My wife and I disagree about branding. She got her MFA in graphic design from Yale and I got my degree in marketing from growing companies online and off. And while you may argue with your spouse about replacing the dining room table with a pool table, we argue about branding.
Her viewpoint is that branding is important to every business. I counter that it’s best left to companies that can throw hundreds of millions at their marketing. Who is right?
For national and international companies, spending large to create a corporate image or brand works. Coca Cola excels at branding, as well as Apple computer. Their goal is to saturate the online and print markets to ensure name recognition. This works, if you have millions to spend, but not if your marketing budget is under $5 million.
My argument is that it’s not practical to use branding as your primary marketing strategy if you are a small business (under $50 million in revenue) and market locally. Instead, the most cost effective way to grow your business is using the tried and true model of direct response marketing online and in print.
Does that mean, if you are a small business owner you should just forget about branding?
The answer is no. It’s still important to your success, it’s just not the primary way you can attract new clients or customers.
Here are the 2 questions I asked myself about one of my companies, and I’d recommend you ask yourself too:
- In a perfect world, assuming your company was run perfectly and did just what it was supposed to do for clients and customers, what are the two/three words they’d use to describe your company? In other words, what is your prospects’ and clients’ perception of your company?
Not sure? Just ask them. Ask them to tell you which 1-2 words describe your company and see what they say.
- Then ask yourself if they have it right, meaning does it match what you want them to be saying. If not, if the words people are using to describe the sum of their experience of your company (e.g. your brand) are different than how you want them to define your brand, you’ve got work to do.
Ask yourself, what you need to change about how the company is run, and how it delivers services or products, in order to create the brand experience you want them to have.
I’ll concede my wife is a least partly right, in this case. Defining your brand is important. It’s important to how you manage your company and in shaping your marketing messaging too. Just as long you don’t rely on branding to attract new small business clients and customers. You’ll want to use direct response strategies to do that, to spread the word about your brand.