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Do you have a BRAND that WoWs?
Posted By Victoria WoW March 3rd, 2014
Take a look at these logos. You probably recognize most, if not all, of them. It is likely that you have consumed at least one of their products or services. There is a strong possibility that you may have an opinion - good, bad, or indifferent - about one or more of these companies, based on your experience with their product or service. Simply by looking at these logos, you have an expectation of the kind of experience you believe you will have with that company.
This is the power of BRANDING.
So how does your business measure up? Do you have a BRAND that WoWs?
Many Members of Victoria Women of Weddings are local, independently-owned businesses. Many of us started our businesses because we had a passion for doing what we do, and took the brave leap to make a living doing what we love. We don't necessarily fall back on education or experience in marketing, strategic business planning, customer service, etc. (for those of us who do, we take off our hats to you!). For many of us, this aspect of running our businesses can be overwhelming, not to mention expensive.
One of reasons that many of us have joined WoW is because we don't have a limitless marketing budget like the brands above might have. Instead, we rely on word-of-mouth referrals from our current clients, as well as from other WoW Members. However, in order to give them something (good!) to talk about, each of us must create a BRAND that invites loyalty, advocacy, and trust. This is something you MUST be responsible for
What is branding anyway? How does it differ from marketing? For those of us who don't specialize in this aspect of our businesses, marketing and branding can often get lumped together and the words get used interchangeably. Here is an explanation of the difference between marketing and branding, as described by James Heaton of Tronvig Group in Brooklyn, New York:
There is a spectrum of opinions here, but in my view, marketing is actively promoting a product or service. It’s a push tactic. It’s pushing out a message to get sales results: “Buy our product because it’s better than theirs.” (Or because it’s cool, or because this celebrity likes it, or because you have this problem and this thing will fix it, etc.) This is oversimplification, but that’s it in a nutshell.
This is not branding.
Branding should both precede and underlie any marketing effort. Branding is not push, but pull. Branding is the expression of the essential truth or value of an organization, product, or service. It is communication of characteristics, values, and attributes that clarify what this particular brand is and is not.
A brand will help encourage someone to buy a product, and it directly supports whatever sales or marketing activities are in play, but the brand does not explicitly say “buy me.” Instead, it says “This is what I am. This is why I exist. If you agree, if you like me, you can buy me, support me, and recommend me to your friends.”
WoW asked local branding expert Deb Alcadinho to give us her insight on the power of branding. Deb is a networking strategist, business builder, and founder of Westshore Women's Business Network; she also has years of experience as an advertising professional. You may remember Deb from last October's WoW Event, at which Deb shared her expertise on making the most of networking and making a great first impression.
We asked Deb a few questions on how businesses of all sizes can make the best use of branding. Here is what she said
WoW: Why is brand recognition so important?
DA: First of all, one thing to keep in mind is that branding is more than just your logo. Your branding is what you want people to remember about your business, why they chose you, why they will recommend you. Your branding encompasses many elements: your identity, your image, your message, the experience you create, the personality you present, the relationships you create with your customers. Your branding is what makes you different from your competitors. Knowing your brand identity drives all your marketing and communications. Knowing your brand identity allows you to pinpoint your ideal customers, and attract more of them to your business.
WoW: How can smaller businesses benefit from brand recognition?
DA: Smaller businesses have to work a little harder to build their brand recognition, especially if your budget is limited. But you can still build brand presence on a local, scaled-down platform. You should think of your branding as your business' values, vision, personality, and promise to your customers. Everything you put out - advertising, promotions, social media, your website - should reflect these elements. This is about creating consistency so that your customers can identify with you.
When you create a strong, recognizable brand presence:
- You can influence choice
- You create loyalty and encourage your network and customers to recommend you
- You can command a price premium for your product and services
- You stand out from the competition.
- You can expand your business
- You create a solid framework to integrate all the ways you present your business
WoW: If businesses don’t have a large budget for advertising, what are some ways that they can generate additional visibility for their brand?
DA: There are many ways you can establish and maintain your brand even with a limited budget. It is crucial that you be personal and authentic in all your communication.
- Leverage your network - refer them and they are more likely to refer you in return; find a way to collaborate with members of your network and even your competition. Partner with a charitable organization.
- Use your website to establish yourself as an expert in your field: offer tips and useful information in your newsletters and blog; show lots of photos and videos; pay attention to your Google rankings (hire an expert to help you maximize your search engine optimization)
- Create opportunities to stay in contact and stay engaged with your customers: capture their information for your newsletter; engage with them on social media; offer prizes or create a contest to create buzz.
WoW: What local resources are available to smaller businesses to increase the profile of their brand?
DA: Victoria has a wealth of creative and technical experts who can help you establish your brand. Of course, hiring experts will cost you up front, but think of it is an investment that will help you grow over time. Consider collaborating with social media specialists, website developers, content and copy writers, personal branding specialists, graphic designers. The important thing is to support your local experts. It may be tempting to hire "off-shore" because their rates seem dirt cheap, but you will get what you pay for. Also, hiring from your local community increases the chances that they will refer you. They become part of your network, after all.
WoW: What is the advantage of associating with an "umbrella" brand like Women of Weddings?
DA: Linking your business to an established brand, like WoW, can have enormous benefits for your business. Your potential customers can assume that your business has already been vetted. By seeing that you associate with an established organization like WoW, they can assume that your business is respected, responsible, and trustworthy. Displaying your affiliation to larger brand can influence purchasing decisions, and it can create an opportunity to take advantage of price premiums.
*Photo by Elite WoW Member, Deanna McCollum Photography
Deb Alcadinho will elaborate more on building your brand at Victoria Women of Wedding's March event, which takes place on March 11th and the world-famous Butchart Gardens (talk about an established brand!). If you are in the business of building your business (who isn't?) and want to know more about how to create a brand that WoWs, don't miss out on this informative session offered with limited capacity for WoW Members and Guests. Not a member yet?