Trial, error and overwhelm.
As a small business owner or entrepreneur, you probably know all too well that particular flavor of branding. And the fried brain and flailing it leads to. Oy!
What you may not know? The answers to many of the questions you have on exactly what you should be doing (or not) and when. The kind of info that would help you bring in and close the sales you’re chasing. Not to mention give you confidence that you’re doing it ‘right.’
Which is why I’m lifting the lid on everything you wanted to know about branding but were too afraid to ask. Because lonely as it may feel, plenty of folks struggle with the same issues you do. (We know. They’ve told my team and me.)
So we’ve rounded up some of the biggest and niggliest questions, and are sharing our lens on what we know about being in the trenches—along with gems from other industry experts on all this. (And because the treasure trove of branding is a deep one, this post will be a two-parter. So stay tuned for more in a couple of weeks’ time.)
1. Is it okay to have a made-up name for my company?
The short answer? For sure.
Even if your business name is a random mash-up of your name, your partner’s, the street your shop’s on and doesn’t mean anything, it can still fly. (And well.)
But how well depends on how successful your business is. If you become the go-to company in your industry, then your business name becomes a brand name. It becomes synonymous with what you do and the genius with which you do it. Think: IKEA, Kinko’s and Haagen-Dazs. They’ve cracked this very challenge.
If anything, a made-up name makes you memorable. But the real question is: How are you building your business and brand? Not what you’re calling it.
2. What’s the difference between branding a B2B business and a B2C one?
The differences are many. But who you’re talking to is one of the most important.
As a B2C brand, your buyer is a single person, motivated by their individual characteristics and personal preferences. You want to think about how what you offer serves those and play up the benefits in your positioning.
Businesses on the other hand, sometimes have whole teams involved in making a call. Here, you’re speaking to lots of stakeholders, divisions, channels and countries. They’re considering the big picture, long-term strategy, competitive marketplace and company culture. Your brand needs to speak to all this. Not personal idiosyncrasies.
Just as important, though? What B2B and B2C brands have in common. And that’s the need for emotional appeal.
Research tells us people make purchasing decisions based on how a brand makes them feel—rather than logic. Which doesn’t sound logical at all, right? And especially businesses, which you might think would be focused purely on the facts and numbers when weighing up whether to work with you or not.
3. I get the value of investing in our brand but my business partner/boss/decision-maker isn’t convinced. How do I help her understand and back this?
You need a business case. Demonstrating how your brand can take your company from A to B and beyond comes down to showing the return you’ll get on your investment.
Think in terms of a brand’s influence on business initiatives and the bottom line. Like how it helps you attract more of the right clients. Grab greater market share. Boost margins and sales.
Then focus on which of these reflect your goals for your business—and use stats as back-up. (For example, this McKinsey study reports that companies with powerful B2B brands have higher-than-average EBITDA. That’s one of the ultimate indicators of skyrocketing financial success.)
Or, follow the advice of one of the smartest sales strategists I know, who’s led biz development for some of the world’s biggest agencies and position the investment in your brand along the lines of the cost savings you’ll be getting.
Not the money you’ll be spending.
This means looking at where you’re paying similar amounts in your business for the same outcomes. Are you splashing out on big events that translate into a mere trickle of leads? Or a flashy website that’s failing to convert? If after focusing on your brand you know you’re nailing initiatives that get real results—that’s progress.
In the end, brand’s greatest ROI isn’t page views, click-throughs or likes. (Though these all have their place.) It’s relationships.
4. How do I differentiate myself when the market already seems flooded with similar brands? Or should I even bother?
Be bothered. The market’s noisy and if you don’t make the effort to differentiate yourself, your customer’s not going to do it for you. (They’ll simply run with another brand that’s clear about who they are and what they bring that’s special.)
I get it. These are hard yards. However, The Lonely Entrepreneur has enlightening stuff to say here: Play where others aren’t.
Target under-served, super-specific pockets of the market where other businesses like yours aren’t doing a great job—and you can.
In this way, you have a ready-made audience who will eat up what you’re offering if it’s niche. Maybe you know life coaches for women entrepreneurs who need your financial advice, for example. Or lawyers with sucky sites who can’t get by without your web design. (The Lonely Entrepreneur has plenty more to say on this and is well worth checking out.)
As a small business, you can still scale and win within a micro market. And it’s often far easier than competing against big companies for the same clients.
If you’ve got more questions than answers about branding, join me for my workshop at the Million Dollar Women Summit in NYC on March 24th. We’ll dig into what makes your business dynamite and how to define it. Hop over here for more details and to apply.