Category: Branding

Different Matters

secret sauce

After picking many pounds of marionberries recently, I had to start getting creative. I’d already made jam, sorbet and tarts. (I’m officially banned from buying a separate freezer.) Then I recalled a marionberry barbecue sauce I’d made last summer, not the most obvious application of the berries. I found a recipe, switched up some of the ingredients, adjusted it till I arrived at a secret sauce, ready for pulled pork.

Now, imagine your business is the pulled pork (or roasted tofu for you vegetarians). What’s your secret sauce? That set of ingredients that only you have that lend your enterprise a flavor all its own.

In order to land on your secret sauce, you first have to embrace the idea that people need something to go on to pick you out of the crowd. Most businesses rely too heavily on the notion that because they exist, someone will want their product or service. Someone will eventually find them. Or they think their passion alone will carry them to success.

This works well for those rare businesses that fill a peculiar niche. But even that lasts only so long. Soon, there will be many more shops serving bacon maple milkshakes.

What makes you different is the very substance of your business. It defines your branding (both image and voice), it simplifies marketing efforts, it boosts confidence on the most trying days, it gives you connection-making mojo.

Someone like me can tease out your secret sauce, put it into a larger context, refine it and put it into service. But you are a big ingredient in making that happen. A business that’s fully engaged in shaping their own brand benefits enormously, even if you can pay someone to do most of it for you.

To be fully engaged means going beyond where you feel comfortable going. It means thinking through aspects of what you do that you hope to avoid, such as limiting yourself, living up to certain standards or, believe it or not, truly believing in how your endeavor will benefit someone.

Ways to think of your secret sauce:

• An unexpected or distinctive personality or voice.

• A surprising promise or set of promises.

• A collection of traits that, while not individually unique, together, are refreshingly distinctive.

• Using the stories or experiences of people who do business with you as a marketing tool in itself.

• A very specific combination of what you do, combined with who it’s for (not moms or CEOs, but people needing “x” or worried about “y”) and how they benefit (really benefit).

• Figure out what you can put limits around or make specific or singular.

• A way you buck convention or call out what others won’t.

Not what your competition is doing (who is that anyway?)

Adversity, the Gold in Your Brand Story

Landfill Harmonic instruments from junk

If necessity is the mother of invention, then desperation is the mother of necessity. Desperation made MacGyver cool, which is why failure, adversity or lack of good fortune might just be the missing ingredient in your brand story.

Most businesses boast of expertise, awards and successes to the exclusion of all else. People want to buy from successful, capable companies but they also want to buy from people they can relate to, people who act human, which includes failure.

Not every failure should be for public consumption, but think about a time when necessity in your business led to a new idea or better service or product.

Maybe you were forced to scale back because of the bad economy and turned towards specialization, which led to greater success. Or it forced you to get new training that allowed you to add new services or products.

Maybe you tried, and failed, to bring a new idea to life but it led to an even better idea?

Everyone loves a story of transformation or triumph. Take Dave’s Killer Bread, whose wild success came about by the touch of an unlikely person—Dave, himself, who had been to prison and back several times only to reemerge as the Dahl family’s best baker.

We all have a wealth of mishaps, slow periods or lack of resources. Adding them to your brand message in the right way might be the very thing that connects you to your best prospects. Another way of looking at this comes from Seth Godin, who suggests saying the typical message backwards. It not only piques interest but you come off sounding more credible when you’re willing to admit what you can’t do.

(Image is from the Landfill Harmonic. Check them out!)


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7 Ways to Reap the Benefits of Being Small

I can see the overwhelm on people’s faces as we talk about building their small business brand in ways they never thought they’d need to. I can understand. It takes a little discipline.

Your self-imposed plan to tweet once a day will slip. You’ll fail to write that weekly blog post. You’ll get the monthly newsletter out late. It happens.

You want to spend your time doing the work you’re meant to do. Read more

Something More

Pick me!”If all you have is the desire to get picked, that’s not sufficient.“

Wandering the aisles at a craft show a while back, I was surprised that the same styles and motifs appeared over and over. Most likely, each artist thought of himself as different. But why didn’t anyone want to stand out, especially in a creative industry?

It is said that there are very few original ideas. But there’s plenty of room for a different kind of originality. Put two or more existing ideas together to form a new product or service. Put a new spin on an old idea. Use your voice. If you’re an independent business owner and you’re not putting your unique voice to work, you’re overlooking the one tool you have that no one else does. Read more

You Can Have Ideals AND a Brand

A recent article in the NY Times about branding your psychotherapy practice sent readers into despair over what they saw as a selling out and a ruining of the profession. They questioned the author’s quick fix solutions and her training and commitment. I might not have panicked as the author did after only three months with no clients, but most readers didn’t see themselves as business people. As if that would diminish the care they delivered.

Branding, at its core, is defining in a deliberate way what differentiates you from others, making it easier for people to find you and make informed decisions about buying your product or service.

Branding, by itself, doesn’t compromise ideals; at its best, it reinforces them.

People in professions driven by ideals can suffer from viewing their services as too precious to be tainted by deliberate business activity.

But in the case of therapists, in order to heal, they have to get people in the door. The care starts before a client walks through the door by making it easier for them to find and choose the best person to work with. The challenge then is to describe who you help and what your philosophy is in their terms, not yours.

The resistance is understandable.

A fear of new territory.

A fear of more work.

A fear of taking a stand.

It’s far easier to think your work should speak for itself. But if you really help people through your work, you have to put your ideals to work in ways you hadn’t considered before.

When Details and Options Confuse

I went to a natural pharmacy I like very much and saw that flu shots were available. So I decided to get one.

Pharmacist: Do you want it subcutaneous or intramuscular?

Me: I don’t know. What’s the difference?

Pharmacist: One is under the skin, the other is the muscle.

Me: Is there another difference?

Pharmacist: One is a big needle and one is a small needle. Read more