely Branded Displays Help Sell! (i.e., Branding and Your Trade-Show Booth)

Opportunities to exhibit your products and services are another key way to take advantage of and further promote your branding efforts.  Whether you are participating in a sales convention, a “meet and greet” at a mall or shopping center, or a charitable or educational event, you are typically provided with an empty space for you to make your own.

David Brossard, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

While your goal is certainly to have a visual image that immediately identifies you to all bystanders, lots of simple (and more complex) methods exist – ranging from a table cloth in your corporate color and brochures that show off your logo to a high-tech, continuously scrolling video or presentation on large screen monitors mounted on portable walls set on top of carpet squares to get maximum control over the space (including special music and lighting).  I’ve seen elaborate settings that could require a small army for set up . . . as well as versions that got pulled out of a briefcase.

Personally, I’ve been involved with both extremes.  I helped create upon request a custom environment with a rug that had a repeated logo and included branded signage done in gold that reflected custom lights shining down from above – creating the right ambiance for a silent presentation on a loop that reinforced the message being spoken by the salesperson.  The booth was designed to fill a 12’ X 12’ space that provided brand recognition appealing to all senses.  And yes, logo embossed giveaway items were spread across the surface, including various novelties and free water bottles that had a logo imprinted label as well as candy molded into the shape of the logo.  This environment got loaded into several custom wooden crates about 2’ X 2’ X 6’ that often resulted in shipping costs.    (Useful Tip: We’ve found that providing logo-embossed bags for attendees to use in gathering their freebees from other vendors are a very good, inexpensive way of getting your branding seen!  These bags tend to get retained longer and are more visible than many alternatives.)

 The Human Factor (Practicality Matters)

Invariably, our salespeople thought they wanted the largest, most complete and complicated display . . . until they realized that setup would be difficult and time-consuming hard work that took time away from opportunities to meet prospects.  While some companies might be large and affluent enough to have special dedicated staff do all required preliminaries, such situations are – in my experience – the exception, not the norm.

So, what kinds of compromises exist that allow for an impressive display with reasonable setup?

After experimenting with full-sized “pop ups” as well as table tops (which were pretty reasonable), we eventually landed on the use of various-sized roll-up banners with customized artwork (including logos and by-lines) done in our corporate color and placed behind a table with an imprinted table cloth that held additional signage in acrylic holders (allowing artwork to be changed easily and on demand).  We found these roll-up alternatives to be affordable AND very manageable . . . so even small business owners on a tight, fixed budget can be properly equipped to have a well-branded space in situations ranging from a large arena or convention center to a small corner in a local gym or public library.

If you have a laptop computer, you can also add a touch of tech by creating a presentation or video in a software app such as PowerPoint and set the show to run on a continuous loop.  Such creations can be done quite well DIY and need not incur additional expense.

Note:  Need help picturing these types of hardware setups?

search “roll up display”

search “collapsible trade show booth”

search “pop up trade show booth”

In the end, the bottom line is to consider likely situations you might encounter and take steps in advance to prepare.  Branded environments need not be overly expensive but do take time and some planning to get ready.

As always, we welcome any thoughts or feedback, and we encourage you to comment by using the space provided below.

October 27th:  National Blogger’s Day?

Recently, I saw a reference to National Blogger’s Day being October 27th.  While I have never celebrated such an event (or frankly even heard about that one), I’m always interested in another excuse to have a good time . . . so I decided to look into the matter further.

I understand that we can now find 570 million blogs on the Internet with over 30 million of those in the United States.   (See the First Site Guide article Blogging Statistics 2021: Ultimate List with 47 Facts and Stats by Ogi Djuraskovic that was last updated on August 26th, 2021.)  Therefore, a National Blogger’s Day certainly seemed somewhat between possible and likely!

According to one of the keepers of such information (i.e., WhatNationalDayIsIt? (whatnationaldayisit.com)), their algorithm did pick up October 27th.  However, the most recent reference was almost five years ago, and you’d be more likely to have heard of the event in Indonesia. 

So . . . why bother asking the question or writing this article?

With about 7 million blog posts per day (see Blogging Statistics 2021: Ultimate List with 47 Facts and Stats), perhaps the bloggers of the world deserve a little bit of extra attention and should unite in adopting this date themselves to enhance the general recognition and raise the profile of the many bloggers sharing information and providing a valuable public service – often without much (or any) personal financial gain.

Whjaddya say?

You in?

What Is a Blog?

According to Merriam-Webster,  a blog is defined as:

“1 computers: a website that contains online personal reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks, videos, and photographs provided by the writer

also: the contents of such a site

2 a regular feature appearing as part of an online publication that typically relates to a particular topic and consists of articles and personal commentary by one or more authors”

Blogs may take the shape of successful journalism such as the Huffington Post or range from personal diaries to business columns posted on corporate web sites to:

  • Humanize the people and products of a company.
  • Communicate a desired message directly to the public.
  • Improve the SEO (Search Engine Optimization) of a company’s web site.
  • Provide customer service tips.
  • Further develop and promote a corporate brand!

Regardless of the type of blog, the time, effort, and resources expended to communicate a message to an intended audience are considerable, and such commitment does deserve recognition (even those bloggers who may be motivated by less than completely pure and altruistic intentions).

What Can Be Done to Get October 27th Properly Recognized?

Well . . .

If all the bloggers in the U.S. chose to adopt this holiday as their own, that would be a pretty good start of 30 million people – 570 million upon recruiting fellow bloggers worldwide.  If each of these bloggers then communicated their desire to celebrate to their audience, the total acceptance increases exponentially . . . and would demonstrate the power and credibility of blogging today!

(Sound far-fetched?  Then read:  Finally! Here’s How Cyber Monday Even Became a Thing.)

Clearly, such a process takes time measured in years, not days.  That said, a famous Lao Tzu quote says “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” so . . .

  • Post a blog article acknowledging October 27th as a day you choose to celebrate.
  • Send a press release to your own audience and perhaps the local media.
  • Buy a cake.
  • Have a drink.
  • Toss a little confetti.
  • If you’re a company, stage an event.
  • Report on the results from the prior year – year after year during your annual celebration.
  • Keep providing quality content to your readers.

If enough bloggers were to take such steps, perhaps October 27th might one day become a recognized “thing” like cyber Monday.  If not and the suggestion fails to capture the public’s imagination and attention, we’ve at least given ourselves a platform for increasing awareness about the ground swell growth of activity and increasing importance of that discipline called blogging.

Note:  In doing some research for this article, I came across the following:  What is a Blog? – Definition, Information, Articles, Tools (marketingterms.com), which I have decided to pass along as some interesting extra reading, which can – perhaps – be saved until October 27th to add a little additional insight to your reflections on that day.