7 minutes reading time (1455 words)
Fear, Branding and Avoiding The Money Pit
If you have experienced the money pit of branding, feel free to forgive yourself now. I give you permission. Yes, you fell for it. Yes, maybe you should not have followed the crowd. And, yes, you know a lot of people who made the same mistake. It is okay. If you haven’t forgiven yourself yet, do it now.I have posted it here before and...
If you have experienced the money pit of branding, feel free to forgive yourself now. I give you permission. Yes, you fell for it. Yes, maybe you should not have followed the crowd. And, yes, you know a lot of people who made the same mistake. It is okay. If you haven’t forgiven yourself yet, do it now.I have posted it here before and my...If you have experienced the money pit of branding, feel free to forgive yourself now. I give you permission. Yes, you fell for it. Yes, maybe you should not have followed the crowd. And, yes, you know a lot of people who made the same mistake. It is okay. If you haven’t forgiven yourself yet, do it now.I have posted it here before and my clients hear this frequently. An investment in branding for small business must be modified for small business purposes. If someone tries to do a traditional branding campaign for a small business, you have to wonder what they are thinking. (If you want the long version of why, email me at email@example.com and we can set up a time to talk about it. I am trying to conserve space here to get to new stuff.) The short answer is that brand-building has two massively extensive and expensive elements included: mark (or logo) design and media buys. When done right, you have the kind of campaign that changes Cingular back to AT&T or launches Starbucks. This is agency level stuff pushed through by mass market media buys. Definitions in the media business are really important. I know several competitors that charge for “branding” and deliver identity... at premium prices for small business. There is not a bigger rip-off and there are plenty of eager buyers because everyone else is doing it. There is a HUGE difference, but to the layman, it seems like semantics. So you wonder why you paid so much for some basic slogan, an abstract logo and type design. Small businesses need basic identity design, which is a much less expensive and extensive process. Using an agency-type branding process for a small business is like killing a gnat with a sledge hammer. You can do it, and you can charge for it. But it is way too much tool for the task.Positioning is the brand strategy that Dog Star Media recommends over traditional branding for small businesses. However, positioning is much more subtle in its delivery and it works best with companies that use the Abundance Mentality and have good sales people that can sort information with prospects. If you have those Big Three elements, you are in great shape and will carve out a very comfortable niche without major expenses.Here is how it works. You identify your business and assume a position that is generally understood by the market place. You advertise, market and promote at an appropriate level for your business. Then, ride the wave of prevailing market conditions as it brings prospects to you. Finally, you help prospects that come to you understand why you are different and better. In other words, you go from general messages down to specifics. In both of our main cosmetic markets, there are turf wars underway. Cosmetic surgeons vs. plastic surgeons... cosmetic dentists vs. anyone who offers even the most basic cosmetic services... even whitening. To the market, both turf wars are all but invisible. Sorry to inform you all of this but there are basically two brands... call it what you will but in general we can refer to it as aesthetic surgery and aesthetic dentistry. There is no way that you can spend enough to change that perception in your market, unless you are trying to spend yourself out of business. And, even then, your chances are slim.If the family dentist with take-home whitening kits and the cosmetic dentist who does full mouth reconstructions are part of the same brand, what can you do? Here comes the abundant part: You worry about your business, not what the others are doing. You also do not fight the battle on the most expensive, most general level.Embracing abundance means recognizing that there is enough for everyone. That means, those that do not deserve to call themselves cosmetic dentists (in this example) will get some responses if their marketing is good. Among those prospects let’s say that some are really looking for reconstructive services. You must be abundant and trust that the market can sniff out a mistake. The first call a prospect makes, the first web site a prospect visits, the first referral a prospect might receive all may be mismatches. If you are diligently marketing your practice, you will be part of enough conversations and if you are selling properly, you can guide prospects while they compare. In a comparison, if a prospect in the market for veneers shops a family dentist with whitening kits and a dentist who does reconstructions, it will be clear that the former is not a match. And, that prospect may need to live through the mistake of whitening before they realize that a more highly trained dentist is needed for what they want out of cosmetic improvement.Sound easy, right? So, why do so few people practice marketing and sales with this sort of faith in establishing their position and defending it? Fear. There is such fear that a prospect will go to a competitor first that most small business owners feel like they must do what they have to do to fight the battle on the biggest, broadest level. That is the brand level and this explains the focus on brand. Sure, we would all like to be first. An old advertising axiom says “There is First and Everybody Else.” But the fact is that you cannot always be first. You will get a lot of prospects who are on the rebound.Do not fear that you will not compare favorably. Do not fear that the uneducated market will make a bad, mismatched purchase. Do not fear that, if you are not first, that you will not be part of the conversation. You must not generalize about prospects. They do not suddenly appear one day, looking for services. They are on a journey, too. They may have made wasteful and expensive mistakes first. You may be their third or fourth try. How many people come to you for cosmetic work after having seen another dentist or doctor first only to have an unsatisfying experience? Those unsatisfying experiences have to come from somewhere. Ironically, you are probably considering those failed attempts with other doctors as losses for your business attributed to your failed branding campaign. Funny how nobody mentioned the rebounders in your branding conversation. Right?These many prospects are well past the brand stage. So, why are you sinking all that money into brand building? All that is needed in 90% of these cases is a call to action that resonates with what they already know. You know this... you have met them. And, you can look that up, this is the definition of positioning as a branding strategy.If you don’t fear these things, you will feel much more empowered to put your marketing dollars into active, engaging, measurable, sales-oriented marketing tools and behaviors. The alternatives are to do nothing or to sink it all into establishing a brand on a level in which you cannot afford to do it.The worst part of this is, that some of us know better. I must say, many of our competitors do not and they are doing what they learned at previous jobs, in class or from books. They do not know better and this is why I started this blog for you. For those who do know better, the best way for them to sell is with peer pressure and fear. This is a subjective business and it is difficult to know what to do unless you have a trusted expert guiding you. If you come here to read and learn, here is a tip that can help you avoid the money pit of branding. Is the person selling you on branding selling with peer pressure or fear tactics? If they are, there is your red flag. With that identified, and knowing what you now know, what is your gut telling you?