What Comes Between Black Friday and Cyber Monday?

Last year, we published a Small Business Saturday article that provided an overview of the history of the event as well as the potential importance, offering a glimpse at some of the strategies that could be used by small businesses to link this celebration to their brand.

That was last year, which now seems like a decade ago! 

Over 50 million confirmed Covid-19 global cases later, including over 10 million in the United States (see data), most small businesses have had to face incredible challenges as many countries closed down their economies in order to slow the progress of the pandemic.

While a truly unfortunate number of smaller operations have now permanently closed their doors, we need to take a moment this Small Business Saturday to celebrate the survivors . . . and support them in whatever means are available to us.

Expanded Internet activities.  Free delivery.  New products (maybe even including personal protective gear).  Go Fund Me initiatives.  Special Governmental programs.  All of these strategies and so many more have been essential to the continued existence of the survivors.

While statistics clearly indicate that a second wave of the pandemic is upon us and caution that the upcoming holidays will require us to practice some self-restraint, we feel confident that small businesses will survive while still managing to practice governmental safety standards.  Hopefully, by Small Business Saturday 2021 on November 27th, one or more vaccines will have been released and administered to a sufficiently large number of people to put this pandemic behind us for once and for all.

In the meantime, we will not use this article to do more than serve as a cheerleader for small businesses (including that of my blogging partner – Instant Invitation).  Instead, we will invite you to reread our story from last year and to check out some other valuable repositories of information and strategies.

Nicolas Straut, a contributing writer at Fundera, has put together an overview of Small Business Saturday

https://www.fundera.com/blog/small-business-saturday

Similarly, American Express, which founded the day and holds the registered trademark, makes a wide variety of useful resources available, including a Shop Small campaign:

https://www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/shop-small/

https://www.americanexpress.com/us/merchant/shop-small.html#toolkit?linknav=us-loy-homepage-visittheshopsmallstudio

Nestled between Black Friday (a tradition which also appears to be undergoing transformations during this time of social distancing) and Cyber Monday, which continues to grow in size and significance, the role and importance of Small Business Saturday cannot be lost.

Small Business vs. Entrepreneurship vs. “Influencer”: Which Best Describes You?

The three categories of activity identified in the headline above have both similarities and differences. 

Since correctly recognizing the term that best describes you could have some bearing upon the way in which you brand your operation, we are using this article to explore these different categories.  That said, be aware that branding does play a key role in each . . . and you should understand that your personal brand may (but does not necessarily have to) play an important part in shaping your company’s brand.

Small Business vs. Entrepreneurship

According to the website DifferenceBetween.com

“The difference between small business and entrepreneurship mainly depends on the persuasion of growth. If the owner/owners of the business are content with the manner in which the business is currently operating and do not wish to engage in more growth opportunities, then it can be categorized as a small business. On the other hand, if the entrepreneur/entrepreneurs operate their business with a clear and creative vision and are interested in expansion opportunities, this type of business is an entrepreneurship. Since small businesses do not pursue growth, they remain small or medium scale throughout their lifespan. However, this does not mean that they are not successful; some small businesses may be cash rich.”

Entrepreneur vs. Influencers

According to a National Geographic article entitled, “Influencers:  The Modern Entrepreneur,” the following applies:

“Entrepreneurs are people who organize, manage, and take on the risks of a business. They often start a new business in response to a perceived need for a good or service. An influencer, on the other hand, is someone who has the power to affect or change people and their behavior through social media—often to get them to buy something. Influencers who start their own business certainly fall under the first part of the definition of entrepreneur, as they are managing their business and taking on risk.”

Brand Building

Typically, small businesses build brands overtime that reflect the product and/or service being provided.  The process involves finding the qualities that set the business apart from others and developing strategies to reinforce those traits and communicate them to customers.  Each interaction with the general public and consumer audience then plays a part in refining the brand to reflect the feedback received via comments, reviews, complaints, and sales.  This process of evolution should be never-ending.  (See our articles designed to help you get started building a brand.)

Very often, the brands of both entrepreneurs and influencers seem to take on the characteristics of the personal brand of the individual(s) involved.  (That said, a strong personal brand can be useful to a small business, too, which may not necessarily be seeking growth but would want strong customer retention – an attribute that could be helped by loyalty to an individual.)

Common Qualities of an Entrepreneur/Influencer

An Inc. magazine article entitled “10 Essential Characteristics of Highly Successful Entrepreneurs,” indicated that these individuals tend to be:  creative; passionate; motivated; optimistic; future-oriented; persuasive; flexible; resourceful; adventurous; and decisive.  In my experience, many of those kinds of words also ultimately end up being among those that define the brand of both the person and the company.

When I first started at GUARD (pre-Berkshire Hathaway days), the company was small (15 employees) and had been founded by a pair of entrepreneurs who had sketched the original structure of the organization on a napkin over lunch.  Frankly, each of the words identified by the Inc. article describe this husband and wife team very well . . . and also became the kinds of words that applied to the culture, products, and services of the company.

In the early days in particular, GUARD was an entrepreneurship that was independent, creative in thinking outside the box in developing unique products and services, flexible in responding to marketplace opportunities, resourceful in stretching available capital, future-oriented in building toward a big long-term goal, etc.

Understanding that personal and company brands tend to merge can be important in either choosing to intentionally build a personal brand OR in making sure steps are taken to separate the brand of the entrepreneur from that of the company.  Very often, this choice should be one of the first made by small businesses.

Ways to Enhance Your Personal Brand

Patrick Ambron in an Entrepreneur magazine article (“Is Your Personal Brand Losing You Business?”) identified four fundamental steps that could be taken to have a strong on-line foundation for a personal brand.

  • Claim your domain name.
  • Build a personal website.
  • Set up profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
  • Do some basic search engine optimization. 
    (i.e., Use your actual name wherever possible and link all your various pieces of online content to one another.)

Taking these steps can be very inexpensive and (using readily available tools) should be relatively easy.  (Learn more about personal branding.)

And So . . .

If you are an entrepreneur or influencer (or perhaps both), assume your personal brand is going to become part of your business.  Therefore, you better start paying close attention to the kind of statement you are projecting.  If, on the other hand, you are a small business, ask yourself whether customer sales/retention would be improved by linking your identity to that of your company brand . . .  or whether you want the two to make a different statement.

Ooooops!! My Personal Brand Was Showing!!

I first encountered the term “personal brand” over a decade ago.  At the time, I worked with an individual who could always be counted upon to incorporate the latest “buzz words” and concepts into his daily interactions.  The two of us were meeting with our boss at the time, and he made a passing reference to the personal brand I had established for myself, which included certain work habits we had been discussing in general terms.  After the meeting (and getting over my initial reaction of, “Huh?!”), I went back to my desk and started running some Internet searches to better understand the way in which working long hours, caring about grammar, and having a certain overall love of words had created a so-called personal brand for myself that apparently led other employees to expect to see those qualities in me even before I was formally introduced to them.

What did my search results yield?

Identify Your Personal Brand

Note: If this article is seeming familiar, you are right. We published the same piece under a different headline recently (see the original). We are republishing under a different one as part of a test to see which approach attracts the most attention. Feel free to offer any comments at the end of this story.

My co-workers were right.  A person can, indeed, consciously and/or unconsciously create “personal brand” qualities by regularly professing belief in those values and trying to support those words with accompanying actions on a regular basis.

In this instance, I was very fortunate because I was not the least bit uncomfortable with my so-called brand profile, which (while hardly very charismatic or exciting) was nevertheless useful in an occupational environment and had me liking the description well enough to try my best to sustain this image over time. 

The lesson to be learned from this message?

Whether you are aware or not, you may already have a personal brand.  If you do, learn what the brand is.  If you are content with the brand you discover, find ways to reinforce that image in people’s minds.  If you are not happy with the perception of you, begin to plot a strategy to create a more desirable personal brand.

Just remember – as is the case with all branding – the one you attempt to create must resonate with others and be consistent with their experience of you.  Otherwise, the brand won’t be “sticky” enough to last.

Official Definitions (as found on personalbrand.com)

Personal Brand: “A personal brand is a widely-recognized and largely-uniform perception or impression of an individual based on their experience, expertise, competencies, actions and/or achievements within a community, industry, and/or marketplace at large.”

Personal Branding: “The conscious and intentional effort to create and influence public perception of an individual by positioning them as an authority in their industry, elevating their credibility, and differentiating themselves from the competition to ultimately advance their career, increase their circle of influence, and have a larger impact.”

BTW – Yes, I know the above definitions have some grammatical agreement issues, but using a direct quote means you reproduce as is.  (However, I’m including this thought to show you one of the ways in which I can reinforce my personal brand, which includes being a bit of a grammarian!!)

Why Bother?  What Can a Personal Brand Do for Your Small Business?

When someone is closely identified with a company, the personal brand of that individual and the brand of the business tend to interact and merge.

For example . . .

When I hear the name of the international corporate conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway, I see the face of Warren Buffett, not any of the names and logos of the hundreds of companies owned by the parent.  Consequently, Berkshire’s brand has become – at least in part – synonymous with the personal brand of Mr. Buffett (a no-nonsense image based on facts and accomplishments, a brand willing to live by results . . . not expectations, a brand that embodies basic fundamental values, and a brand that is not swayed by transient fads).

Just check out the web site at www.berkshirehathaway.com.  Simple.  Basic.  Not self-Important.  Relying upon substance, not style to win audience.

Need another example?

Apple and Steve Jobs.  If Microsoft and Bill Gates define the mainstream, Apple and Jobs were the contrarians that carved out a place – in part – by excelling at qualities not associated with the mainstream, including personal style and individual ease of use.  In other words, Jobs’ personality merged with Apple’s identity.

Consider the small businesses you have known.  I suspect that many (if not most) of these companies have a brand that reflects many of the same qualities as the owner.  Therefore, efforts to build your company’s brand can be enhanced by attempts to establish your own personal brand.

How Can You Go About Building Your Personal Brand?

You start by making sure you live the qualities you want associated with you personally.  Otherwise, the brand won’t resonate and won’t stick.  Then, you can consider taking some very conscious actions to cement your brand:

  • Embrace networking.  Use every opportunity to meet people and introduce yourself and your brand.
  • Grow your online presence.  Use blogs, forums, and social media (such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram) to create a voice and personality for your brand.
  • Ask for recommendations.  Testimonials are a great way of creating trust and enhancing the authenticity of your brand.
  • Get featured in the media.  Position yourself as an expert in your field and make yourself available to reporters.  Over time, more and more will turn to you for comments.
  • Participate in forums, conferences, and events that feature your area of expertise.  Personal contacts of this kind will get your name and face out and into the public eye.

Remember, you must live your brand consistently and practice these strategies regularly.  Some people even find the act of creating personal vision and mission statements to be useful.  Regardless, your goal is to create an identity that will stay associated with you over time, though you should make sure your personal brand continues to evolve and change as the world does.

Bottom line – A Quote from Pia Silva

“With so much content and so many small businesses popping up online, a brand that connects to a person’s face is much easier to trust faster.  It takes less time and effort to build a relationship with a personal brand as compared to a business brand.”

Personal Brand(ing) – Another Way to Build Your Small Business

I first encountered the term “personal brand” over a decade ago.  At the time, I worked with an individual who could always be counted upon to incorporate the latest “buzz words” and concepts into his daily interactions.  The two of us were meeting with our boss at the time, and he made a passing reference to the personal brand I had established for myself, which included certain work habits we had been discussing in general terms.  After the meeting (and getting over my initial reaction of, “Huh?!”), I went back to my desk and started running some Internet searches to better understand the way in which working long hours, caring about grammar, and having a certain overall love of words had created a so-called personal brand for myself that apparently led other employees to expect to see those qualities in me even before I was formally introduced to them.

What did my search results yield?

Identify Your Personal Brand

My co-workers were right.  A person can, indeed, consciously and/or unconsciously create “personal brand” qualities by regularly professing belief in those values and trying to support those words with accompanying actions on a regular basis.

In this instance, I was very fortunate because I was not the least bit uncomfortable with my so-called brand profile, which (while hardly very charismatic or exciting) was nevertheless useful in an occupational environment and had me liking the description well enough to try my best to sustain this image over time. 

The lesson to be learned from this message?

Whether you are aware or not, you may already have a personal brand.  If you do, learn what the brand is.  If you are content with the brand you discover, find ways to reinforce that image in people’s minds.  If you are not happy with the perception of you, begin to plot a strategy to create a more desirable personal brand.

Just remember – as is the case with all branding – the one you attempt to create must resonate with others and be consistent with their experience of you.  Otherwise, the brand won’t be “sticky” enough to last.

Official Definitions (as found on personalbrand.com)

Personal Brand: “A personal brand is a widely-recognized and largely-uniform perception or impression of an individual based on their experience, expertise, competencies, actions and/or achievements within a community, industry, and/or marketplace at large.”

Personal Branding: “The conscious and intentional effort to create and influence public perception of an individual by positioning them as an authority in their industry, elevating their credibility, and differentiating themselves from the competition to ultimately advance their career, increase their circle of influence, and have a larger impact.”

BTW – Yes, I know the above definitions have some grammatical agreement issues, but using a direct quote means you reproduce as is.  (However, I’m including this thought to show you one of the ways in which I can reinforce my personal brand, which includes being a bit of a grammarian!!)

Why Bother?  What Can a Personal Brand Do for Your Small Business?

When someone is closely identified with a company, the personal brand of that individual and the brand of the business tend to interact and merge.

For example . . .

When I hear the name of the international corporate conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway, I see the face of Warren Buffett, not any of the names and logos of the hundreds of companies owned by the parent.  Consequently, Berkshire’s brand has become – at least in part – synonymous with the personal brand of Mr. Buffett (a no-nonsense image based on facts and accomplishments, a brand willing to live by results . . . not expectations, a brand that embodies basic fundamental values, and a brand that is not swayed by transient fads).

Just check out the web site at www.berkshirehathaway.com.  Simple.  Basic.  Not self-Important.  Relying upon substance, not style to win audience.

Need another example?

Apple and Steve Jobs.  If Microsoft and Bill Gates define the mainstream, Apple and Jobs were the contrarians that carved out a place – in part – by excelling at qualities not associated with the mainstream, including personal style and individual ease of use.  In other words, Jobs’ personality merged with Apple’s identity.

Consider the small businesses you have known.  I suspect that many (if not most) of these companies have a brand that reflects many of the same qualities as the owner.  Therefore, efforts to build your company’s brand can be enhanced by attempts to establish your own personal brand.

How Can You Go About Building Your Personal Brand?

You start by making sure you live the qualities you want associated with you personally.  Otherwise, the brand won’t resonate and won’t stick.  Then, you can consider taking some very conscious actions to cement your brand:

  • Embrace networking.  Use every opportunity to meet people and introduce yourself and your brand.
  • Grow your online presence.  Use blogs, forums, and social media (such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram) to create a voice and personality for your brand.
  • Ask for recommendations.  Testimonials are a great way of creating trust and enhancing the authenticity of your brand.
  • Get featured in the media.  Position yourself as an expert in your field and make yourself available to reporters.  Over time, more and more will turn to you for comments.
  • Participate in forums, conferences, and events that feature your area of expertise.  Personal contacts of this kind will get your name and face out and into the public eye.

Remember, you must live your brand consistently and practice these strategies regularly.  Some people even find the act of creating personal vision and mission statements to be useful.  Regardless, your goal is to create an identity that will stay associated with you over time, though you should make sure your personal brand continues to evolve and change as the world does.

Bottom line – A Quote from Pia Silva

“With so much content and so many small businesses popping up online, a brand that connects to a person’s face is much easier to trust faster.  It takes less time and effort to build a relationship with a personal brand as compared to a business brand.”

How to Write a Vision Statement (Including Definitions, Examples, and a Vision Statement Generator)

Your business’s vision statement communicates your ultimate goal. 

Since mission and vision statements are usually discussed in the same conversation, your mission statement is what you do, while your vision statement is the view once you’re done.

Below are a few formal definitions to elaborate on the concept.


DEFINITIONS

According to . . .

[A vision statement is] an aspirational description of what an organization would like to achieve or accomplish in the mid-term or long-term future. It is intended to serve as a clear guide for choosing current and future courses of action.

Similar to a mission statement, a vision statement provides a concrete way for stakeholders, especially employees, to understand the meaning and purpose of your business. However, unlike a mission statement – which describes the who, what and why of your business – a vision statement describes the desired long-term results of your company’s efforts. For example, an early Microsoft vision statement was “a computer on every desk and in every home.”

“A company vision statement reveals, at the highest levels, what an organization most hopes to be and achieve in the long term,” said Katie Trauth Taylor, CEO of writing consultancy Untold Content. “It serves a somewhat lofty purpose – to harness all the company’s foresight into one impactful statement.”


EXAMPLES

Want to see those conceptual definitions in action?  Below are a number of examples to scroll though to see the different ways famous companies communicate their vision.

Google: “To provide access to the world’s information in one click.”

Amazon: “To be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”

Target: “Guided commitments to great value, the community, diversity, and the environment.”

Ebay: “To be the world’s favorite destination for discovering great value and unique selection.”

Nordstrom: “To serve our customers better, to always be relevant in their lives and to form lifelong relationships. And while serving our customer face-to-face is the foundation and hallmark of how we’ve historically served them, today customers seek our service in new ways. Speed, convenience, innovation, and personalization have become cornerstones of the customer experience. Guided by these new needs, we continue to invest in the cross-channel experience, combining the accessibility of pure online experience with the high-touch inclusivity of our stores.”

Versace: “To make women and men feel beautiful and empowered.”

BBC: “To act in the public interest, serving all audiences through the provision of impartial, high-quality and distinctive output and services which inform, educate and entertain.”

Netflix: “Becoming the best global entertainment distribution service; licensing entertainment content around the world; creating markets that are accessible to film makers; and helping content creators around the world to find a global audience.”

The Bank of New York: “Improving lives through inclusion, innovation and investing.”

  J.P. Morgan: “Aspire to be the best; execute superbly; build a great team and a winning culture.”

 Walgreens: “To be America’s most-loved pharmacy-led health, well-being and beauty company.”

CVS: “We strive to improve the quality of human life.”

United Way:  “United Way envisions a community where all individuals and families achieve their human potential through education, financial stability and healthy lives.”

Make-a-Wish: “To be able to make every eligible child’s wish come true.”

General Motors: “To create a future of zero crashes, zero emissions, and zero congestion, and we have committed ourselves to leading the way toward this future.”

Tesla: “To create the most compelling car company of the 21st century by driving the world’s transition to electric vehicles.”

Apple:  “We believe that we are on the face of the earth to make great products and that’s not changing.”

IBM: “To be the world’s most successful and important information technology company.”

Starbucks: “To establish Starbucks as the premier purveyor of the finest coffee in the world while maintaining our uncompromising principles while we grow.”

Taco Bell: “To grow into the largest fast-food provider of Mexican style cuisine in emerging markets.”

Burger King: “To be the most profitable QSR business, through a strong franchise system and great people, serving the best burgers in the world.”

McDonalds: “To move with velocity to drive profitable growth and become an even better McDonald’s serving more customers delicious food each day around the world.”


ANATOMY OF A VISION STATEMENT

As you may have noticed, most vision statements are comprised of the same basic components.  I’ll use our vision statement here at Brand Building for Small Business as an example:

While I have the different parts listed numerically for clarity, the order isn’t important.  As you’ve seen throughout the dozens of examples, these components can look very different from one company to the next.  All that matters is that you’ve clearly and fully communicated the vision of your company.


VISION STATEMENT GENERATOR

Now it’s your turn.  Try creating a vision statement for your business based on the structure below.

Here’s another example for good measure . . .

Have any questions?  As always, we’d love to hear from you.  Scroll below to the “Leave a Reply” section.  Happy vision statement drafting!

Creating Ads that Communicate Your Brand

With the rarest of exceptions, advertising does not sell your product/service.  While you can strike gold every once a millennium (think – Wendy’s “Where’s the beef?” campaign) and actually author an ad that creates a need and desire to make a particular purchase, the typical role of advertising is much more mundane (and less satisfying) –communicating the availability of your product/service to the right targeted audience via a well-chosen media vehicle at the right time (i.e., buying time).

That said, everyone who has ever created an ad dreams of producing the perfect one that entertains, sells, evokes a brand identity, and remains memorable years after the campaign is done.

As these remarks imply, good advertising involves a combination of contributions (especially at large companies) ranging from those who correctly identify an audience to those who understand the media outlets that best serve that audience to those that finalize the right cost-effective media buys that balance the often conflicting demands of size, frequency, cost, and placement.  Of course, the final contributor to the process is the person or teams of people producing “the creative.”

As the typical small business owner, you will often be the party wearing all of those hats!  Therefore, you may be comforted to know that most ad designs encompass a handful of typical elements, which – when known – will be helpful in creating your ad copy and deciding upon the ways in which these elements interact . . . and perhaps even enable you to determine the ones that must be eliminated on a specific occasion for a particular reason.

How does brand factor into this equation?

Well, advertising is one of the many ways in which you can promote your brand.  Conversely, your brand generally provides the vast majority of the content to be included in your ad copy while also defining the visual elements that get incorporated into the design.

The basic parts of an ad include:

  • Headline
  • Illustration
  • Caption (and/or Sub-Head)
  • Body Copy (including the Sales Pitch)
  • Contact Information, Logo, and Call to Action

That said, understand that the only real rule is that the art of creating a successful ad has no real rules, only exceptions.  While 90% of the ads I created probably involve most or all of the elements mentioned above, my favorite one broke all of those rules.  Specifically, I created a half page black-and-white ad done in reverse (white text on a black background) that basically included a single, huge, lowercase word (i.e., because) as a well as a logo and contact information.  While I could write volumes about the reasons I like that ad, I’ll simply explain that lots was communicated very simply in a manner that captured the attention of a person leafing through the publication.  While the piece did rely upon some prior brand presence to automatically communicate certain details to the reader upon seeing the company name, I also believe the ad helped define our style and attitude . . .  and, therefore, became part of the brand.

 The ad was (as I already mentioned) very much an exception.  The vast majority included the various traditional structural elements that I will now briefly describe.

Sample ad for our blog that highlights the basic elements. (I used CorelDraw to create this ad for reasons previously discussed in other articles; however, many other graphic arts programs will work equally well!!)

Headline

With the competition for attention very intense across all media, the first job of your ad is to be seen (not passed over), and your headline and illustration are probably the elements best suited to the job.  Three quarters of all my ad designs have started with a headline I thought was capable of grabbing our share of the readers’ attention.  (Yes, I’m tempted to list the top 10 headlines I’ve created that succeeded . . . but decided to spare you that exercise and move on to the next key element.)

Illustration

The photo or drawing included in your ad is obviously key to grabbing attention.  Some people – particularly graphic designers – would argue that the illustration is the most important factor. That said, the artwork can be essentially descriptive and show an attractive image of your product or service in action, OR the graphic can grab attention by being clever or arrestingly different in some way – perhaps even relying upon humor  (i.e., “Where’s the beef?”).

If you personally have artistic skills, this element of the ad can be great fun.  If, on the other hand, you are more of a writer or pure businessperson, you can still create a successful ad on your own – using photos or artwork available from some of those free sources already discussed in earlier blog articles.  (See FREE Pictures Are Also Worth a 1,000 Words (and Can Help Promote Your Brand)!

If you are going this route, be prepared to spend lots of time paging through stock images until you’ve found just the right one to make your point.  (Also, don’t forget that most phones now include cameras able to produce sufficiently high-res images that can be the key to capturing your product/service in action;  if you have the eye, the equipment is already in your pocket.)

Caption (and/or Sub-Head)

Your caption obviously relates to the illustration you’ve chosen and generally provides a key opportunity to introduce brand qualities most likely to result in a sale.  That said, you will no doubt find times when the caption is eliminated either because the artwork is self-explanatory or does not offer the opportunity to highlight your brand. If people are shown, the caption may be the best chance to provide identification and further humanize the brand while giving a face a name that might be memorable to all or a portion of your audience.

The ability to include sub-heads is obviously dependent to a large degree upon the size of the ad.  For a half page or less, chances are you will skip this element.  For larger sizes, your sub-head provides an extra opportunity to grab attention.  Or, perhaps the sub-head just gives you a chance to continue your major headline further down the page – pulling the reader into your content.

Body Copy (Including the Sale Pitch)

You use your body copy to describe your product or service to the audience, being sure to employ language that highlights those qualities that define your brand.  Frankly, repetition of that information in circumstances like advertising is one of the ways in which brand identity is created.  In selecting the words to include, you want the most sales worthy qualities of your brand and repeat them in every ad you create.  Also, be sure to use this space to highlight and explain any special promotions that might be happening at the time.

How many words should you use?  Frankly, long copy vs. short is one of the age-old debates in advertising among designers, business owners, experts, and amateurs.  You’ll find everyone has a firmly held opinion . . . and the jury is still split even among the luminaries in the field – all of whom are recognized as the best and most reliable source of information.

Frankly, I’m a word person . . . so I tend to think “more” has a better chance of being effective than “less.”  In support of this position, I’ll turn to David Ogilvy – one of the founding fathers of advertising – who was an advocate of long copy, especially for more complicated, technical, and expensive products.  He stated:  “All of my experiences say that for a great many products, long copy sells more than short.  I have failed only twice with long copy.”  (David Ogilvy – Ogilvy on Advertising.)

 My preference/bias duly noted, I’ll offer the following to balance my prejudices:

  • My favorite ad that I’ve created has (as already mentioned) basically one word (without further explanation) as the focus.
  • My blogging partner probably has a belief that (at least in comparison to me) less is more when talking about ad copy.
  • More of my ads probably ended up having less copy than I preferred because my bosses generally believed that more words than could be counted on 10 fingers were probably suffering from “wordiness.”

In the end, my advice is to include just the amount of language that seems right for a particular ad.  I believe each will be a bit different, and you will inevitably have a sense of the right quantity to make your point and pitch your product or service because – in the end — sales and reinforcing brand identity are the point of this exercise.

Contact Information, Logo, and Call to Action

The final elements of your ad are very basic ones that should never be forgotten.  Include your logo, address, phone, fax (WHAT’S THAT??!!??), e-mail, and/or web site.  (Exception:  If you are channeling all responses in a certain way, all other contact information can be excluded.)

You should also make some sort of statement that clearly tells your audience what to do next.  For example:

  • For more information, contact us at ____________________.
  • For more information, visit our web site at _______________________ and be sure to submit a customer service request form.
  • To order today, please __________________.
  • To speak with a live representative, ________________________.
  • Etc.

You get the idea.  Worth mentioning is that the nature of responding to any advertising and promotion should be determined in advance and used in all situations.  Perhaps, that process will involve setting up a special phone extension, a post-office box, or web landing page used exclusively for that purpose.  The advantage in taking such a systematic approach is better collection and assessment of data resulting from your efforts and immediate recognition of an inquiry coming from a sales lead that, therefore, enables a high level of customer service to help close a potential sale.

Branding and Your Overall Design

The elements discussed above are the ones at your disposal to mix and match in creating your ad.  When employing them, you must be absolutely certain to remain consistent with the rules described in your Style Guide, which will outline the fonts, colors, and perhaps even available types of illustration as well as highlighting key boilerplate language to be included.   Your ad must always conform to these rules while expressing the brand qualities you want to highlight as memorable and sales worthy. 

While much of the discussion in this article is applicable to both print and electronic advertising (especially electronic ads that basically mirror print equivalents), be aware that e-banner ads have typical very small sizes that create their own special challenge . . .  and call for a separate future article to discuss some of the techniques to be employed and pitfalls to be remembered.

Meanwhile, good luck and have fun.  Ads provide you with a great opportunity to explore your creativity and to benefit from customer responses/sales leads!

How to Set Up Simple Print-and-Cut Business Cards in Corel Draw

Disclaimer:  While we only recommend products we know and love, we want to note we use affiliate links and may earn a commission for purchases made through those links.

If you’re a graphic designer by trade, Corel Draw may not be your graphics editor of choice.  If you’re a small business owner without a lot of graphic design experience choosing to do your branding in-house, Corel Draw is a great choice.  You can pretty much address all your web and print graphics needs for a fraction of the price of the typical designer preference, Adobe. Since you’ve landed on this page in your travels, you probably already know that.  Your stumbling block may be that blank page within Corel that you’re staring at while wondering the quickest and easiest way to get professional-looking business cards designed, printed, and ready to hand out.  We’ll take you step by step through the process.

A Quick Note About Versions: I’m using Corel Draw 18. As long as you’re using a version in that same vicinity (i.e., 16, 17, 19, or 20), your view should look pretty similar to the screenshots included throughout these directions.

1.  From within Corel Draw, go to File > New.  You want an 8.5 x 11” portrait page that’s CMYK and 300 dpi:

2. Select the Graph Paper Tool:

Input 2 columns by 5 rows:

Draw the graph in any size and then switch to the Pick tool:

Change the size of the graph to 7” wide x 10” high and then type “p” to center the object on the page:

Double click the Outline Pen at the bottom right of the screen and change the color to dark gray, the width to hairline, and the style to dashed:

Then press Ungroup Objects with the graph still selected:

3. With the layout of your business card document ready, Go to File > Import and navigate to an image of your logo and click the Import button.  Then, resize as desired and place your image within the top left rectangle.  To ensure your logo is perfectly horizontally centered within the space, select the logo first, hold down the “shift” key to be able to select multiple objects, select the rectangle, at which point you can deselect shift; then, press “c” with both objects selected.

Select the Text tool so you could begin adding content:

Click anywhere on the page and type your name; press enter and add your title; then, continue adding the rest of the details you would like to show on your business card.  I’m going to include my title, phone number, email address, and web site.  Finally, set the alignment of the text to centered and choose your font and font size.  I’m going to use Calibri, size 11 for my name; size 10 for my title; and 7.5 for the rest of the information.

Move the text to the desired spot within the rectangle and horizontally center the two (click the text, press the ”shift” key while also selecting the rectangle; then, press “c”):

Now, you’ll want to adjust the spacing a bit.  With the text selected, press Ctrl + k to break each line into its own text object.  Then, I’m going to stretch out the character spacing of my name from 0% to 150%.  To do so, press Ctrl + t to edit the text properties. 

To ensure the two words don’t run into one another with the extended character spacing, I’m going to change the Word Spacing from 100% to 450%:

For my title, I’m going to use 50% character spacing and 250% word spacing.

Next, I’m going to select the phone number, e-mail address, and web site – pressing the down arrow key a few times until I’m happy with the placement:

4. And now we’ve got one business card in place!  To distribute the card design throughout the page so they can be printed ten at a time, select the rectangle you’ve been working on along with all the content inside and press Ctrl + g to group them together.  Press Ctrl + d to duplicate the business card:

Keeping the newly created business card selected, press the “shift” key while selecting the top right rectangle; then, press “e” to vertically center and “c” to horizontally center:

Select your two business cards and press Ctrl + g to group the two together and then Ctrl + d to duplicate them both:

With your newly created group of two business cards selected, press shift while selecting the second rectangle in the first column, and press “t” to top align the objects and “l” to left align the objects:

Repeat that process until all the rectangles are filled with your business cards:

5. Save your file and print; be sure to set your Print Quality to the best available option.

When choosing your paper, I recommend a quality cardstock between 80 and 100 lb — any thinner, and your business card will be too flimsy; any thicker, and you risk problems using the paper in a conventional home printer. A matte versus glossy finish is really a personal preference, but you do avoid any potential for fingerprints on a matte stock.

Then, cut!  For the cleanest and straightest edges, use a paper cutter.  

A Note About Fonts and Colors:
While the instructions described above will achieve the simple and modern design pictured, you can (and should) customize the look for your business. If you’ve been brand building from the start, you already have a Style Guide in place, and everything you create for your business should reflect the guidelines you’ve set for your logo usage, fonts, and colors. If you’re new to branding, be sure to review our story on The Role of a Brand Style Guide.

Branding and Marketing, Promotion, or Advertising Campaign (Re)Launches

Whether you are in the early stages of marketing, promoting, and advertising a new business or are about to reintroduce yourself to the world (a necessity that could be created by a variety of circumstances ranging from a great new product or service to a need to come back in a somewhat altered form from a national pandemic), a typical group of activities are usually considered:

  • Advertising via online and/or print publications
  • Press releases announcing your presence and/or highlighting a change
  • Direct mail/e-mail to existing and/or prospective customers
  • Social media postings to highlight important details and communicate news
  • Special events

To reach out to the largest possible audience in a coordinated way with a consistent message and visual component, basic branding practices are key.  As you embark upon your campaign, we suggest you read the following blog entries . . . and keep checking back as we post new material on topics such as:  building your own ads; properly preparing artwork for various print and online media outlets; understanding the role and use of paid search and ad words as an advertising tool;  etc.

When read together, the articles shown below provide a branding tutorial relevant to marketing campaigns. (By the way, we are always interested in hearing from you and will carefully consider special requests to cover specific topics; either use the form at the bottom of this page to deliver your message or send us an e-mail at brandbuildingforsmallbusiness@gmail.com.)

General –

Important Branding Background

The Role of a Brand Style Guide

BEFORE YOU BEGIN YOUR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING EFFORTS, take the time to create/review a style guide that puts into writing the most basic rules that must be observed to properly build the visual elements of your new campaign.

  Note:  Helpful downloadable tools/templates are included.

Create a Branding Activity Calendar (Template Included)

Your marketing/advertising campaign is almost certainly going to involve a variety of multi-media components – many of which are already included on our sample Branding Activity Calendar that could also be used to coordinate the various elements you’ve incorporated into your promotional campaign.  (The template we’ve provided allows you to add the specific activities associated with your effort.)

In Search of the Holy Grail (of Branding)

Why does branding matter when your current focus is to launch your new sales campaign?  Why get distracted by the time, effort, and resources needed to make sure your advertising and marketing efforts reflect your chosen branding?  This article (as well as the one below) answers that question!

Free (and Needed) Tools

Design Resources

These articles provide tips on finding some of the DIY (Do-It-Yourself) tools needed to build your own ads and other marketing and promotional materials.

FREE Pictures Are Also Worth a 1,000 Words (and Can Help Promote Your Brand)!

Finding the Right Font: A Review of the Best Available Font Viewers

Overview of
Marketing and Promotional Activities

Direct Mail/Email

These pieces discuss the content and crafting of your direct mail message (including the document to be mailed/emailed) as well as the mechanics of obtaining your list and building your database of recipients.

Press Releases

These blog entries discuss the topics, voice, audience, format, and outlets to utilize in incorporating press releases into your marketing activities.  Samples are provided.

Social Media

The following articles cover various aspects of building a social media presence – from creating profiles on platforms such as Facebook and Pinterest to strategies used to identify appropriate content.  As an added bonus, we provide tools helpful in promoting your social media accounts, including templates.  (Last but not least, we address tools for requesting customer reviews so you won’t forget the importance of that aspect of social media.)

Worth Another Look at this Time

Branding involves far more than just creating a few recognizable visual elements.  Customer Service is always at the heart of your brand.  Taking a close look at this time helps identify those branding qualities that will resonate with your audience and are, therefore, worth promoting.  Then, be sure to take all of the necessary steps to ensure that your customer service systems are properly tuned to support the front end of your sales efforts.  Once you are successful, remember the value of repeat customers by immediately thanking them for their business.

Branding Through Customer Service

How to Create a Branded Thank You Card for Your Business in Microsoft Word

Time to Rebrand?

As Bob Dylan wrote, “The Times They Are A-Changin’ . . . ” and will likely never be the same.  Society cannot go through the kind of dislocations experienced during the current pandemic without being fundamentally altered, though in ways that may ultimately turn out to be good.  (For example:  During the global quarantine, scientific studies showed that the amount of pollution – especially in hotspots – decreased significantly.)

Hopefully, we have learned many positive lessons during this international “time-out” and developed a new openness to change.

Necessity may have changed your product or service . . . perhaps in a good way.

During this period of quarantine, perhaps (1) your business had to be closed; (2) you remained open but strictly as an Internet/Takeout-Delivery operation; or (3) you were designated as essential to survival and kept going as best you could under adverse circumstances.  Regardless of the category that applies to you, your business will have changed during this time.

Once the crisis has ended, business owners will be faced with deciding whether some of the changes should become permanent ones.  (For example, you learned that a segment of your operations could be conducted on-line.  Do you try to revert to old ways . . . OR do you capitalize on what you learned and maintain or grow your Internet activities – recognizing an opportunity for immediate profit as well as a hedge against a future need to run your business in a state of emergency?)

With changes of the kind we are discussing comes a need for you to consider whether you must also now REBRAND.

REBRANDING

Over the years, I’ve probably been involved in a half dozen or more different rebranding exercises.  Some were very necessary AND major, including top to bottom name, logo, byline, etc. adjustments while others were more minor and amounted to some after-the-fact tweaking of branding elements rather than new names and identities.

How do you know when the time has come?  You certainly know when:

  • Your product and/or service is no longer clearly or accurately represented by the brand. 
  • Your branding no longer resonates with your customers.  (You may learn of this need by asking via a formal survey or focus group . . . or you may recognize that a problem exists because your customers no longer remember or relate to your name, logo, or product.)
  • A change of ownership occurs.  (Perhaps your old name is no longer applicable or perhaps your new owner has a well-known name you want to promote.  For instance . . . when Berkshire Hathaway purchased my employer in 2012, we wanted to make the name of our parent part of our own name so their branding qualities also became ours.  While various permissions and legal ramifications must be addressed first, the results justify the effort.)
  • A new product or service has been added that you want to promote or a secondary activity has now become primary and dominant.
  • Sales suggest your current brand just is not working well enough.

So . . . how extensive a rebrand is required?  For instance:

  • Is a name change required?  If yes, do you want the new name to reflect the old name . . . or be entirely new.  (For example, many years ago, the company that employed me was known as “The GUARD Network.”  That name was chosen with the expectation of developing a diverse list of products that served many different industries.  When that did not happen and the organization dealt strictly with insurance, the name became a bit of a handicap because people couldn’t tell what the company did.  The decision was made to add the word insurance, but all parties believed the word GUARD communicated the right branding qualities of security and protection.  As a result, the company became GUARD Insurance Group.
  • Is a new or modified logo needed?  When a name changes in a significant way, a new logo is probably required.  However, a logo might be changed or tweaked independent of the name.  At that same prior employer, our logo was finetuned multiple times across a five-year period – always including a GUARD icon so the benefit of past branding could be maintained . . . but gradually simplifying that image, which became broader and a bit more abstract over time. For an interesting look at the evolution of some famous logos over time (as well as information on debranding), check out Debranding: The Future of Branding.
  • By-line?  A change of by-line is another way to communicate an important adjustment without necessarily scrapping the investment made over time to your logo.  (For Example, a restaurant that had started to feature delivery and take-out might start including that information as part of a new by-line – “Take out/eat in.”

Sometimes, the need for a rebrand is obvious . . . and I suspect that will often be the case post-pandemic.  If you are not sure about the necessity, take the time to do some research with current and potential customers.  In addition to evaluating the necessity, you might learn some useful tips about the correct measures needed to rebrand successfully.

Make No Mistake . . . Rebranding Comes at a Cost

Some of the expenses associated with a rebrand are obvious:

  • The cost of performing research (surveys, focus groups, etc.)
  • Cost of reprinting materials with the new logo
  • Signage changes to reflect the new name
  • Programming expense associated with changes to the branding elements in the computer system
  • Cost of promoting the new name via advertising, mailings, and promotional giveaways
  • Etc., etc., etc. (The list can keep going on and on.)

However, the less obvious costs must also be considered.  For example:

  • Lost labor.  Staff time associated with name change activities as opposed to normal duties is an expense.
  • Lost investment in the old branding.  If you succeed in cleverly linking the past and present, perhaps some of that investment will be salvaged.  If not – if a total break from the past seems advisable for some extreme reason – your effort in accumulated time and money will be totally lost.

Conclusion

Right now, we are still in the middle of a global health and financial crisis . . . so post-pandemic thoughts may seem somewhat premature.  Still, we wanted to introduce this kind of thinking now so you can subconsciously collect information as you go along that might prove useful in the future.   When that day comes, we have a number of blog postings that may be very helpful to you.  Be sure to revisit “Building Blocks: The Beginning.”  

The above illustration highlights just a few of the relevant topics worth reviewing.

Good luck. Stay safe.

If you have any questions or comments on this topic, we’d love to hear from you. Scroll down to the comments section at the bottom of this page.

Weathering the Storm

Designed by jcomp / Freepik

As a small business owner, this virus will hit hard.  When sales stop, so, too, does our income.  In most cases, bills will continue to flow in. 

Yes, I will consider myself extremely lucky if all my friends and family survive this pandemic. 

Financial health would be some lovely icing.

The Small Business Association has a lot of great resources for this situation . . . from Coronavirus funding option to local assistance:  https://www.sba.gov/page/coronavirus-covid-19-small-business-guidance-loan-resources 

A lot of other wonderful and necessary business accommodations, information, and tools are available as well, but the focus of this blog will be about creativity.  As the saying goes, “When one door closes, another opens.”  The lesser known continuation of the quote is “. . . we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”  In this terrible situation, I challenge you to look for another door through which you can temporarily rebrand your business.

Some business alterations are more obvious in this new climate.  Restaurants are open for takeout and offering free “contactless” delivery.  Retail stores are encouraging “retail therapy” from home and also offering free delivery. 

Some business have had to get a little more creative.  A few examples to help inspire your creative thinking include . . .

Craft stores are offering instructions on how to DIY face masks and hand sanitizers. 

Gyms are offering virtual classes.

Real estate agents are offering virtual tours.

Some entrepreneurs are investing a portion of their reserves in the stock market, betting on the long game.

Stationery businesses are designing invitations for virtual celebrations.

Charities are hosting virtual auctions.

Some business that simply cannot function now are offering their customers discounts for booking their product/service in advance. 

Home improvement stores are providing instructions for DIY projects around the house – since most people are spending more time at home these days.

A blog that strives to help entrepreneurs create and develop their corporate identity is now focusing on crisis communications and rebranding opportunities.  (Ya, that one’s us.)

I hope offering a handful of business Coronavirus coping strategies sparked your inner innovator.

Remember . . . “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” (Charles Darwin)

Good luck.  Stay safe.