Brand building vs. random tactics

Somedays, I feel like a salmon fighting my way upstream. No matter how many books are written, no matter how many posts Seth Godin writes, no matter how many times our own lives are touched by organizations doing it right…people still want to think brand is the same thing as a logo or advertising. They still ask me as a consultant or others like me, “Just tell me what marketing programs I should do to help me get more sales.”

I’m working on my book, Brand Basics for Small Business, and I’m trying to define brand and give smaller organizations a tool to craft their brand strategy so that they can then figure out where their audience is and what is the best way to reach them with the right brand message. The book is not about, “Do this and you’ll increase sales” because I can’t possibly know that for each reader and every company is different. But a reviewer suggested I sprinkle pithy tactical tips that don’t apply to all businesses. Sponsoring a county fair might work for a small local cupcake business, let’s say, but not for a small start-up tech company selling software to other businesses. We need to get rid of the stereotype that all small businesses are local and charming. Tech start-ups, consultancies, financial planners, manufacturers of ball bearings  – these can all be small businesses as well.  Small does not necessarily equate to “Main Street.” It just means they have way less employees, take in way less revenue and have way  less budget and resources than “enterprise” companies like Apple, Walmart, or GE

Anyone that tells you a blanket statement like, “All small businesses need to do (insert tactic) to be successful” is just lying to you. Your business has to figure out it’s own brand, mission, purpose, desired image and ideal audience first before you can figure out which tactics to pursue. I’ve talked about this before, but it seems the fallacy still lives. Too many of you are performing “random acts of marketing” and just praying something sticks as you throw money away, or you’re taking the advice of someone who gave that same advice to 6 other businesses that are completely different from yours. Strategy before tactics. Always. Don’t just sponsor a booth or start a Twitter account because someone told you to, or some other company did it. First, craft your brand strategy and make sure it makes sense for your goals and your audience.

Brand can be your guide. But you have to draw the map before you can start following any directions.

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