The Simplest Social Media Strategy

JUST DO IT . . .

To shamelessly borrow Nike’s slogan, forward movement is the best route for small businessowners looking to broaden their marketing and branding efforts into social media.  If you’re a large company with a department or firm devoted to your marketing and branding, you likely have a person or staff of people responsible for social media, and they can analyze demographics, develop goals, create a content inventory, and schedule posts.  If that’s a feasible undertaking for your business, this web site probably isn’t for you.  Our target is the small businessowner, who is looking to embrace social media while simultaneously doing most everything else . . . which could include staffing, management, finances, strategic planning, daily operations, sales, and customer service as well as marketing and branding.  Dedicating a huge amount of time and financial investment to social media simply isn’t feasible and is frankly unnecessary in order to be successful. 

JUST DO WHAT?

So how do you move forward into this new corporate endeavor?  Focus on what you know.  For example, if you don’t have a personal twitter account and aren’t really sure what or why one would tweet, that’s probably not the best place for you to start.

We’ve recently decided now is the time to start promoting our blog content on social media.  Personally, I currently frequent Facebook and Pinterest.  Bob, the other voice of Brand Building for Small Business, frequents Facebook.  (Frequent is actually probably an overstatement, but he occasionally visits Facebook.)  Since we have real experience with these platforms, we have a pretty good idea of who else is using them without any research.  However, a quick glance at the following chart, and we can solidify our understanding of the demographics of the most popular social media platforms.

Facebook and Pinterest’s demographics sufficiently align with our target audience.  We also know from experience that our content would be an appropriate fit. . . .

“CONTENT IS KING”

What can you, on behalf of your business, contribute to social media (with the expectation that a meaningful contribution yields dividends for your business)?

At the risk of sounding repetitive . . . focus on what you know. You are likely an expert in your field.  You may have managed to generate an income selling your products or services.  You possibly generate revenue that supports a small staff of people.  Or maybe you just started out and are hopeful about the profits to come.  Regardless, you likely have a wealth of focused knowledge.

You also no doubt have a personality.  I’m sure you’ve got a pretty great one at that.  You may be clever, witty, cultured, or sarcastic.  You may be optimistic, dark, curious, or creative.  You have a voice.  Hopefully, that voice is reflected in your brand, and you can express yourself and your brand on social media, resonating authenticity with your audience.

A FEW GREAT EXAMPLES . . .

Pop-Tarts

The popular brand of toaster pastries Pop-Tarts has a Twitter account bursting with personality. . . .

Pop-Tarts’ parent company, Kellogg’s, has a more conservative brand and voice.  They have approximately 98,000 Twitter followers while Pop-Tarts has 205,000.  With a 280 character limit (up from 140 a couple years ago), a little bit of creativity goes a long way.

Wayfair

A provider of furniture and home goods, Wayfair utilizes the visual nature of their business on a platform optimal for visuals.  Wayfair has approximately 1.3 million followers on Instagram, and they most often post pictures of their products with simple captions that engage, entertain, or educate.  Many posts will lead you to the link in their bio, which ultimately leads you to shop the pictured items on their web site.

Mashable

Digital media website Mashable uses Pinterest as an outlet to reinforce brand awareness and drive traffic to their web site.  They have 58 boards, ranging in topic from “3D Printing Creations” to “WTF” . . .

Mashable has 10 million+ monthly viewers on Pinterest.

A JOURNEY WITHOUT A MAP

Let’s say you glean some inspiration from these social media giants, and you create accounts for your business on the platforms you frequent; you begin regularly posting content – at least once per week – that is optimal for that platform (based on your personal experience), your products or services, and your unique brand; you promote your social media presence as part of your brand on all advertisements, correspondence, etc.; and little by little customers AND potential customers start following you.  Fantastic!  What now?

According to Comm100, some commons social media goals are to:

  • Connect with Customers
  • Increase Brand Awareness
  • Drive Traffic to Your Website (directly from social media and indirectly by enhanced search engine results)
  • Generate Sales and Leads
  • Boost Brand Engagement
  • Increase In-Person Sales
  • Build a Community
  • Improve Customer Service

While one or two items on this list may be more important to you than others, all of the goals are worthwhile in some respect.  See what develops for you as time goes on.  You may find that your most useful outcome of social media is invaluable market intel that comes from the comments on your product posts that you originally hoped would generate sales.  Or perhaps people start leaving reviews for you on Facebook, which become an important tool in converting leads into sales.  Maybe you find that you get complaints via social media that provide an opportunity for you to offer outstanding customer service in a very public way.  Navigating without a roadmap means you need to pay attention to your journey.  Try to find an opportunity in the issues that arise.  Be open to suggestions.  Think of creative ways that you can utilize and expand upon the positives you encounter.  Grow and evolve.  And be patient.  Good luck!

P.S.  Read more as we begin our social media journey on Pinterest and Facebook.

Role of Branding in Direct Mail/E-mail

Direct mail/e-mail is not for the faint-of-heart . . . OR for the impatient.  When a campaign is working well, results tend to be measured in single digits with the difference between success and failure often just tenths of a point.  (Try explaining that to someone and justifying the value of the effort.)

Despite the negative sound of my opening remarks, I am, indeed, a strong proponent of direct response tools.

Why?

  • You have a blank page just waiting to be filled with a refined, well-branded message that can include a sales pitch as well as a reminder about who you are and plan to be – providing a glimpse into your culture.
  • Direct mail and e-mail are extremely inexpensive and can be repeated many times without a loss of effectiveness, which aids branding through repetition; in fact, by sending your message over and over again to the same list, you ensure your message is heard at the right time – buying time . . . which, in turn, can occur as often as every day or so . . . or as infrequently as once or twice a year.
  • While the numbers measuring results tend to be low for any single mailing, the cumulative impact can be great as you produce small gains on a very regular basis and retain those new customers over time.

Note:  According to the Direct Marketing Association, the average response rate for direct mail house lists is 9% and 5% for prospect lists. However, if your direct mail piece is advertising an expensive or complicated product, a response rate that is less than one percent is not unusual.  (Responses / Pieces Sent = Response Rate)

While the quality of your “creative” (i.e., text, art, branding, etc.) DOES matter as well as the quality of your mailing list, timing may be the single most important factor in determining your success.

More About the Message

Direct marketing provides an excellent blank tableau for you to communicate who you are, what you sell, and the company you hope to become.  Furthermore, you can express this information in a manner consistent with your culture and the image you want to project.  Beyond that, your self-portrayal needs to reflect reality to resonate with your audience and, therefore, be more memorable.

The Headline – Headlines matter and create your first (and often only) chance to grab the attention of your audience.  Short, memorable, and descriptive works best . . . but ain’t easy to accomplish!

I developed my first appreciation for the potential impact of the headline many, many years ago.  The company I worked for had bought an old furniture store and was disposing of the contents via flash sales conducted by their small group of employees, most with non-sales jobs.   

The first two weekends went great and all of the big, expensive, and nicer items were sold pretty quickly.  Clearly, we had gotten the word out.  By week three, however, only lots and lots of odd accent items were left . . . and we weren’t having much luck selling them out.

Our solution:  we took out a large full-page ad in the newspaper (which people actually read back then) that ran under the headline “Adopt an End Table or Be a Foster Family to a Few Good Lamps and Chairs!”

Something about the line struck a chord because the crowds returned the very next weekend, and the majority of the remaining merchandise was moved.  Since then, I always pay close attention to the headline, very often using that as my starting point when creating an ad, flyer, or direct mail letter.

Copy (The Message and Offer) –   This point raises one of the great disputes of all time.  What sells best?  Long copy or short.  If you can conclusively answer that question, your name will be entered into the annals of the direct marketing hall of fame.

Just search long copy vs. short copy, and you’ll get the general idea:

Frankly, I’ve used both successfully.  Cop-out?  No.  My personal preference has always been long copy . . . and I have identified substantial amounts of expert opinion in support of the long-copy case (ex:  David Ogilvy in Ogilvy on Advertising – an industry standard).  However, my professional career has mostly involved parties who believe “no one reads anymore!” . . . so “bulletize” (another way of saying “dumb-down the content”), though the words used to express the sentiment are generally more like “keep the wordiness to a minimum.” (Just writing this paragraph has kicked up my stress level a notch or two.)  In the end . . .

If you are preparing a direct mail piece and answering only to yourself, I suggest using as many (or few) words as are necessary to make your point persuasively, remembering that one or two pieces of carefully chosen and cited data can be the key to establishing credibility and making your point in the most convincing possible way.

Artwork/Graphical Visual and Format – Your need for (and selection of) artwork will depend upon whether you are sending just a letter, just a flyer, or both.  Traditionally, multiple pieces were recommended (though current conventional wisdom is far more flexible).  Personally, I’ve used all of those approaches in format and have not noticed a significant difference in the outcome.  Other factors – such as the quality of the list, effectiveness of the message/offer, and timing – seem to be the determining factors.

That said, artwork – when included – can be an attention-grabbing element.  As a result, choose the most compelling OR familiar image available.  If you have some well-known quality with a high degree of recognizability (perhaps your physical location), use that to your advantage and stick to a picture that capitalizes on a good address.  Humor can be successful as well as art that in some form presents the unexpected.

To state the obvious, always be sure your logo and any byline are prominently displayed as part of your basic branding of the piece.

Note:  While the choice of traditional mail vs. e-mail will affect your selection and use of some of the items discussed in this article, your choices can be easily tweaked to work in either environment.  In fact, these elements should be similar to ensure consistency across various media.

Snail Mail vs. e-Mail – So . . . which works better?

The answer may ultimately depend upon the nature of your mailing list (with the first question being whether or not e-mail addresses have been included).

Needless to say, e-mail solicitations are faster, less expensive, and very immediate – all very attractive qualities.  You can:

  • Link to large volumes of supplemental materials.
  • Create custom “landing pages” that provide an easy (and very trackable) opportunity for immediate response expressing an interest.
  • Repeat the process many times.
  • Get immediate feedback about mailing list names that are no longer valid and are now undeliverable.

However . . .

  • In this era characterized by inundations of electronic messaging and spam e-mail, you can be easily ignored AND DELETED UNREAD! 
  • Spam and junk mail filters can keep your messages from being seen by the intended party.

While one might logically guess that the cost, time, and immediacy of e-mail would doom snail mail to extinction, I have found that certain (often demographically older) audiences pay more attention to physical mailings.  Interestingly, the traditional approach also has the added benefit of a longer shelf life with parties interested but not currently at “buying time,” causing them to set aside the printed letter or flyer for a quick review at a later date closer to the actual time of need, which gives you the best possible chance of success.

My proof?  I’ve had mailings that produced a response that could be absolutely traced back to a physical mailing occurring six months before.  While an electronic equivalent to setting a piece of paper aside clearly exists, I’ve seldom seen evidence of that occurring.

A Direct Response Project for Our Own Blog

Huh?

Well . . . one of our goals for this blog is to build an audience.  As a result, we searched for (and found) a list of associations, agencies, and affinity groups that appear to have a connection to small businesses (https://smallbiztrends.com/2018/05/small-business-associations.html).  As a result, we are planning to systematically approach at least some of them via e-mail and/or mail with a request to link our blog from their web sites.  Unlike some mailings, our intention is to do just a few at a time to properly manage the kind of follow-up required. 

Since our blog is still in the early stages of development, we will wait until we feel we have accumulated a sufficient amount of content.  (Perhaps 20 or so articles?)  Also, we realize we do not yet have any meaningful performance data (i.e., visitors, followers, likes, etc.).  So, the letters will initially have to be created without those key elements that will be added upon becoming available.

Nevertheless, we have drafted the text of a message and included an offer with the intention of sending out the first few inquiries in the upcoming weeks with plans to revise our message as time passes based on new feedback, performance results, and early results.  (We’ll keep you posted.  Until then, feel free to comment upon our draft.)

Looking for More Concrete DIY-Type Information?

At least two more direct response articles are planned for the upcoming weeks.

  • Detailed instructions on preparation of a Word Mail Merge document that can be linked to an Excel address spreadsheet to generate your own mailing.
  • An article explaining the various alternatives that exist for generating a mass e-mailing, including the use of vendors vs. your own word processing and e-mail programs.

Until then, good luck moving forward with your campaigns.

Other Resources

 For information about the typical elements of a direct mail package, see:

FitSmallBusiness.com

Accurate Mailing Services

How to Create a Mission Statement (Including Definitions, Examples, and a Mission Statement Generator)

Defining the purpose of your business in one or two simple sentences can seem like a very daunting task. . . . Or perhaps the words instantly flow mellifluously from your mouth.  But probably not. 

So, where to start?  Before delving further, I’ll give you a few formal definitions of a “mission statement” so you’re somewhat certain of the purpose of this important collection of words before moving forward.

DEFINITIONS

According to . . .

“An effective mission statement must be a clear, concise declaration about your business strategy.”

“[A mission statement is] a sentence describing a company’s function, markets and competitive advantages; a short written statement of your business goals and philosophies.”

“A mission statement is used by a company to explain, in simple and concise terms, its purpose(s) for being. The statement is generally short, either a single sentence or a short paragraph. These statements serve a dual purpose by helping employees remain focused on the tasks at hand, as well as encouraging them to find innovative ways of moving toward an increasingly productive achievement of company goals.”

“[A mission statement is] a written declaration of an organization’s core purpose and focus that normally remains unchanged over time. Properly crafted mission statements (1) serve as filters to separate what is important from what is not, (2) clearly state which markets will be served and how, and (3) communicate a sense of intended direction to the entire organization.”

EXAMPLES

Want to see those conceptual definitions in action?  I reviewed a lot of mission statements (and I do mean a lot), and a collection of my favorites is compiled below. . . .  I found these companies’  statements to be relatively straightforward while being sufficiently descriptive.

“Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

”At eBay, our mission is to provide a global online marketplace where practically anyone can trade practically anything, enabling economic opportunity around the world.”

“To enrich people’s lives with programmes and services that inform, educate and entertain.”

 “Dedicated to being the leader in quality family programming, ABC offers opportunities extending from the expansive ABC Television Network and 10 owned television stations nationwide, to more than 60 owned radio stations and the ABC Radio Networks that serve nearly 4800 affiliated stations.”

“We strive to be the acknowledged global leader and preferred partner in helping our clients succeed in the world’s rapidly evolving financial markets.”

 “J.P. Morgan’s mission is to be the best financial services company in the world. To achieve this goal, we focus relentlessly on carrying out our business principles of aspiring to be completely client focused by building a great team from within.”

 “Walgreens mission is to be America’s most-loved pharmacy-led health, well-being and beauty retailer. Its purpose is to champion everyone’s right to be happy and healthy.”

“We will be the easiest pharmacy retailer for customers to use.”

 “Our mission is to eradicate poverty and increase social mobility through the power of partnerships. Our work provides support for the immediate needs of families and children in the community and encourages solutions that lead to the self-sufficiency and social mobility that break cycles of generational poverty.”

“Prematurity is the #1 killer of babies in the United States. We are working to change that and help more moms have full-term pregnancies and healthy babies. From polio to prematurity the March of Dimes has focused on researching the problems that threaten our children and finding ways to prevent them.”

“The mission of Make-A-Wish International is to grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy.”

“To give customers the most compelling shopping experience possible.”

“To build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”

“Our mission is to make Target your preferred shopping destination in all channels by delivering outstanding value, continuous innovation and exceptional guest experiences by consistently fulfilling our Expect More. Pay Less. brand promise.”

“Versace will pursue its sales goals on national and international markets through the offer of fashion, luxury and high quality products at competitive conditions and in compliance with laws designed to protect competition.”

“It is our mission to provide the highest level of service in all aspects of automotive dealership operations, providing our customers with the highest quality products and services at a fair and competitive price.”

“To accelerate the advent of sustainable transport by bringing compelling mass market electric cars to market as soon as possible.”

 “To bring the best user experience to its customers through its innovative hardware, software, and services.”

“To lead in the creation, development, and manufacture of the industry’s most advanced information technologies, including computer systems, software, networking systems, storage devices, and microelectronics.”

“Dole Food Company, Inc. is committed to supplying the consumer and our customers with the finest, high-quality products and to leading the industry in nutrition research and education. Dole supports these goals with a corporate philosophy of adhering to the highest ethical conduct in all its business dealings, treatment of its employees, and social and environmental policies.”

“To create and promote great-tasting, healthy, organic beverages.”

“To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.”

“We believe in Bringing People Together. With Wine. We believe that life’s more fun when we’re together. That’s why our mission is to introduce new friends to wines that are fun, flavorful, and approachable.”

“We are all stewards of football.  We unite people and inspire communities in the joy of the game by delivering the world’s most exciting sports and entertainment experience.”

“By showcasing golf’s greatest players, we engage, inspire and positively impact our fans, partners and communities worldwide.”

“We take pride in making the best Mexican style fast food, providing fast, friendly, & accurate service. We are the employer of choice offering team members’ opportunities for growth, advancement, & rewarding careers in a fun, safe working environment. We are accountable for profitability in everything we do, providing our shareholders with value growth.”

“To offer reasonably priced quality food, served quickly, in attractive, clean surroundings.”

“To be our customers’ favorite place and way to eat and drink.”

ANATOMY OF A MISSION STATEMENT

As you may have noticed, most mission statements are comprised of the same basic components.  I’ll use our Mission Statement for 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 purpose of your company.

MISSION STATEMENT GENERATOR

So, now it’s your turn.  Are you ready?  Try creating a mission statement for your business based on the structure below.

Need one more example?  For good measure . . .

ALL DONE?

If you’ve gone through the exercise of filling in the blanks and feel like you have a good mission statement in hand, you may be wondering, is that it?  Am I done?  That answer really depends on you and your business.  For very small operations, the owner may be the only one involved in the process.  If that’s the case, we recommend that you at least have a few people review your mission statement – ask for feedback on content, flow, grammar, etc. 

In larger companies, the process can become extremely complicated.  First, a decision has to be made about who should have input into the process.  Then, consensus on the content must be achieved among those parties.  Very often, special seminars or retreats will be employed to brainstorm the matter.  In the case of the mission statement of our former employer, the process was done about two decades ago, and the entire management team met at an off-premises site to craft the message.  Discussions were held and multiple flip charts filled with notes that got compressed down to about 50 words. (While some minor adaptations have been implemented over time, the message has remained largely intact.)

A Quick Cautionary Note:  Mission Statement vs Vision Statement

These two different kinds of statements are sometimes confused.  In the words of one authoritative source (i.e., ClearVoice):
“The vision statement focuses on tomorrow and what the organization wants to become. The mission statement focuses on today and what the organization does. While companies commonly use mission and vision statements interchangeably, it’s important to have both.”

Stay tuned for an article on Vision Statements.

GOING FORWARD

Keep your mission statement at the forefront of your operations.  That way, if you find yourself veering away from your original intentions, your mission statement will either reign you in or remind you that a re-draft is in order because your business’s revised course is welcome and deliberate.

NEXT STEP

Use your company name, logo, target audience, and mission statement as a basis for creating your business’s style guide, which will help you formalize your brand and be consistent going forward. Read the last story in our “The Beginning” series: The Role of a Brand Style Guide.

Where to Begin?

“Cha Ching,” my phone sang.

Was that what I thought it was . . . my first sale?!?  I vividly remember the thrill and excitement I felt that evening.  I basked in hugs from my husband and kids, texted my close friends and family, and uncorked the champagne (well, sparkling Moscato actually; it was only a $12 sale after all). 

Fast forward one year ahead when the profit from my sales was about half my full-time income, and I was equally thrilled and excited at the idea of quitting my day job to pursue my business full time.  I couldn’t wait to be able to choose the way I dedicated my work hours, to have creative freedom, to balance my work schedule with my home life however I saw fit, to be directly responsible for my earnings . . . my list could go on and on.  The entrepreneurial allure was holy grail level for me.

Once I gave my three weeks’ notice (which my former boss and now blog partner masterfully managed to extend into three months’ notice), I was officially on cloud nine.     

Fast forward once again to my first day “unemployed” and me staring at my computer screen.  I had so many new designs I was looking forward to creating and so many ideas for new products.  My mouse and my keyboard and I forged ahead at full speed.

* * *

Up until that point, I had spent the entirety of my career in marketing communications.  I studied organizational communications and marketing for my undergrad and graduate degrees, I taught college public relations courses, and I worked for almost 15 years in the corporate world as an important contributor of a national, billion-dollar brand. 

The first item on my new business to-do list – in bold print – should have been to create a marketing plan. 

In reality, that’s not even close to what happened.  Why?  In writing this all down, I actually needed a couple minutes to decide exactly why, and I think it’s the more immediate sense of urgency you get when your business is responsible for your livelihood.  You want to focus on the areas of your company that are as tangible as your mortgage payments . . . and groceries . . . and kids’ back-to-school clothes.  I effectually went into survival mode.  Efforts producing and sustaining immediate profits were crucial while time for endeavors reaping long-term dividends felt like a luxury.

Don’t get me wrong. I had put in place certain basic brand fundamentals from the beginning.  Long before my first sale, I had decided on a name and colors, secured a web site address, and created a logo.  I even had a pretty clear sense of the qualities that would differentiate my company from others.  However, the idea of taking my brand basics and then creating and executing a blueprint for building a strong and successful brand WHILE running my business was completely and utterly overwhelming to me.

* * *

Well, as they say, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  Once my survival instinct numbed a bit, I decided to take one single step.  I addressed one new activity per week.  Since I still had very little “free time” in my business AND had no real marketing plan, I didn’t give myself any constraints on the duration or direction of my efforts; just the quantity – I just needed to do one brand building task per week. 

So one week, I created an Instagram account for my business; another, I researched local venues to get my brand name out in my community; still another, I researched blogs that I could partner with to promote my brand, etc., etc., etc.  In essence, I did what I could/when I could, knowing that as long as these activities reflected my brand basics, my business would reap long-term benefits.

Over time, I mastered my one-a-week goal, and I built on that momentum – once a week, I now had to do one maintenance branding task (writing a blog posting, attending a local “expo/show,” posting content on my social media platforms, etc.) in addition to my one brand building task (researching, expanding into new venues/platforms, etc.). 

If this is starting to sound like a lot, take a breath.  There’s no need to get bogged down with specifics at this point.  We’ll cover them all as we go, and we’ll help you get your system into place.  We’ll focus on the areas we think are most beneficial to start with first, and we’ll teach you how to execute those initial steps; then, we’ll focus on building that brand – one task at a time.  Soon, you’ll find that your successes will justify the time you invest, making the process much easier.

* * *

Next up – What’s in a Name? . . . The first in a series focusing on the initial steps in building your brand.

Your Brand: Build vs. Buy

Identifying, refining, AND communicating your business’s brand can be the most important step you take in marketing (and selling!) your product and/or services.  Whether you are picking a name or color to represent you or creating a web site, sales literature, ads, letterhead, packaging, etc. (this list goes on and on), each decision you make and action you take will help build your brand (i.e., fix an impression in people’s minds about who you are and what you do — hopefully in a memorable and desirable way).

All too often, small businesses neglect this opportunity to send a strong message to the public and view each of these communications as separate and distinct (rather than as opportunities to reinforce an overarching brand).

The first lesson that must be learned and practiced by a small business is to treat branding as a set of golden rules applied to all activities.  Once you accept this basic premise (which extends to operational decisions as well as those of sales), you must decide whether to build your brand yourself . . . or buy that expertise from a professional such as an advertising agency.

Build vs. Buy

Before venturing further, you need to understand the bias of the author of this blog. 

When my son was in elementary school, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ruled the day via a television show, movies, comic books, extensive lines of merchandise, etc.  Consequently, turtle costumes were huge style setters for Halloween . . . and sure to create a strong impression among the child’s peers.  While dozens of variations could be purchased inexpensively, I chose to personally transform my son to become the 5th turtle (aka Caravaggio) – with a shell made out of cardboard and all!  Similarly, I’ve spackled walls and gotten rid of computer viruses myself rather than automatically turning to an expert practitioner.  This instinct has sometimes proven cost effective and (as in the case of the turtle) sometimes not.  However, I’ve always ended up acquiring a useful skill that later paid dividends and inevitably end up with a more original product, which is generally useful in branding.  By building, you get to control your own fate and the timing of each activity . . .  and often DO end up saving a lot of money!

10 Good Reasons to Consider Building, Not Buying

  1. Better control – You know your product and customers better than anyone as well as the image you want to communicate.  You can spend many expensive hours trying to transfer that knowledge to a vendor . . . and never quite get to where you need to be. 
  2. Faster response to opportunity – Sometimes, opportunities disappear quickly.  You can miss the boat while waiting for a third party to be ready, to fully understand the moment, and to craft the right message tailored to the right audience.
  3. No language barrier – Every industry has an accompanying unique language and jargon.  Teaching this language to the uninitiated can be a slow, imperfect process. If a task is executed without full command of the industry’s verbiage, your customer will immediately sense a fraud . . . and not trust the information being communicated.
  4. More flexible strategic planning – You control the schedule and the range of activities that seem most likely to be effective . . . rather than having someone create a campaign around THEIR areas of expertise and resources.
  5. Trial and error – Since you are in control, you can quickly abandon unsuccessful strategies and try new ones rather than seeing a losing campaign through to the bitter end.  Very often, you can tell early whether or not an activity is resonating with your audience.
  6. Cost savings – Third-party expertise does not come cheaply . . . and you pay for their learning curve as well as their finished product.  When you take a DIY approach, your time is your major investment.
  7. Better use of data – The effectiveness of every brand-based activity should be measured.  You are in the best position to implement the systematic collection of data and ensure that your operations are adjusted as needed to reflect the insights you gain.
  8. You develop expertise – While you may not be an expert at every activity you try, you will eventually become one (much like the process of building equity in your house). Whenever you develop a new core competency, spin-off business opportunities might present themselves.
  9. You stay abreast of technology – Brand building always involves some degree of mastery over technology (at least as an end user).  While this benefit might also seem scary to some people, we all know that we must have a reasonable grasp of current technology to survive . . . and this venue offers a fairly low-risk chance to learn more.
  10. You can have fun – Making that ninja turtle costume was a whole lot more enjoyable (and yielded a whole lot more laughs) than running to the local store . . . and ended up creating a more memorable experience.

5 Reasons to Consider Buying  (Rem: I already disclosed my bias)

  1. Third Parties (ad agencies; web site developers; etc.) DO Provide Expertise Even if you elect to become a DIY builder, you might require third-party expertise for specific tasks until you can learn how to do those tasks yourself.
  2. Objectivity Sometimes, you can be too close to your product and audience to see them clearly; third parties offer a fresh point of view.
  3. Completeness Vendors provide a level of assurance that you will not overlook a very basic and necessary consideration.
  4. Uniformity of Quality Use of a practitioner that regularly delivers certain activities to the world assures a basic level of quality is maintained.
  5. You Learn When you hire a third party, you always learn some valuable lessons from them.

While “Build” and “Buy” have been presented as mostly separate either/or options, DO know that a mix-and-match approach is possible (and sometimes even advisable) as you acquire the necessary skills and knowledge to DIY.

That said, this blog is generally devoted to practical tips addressing a wide variety of common activities that help end users who want to be hands-on in Brand Building for their Small Business

Next up – Where to Begin?