Branding is one of those buzz words that get tossed about on business and marketing blogs fairly often. The concept of branding should be nothing new. It is the act of creating a brand that works and a lasting impression in the minds of consumers that will differentiate your business from the competition. The tools used to create powerful brands are familiar too. They include logos, trademarks, catchphrases, and company mission statements; all designed to help influence your customer’s perception of your business.
It is easy to tell when a brand is on point. These become iconic logos and phrases that seep into pop culture and become part of the everyday lexicon. The most successful brands also become very valuable as noted by this Forbes article. Of course, the opposite is true as well. When a company stumbles onto a branding disaster, it often becomes a very costly mistake, in time and money. An excellent example of a branding fail happened in 2010 when Gap tried to redo its iconic logo and replace it with a new, lackluster alternative.
It is easy to see how branding can affect these massive, consumer giants. But what about your average small business? Is branding nearly as important for them? One could argue that all of these brand behemoths started off small. Perhaps without such a commitment to their branding, they may not have evolved into the giants that they became. One thing is for sure, many of the most successful brands follow the same core guidelines in their branding. These are lessons that any business, regardless of size, can apply for branding success. Let’s take a look at what is needed to create a lasting and iconic brand with real examples.
- Take the time to understand your core products or services truly and develop a brand identity around them. Branding can be great fun when you are creating a brand around something like cupcakes or puppies. It can be much more difficult when building a brand around a specialty product or a unique service. It is all the more important to have a firm understanding of your company and create a brand that will help tell your story when your product is challenging. One such company, Sunnen, sells a piece of machinery called a honing machine. This is a specialty product used by manufacturers but it’s not on the radar of the average consumer. As such, Sunnen had to create a brand that speaks to a select few but does it well. The brand highlights that Sunnen only does one thing, but they do it better than anyone else. Their catch phrase “Above and Beyond Honing” speaks to their core values not only of building honing machinery, but also offering service and equipment for any and all honing machines. This has helped Sunnen maintain their place at the top of the honing industry for close to 100 years.
- Use appealing design and compelling copy to speak to the core desires of your customers. Everything about Whole Foods Market screams healthy, fresh and organic. From its clean and green logo to its web presence, chalk full of enticing pictures of fruits and veggies. The Whole Foods brand speaks to its very discerning customer who wants organic options and clean food. Their use of recipes, lifestyle tips, and customer engagement help to create a digital gathering place that mirrors their stores.In creating such a dynamic brand Whole Foods has built a loyal following of shoppers, who seek the store out. This has allowed Whole Foods to succeed even as other grocery store chains try to move into the organic food marketplace. For their competition, organic food options seem like an afterthought, whereas Whole Foods has made it a core value. This natural value has led to some very green profit margins for the brand.
- Be consistent with your brand across the board. The specialty pet products company, Barkbox, (link here) has created its own niche in the booming subscription box market. The company provides a monthly box of treats and toys to man’s best friend with a price tag ranging between roughly (or ruff-ley, pun intended) $20 and $30 per month.The brand shines with its clean crisp logo and its fun, funky tone. It is a brand that doesn’t take itself too seriously and likes to have fun with its customers. Barkbox also shines when it comes to its absolute undying love of dogs, which it highlights across all of its digital platforms. From Facebook to Instagram and all over its website, the brand identity is absolutely crazy for our canine companions. It is also absolutely consistent in its message everywhere you look. There is no doubt what Barkbox stands for and its consistent message is clear, come join their pack!
- Deliver value! At the end of the day, branding is only as good as the company behind it. As the old PR cliché states; you can’t perfume a skunk so don’t waste your time trying. If your products and services are not at the top of the game no amount of polish or branding will make your company a success. But, if you are looking for an edge to highlight superior services or quality products taking a good hard look at the brand you are conveying can help be the push that takes your company from good to great.
So, if you are ready to take your company to the next level is branding the next step on your journey? Can you use a smart brand to differentiate your company in the market? What do you think of these guidelines for creating a successful brand? We would love to hear your stories. Share them in the comments below. Perhaps we can feature your branding success in a future article.
Being an entrepreneur can be tough. It can take nerves of steel and patient families to help turn a passion into a profitable business. Here at Basics to Business, we thrive on learning all we can about new technologies and techniques to help the average businessperson succeed. Today, we thought we would troll the web and find some of the best advice for small businesses out there. As we looked at some of the best advice from some of the tops on their field we started to notice a common theme. It seems that no matter what industry you choose to work in there are common insights that can help you reach the top of your game. Here are some of our favorite bits of advice, from a range of top professionals.
- Find something you love and turn it into a career.
From Dennis Crowley:”Do what you love, and the rest will come.” After co-founding two businesses, reportedly turning down a $125 million acquisition offer and being named to just about every “40 under 40” list imaginable, Dennis Crowley, CEO of Foursquare, still cites the advice his mother gave him repeatedly as a child: to follow his heart.
- Great ideas are fine but look for bankable great ideas if you want to succeed.
From Rick Alden: “The fastest route to revenue wins. That one product may not be your fantasy, but revenue on a simpler product today always beats running out of money developing a more complicated product that won’t launch for another year.”
- Never stop learning. (Sometimes this means learning from your mistakes.)
From Vanessa Van Edwards: “Every time you think to yourself, ‘I already know this’ or ‘This isn’t for me,’ try turning it around by asking, ‘How can I make this work for me?’ This instantly puts you into a learning mindset and helps you see opportunities everywhere. I learned this from Marie Forleo and it has fundamentally changed how I approach my business life.”
From Chase Jarvis: “The best business advice I’ve ever received was from the legendary Sir Richard Branson (an investor in CreativeLive and mentor/inspiration to me). Put simply – it’s exceedingly rare that greatness comes from a single blind all-in swing or a brash act. Boldness is required but the boldness that sticks around to experiment regularly, to fail small and often, and cultivate a culture of risk taking is what generates the most wins in the end.”
- Surround yourself with the right people.
From Brian Sharples: “It’s critical to spend the time early on to hire the right people. If you are disciplined in finding the best and brightest people who are also team players then management is easy.”
So what is the best advice that you have received as a business person? What insight put you on the right track? Let us know in the comments. Perhaps we can share your advice in a future post.
Starting a company is an incredible journey, but also can be very overwhelming. Before you put that life-changing idea to work, you have to get all your legal ducks in a row. Remember there is a lot of hard work to do, hoops to jump through, and details than cannot be overlooked. One of the first major steps to take when you start a small business is to hire a lawyer. You can run into many legal issues at any time during your business journey. We spoke to Texas patent attorney, Zachary Hiller to gain some insight and his best legal tips for starting a business.
Top 6 Legal Tips for Starting a Business
1. Hire a Lawyer
First and foremost, hire an attorney. The costs of a lawyer are minuscule in comparison to a lawsuit or losing your business. An attorney can help you with everything from your company name to a business plan, trademarks, and more.
2. Have a Budget
Part of your business plan has to include every cost. You must understand all costs, sales, and requirements before moving forward with your company. A valuable business and financial plan will help you set to present and future goals for your business. No successful business survives without a detailed budget.
3. Patent Your Idea
If your business is based on an intellectual idea or product, you should submit a patent. Someone else could have filed a patent on your idea already, which would put your business in jeopardy. Do your patent research before anything else. Patent protection may be the foundation your idea needs to build a stable future for your company. An attorney can help you search and make sure your intellectual property is all yours.
4. Know the Market
Research the competition beyond patents. If you know several companies offering similar products or services, you may need to alter your business plan. You want your business name and product to stick more than a few years down the road without running into a lawsuit.
5. Have Paperwork for New Employees
When you hire your staff, be sure to have them sign non-compete agreements. This means they cannot work against you or give away confidential company information. In the start-up world having an employee share your trade secrets could destroy your business.
We hope you are excited to start a business, and that these legal tips will help youalongg the way. Stay tuned for more upcoming legal tips and advice.
They have been called the entitlement generation, or the “everyone gets a trophy for participating” generation. They are the millennial generation, an estimated 80 million 21 to 35-year-olds, and they are taking over the workforce. It is estimated that by 2020, this demographic will comprise about 50% of the workforce. Is it any wonder that HR departments are feeling the influence; good and bad, of this generation in a very real way?
The millennial generation, in addition to being one of the largest demographic groups, is also the most educated, most connected and most culturally diverse of any generation that came before. They are also the least likely to stay at an unsatisfying job or see the value in “paying their dues.” In fact, millennials are almost notorious for their job-hopping tendencies and their dislike of busy work and red tape. They tend to buckle under bureaucracy. It seems that far too often, this generation is pegged as lazy, entitled or self-absorbed by their older peers. Somewhere in between insolence and innovation, between self-awareness and self-centered lies the heart of what makes millennials both frustratingly different and potentially fantastic for your company. It is simply a matter of perspective.
How To Get The Most Out Of A Millennial Workforce
1. Create A Collaborative Culture. One of the complaints most often leveled at millennials is the “everyone gets a trophy attitude”. It is easy to dismiss this as a naïve and childish outlook since there are winners and losers in life. What you may miss, however, is that there may be value in the “trophy” mindset. It is a mindset in which everyone’s contribution, no matter how small, is valuable. It is an idea that puts teamwork ahead of individual glory, and it is a concept that can encourage an array of perspectives to offer insight.
Millennials thrive when they are included, so why not include them? A workplace that listens to the ideas of its employees, from the top to the bottom, is a work environment that is very rarely blindsided by problems or changes. This generation thrives when their input is actually heard and a boss that creates a genuinely open door policy for criticism and creativity may find that millennials have valid ideas to offer.
2. Instill Meaning And Offer Vision. Millennials have grown up with the world at their fingertips. They matured in tandem with the internet and as such, they have no comprehension of time in which all of the human knowledge wasn’t just a click away. While some might point to an overwhelming obsession with cats and Kardashians as a major downside of the internet; no one can argue that the web hasn’t made a huge impression in business. It actually has created a globally connected perspective for so many. Is it any wonder then, why millennials have grown up with the expectation that they should be included in the company’s bigger picture?
Creating a corporate culture in which employees are not only privy to the big plan but also shown their role in that structure creates a deeper meaning for your employees. Helping millennials understand their role in a bigger picture not only gives them a greater sense of purpose. It also helps boost productivity and morale by making them feel valued as a part of the team.
3. Offer The Three F’s. Faith, Feedback, and Flexibility. Overall Millennials, more than any generation before them, grew up in a world with many freedoms. They grew up in an age in which parents were more connected via phone, email or text message. But they were also more likely to be left home alone as latch-key kids with parents at work. They have grown up as a generation that had more parental trust than their parents typically did and this had led to a group of people that abhor micro-management. One of the greatest complaints about millennials is their tendency to job-hop in search of a job that better fits their ideals. One of the most common complaints leveled by millennials is that they are looking for mentors or leaders instead of just a boss.
This may be one of the best lessons that millennials can offer their employer; how to be a leader rather than a boss. Millennials are looking for organizations that will give them the tools to do their job and trust that they will do it. They are looking for companies that will help them grow in their careers with honest feedback and clear plans for success. Finally, they are looking for the flexibility to do things differently, the flexibility to have a work/life balance and the flexibility to shake up the status quo for the better. In reality, there are very few companies that can thrive without a little shake-up of ideas from time to time.
Some may bemoan millennials in the workplace, for all their flaws and foibles and quirks. But the reality is that millennials are here to stay, and a smart businessperson knows that more often than not it is better to flow with the tide than to try to fight it. After all, having a handle on managing the millennial generation is the first step in understanding what is to come… Generation Z.
Not all social media marketing plans are made the same. Messaging, tone and voice all shift as the demographics change. As a nod to the site’s name, let’s start with the basics. Some companies market themselves to other businesses (B2B) while others focus their efforts on the consumer market (B2C). Find tips for each specialty is a snap and there are countless resources for each. But what happens when you have customers in both realms? How can a company engage all of their target demographics when they seem so different? Where is the best place to post for B2B and B2C customers?
Understanding The Difference In B2B and B2C Social Media Marketing
To understand how to engage with B2B and B2C audiences, we have to look briefly at the best practices for each. What makes each audience so different?
Business to Consumer (B2C)
People are surrounded by advertising every day, and most of it can be considered B2C marketing. From the billboard advertising a local restaurant to a Facebook ad promoting an online sale, all of these messages are directed at the consumer. In general terms, these messages are meant to entice or inform and ultimately lead to greater brand awareness. In digital terms, B2C campaigns are vital to driving online conversions, from hot leads for a service to an actual purchase.
This is the type of marketing that most people are aware of when they are online. There are countless tools for delivering these messages, from Google Ads to blogs and social media marketing.
There are a few things that these digital messages have in common:
• They are quick: The average consumer is bombarded with messaging. Effective campaigns must find a way to capture their audience as quickly as possible.
• They are engaging and entertaining: Consumers turn to social media platforms to entertain. In B2C marketing, think of social media as a cocktail party; light, breezy conversation meant to amuse and distract. Everyone avoids the “hard sell” at a social event. Social media is no different.
• They are enticing: The best social media campaigns become the life of the party, so to speak. These are the ones that inform while entertaining, or spark dialog with their consumers.
Finding where to post for a B2C business is usually relatively easy. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat, and Instagram are all platforms geared toward the consumer.Social media marketers, with a keen eye on their demographic, can utilize online contests, informative blogs, and coupon offers to reach their audiences. They also engage with their audience; responding to comments and retweeting their guests.
An excellent example of this type of fun and entertaining B2C marketing comes from a burger joint in Wisconsin, AJ Bombers. They host #oldschoolTweetups, for online friends to meet in person over a burger or a beer. They post delicious looking pictures of their newest burger innovations, and they even partnered with a local competitor to try to woo a Travel Channel show, Food Wars, to town. All while conversing with their customers across their platforms.
Business To Business (B2B)
In contrast, B2B marketing tends to be far more serious than its B2C counterpart. These messages aren’t always for public consumption and have a much more focused audience in mind. Some may argue that this is the “grown-up” side to social media marketing; more Business Journal and less People Magazine. (Although both are great at reaching their target audience.) Linkedin stands out as the leader in B2B social marketing, but YouTube, Twitter, and even Facebook have their place. Because the audience and its respective tone are so different, the tactics used to reach this audience must also be different.
• They are more detailed: The messaging for B2B customers must be more in-depth showcase expertise in the field.
• They account for a longer buying cycle: Unlike its B2C counterparts, B2B efforts tend to have a much longer pipeline to an actual sale. You don’t see too many impulse purchases in the business world and therefore, those who sell to other businesses must create a marketing plan that leads people down a longer path to a conversion.
• They are exercises in relationship building: Online interactions typically must translate into a deeper relationship, which last longer than their B2C counterparts. A consumer may hop from brand to brand with very little loyalty whereas, given the long buying cycle, B2B customers tend to be more loyal. (Relatively speaking.)
The core strategies for implementing these tactics, like the B2C efforts, focus on audience-driven content. With a more business-centric audience, longer form items tend to be more effective. These include things like white papers, online networking groups, and in-depth, informative articles. Businesses still need to engage with their customers online, but it is not always as easy. Online business forums are an excellent way to promote engagement for these brands, where like-minded individuals gather to discuss relevant issues.
A great example of this comes from a company based in Alabama that provides pre-engineered masonry products to home builders and suppliers, Firerock. This is a B2B company that has mastered social engagement in a B2C world. It did this by understanding its demographic and providing content that its customers can use in their efforts to reach the consumer. Confused? In short, Firerock knows that no one wants to see raw building materials online. Instead, it utilizes Facebook and Pinterest to showcase the potential for its products, effectively creating a glossy, online catalog for consumers and its B2B customers alike. It is positioning itself as a leader in the industry while creating content that its core customers, home builders, and developers, can use to stay on trend. They do this while maintaining a Linkedin presence as a direct line to the brand.
For Customers That Do Both, Where Do the Two Meet?
The short answer is they don’t, not really. Each platform has a unique and distinct audience, and the content must reflect that. The first step in successfully navigating a strategy that involves both B2B and B2C is identifying the best platforms for your brand and who the target audience is for each. Some helpful tips:
• Each platform will have a distinct and possibly different audience: It is important to create compelling content for each, but allowing for crossover. A blog post may be broad enough to play well on Linkedin and Facebook, whereas a long-form white paper may only fit on Linkedin.
• Each platform will have an opportunity to showcase your expertise. Don’t deny either side of your business, but use your experience in each to your advantage. In many cases, this will add more legitimacy and credibility to your overall marketing efforts if you can highlight a range of knowledge.
• Each platform will take time. Know that you may not have cross over on social platforms and as such, you should allocate enough time for each. If you don’t have the time to do each platform well, which will offer the best return on your time investment?
A good example of differentiating marketing messages comes from Signature Electric, an Omaha-based Electrician, which offers commercial and residential services. Their Facebook page offers fun trivia, job opportunities, and company news which both humanizes the brand and engages their residential customers. Meanwhile, their Google + page helps to optimize the brand for local SEO.
So how can you tweak your social efforts to garner the most return? Are you targeting the right audience in the right place? Use these tips to create social content that will promote your brand.
As a small business owner, even the most minor issue can be a huge risk for the company. When someone does suffer an injury, a premise liability case may be an option for the victim. Sometimes, a premise liability accident is referred to as a “slip and fall” accident because, often, slipping and falling is what causes the injury to the victim. A slip and fall injury can happen on any property for a multiplicity of reasons and in every type of business: in an office, mall, restaurant, shopping center, grocery store, etc.
While every small business wants the most for their employees and those who visit their establishment, they also have to protect their assets. A personal injury lawyer is a necessary solution to protecting your small business when you have a personal injury lawsuit. We talked to personal injury lawyer, Keith Devries in New York about legal concerns a small business owner should be aware of and how to prevent a lawsuit. He gave us a few insightful preventative solutions to prevent slip and fall claims at any business.
6 Steps to Prevent Slip and Fall Claims
1.Train All Employees
Employee training is vital to reducing a company’s slip and fall loss exposure. All employees who are likely to be around third parties on your premises should be trained about what to do should someone suffer a slip or fall. Include the policy in every new employee orientation and the company handbook. Prepare everyone and know what to do, and the better the situation will turn out. Depending on the size and nature of your business, you may want to have employees on each work shift trained by qualified Red Cross instructors to provide first aid and CPR. Someone should be designated to keep first aid kits stocked and accessible.
2. Provide Assistance
If an accident were to happen, care and support should always be made available to the injured person even if that means calling an ambulance. Individuals who feel treated callously or indifferently are more likely to sue after an accident. The medical care ad emergency services such as an ambulance may be costly, but will show your employees you care and save you money in the long run.
3.Eliminate Potential Hazards
Elimination of slip and fall hazards should be a routinely scheduled. Use a checklist for this. “A little prevention on the front end can save a small business a great deal of time and money should an accident occur on their property,” says Devries.
Indoor areas hazard list:
- Lighting: All areas should be adequately lit, including hallways and stairs.
- Exits: Exits should be well marked, well lit and clear of any obstacles.
- Stairs: Handrails, steps, and landings should be in good condition. Construct stairs to a uniform height and width.
- Carpeting: Carpeting should be tight and smooth.
- Floors: Mark any changes in floor level.
- Doormats: Doormats or rugs should be flat, slip-resistant, cleaned and checked regularly in bad weather.
- Spills: There should be an effective procedure to assure that all spills are immediately cleaned up.
Outdoor area hazard checklist:
- Walkways: Walkways should be kept in good condition.
- Lighting: Lighting should be adequate.
- Parking lot: Repair any potholes, cracks or uneven areas.
- Ice and snow: There should be an effective procedure for assuring ice and snow removal.
- Caution signs or barriers should be used to keep people away from uneven areas or outdoor hazards.
Investigate any accident or workplace injury-related event immediately. The goal of investigations is to identify the cause of the accident or injury rather than assign blame and to correct any hazards or other problems found.
Once a year, supervisors should review all incidents from the prior year to see whether there are any patterns in the accidents and, if so, how to prevent the problem happening again in the future. Each year, evaluate how each case went and where improvement could be.
6.Hire an Attorney
Having a knowledgeable attorney with the ability to put everything into proper perspective is essential to getting the best result out of a slip and fall case. An accident lawyer who is prepared to assist you with any slip and fall or premise liability case and make sure you are taking the correct route.
Defending Slip and Fall Claims
If you are a small business owner and are facing a slip and fall claim, you should contact an attorney. Sometimes, even with prevention, an accident still happens; there is no such thing as complete immunity from a lawsuit.
However, following the six steps discussed above should reduce the potential for a suit, as well as decrease the value of any lawsuit that you do face. For additional information, visit the Web site of the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
By Victor Imgarten of Clean Sweep Chimney Service
I founded Clean Sweep Chimney Service in 1977 and we are still proud to be family owned with the first and only owner working in the field to ensure the best service the industry has to offer. Over the years, I have seen great value in customer reviews. We often get service calls based on the reputation that we have developed in real life and online. People trust their neighbors when they take the time to write a review on Yelp, Facebook or Google. We would like to share with other business owners what we have learned over the years and how important our customers and their feedback are to us.
Online reviews of small businesses have changed the way your customers are discovering services and making purchasing decisions. If your company is who your customers say it is, then these online reviews play a crucial part in giving them that voice. It’s so important to start managing online reviews well and learn how to not only keep them coming in but how to respond to them.
Online reviews often act as short and timely customer testimonials. Reviews can help with search engine rankings and work to establish trust and brand recognition for your company. You need to be managing online reviews for your business so that you can be seen and trusted.
Here are 4 Beginner Steps for Managing Online Reviews
1.Make all Employees Ambassadors
All your employees should be ambassadors for customer reviews! Ask your employees to tell clients to leave a review of their work. Most satisfied customers won’t take the time to post a review unless you specifically ask them to. This not only lets the client know you care about the quality of your work and is willing to have your customer share their opinion publicly, but it creates a connection to your customer. In turn, you will hopefully get more reviews, honest feedback and returning customers.
2. Make the Process Simple
Make it easy by signing up for an online service that automatically emails your customers to request they submit a review. Or simply let your customers know you are on Yelp or remind them that you have profiles on Google and Facebook, where they can leave a review. This simple technique has proven to quickly increase the number of reviews you can generate. These services can link to your customer database so you know the reviews are from your actual clients and customers.
3. Respond to All Reviews, Even the Negative Ones
Create a policy for responding to negative reviews with everyone in your company and designate one person to act as the spokesperson in these situations. When a negative review appears, respond in a timely fashion. Acknowledge their dissatisfaction publicly and describe how you plan to resolve the cause of it and that you will contact them directly. Follow up by directly reaching out to the concerned customer.
Customers will naturally gravitate to businesses that display a human element and interaction.
4. Thank Your Reviewers
Publicly thank anyone who gives you a review. This shows your customers that you appreciate them and are noticing their feedback. This is actually one of the most important steps to getting a customer to return.
As a service oriented company, we at Clean Sweep St. Louis love getting feedback from customers and have found managing online reviews to be very significant for us. We have implemented these four steps at Clean Sweep with our team. We hope what has worked for us will also help you!
About Clean Sweep Services: Clean Sweep continues to lead the way in the field of chimney safety. We are proud of our past and are no strangers to being first and leading the way for the industry and homeowners. We were first in the state to offer internal video chimney inspections, the first to offer European chimney lining and sweeping methods and the first to offer power sweeping of chimney systems. We continue to look for new and innovative products and services to improve and simplify our customer’s lives and make your home and the earth a safer and more efficient place for all.
The modern business owner faces A LOT of noise being projected at them on a daily basis. Cutting through the jargon thrown about in emails, the offers from salespeople to sign you up for products or services that you may or may not need, and simultaneously managing your employees is a time consuming process. What should you be doing? What are you missing out on? There is so much to do and think about that companies tend to overlook the basics to business—the strategies you can implement with ROI and longevity in mind. That’s where we come in!
Real Articles, Real Companies
Our goal is to provide a resource to feature real advice for business professionals and business owners, from real decision makers and key influencers. We hope you’ll find this information useful, and that you can apply the strategies – whether they tie directly to the industry you’re in, or offer insight into a method of thinking that you can use in your own niche to be successful.
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If you are a business owner or entrepreneur and want to provide useful advice or best practices on a certain topic that pertains to business, feel free to get in touch with us – we’d love to hear your story. Send us a contact form submission with your idea, and if we like it, we’ll ask for a full article, and will then work to publish your content for other business owners to see.
-The BasicsToBusiness team