Pamela Wilson

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From Bland to Brand: 5 Ways to Make Your Business Stand Out in a Crowd

brand strategies to make your business stand out in a crowdIf you own a business, there’s no one else more passionate about seeing it succeed than you. That’s why you’re the ideal person to do the work of marketing it.

But it’s not easy, is it? What can you do to position your offerings so they’re unforgettable? How can you make your business the first one that comes to mind when someone in your target market is looking for your product or service?

The route to memorability is not paved with bland marketing efforts, that’s for sure. Here’s how to craft an unforgettable brand for your small business. Follow these five steps, and you’ll be on your way from bland to brand.

Target Fearlessly

In order to craft memorable words and images that will resonate with the people you want to reach, you have to know who they are. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

The problem with this simple statement is that small business owners don’t want to give up a single potential customer. So they cast a wide net with their marketing materials. They try to target a broad range of ages, genders and geographic areas.

If you sell a consumer product with a massive potential market, that’s a great approach. But I’m willing to bet money that the marketing department of Coca Cola isn’t reading this blog.

This blog is for people with small businesses, who are creating products or offering services that will solve the problems of a specific group of people.

Think about who those people are, and don’t be afraid to focus on them to the exclusion of other potential customers.

Your copywriting, design and marketing strategies will become tightly focused, and — more importantly — your potential customers will know your offering is perfect for them.

Listen to Popular Opinion

Once you know who you’re trying to reach, it’s time to listen to what they want. Your marketing won’t work if you forge ahead with your vision, blind to what your ideal customer actually desires.

So ask good questions, and listen to the answers. How can you get inside their heads to find out what they want? Try these techniques:

  • Take a few customers out to lunch and ask them about their challenges
  • Create a survey, and offer a valuable giveaway (see “Sweeten the Deal” below) in exchange for information
  • Schedule phone time with some of your customers. Ask them directly how you can help.

Tune in to WII-FM

Do you listen to WII-FM? You should. It’s required listening if you are creating marketing materials for your business.

WII-FM, is — of course — What’s In It For Me?

When you sit down to write a message or plan a marketing campaign, this question should be playing in the background at all times. Because your marketing efforts will only be meaningful and memorable if you’ve addressed what benefits your offer provides.

You’d better be able to answer that question, because believe me — your target market is asking it.

Sweeten the Deal

An unforgettable brand is built through repeated exposure. No matter how amazing your brand is, people won’t remember it if they’ve only seen it once. They can’t: they’re processing all the other marketing messages being thrown at them.

The way to open a channel of communication where you can keep the conversation — and the brand exposure — going over time, is to get your prospects onto a mailing list. Email software allows you to capture leads, continue to offer helpful information, and build a relationship with customers before they do business with you.

That sounds great, but there’s one important caveat: no one really wants more email in their inbox. In order to rent space in potential customers’ inboxes, you’ve got to sweeten the deal with a giveaway they won’t be able to resist.

What can you give away?

  • Try a free e-course you drip out every few days by email autoresponder. Set it and forget it: once you’ve created those emails and set them up in your email software, your work is done.
  • Offer a special report, white paper or buyer’s guide. Solve a problem, or create a resource your target market will find valuable.
  • Offer audio or video with valuable information. Give people access to a solution they’re looking for. Demonstrate it on video, or describe it with audio.

All in Good Time

The marketing strategy that’s rarely spoken about — and that must be present for all of the above to work — is time. These techniques only work when you apply them consistently over time:

  1. Continually refine your information about your target market
  2. Listen closely to what they want
  3. Make sure all your marketing materials answer the “what’s in it for me?” question
  4. Keep lines of communication open by inviting prospects to join your mailing list, and make joining irresistible with an offer they can’t refuse

Bland to brand doesn’t happen overnight, but it can be done, even by you. Especially by you!

Develop a gorgeous brand that builds your business

Quick-Start Guide to Branding Your Business
Build a brand you’re proud of with the step-by-step technique in the Quick-Start Guide to Branding Your Business. Identify who you’re trying to reach, fine-tune your message, and translate it all into a brand you can be proud of.

Get the Quick Start Guide to Branding Your Business

Pamela Wilson

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19 thoughts on “From Bland to Brand: 5 Ways to Make Your Business Stand Out in a Crowd”

  1. You know, Pamela…You were Good when you started this gig…but man, you just keep on getting Better and Better. I really liked the vibe of this piece. It’s a keeper. Rock on.

  2. Great stuff Pamela! Especially reminding us that this stuff takes time. I always say that (as a tiny business owner) I have to:
    1. Make a plan
    2. Put my head down and execute consistently over time.
    3. Look up from my work and evaluate the plan
    4. Refine the plan

    Thanks for writing this!

    • Thanks, Russ. It’s hard to be patient, but I’m pretty sure overnight success is a Hollywood plot line we shouldn’t depend on.

      From what I’ve seen after all these years, hard work, persistence and consistency over time are the only reliable ways to build a brand.

  3. Pamela,

    I completely agree that hard work, patience, persistence and consistence pays off. And if you’re in a niche you really enjoy it helps a lot because it doesn’t feel like “work”.

    You share a lot of great ideas here – thank you. It helps to reinforce what we know and sometimes forget – there is so much to optimizing every aspect of your business!

    Have a great day!
    Theresa

    PS: I think I have finally finished fine tuning my color palettes thanks to your “Design 101 | Harness the Power of Color in your Marketing”.

  4. Hi Pamela,

    Great post – loved the catchy headline and visual (nice touch with the breaking border).

    As for the content, I need to put some of these suggestions into action for myself, especially focusing my audience more narrowly (although I hate to miss any potential customers as well), and sweetening the deal. All in good time!

    Thanks for the tips!

  5. Hey Pamela,

    Wonderful post on Branding your business. I have a question on a very similar line. When it comes to personal branding how different will an individual need to focus on. My business revolves around me and the things that I do. Branding myself helps me boost business.

    • These tips apply to a personality-based business, too. The “don’t be bland” advice is even more important in that case!

      Know who you want to reach, establish your personality and stay consistent over time. That’s the name of the game.

  6. Thanks Pamela for another great post. Too often we can see “bland brands” in service based businesses- coaches, consultants, counselors etc. I have completely decided to rebrand myself with a concept and do not want it to be too cutsie and really want to establish a sense of high quality, high standards and at the same time fun. I think I heard you mention in one of your lectures that you recommend having your audience vote on a name or logo, is that true? What can you recommend to these professions to convert bland to BIG?
    Also do you have any previous articles on creating great taglines?

    • Hi Stephanie,

      You’re right: it’s important for service-based businesses to have a “personality,” because those services are almost always delivered by a person. Your potential customers want to know who they’re going to do business with.

      I don’t recommend having your audience vote on a prospective name. That seems like an invitation to chaos! I think you’d get too many differing opinions, and the final decision would be difficult.

      Instead, you might consider gathering a small, representative group of your customers. Tell them they’re your “market research group,” and ask them for feedback on what you’re considering. I’ve seen this done before, and most folks are very flattered to be asked to participate in a group like this.

      With a smaller — but representative — group of people, you’ll have an easier time getting usable feedback.

      I wrote about taglines here.

      This post on Copyblogger has terrific tagline advice as well.

      Good luck! Let me know how it goes, and feel free to get feedback on what you’re thinking about here.

      • Two great articles – Thank you! Thanks for offering me to post here too for feedback.
        The area that I am developing in my practice right now is my mentor coaching for new and emerging coaches.
        I came up with a concept called THE COACHES CAFE ( in a previous life I was a cafe owner and caterer)
        THE MISSION: to create community and a valuable resource for coaches starting out (or not where they hoped they would be in there practice since certification), to build their confidence in their identity as a coach and the confidence in their expertise and THAT’S GOOD BECAUSE … they can feel confident and authentic about marketing themselves and create success and impact doing what they love.
        My concerns: I don’t want the name or logo to be cutesie- I want it to be taken seriously as a viable resource for professional development. I want it to be BIG definetly not bland! Will CAFE keep me locked into the obvious analogies around food? There is a huge need for this in the industry and know it can be successful. I also suffer from too many ideas and then second guessing them when I hit on one. I get absolutely bored by what I see out there in the coaching profession and don’t want to create the same. Thanks in advance for the great wisdom you share!!

        • Hmm … here’s my opinion, but as I said, opinions from your current customers are the ones that really count:

          It might be a little cutesy. Since you want to build authority and be a resource, you should probably stick to something that’s memorable, but doesn’t have a hint of “cute.”

          It might be helpful to look in a thesaurus to see what words you can find, and again (I know I sound like a broken record), ask a group of current customers for feedback. They’ll let you know what resonates with them.

  7. Awesome post Pamela! Love the WII-FM part especially. So many businesses forget about this crucial aspect to their communications. They are so busy describing what they do that they forget to address why potential customers should even care. I always recommend to ask the question “So what?” with any of your marketing. If the answer isn’t there, you’ve got some tweaking to do.

    • You’re right: that “describing what they do” instinct is really powerful. It’s better to focus on why it matters — or even why you do what you do — than on what you do.

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