Build A Brand for Small Businesses

Branding is just as important for small businesses as it is for big names. Indeed, many corporate brands try to look more like small firms in order to appeal to consumers that prefer to support independent brands. 

Many small business owners I talk to already understand that branding is essential to their business, but a surprisingly high number of them don’t really know why.

They recognize the link between successful businesses and strong branding and aspire to build a brand that emulates similar success for themselves. And they understand that branding is not just a logo or how their business is perceived externally. But too few realize that successful brands have this branding at the heart of the business. So much so that in many ways you could almost substitute the word brand for business.

marketing-branding-advertising emineo mediaBranding is a way of defining your business to yourself, your team and your external audiences. It could be called the business’ “identity”, but only on the understanding that it embodies the core of what the business is and its values, not just what it looks and sounds like. Customers of all sorts of businesses are so savvy today that they can see through most attempts by companies to gloss, spin or charm their way to sales.

The benefits that a strategically defined brand can bring are the same as when people fall in love with each other. When customers connect emotively — because they share the same values and beliefs of a brand — it leads to higher sales and better brand differentiation. It also leads to loyalty, advocacy and can even protect your price in times when competitors rely on promotional discounts to drive sales. It can also give you the ideal platform from which to extend your offering or range.

Here are ten tips on how to successfully implement branding for your business.

1.   Start by defining your brand.

Review the product or service your business offers, pinpoint the space in the market it occupies and research the emotive and rational needs and concerns of your customers. Your brand character should promote your business, connect with your customer base and differentiate you in the market.

2.   When building your brand, think of it as a person.

Every one of us is an individual whose character is made up of beliefs, values and purposes that define who we are and who we connect with. Our personality determines how we behave in different situations, how we dress and what we say. Of course for people it’s intuitive and it’s rare that you even consider what your own character is, but when you’re building a brand it’s vital to have that understanding.

3.   Consider what is driving your business.

What does it believe in, what is its purpose and who are its brand heroes. These things can help establish your emotive brand positioning and inform the identity and character for brand communications.

4.   Aim to build long-term relationships with your customers.

Don’t dress up your offering and raise expectations that result in broken promises, create trust with honest branding — be clear who your company is and be true to the values that drive it every day.

5.   Speak to your customers with a consistent tone of voice.

It will help reinforce the business’ character and clarify its offering so customers are aware exactly what to expect from the product or service.

6.   Don’t repeat the same message in the same way over and over again. 

Alternatively, aim to make your key messages work together to build a coherent identity. 

7.   Don’t try to mimic the look of chains or big brands.

Try and carve out your own distinctive identity. There is a big consumer trend towards independent establishments, and several chains are in fact trying to mimic an independent feel to capture some of that market. Truly independent operators can leverage their status to attract customers who are looking for something more original and authentic, that aligns with how feel about themselves.

8.   Be innovative, bold and daring – stand for something you believe in.

Big brands are encumbered by large layers of bureaucracy, preventing them from being flexible and reacting to the ever-changing needs of their customers. Those layers of decision-makers can make it hard for them to be daring with their branding.

9.   Always consider your branding when communicating with customers.

Don’t lose your pride or dilute your brand positioning with indiscriminate discounting. Try offering more, rather than slashing prices. Promotions are an opportunity to reinforce your brand mission.

10.  The old way of stamping your logo on everything won’t cut it.

The future of branding is fluid and engaging — respect your customers’ intelligence by not giving everything away up front. Generate some intrigue and allow them to unearth more about your brand for themselves. This is the way to foster ambassadors who revel in telling other people what they have discovered.

Source Marketing Donut

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Miami Herald Makeover: C.S. Orchids

emineo media cs orchids Miami Herald MakeoverFor most couples, being married for half a century is quite an accomplishment. But for Carmen and Carlos Segrera, their 50-year union is about more than marriage. The pair are also business partners and owners of a company that specializes in creating elegant arrangements of delicate orchids for homes and businesses.

It all started more than two decades ago as a hobby for Carmen Segrera.

“I have always been fascinated by orchids,” Segrera said. “Ever since I was young, I have been in love with them. I have grown them and made arrangements with them. My friends and neighbors loved it. It was also a welcome reprieve from the stress of working in corporate America.”

After years of working for a major airline, Segrera wanted to turn her passion into a business. The Segreras turned her hobby into C.S. Orchids, a company that has been in business in Miami for more than 12 years.

“I knew this is what she loved to do,” Carlos Segrera said. “And after so many years of watching her, I developed a passion for it too. It’s really a pleasure watching the joy and beauty that orchids bring into people’s lives.”

With little more than passion and a will to succeed, the Segreras opened their business in 2003. The couple’s first client was former University of Miami President Donna Shalala. “She really encouraged us when my husband and I were starting out,” Segrera said. “And she remains a client to this day.”

With a client list that now includes major professional and residential buildings like the Wells Fargo Center and Gables Condominium, the Segreras are looking to expand. The company offers a variety of services including custom arrangements that can be purchased or leased and maintenance of private orchid collections. But they wanted to explore ways they can grow the business using tools like social media and the Web to market their company and increase sales. The couple also wanted to look at developing a business plan to create a targeted road map for growth and finding out more about local and state grants to help small businesses.

Neither of the Segreras is a marketing expert, however, and the couple instead turned to the Miami Herald for a Small Business Makeover to help them find the best way to achieve their goals. The Herald, in turn, brought in Miami SCORE, a national nonprofit organization of retired volunteers who have been successful entrepreneurs and built thriving businesses. SCORE volunteers use their entrepreneurial skills and offer mentoring services to small business owners at no charge. SCORE identified three counselors to help C.S. Orchids get on the road to expansion.

The SCORE team included Sandi Abbott, the owner of Xpresso Content Café, a digital marketing agency that specializes in helping small businesses grow their sales and referral network by using the latest online marketing tools. Abbott has had a long career in corporate communications, including stints at Hertz Car Rental and as a vice president for AmeriFirst Bank in the 1990s. Lorinda Gonzalez is a grant writer and owner of Grant Ink, a firm focused on providing clients with access to quality grant writing services. Gonzalez has helped clients secure grants in a variety of industries and works closely with SCORE clients to help them identify viable grant opportunities for their businesses. Sam Shirley is an associate with Prudential. He has built a long career in the financial sector and has worked for major banks including Wells Fargo and Bank of America.

After working with C.S. Orchids for a little more than a month, the counselors identified several areas of the business where the Segreras could realize immediate improvement. First, the company needed to focus on its website and explore e-commerce. The company also needed a business plan. The company also wanted help to understand what opportunities were available in terms of securing government grants and participating in public procurements in an effort to maximize growth.

The counselors agreed that the Segreras needed to concentrate on the business plan and incorporating e-commerce into their website. To accomplish these goals, the SCORE team had the following advice:

▪ Develop a business plan and run more efficiently: “This business has been around for over 12 years but never really had a formal business plan,” Shirley said. “To grow and successfully move toward expanding the business, C.S. Orchids is going to need one.”

Shirley recommended developing the plan to breathe new life into the business. “By taking the time to put together a solid business plan, C.S. Orchids will be inspired to set new goals and objectives and take their business further,” Shirley said. “It’s going to give the company the opportunity to approach running their business in a more systematic fashion and allow them to focus on growth.”

Shirley also suggested a multipronged approach to finding ways to save money and run the business more efficiently. He advised the company to review all insurance policies for both the business and the Segreras personally to help save money on monthly premiums.

“The company should also review workers’ compensation policies, auto policies and business liability insurance to see where they can save on premiums,” Shirley said. “Another opportunity to save money and run more efficiently would be to look at working with FPL to find ways to reduce their energy usage in maintaining the orchids.”

▪ Explore government grants and public procurements: As a seasoned grant writer, Gonzalez saw prime opportunities for C.S. Orchids to benefit from government grants.

“C.S. Orchids should definitely look into the mom and pop grants offered by many Miami-Dade County commissioners,” Gonzalez said. “There are also great opportunities out there for minority and women-owned businesses to get grants.”

Gonzalez also recommended getting certified as a minority-owned small business to take advantage of public procurements.

“If the company were a certified small business they could take advantage of Requests for Proposals and other public procurements for their services, which includes plant maintenance.”

▪ Embrace e-commerce and social media: “The company’s website is due for an update,” Abbott said. “I recommend going to a WordPress template that is mobile-friendly and easy to update.”

Abbott also recommended adding an e-commerce area to the site to take orders online, a blog to the website that is updated regularly and adding a photo gallery to showcase the company’s products and services.

“Photos are a very engaging way to sell a product,” Abbott said. “They could include a sampling of the arrangements for sale or lease, the gift baskets they make and the larger corporate installations. While it’s not necessary to include pricing, they could at least give potential clients an idea of what services are offered and give them a reason to stay longer on your site. I would also include a personal touch by telling the story of how the company got started and their philosophy on providing quality service.”

Abbott also recommended including a customer referral form and testimonials on the website as a way for people to get in touch with the company. In terms of social media, Abbott recommended making the company’s Facebook page more robust by adding more information in the “About Us” section and a link to the website.

“The company should create photo albums of their installations and post images of the staff doing fun things like making arrangements or even dancing in the office,” Abbott said. “And when they go to events, take pictures and tag people in the posts. They want an ideal mix of about 50 percent entertaining posts that encourage folks to like, share and comment. It’s important to share content that is engaging. The more engaging your content, the more Facebook will show it in the newsfeed of your fans. Another 30 percent of the content posted should be industry expertise and the last 20 percent should be about the company.”

For their part, the Segreras plan on taking the counselors’ advice and reassessing how they are doing at the end of this year.

“We are so blessed to have met this wonderful group of experts who are helping us to get our business to the next level,” Carmen Segrera said. “My husband and I are grateful for the opportunity that has been given to us and will implement all of the recommendations offered to help us grow.”

The makeover

The business: C.S. Orchids has been in business for 12 years and is located at 4936 SW 75th Ave., Miami. The company was established in 2003 by Carmen and Carlos Segrera. The company provides custom orchid arrangements and maintenance of private orchid collections to residents and businesses throughout South Florida.

The challenge: Moving the business’ marketing from traditional word-of-mouth promotion to embracing digital tools and social media to help the company grow.

The experts: Sandi Abbott, owner of Xpresso Content Café with over 20 years of marketing experience; Lorinda Gonzalez, a grant writing expert who has worked with SCORE for over five years; and Sam Shirley, a financial expert with Prudential who has over 15 years of banking experience. Orlando Espinosa, co-founder of Emineo Media, who has more than 25 years of experience in branding and social media. He has also led training programs for entrepreneurs both in the United States and abroad.

The makeover: In just over a month, the SCORE team developed a solid marketing strategy for C.S. Orchids. They worked with the owners to develop new marketing strategies using social media and other online tools and identified opportunities to secure small business grants.

Read more here: Miami Herald
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Miami Herald Makeover: A-Kid’s Party Express

emineo media Miami Herald Makeover A-Kids Party ExpressFor Daniel Guzmán and Isabel Arias, the path to entrepreneurship — and eventually marriage — began in Detroit 10 years ago with a single glance.

Arias met Guzmán, who worked at General Motors at the time, when he was a customer at Comerica Bank where she worked. The two hit it off instantly and eventually tied the knot before moving to Miami in 2004 to try their collective hand at owning a business.

“I noticed him looking at me and I was smitten,” Arias said. “We started off as friends, and our relationship evolved to marriage. And then we decided to own a business together.”

The couple did their due diligence on opportunities in Florida and settled on purchasing an existing business rather than starting a new one from scratch. They decided to purchase a 25-year old event business called A-KiD’s Party Express. The company specializes in children’s parties, corporate events, fundraisers and other special events.

“My background is in banking and my husband holds a Ph.D. in electrical engineering,” said Arias. “So for us, when we decided to own a business, it was important to make a sound decision on the type of business that would be successful.

“When we found A-KiD’s Party Express, we knew we had a great family-oriented business on our hands.”

With annual revenue that ranges from a half-million dollars to just over a million, the business has four employees and an estimated annual revenue that ranges between $500K to $1 million. But with so few employees, resources to market the company are limited. “We produce major events for the U.S. Navy and we have our solid core clientele, so most of the time we are all pretty business working,” Guzmán said. “That doesn’t leave a lot of time for marketing the business, but it is something that we really need to focus on.”

Arias and Guzmán had been thinking about how to take the company to the next level. They were contemplating a possible name change for the company that would allow them to move beyond kids’ parties. Arias and Guzmán do not have a Facebook or Twitter page for the company and social media was also on their minds. “We knew we had to get with the times in certain aspects of the business like social media,” Guzmán said. “We were also mulling over a name change, but we couldn’t decide and didn’t know where to start.”

To find answers, Arias and Guzmán turned to the Miami Herald for a Small Business Makeover for help.

The Herald, in turn, brought in Miami SCORE, a national nonprofit organization of retired volunteers who have been successful entrepreneurs and built thriving businesses. SCORE identified four counselors to turn A-KiD’s Party Express around.

The SCORE team included Orlando Espinosa, co-founder of Emineo Media; Doug Shavel, CEO of Galante Studio Distribution; Jorge Gonzalez, founder and principal of Vermis Analytics; and Senen Garcia, a Miami-based attorney.

After working with A-KiD’s Party Express for a little over a month, the counselors identified several issues: with the company’s marketing strategy. One of the company’s immediate problems was a lack of exposure on social media. Another factor impeding the company was a lack of a comprehensive marketing strategy and maintaining constant communication with customers to let them know about sales, discounts and special promotions. “A-Kids’ Party Express is a great concept,” Espinosa said. “They have their own equipment, rides, inflatables and anything else you can think of to have a great party. They also have a great reputation. But as a small business in today’s you can’t just rely on word-of-mouth from satisfied customers to grow. You need to develop a marketing road map and follow it to achieve success.”The counselors all agreed that Arias and Guzmán needed to first concentrate on low hanging fruit — efforts that do not require a major capital investment and offer a great return.

The counselors’ advice:

▪ Consider a name change: “One of the first things I talked about with Isabel and Daniel was how open they would be to changing the company’s name,” Garcia said. “My recommendation is to take advantage of the history of the old name while introducing a new one.” He recommended rolling out the name as a new division of the company: “I prefer the new division concept as this would enable a slow transition out of the old name while building the brand of the new name.”

Garcia advised that the new name should be trademarked at least at the state level, if not at the federal level. “While a statement of fictitious name, also known as a DBA, would offer the ability to have access to the name for things such as accepting payments, it would not ultimately prevent others from using the name,” he said. “Of course, if the name was trademarked by someone else already, it would be unavailable for use as a fictitious name, so that also needs to be considered.”

▪ Embrace social media: “It is important that A-KiD’s Party Express has an engaging presence on social media,” Shavel said. “The company needs to create a Facebook and Twitter account at a minimum. Then, create a LinkedIn account to expose the company to other businesses to grow the corporate event side of the house.”

Shavel also recommended the using social listening tools like Facebook Insights to see who is interacting with their brand and how they are doing it. To keep an open line of communication to customers, Shavel also encouraged the company to develop a branded e-blast using Constant Contact, Mail Chimp or another similar tool to send out information on a regular basis to all past and present customers.

“The e-blasts are a great low-cost tool that A-KiD’s Party Express can use to generate buzz,” Shavel said. “Including links to the company’s social media accounts in each e-blast will also increase engagement with their brand.”

▪ Develop an elevator pitch: Gonzalez recommended that A-KiD’s Party Express develop a three-minute elevator pitch that addresses customer questions and concerns: “Parents want to know about safety and making sure their kids have a memorable experience. For corporate customers, they want to know about cost and service reliability. The company needs to tell their story in three minutes and incorporate the wonderful elements of the company like the fact that it is based on family-oriented fun.” Espinosa agreed: “People don’t have a lot of time these days. The quick elevator pitch is important because you need to explain why you’re different from the competition and why you’re the best value for a customer.”

▪ Go guerrilla: Gonzalez also encouraged A-KiD’s Party Express to use guerrilla marketing techniques to market the company: “For example, at every event, they need to take the opportunity to distribute flyers and talk to people about the company. They can also use Survey Monkey to conduct a short five-question survey to existing and former cBM SMALL BUSINESSustomers. Eventually, a customer survey should be administered after every event.” He recommended the company establish a frequent-customer and referral program to benefit corporate clients and those who use the company on a regular basis: “They could also take the referral program to companies and individuals who provide services to kids or corporations such as caterers.”

▪ Measure and evaluate results: Once KiD’s Party Express implements the SCORE team’s recommendations, the counselors advised the company to measure and evaluate the results each month. “They need to get a full picture of whether their strategies and techniques are working so monitoring progress on a regular basis is important,” said Espinosa. “Analytics are key,” Gonzalez said. “Analyzing customer data and behavior can help the company get an accurate snapshot of how they are interacting with their customer base.”

Both Arias and Guzmán said the process of working with SCORE counselors on a makeover was amazing. “We knew we had work to do in marketing the company,” Guzman said.

“We also knew it was time to make the move toward social media,” Arias said. “The SCORE counselors gave us a clear plan of how to achieve our goals in that regard.”

“The SCORE counselors were very knowledgeable,” Guzmán said. “We will take their advice and see where it leads us.”

Read more here: Miami Herald
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