Imagine you're walking along one day in a park. You look down and see an envelope, which you pick up. It's fine quality paper, with an embossed company logo on the back and full postage on the front. Impressive.

To your surprise, however, the envelope has nothing written on the front - no recipient's name, no address. And you can tell, on closer inspection, that it also has no contents.

This envelope, I'm sorry to say, is like most small business marketing. All the investment is spent on the vehicle or marketing strategy, represented here by a nice, stamped envelope. This is like purchasing advertising, web sites, brochures, Chamber memberships and trade show booths.

But, what's missing is a target market (address) and a message (letter inside the envelope). Who should get this envelope? What do you want them to know?

In marketing terms, this missing piece is a differentiated brand message stating who your product or services are for, and why they need to purchase from you as opposed to the alternatives. Without a brand message, you may as well toss your money out the window, because your marketing strategy is doing nothing for you.

Not having a brand is like sending out sealed, stamped
envelopes without addresses or anything inside.

This is why so many small business owners find marketing expensive, difficult, and a waste of time. If they went back and did Step #1, things wouldn't be this way.

Marketing Strategy #1: Identify Your Brand Value

A brand is the unique identity of a business. It's not just what we communicate; it includes all the impressions and beliefs your target audiences have about who you are and what value you bring them.

Well-branded businesses attract the attention of their intended audience with clear, compelling, authentic messages. This can actually shorten the sales cycle, because prospects more quickly understand why they should do business with you. They also appreciate your value, so you can charge premium prices and expect both repeat business and referrals.
No Brand? You're Not Alone.

If your client attraction marketing strategies aren't working, you're not alone. Recent polls I took of audiences at my seminars consistently showed less than 10% of the business owners felt confident they knew who their ideal clients were and how they were different from their competitors.

Frankly, I was horrified. Over ninety percent of them were wasting money on marketing strategy, sending out sealed, stamped envelopes without addresses or anything inside.

Your Edge In Any Economy: Communicate Your Brand Effectively

Before you waste another dime impeccably implementing strategies that deliver NO message, invest in identifying your brand. Here's exactly what you need to do:

1. Develop a Vision of where your business is going, and the role your brand will play in getting it there. If you can describe what success will look like, it'll be a lot easier to build a road to get there. Include in your Vision description all the ways your business makes money, and what your clients, competitors and marketplace are like.

2. Assess the alternatives to your brand. When people don't choose you, what do they choose? How, why and for whom are you actually the better choice?

3. Define your target market. Exactly who needs what you offer and will most value how it helps them?

4. Isolate your specific point of difference or Unique Selling Proposition. Your differentiation can be the beneficial solution you offer, how you offer it or whom you offer it to. Whatever you choose, it must be clear, compelling, authentic and consistently communicated.

5. Once you've identified your brand differentiators, form a value statement of whom you're for and why. For example: "ABC Tutoring works with high school students [target market] who stress out when taking tests [problem or need]. We blend proven scientific approaches with nontraditional techniques like meditation and EFT to help improve scores by up to 40% [differentiation and proof]."

In addition, you should develop a look-and-feel for your brand that includes a logo to represent it, color scheme and visual style, imagery and a "voice" to use in your marketing communications. Whether your brand is formal like a centuries-old financial institution, playful like a public dog wash or modern like downtown urban condos will affect your choices.

6. Finally, select the marketing strategies you'll use to deliver the message of your brand to your target market. Great ways to emanate your message include writing articles or speaking on signature topics. Networking is a strategy about delivering your message face-to-face. Blogging can help you build a loyal following of hundreds or thousands who are interested in your brand benefits.

If creating your brand right now seems like a luxury you can't afford, consider the money you're currently wasting on ineffective marketing strategies. Simply adding a clear brand message about the value your business brings can transform lost opportunities into more prospects, better quality clients (who actually want what your brand promises), higher prices and a more profitable and joyful business.

So How's Your Brand Doing?

Author's Bio: 

To assess the effectiveness of your current marketing efforts, take the free Enlightened Marketing Brand Assessment at Samantha Hartley of Enlightened Marketing helps small business owners identify and communicate their brand value so effectively that they work only with perfect customers, charge premium prices and enjoy healthy profits.

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