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 Small Business Makeover: Heywood Wakefield

emineo media orlando espinosa score miami dade leonard RiforgiatoFor Leonard Riforgiato, the path to small business ownership began in the 1990s with an abandoned company trademark and a passion for antiques.

After selling heirlooms and collectibles in storefronts around South Beach for decades, he turned his attention to Heywood-Wakefield, a vintage furniture brand his customers were buzzing about. Founded at the turn of the last century when two still-older furniture companies merged, Heywood-Wakefield incorporated unique designs and a creative use of bent wood to produce durable and stylish beds, chairs, night stands and other pieces designed for the home. Prices range from $540 for a bar stool to over $1,500 for a bed.

“I got interested in Heywood-Wakefield by accident,” Riforgiato said. “I noticed that, over the years, a lot of people came into my stores asking for vintage Heywood-Wakefield furniture.”

He researched the company, unearthing a trove of information. Heywood-Wakefield chairs and other now-iconic pieces had been made in Gardner, Mass., since 1897, continuing until the late 1970s. Gardner, with a population of 20,000, is the self-styled “Furniture Capital of New England”; in 1983, the Heywood-Wakefield Company Complex, where the well-known furniture was originally made, was added to the National Historic Register.

The company’s lineage impressed Riforgiato. “Once I found out the trademark had expired, I saw an opportunity to keep the brand alive,” he said. “I purchased it, kept the Heywood-Wakefield name and decided to go into the furniture business making these amazing pieces that people loved.”

That was back in 1992. Today, nearly 22 years later, Riforgiato no longer sells Heywood-Wakefield furniture in showrooms, instead operating solely online from his home in Miami. “The cost of operating a showroom became quite high over the years,” he said. “Real-estate costs were going through the roof, so I decided to use the power of the Internet to grow the business without having a brick-and-mortar building to show the furniture.”

Riforgiato was so passionate about the company’s history that he continued to produce Heywood-Wakefield furniture in Massachusetts. He began production in Gardner in 1992, but in 2011, he moved to a factory in nearby Winchendon.

With annual revenue of nearly a quarter of a million dollars, Riforgiato estimates that his company sells over 200 pieces of furniture per year. Relying heavily on client referrals to drive sales, he spends more time making furniture than he does on marketing it. He wanted to take the offline conversations his customers were having and bring them online in hopes of increasing sales.

To find answers, Heywood-Wakefield turned to the Miami Herald for a Small Business Makeover to help him figure out how to best incorporate tools like social media and a revamped website into a growth plan. The Herald, in turn, brought in Miami SCORE, a nonprofit organization of volunteers who have been successful entrepreneurs. SCORE volunteers use their business acumen and provide mentoring services to small business owners free of charge, putting them on the road to success. SCORE identified three counselors to turn Heywood-Wakefield’s online marketing around.

The SCORE team included Orlando Espinosa, co-founder of Emineo Media, who has over 25 years of experience in branding and social media. He has also led training programs for entrepreneurs both in the U.S. and abroad. Rosi Arboleya, a consultant and creative director at Perpetual Message, a local marketing company, has over 30 years of experience working in the advertising and marketing space. Her expertise is in Web development, social media and developing online marketing campaigns. Frank Padron is a consultant who specializes in digital marketing, online branding and SEO. He has over 20 years of experience working in digital and works with We Simplify the Internet (WSI), an Internet marketing firm in Coral Gables.

After the first of three meetings with Riforgiato, the counselors identified several issues with Heywood-Wakefield’s marketing strategy. One of the company’s immediate problems was a lack of exposure on social media. Another factor impeding sales was the company’s website. It wasn’t very user-friendly and couldn’t handle e-commerce, so customers weren’t able to buy Heywood-Wakefield furniture online. Heywood-Wakefield wanted to take the online plunge, but with a limited marketing budget of just a couple thousand dollars and orders to fill, it seemed daunting.

“Many times, small business owners are so busy running all aspects of their companies that they tend to place a low priority on things they don’t know about,” Espinosa said. “So, suddenly things that seem important to company sales like social media and online marketing are put on the back burner because the company is unsure about how to approach it.”

The counselors all agreed that by incorporating social media and a few tweaks to his current website, Riforgiato could see a significant increase in annual sales. To accomplish that goal, the SCORE team had the following advice:

•  Revamp the website

“It’s time for Heywood-Wakefield to step it up a notch in terms of its online presence,” Espinosa said. “First and foremost, the homepage needs a redo.”

For quick recognition and brand reinforcement, Espinosa recommended the Heywood-Wakefield company logo should be placed on top left of page. “The company logo was in the footer of the site way at the bottom,” Espinosa said. “But it really should be at the top. It should be one of the first things a customer sees when they log on to your site.”

Next, Espinosa suggested adding social media buttons for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others on the top right-hand side of the page for easy access. “Heywood-Wakefield does have a Facebook page,” Espinosa said. “But you can’t find it from the website. Adding social media buttons to the right of the page will make it easy for customers to connect with the brand online.”

Arboleya reminded Heywood-Wakefield that incorporating better photos into the site would increase customer engagement and time spent on the site. She recommended that Heywood-Wakefield replace static images with a product slideshow. “Heywood-Wakefield has beautiful furniture that is really compelling visually,” Arboleya said. “They need to showcase that through animated slideshows that get the customer interested as soon as they log on.”

Padron encouraged the company to track its customer engagement online using analytics. Using information gathered through analytics, Heywood-Wakefield will be able to build a long-term online marketing strategy that works. “Google Analytics provides insights into campaigns,” Padron said. “And it helps you analyze visitor traffic. Heywood-Wakefield needs to find out if analytics are on their current site.”

The SCORE team recommended using WordPress for the new website. “For easy updating, SEO and content management, WordPress sites are best,” Padron said. “With WordPress, you get the control to make quick do-it-yourself updates easily.” The team also encouraged Heywood-Wakefield to add e-commerce to their website. “The ability to make a purchase online would be a game-changer for the company,” Espinosa said. “Right now, when customers are ready to make a purchase, they have to call Heywood-Wakefield and go through the transaction with a live person.”

•  Create a blog

Because of Heywood-Wakefield’s rich history, engaging customers by posting about how the company started, where it is now and where it’s going can provide great content for a blog. “A blog for this company could be a really fun thing,” Arboleya said. “The company can post tidbits about its history, pictures of vintage pieces and share videos on a blog written by Mr. Riforgiato. He is the man behind the brand, and a blog is a great way to introduce him to the world.” The SCORE team also recommended that Heywood-Wakefield share information on industry-specific websites and forums with a link back to the blog. “Blogs are also a great way of generating interest in the latest design trend or product,” Espinosa said. “Use it to incorporate content with Facebook and email marketing. It’s also perfect for cross promoting with blog sites such as Retro Renovations.”

•  Develop branded e-blasts

Heywood-Wakefield doesn’t have a regular form of e-communication with clients. The SCORE counselors recommend that Heywood-Wakefield consider developing a branded e-blast that can be distributed weekly or monthly. “Like any business, Heywood-Wakefield wants to be top of mind for your customers,” Arboleya said. “Reaching out to them with things that can make their lives better like a sale, an interesting bit of history or even a new slideshow of pictures is a good way to stay in touch.” Espinosa said not to send e-mails too often, such as daily, and to use creative subject lines.

Click the link below to read the rest of the story!

Small business makeover: Social media strategy boosts online furniture business’ chances for success

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