BUILDING A MONUMENTAL BRAND

When you are trying to build a brand, sometimes it’s important to do something BIG. Whether building a personal brand or corporate brand, “go big or go home” is wise counsel. In order to make a big impression, you need to think BIG!

 

st-louis-996718_1920

This strategy can work in many different types of branding. St. Louis used this tactic to increase its economy and raise its stature as a destination—in short, to improve its brand. One man had an idea that building a national monument could reinvigorate downtown St. Louis and worked to convince civic and government leaders that the idea had merit. The concept snowballed and eventually resulted in the architect Saarinen’s modern-day architectural wonder known as the St. Louis Arch.

When you go to visit the Arch, you should take the time to see the movie about the making of the Arch. It is truly an amazing feat of architectural engineering, designed down to the inch with no room for error. But it’s also a lesson in branding for the city of St. Louis—by doing something really BIG.

Doing something big can be scary; it takes courage and a sense of the bigger picture. I’ve had clients start out with big ideas that then get watered down or whittled down by budgets to something small. Don’t let this happen to you! Fight for the big thing and do everything you can to make it happen!

In the hit movie Hitch, “the date doctor” gave advice to the main character, Albert, to do something big to get the attention of the woman he desires. “Shock and awe,” he called it. Albert takes it to extreme and quits his job to get noticed. In a moment of fear, cowardice and hilarity, the tactic works. It’s a good example of building a brand in a big way.

Now, I’m not saying you should quit your job or build a monument, but the concept is relevant to many branding situations. My high school-aged son and I were talking about how to get into a prestigious university. Usually there are loads of kids who apply to these schools with 4.0 GPAs and impressive resumes full of awards, achievements and a long list of extracurricular activities. The question is, “How do you stand out?” If everyone is super-smart and talented, how do you make the admissions office take notice? The answer is, “Go Big!” Shock and awe can work in personal branding for college applications just as much as for getting the girl or building an economy.

I’ve seen personally the long-lasting impact a big branding statement can make. When you go big, you aren’t just building a short-term impression. You’re trying to build something that will last in the hearts and minds of your target audience forever! When I was at LEGO, we hosted a 20-city tour of an interactive event that allowed kids and parents to experience the fun of LEGO play. It built the brand long-term, in a very big, very personal way. Right now, I’m working with one of my clients on a BIG program to help people understand who they are and what they are all about—to make a big statement. This program will be something to be remembered for years to come!

So what are you doing to build your brand? Whether you’re a classic packaged goods brand, a college intern or a municipality, find a way to go BIG. Have the courage to make a bold statement, to be noticed, to make a lasting impression! You’ll be glad you did!

BUSINESS CARDS THAT WORK

Written by Rahna Barthelmess for Southworth Blog

It’s just a little bit of paper… just two inches high by three inches wide, just an unassuming piece of paper with a name and a phone number on it….so why is it so important?

Because it’s your business card! Oftentimes, it is one of the first impressions that is made about you and/or your company, and you will want it to be a good one!

Business cards come in many shapes and sizes, printed out on perforated paper at home or professionally designed and printed. Although I wouldn’t recommend doing this, you can even get them printed free, as long as you are willing to carry advertising for the printer on the back side of the card!

Just as letterhead printed on premium business papers will say something about your company, your business card can serve as a strong brand indicator. Take some time to make sure it says something about YOU or YOUR COMPANY.

When you are designing your business card, there are MANY decisions to be made. What size is it going to be? Is it one-color or four? Printed on one side or two? What type of paper do you want to use—thick or thin? White or ecru? Speckled or plain? 100% cotton paper or some other material? Raised type or embossed or plain ink? Oversized or standard? Vertical or horizontal?

Your business card has the opportunity to be a little mini marketing piece. It may start out with a logo, name and number, but should go so much farther! I’ve seen business cards as a “book,” business cards with questions, business cards with QR codes or urls for higher engagement. When I was a Senior Brand Manager at LEGO, my business cards had a variety of mini figures on the back. You never knew which one someone was going to get when you handed over the card. That idea conveyed the fun, creativity and never-ending possibilities that epitomize what LEGO is all about (and by extension, the people that support that brand. When I was the Brand Manager for Miracle-Gro, my business card was shaped like the iconic yellow and green box of plant food. This made such a strong branding statement to all of my current and future business partners.

Christine Kalafus, entrepreneur and owner of Stitch Drapery , labored long and hard on the development of her business card. Because she designs and installs custom window treatments, it was critical to convey the premium nature of the brand experience she was providing to her clients. She chose square rich, thick paper and specified embossed inks to properly convey her brand. When she hands out her square business card, it’s a completely tactile experience that subtly begins to let her potential customers know what a rich and lovely experience they will have by working with her.

So what does your brand stand for and how can that be expressed through your business card? Take the time to review your brand characteristics and figure out what impression or action you want to create when someone is holding it in their hands. It could be that you want to elicit a smile or make them pick up the phone to call you. Then figure out how that gets expressed graphically and visually.

Then, the next time you are exchanging business cards with someone, the experience will be elevated so far beyond the mundane passing of cookie-cutter cards. You’ll spark rich conversations, convey something about your brand, and feel great about this mini-brochure that makes a strong brand statement for you and your company.

 

WANT TO CREATE A LEADERSHIP BRAND?

Written by Rahna Barthelmess originally for Southworth Blog

That’s what all marketers strive for…but how do you achieve such a status?By focusing on those elements that will really make a difference.The following are key ingredients that leadership brands have:

Vision:

Leadership brands see the future before everyone else; they know where they want to go. That doesn’t mean that they don’t build off of what already exists. It just means that they look to innovate, to push the limits, to go where no one has gone before. Do you have a vision for your brand? What do you want it to be? It’s a lot easier to map out a path to reach your destination when you know where you want to go. Even if you don’t know exactly how you’re going to get there, set some goals for what you’d like your brand to be, then share that vision with others in your department or company. Others will build off of your ideas, adding their own and making that vision richer, clearer, more real.

Having vision means having goals, purposefully setting out to achieve something, and then putting a plan in place to reach that goal. Steve Jobs was a master at setting outrageous goals for his teams to achieve. Where he wanted to grow did not exist at the time, but he put forth a vision and inspired, cajoled, and wrangled his teams to help reach new heights and innovate repeatedly. Do you know your objectives? Do others on your team share those goals? Inspire your team to create something bigger than what you have now and your brand will grow.

Uniqueness:

While we all must conduct our business to certain industry standards, everyone who competes in your category is slightly different. Being unique is more than just offering different features of your product or service; it’s an attitude. Do you have a one-of-a-kind mentality? Leadership brands do. They are confident that they provide an experience unattainable in any other way. LEGO fans can wax eloquent about why LEGO bricks are different than any other competitor products, and those who wear Asics running shoes can tell you exactly why they bought those shoes over the 47 other brands lining the walls of the shoe store. To build your leadership brand, look for ways to be unique, to deliver for your customers in ways not currently available from any of your competitors.

Best-of-the-Best Mindset:

Quality drives leadership brands to do what they do. Think “supreme” “premiere” “the best” in everything you do, from the specifications of your product or service delivery to the way you communicate your offering to the manner in which you process invoices. What can you bring to the marketplace in a world-class way?

Don’t be daunted by this concept. Best-of-the-Best Mindset is not just reserved for the Gucci’s of the world. Wal*Mart has a best-of-the-best mindset in inventory management, and that allows them to provide shoppers with the best pricing on the everyday essentials of life.

Quality should be infused into everything you do. I know a sales executive who printed copies of a sales presentation on regular copy paper and was told by his CEO never to do that again. “That is not the kind of impression we want to leave,” he explained. That’s having a best-of-the-best mindset. If you are making a presentation and need to make a good impression, check out Southworth’s premium papers for all your business needs.

If you want to build your brand into a strong leadership position, be unique, share your vision, and have a best-of-the-best mindset in everything you do. Your customers will rave about you, your competitors will scramble to copy you and your brand will become a leader in your field.

IS BEING AN @#%HOLE PART OF YOUR PERSONAL BRAND?

415V7guyPoL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_I recently read a book by Robert Sutton, Ph.D. and simply had to write about it. I apologize for the crude reference, but I do try to be accurate. This is the exact title of the book: The No Asshole Rule. The book describes the business impact of working with assholes. (By the way, the Dr. Sutton feels that “jerk,” “creep,” “bully,” or a whole host of other adjectives are not nearly as effective a descriptor as “asshole” for the type of person he is referring to). There is no other word that can quite pinpoint this person, so throughout this blog I will use his word; my apologies to anyone who may be offended.

The author, a Stanford professor, contends that assholes are toxic to your company and no matter how brilliant they may be, they should not be tolerated in your company. He defines them as individuals who belittle, berate, intimidate and otherwise demean other employees, particularly those in less powerful positions than their own. The negative impact of such individuals is far-reaching, as they:

  • lower morale
  • squelch innovation and creativity
  • inhibit cooperation and teamwork
  • discourage risk-taking
  • decrease productivity
  • complicate hiring process, as the best and brightest will not tolerate such behavior

One company calculated that the cost of one of their top performers, who was also highly offensive, at $160,000. That’s a pretty high price.

Furthermore, Dr. Sutton contends that if you work with these types of people, you have a much higher likelihood to act like one yourself. I have found what he says to be true. At one point, I worked in a very demanding corporate environment with several prime examples of what the author described. Once there was a time when my boss took a hard line on a mistake that she believed was made by the agency. I felt I had to carry this line in my discussions with them, and I found myself firing off an accusatory email demanding restitution. But even before it was discovered that we were at fault, I felt horrible for taking such a line. In the end, I apologized profusely, but I believe the damage to our relationship had already been done.

After that, I took immediate steps to disengage myself from that leadership style.

There is a useful chapter on how to survive working with these types of individuals. The advice is to take protective measures to emotionally detache yourself from your work (very hard to do if you’re passionate about your work). Interestingly, the author does not believe you can thrive, only that you can survive interactions with such people.

As a Personal Branding strategist, I found this book to be highly instructive. When I talk with executives in any field, ultimately the questions are “what is your leadership brand?” or “what kind of leader do you want to be?” How you express your brand is a part of your brand.

The author talks about the upside of assholes, and yes, there is an upside. As my amusing (if somewhat crass) brother-in-law points out, “@#%holes make s#@% happen!” Unfortunately, leading by fear and intimidation can be highly productive, as employees will scramble to get answers, to get work done, to perform, simply so that they won’t be yelled that or berated or demeaned anymore. Apparently, the recently deceased Steve Jobs was one of the most famous assholes in the business world. Certainly he was able to lead his teams at Apple to incredible achievements…but at what price?

From a leadership branding standpoint, every leader needs to decide if this is a style you’d like to take on. Do you like the feel of power that comes from showing yourself smarter, faster, better than others in your world? In the short-term, you may be able to successfully lead a team to Apple-sized greatness by being an asshole. But is it worth it? Does the end justify the means?

It wasn’t for me.

If there is anyone whom I have treated like an asshole, I humbly apologize. I certainly do not want that to be part of my personal brand.

If you are a leader working on development of your personal brand, I highly recommend this book. It will help you examine your behavior and ensure that you are not treating others in such a negative way.

KEEPING TOP-OF-MIND WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS

Written by Rahna Barthelmess originally for Southworth Blog

No matter what business you are in, you need to purposefully, thoughtfully and carefully plan out ways to stay top-of-mind with your customer base. If you sell consumer packaged goods, you are likely to use television advertising to let people know about your great product. If you are a retailer, you might use radio or newspaper to remind people to come to your store. But if you are a small business owner, how do you choose the right media for your business?

Knowing your customers’ behaviors will help you choose the right media.

What do they do? How do they spend their day? What does a day in the life of your customer look like?

What TV shows do they watch and when do they watch them? Do they read books, newspapers, magazines, blogs? Do they spend time online? Where? Are they involved in online communities like Facebook or MySpace? Which email service do they use? Which search engine? Are they a part of a group, i.e., a book club, association, woman’s group, church, charitable organization, country club? Do they listen to the radio? Podcasts? Are they creating content for YouTube? With respect to your industry, what do they buy or use or create right now?

Understanding where they live and what they do on a day-to-day basis will help you in choosing the right media.

The key to marketing is to speak to the right person at the right time with the right message…simple, but not easy. Ideally, you would only need to advertise right when you know your customers are looking for what you have to offer. If you sell pumpkins for Halloween or Easter baskets in the spring, your timeframes for staying top-of-mind are much more targeted. But for most small businesses, you need to be out there talking about what you have to offer consistently, because you never know when someone is going to need your services.

That’s why I recommend developing different tactics for your marketing plan. You will want to mix it up a bit, using many different media to keep in touch with your customers. If you are a small business that sells business-to-business, it may be as simple as writing an email, then following up with a phone call, then sending them a letter, then commenting on something they said in social media (perhaps a comment on their blog or a re-tweet of their twitter posting) You can meet them at a trade show, send them a direct mail piece, schedule a meeting with them, then send another email, and then another letter. As you vary the approach, you will learn which forms of communication work best (or you will learn which to avoid in future!). It may be that the variety itself is what draws them in. You keep their interest by your variety of communication.

In all these communications, your goal should be to build engagement in a way that matches your brand statement. If you send an email, make sure that it is clear and concise and free of typos. If you make a phone call, be animated, respectful of their time, and have something important to say. If you send them a letter, you’ll want to make sure it is a personalized note on high-quality stationery that speaks to their critical business issues.

Make sure that your communications are relevant to them and speak to them about topics that matter to them. If you end up talking about your products/services, make sure to do it in a way that highlights how it helps them. Highlight blogs or articles you think might be of interest to them. This shows that you care about them and their business (and that you can become a trusted partner because you understand their world).

In today’s world, there is no excuse for not reaching out to your customers on a regular basis. Whether it’s an old-school tactic that always brings results, or a new digital technology that allows you to track your customer’s initial evaluation of your website, or a sophisticated affiliate marketing program, there are a myriad of ways to communicate. Which ones work best for you and why?

 

KEEPING TOP-OF-MIND WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS

Written by Rahna Barthelmess originally for Southworth Blog

No matter what business you are in, you need to purposefully, thoughtfully and carefully plan out ways to stay top-of-mind with your customer base. If you sell consumer packaged goods, you are likely to use television advertising to let people know about your great product. If you are a retailer, you might use radio or newspaper to remind people to come to your store. But if you are a small business owner, how do you choose the right media for your business?

Knowing your customers’ behaviors will help you choose the right media.

What do they do? How do they spend their day? What does a day in the life of your customer look like?

What TV shows do they watch and when do they watch them? Do they read books, newspapers, magazines, blogs? Do they spend time online? Where? Are they involved in online communities like Facebook or MySpace? Which email service do they use? Which search engine? Are they a part of a group, i.e., a book club, association, woman’s group, church, charitable organization, country club? Do they listen to the radio? Podcasts? Are they creating content for YouTube? With respect to your industry, what do they buy or use or create right now?

Understanding where they live and what they do on a day-to-day basis will help you in choosing the right media.

The key to marketing is to speak to the right person at the right time with the right message…simple, but not easy. Ideally, you would only need to advertise right when you know your customers are looking for what you have to offer. If you sell pumpkins for Halloween or Easter baskets in the spring, your timeframes for staying top-of-mind are much more targeted. But for most small businesses, you need to be out there talking about what you have to offer consistently, because you never know when someone is going to need your services.

That’s why I recommend developing different tactics for your marketing plan. You will want to mix it up a bit, using many different media to keep in touch with your customers. If you are a small business that sells business-to-business, it may be as simple as writing an email, then following up with a phone call, then sending them a letter, then commenting on something they said in social media (perhaps a comment on their blog or a re-tweet of their twitter posting) You can meet them at a trade show, send them a direct mail piece, schedule a meeting with them, then send another email, and then another letter. As you vary the approach, you will learn which forms of communication work best (or you will learn which to avoid in future!). It may be that the variety itself is what draws them in. You keep their interest by your variety of communication.

In all these communications, your goal should be to build engagement in a way that matches your brand statement. If you send an email, make sure that it is clear and concise and free of typos. If you make a phone call, be animated, respectful of their time, and have something important to say. If you send them a letter, you’ll want to make sure it is a personalized note on high-quality stationery that speaks to their critical business issues.

Make sure that your communications are relevant to them and speak to them about topics that matter to them. If you end up talking about your products/services, make sure to do it in a way that highlights how it helps them. Highlight blogs or articles you think might be of interest to them. This shows that you care about them and their business (and that you can become a trusted partner because you understand their world).

In today’s world, there is no excuse for not reaching out to your customers on a regular basis. Whether it’s an old-school tactic that always brings results, or a new digital technology that allows you to track your customer’s initial evaluation of your website, or a sophisticated affiliate marketing program, there are a myriad of ways to communicate. Which ones work best for you and why?

PROFESSIONALISM

Written by Rahna Barthelmess for Southworth Blog

It is important to present yourself and your company in a very professional manner. You are trying to communicate to your clients and customers that you have something compelling to offer—something that solves a problem they have or meets a need in a truly unique way. So you will want to be professional in the way that you deliver your message to your target audience.

Professionalism is conveyed in many different ways, both “internally” and “externally.” You should take some time to think about both.

Internal professionalism communicates to your customers that you have the knowledge, expertise or background to deliver for them. Think about what skills your customer would expect you to be strong in, and then find ways to subtly convey that professionalism to them. Are there educational milestones or certifications that would be meaningful to your clients? Have you or your company won any awards that would impress them? Put these on your company letterhead or include them in your proposals.

EDUCATIONAL SEMINARS COMING UP!

auditorium-572776__340I have several speaking engagements over the next ten days and would love to see you there.

Turbo-Charge Your Brand at the CT Expo
June 9th 11:30 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.

The Connecticut Expo is HUGE, a tremendous learning and networking opportunity for you and your whole team to learn new skills, meet other businesses, grow your business and prosper in the coming year! The 2011 CT Business Expo will offer free educational seminars hosted by industry elite speakers and trainers in sales, marketing, technology and management. All of the educational seminars will be held in custom built classrooms on the show floor – providing convenience for attendees and maximum foot traffic for exhibitors. Admission is free and the duration of each seminar is 45 minutes.

Branding Your Business Without Breaking the Bank,
Business and Entrepreneurs Workshop sponsored by CTREIA
June 13th, 6:30 pm-9 pm

Make 2011 YOUR year to create business success. Whether you are just starting a business, or have been an entrepreneur for years, you will get tons of value from attending this event. Bring your business cards, and your associates – there will be ample time for networking and for getting the stuff-behind-the-stuff to be successful in business in TODAY’s Economy. We’ll talk about leading edge marketing activities that can take your business to the next level of profitability

Be sure to register in advance online for this one to get a huge discount (in advance, $24, at the door, $49).

Turbo-Charge Your Communications at the ALPFA meeting June 16th
At the ING offices in Windsor, CT 5:30 pm – 7 pm

ALPFA is the leading national association to develop Latino executives and students in the areas of business, finance, accounting and related fields. We will be talking about how to communicate more clearly, to enhance your personal brand standing and turbo-charge your career.

I hope to see you at one (or more) of these events!

THE DISCIPLINE OF BRAND POSITIONING

crosshair-1345868__340The process of branding is of the head AND the heart, both a “left-brained” and “right-brained” activity. In your branding efforts, you should listen to what your consumers (and potential consumers) have to say about your brand and your category. Discover their hopes, their dreams, and their fears as it relates to your brand and your offering. This is usually a right-brained (heart) activity.

But there is also a discipline to developing a brand. When I was a Brand Manager at Miracle-Gro, I had the extreme good fortune to have been taught by Richard D. Czerniawski and Michael W. Maloney, co-authors of the book Creating Brand Loyalty: The Management of Power Positioning and Really Great Advertising and Competitive Positioning: Best Practices For Creating Brand Loyalty. They teach the process of brand positioning, the discipline of carving out a brand’s unique place in a consumer’s world. They put forth a framework for developing the brand positioning statement that I have followed throughout my entire career. While every brand is unique and the thought process I use has evolved over the years, the basic structure is so simple and so sound that I still use it to great effect today. If you can articulate a brand’s positioning statement within this context, you understand your brand. And if you understand your brand, you can communicate it more clearly.

The basic framework is this:

To (target audience), (my brand) is the brand of (competitive arena) that provides (key benefits) because (reason to believe).

Simple, right? Sure!

But usually simple is hard. Each of these parenthetical areas needs to be thoroughly researched and understood in order to get to the heart of a brand’s positioning. It works for product branding, corporate branding and personal branding. No matter what type of brand you are managing, think about your own brand within this context; what does your positioning statement look like?

If you’d like help, give us a call!

THE IMPORTANCE OF “TOP OF MIND”

head-1965676__340For many of my clients, keeping it simple and going back to the basics is really what they need. Despite all the changes in media outlets from YouTube to Twitter, email marketing to mobile QR campaigns, the principles of solid branding and marketing remain unchanged. Clarity of message, consistency across multiple media outlets, relevant consumer connections, and a strong call to action are still the main ingredients to a solid presentation of a brand.

One aspect of consistency that needs to be harnessed is the concept of remaining “top of mind.” Many clients I talk with have great ideas for ways to communicate all the wonderful benefits of using their products or services. They create a slick brochure, have a great website or a compelling ad that they run once on the radio….and then they wonder why the phone is not ringing. They are forgetting about being top of mind.

Consumers buy things on THEIR time, not yours, which means that you need to be at the forefront of their minds when they are thinking about acting in your category. That’s why TV commercials air more than once, or why you end up getting eight pieces of direct mail correspondence about the same cable upgrade. These advertisers know that they simply need to remind you of their existence (and their benefits) so that when you are ready to upgrade your cable service, they are top of mind.

How can you be top of mind? The key is to find ways to continually interact with your target audience in ways that are highly relevant to them. Send them a card on their birthday like Toys R Us does for millions of kids nationwide. Send them a newsletter full of interesting information that really helps them in their work. Figure out which blogs they read, or which publications they read and write an article or guest blog for that publication. As a matter of fact, you need to think about how you can have multiple touchpoints with your target audience in many different ways in order to keep it fresh.

If you brainstorm ways to interact with your target audience on a regular basis, you will be well on your way to a great marketing plan that will keep you top of mind (and keep your sales going strong)! Give us a call if you’d like some help strengthening your brand presentation. We’d be happy to help!