This post is sponsored by Staples Business Advantage®, the business-to-business division of Staples, Inc.
Gene Simmons, the legendary lead singer of the rock band Kiss, once remarked that although he liked being in a rock-and-roll band, he loved being in a rock-and-roll brand. Simmons is smart enough to know that, while a band is a band, it’s the brand that pays the bills, especially considering what his brand is worth:
Kiss has grossed more than $1 billion since 1974, and most of that was from brand merchandise.
What do you think of when you hear the names Starbucks®, or Apple, or Volkswagen? Each of these brands evoke very clear emotions and impressions in the mind of the consumer. And that’s the point. That each of these companies has a very strong corporate identity, or brand, is no accident. They have spent a lot of time, money, effort and resources getting us to think about them in very specific ways.
Your brand, specifically
Which begs the question: What is your brand?
Every business has one, for good or ill. Boiled down, your brand is what your customers think of when they think about your business. Are you the pain-free dentist, or the friendly lawyer, or what?
The problem for most small business people is that they have a brand by default and not design because they think that branding is something only for the “big boys.”
Nothing could be further from the truth. Given that there are 30 million businesses in the U.S., and that 99% of those are small businesses, it follows that
- You have a lot of competition out there, and
- You need to give people a reason to remember you above the din
And that is why you must not only have a very specific, well-thought-out brand, but you further need to reinforce that brand in all you do, from your website and social media, to your business cards, print products, letterhead, envelopes, banners and brochures.
Creating your memorable brand
The first step in creating a brand that people will remember is to analyze what is called your Unique Value Proposition (UVP). What is it that you do that is not only different and better than everyone else, but which gives you a desired beachhead in the marketplace?
- Are you the green market?
- The cool startup?
- The family restaurant?
Once you decide what your UVP is, then it is a matter of getting the word out, again and again and again, consistently, using the many tools at your disposal:
Your tagline: A great tagline reinforces your value proposition, e.g., “Make More Happen” (Staples).
Your website and social media: Similarly, your digital presence must also underscore your desired brand.
And, while it’s important to carefully consider your digital assets, let me suggest that what you may really want to focus on are your physical brand products. Why do I say that? It’s sort of like that classic Warren Buffet advice: Buy when everyone else is selling and sell when everyone else is buying.
Here, today, what most small business people are concentrating on is digital –– Facebook, Twitter, websites and all the rest. While that is all fine and good, you can be more like Warren Buffet by concentrating on getting sharp, memorable, physical branding tools. That is a different and unique angle.
And this is where my friends at Staples can help you set your business apart. They have print and marketing expertise that can really make a difference.
Business cards: When you leave a networking meeting, what is the one thing you have with you? That’s right, some business cards. And we all know that within that stack, only one or two really stand out, maybe because of paper thickness or die cut or design. That is what you want.
(By the way, I just saw a survey recently that said that real world, one-on-one networking remains the most popular marketing method for most small businesses. So yes, your business card really is that important.)
Letterhead: Whether you use it for snail mail or email, your letterhead makes an impression and will actually be one of the first and most noticeable things people see about your business. Having a great one helps create your desired brand in their mind, and, after all, that is where branding actually takes place.
Brochures: When you leave an auto dealership, what is it that you likely have with you? That’s right, a beautiful, glossy brochure. Car companies know how to sell, and if they know that a brochure makes a difference, we should know that too.
The good news is that you don’t have to create yours all on your own. Again, the print experts at Staples can help you create a gorgeous brochure that advances your intended brand.
Other print products: Whether it is a banner, poster or some other print products, I can’t emphasize enough how far I think these sorts of things can go towards creating your desired brand. People tend to remember things they see and feel. Printed products do that.
By working with print experts like the ones at Staples, you can begin to create that memorable, desirable, valuable small business brand.
Staples Business Advantage is the business-to-business division of Staples, Inc., which helps customers achieve greater cost savings on products and services like office supplies, technology, printing, promotional products, furniture and facility supplies –– all from one convenient place. With customized account support and best-in-class customer service, Staples Business Advantage serves organizations that range from 10 employees up to the Fortune 100. Learn more at StaplesAdvantage.com.