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Brand Strategy: Establish Your Competitive Position

We’ve laid the foundation to build your branding strategy in a previous post. Now, let’s talk about your competitive position, which in a nutshell is your differentiation in the market.

Now, I could bore you with a bunch of technical marketing jargon, but that’s what you’d hire a marketing pro for. Instead, here’s an easy to use quick version in lamens terms so you can begin to create your differentiator to establish your position in the market. Answering these questions will put you on the right track!

Develop a market profile as related to your niche. For example, I’m a marketing strategist for small businesses in xyz industries, and I’m based in Atlanta, GA. So, I may start with finding out how many small businesses in xyz industries there are in Atlanta, how many years they’ve been in business, their growth rates, key decision makers, and publicized new projects.

List 5-10 of your direct competitors. I use spreadsheets so I can sort data easily. For each competitor, fill in these characteristics and you’ll have an easy-to-update competitor profile:

How do your clients find you and your competitors? Are they using Google search? Are they looking through print ads? Do they issue requests for proposals? Seek out professional associations for referrals? Are they searching social media? Different industries use different tactics to find resources, so first and foremost you must learn how your industry operates.

Ask what your client needs and wants. It’s easy to sit and think about what you think your client needs. But, did you ask them? Ideally, you want to get out in the market and find out what keeps your prospective clients up at night. Do this via informational interviews with prospects and q&a with your existing clients. Hint: If you can help your client solve a problem, alleviate a burden, and get back to focusing on their responsibilities, you’re on your way to getting hired!

Identify your competitors’ weak spots. If you can find opportunities that your competitors are not taking advantage of, you may have found a goldmine to exploit!

Now that you’ve gone through this process, here’s the ultimate question to be answered:

What is your value to the market?

  • Are you the lowest price?
  • Is your product the absolute best out there in terms of benefits?
  • Do you provide a competitive solution to a challenge with a focus on client-service?
  • Are you a convenient option?

Your answer to this question is the foundation of your BRAND. There are no shortcuts! If you think you can skip a couple of steps because you think you know most of the answers, you are more than likely mistaken unless you develop marketing strategies for a living. Great brands don’t just happen, they are cultivated over time. Spending time understanding your competitive position will help you with your sales pitch, newsletter copy, e-blasts, web verbiage, etc. Once you finish this analysis, you will be able to assess your competitive position, your competitive advantages, and you’ll have an understanding of what your clients need and want. You can further develop your branding strategy based on your clients’ needs, putting you one step closer  to getting hired!

Ciao,
Miss Kemya 

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Lay the Groundwork to Define Your Brand

Let’s define the word BRAND as it relates to your company. In a nutshell, a brand has to convince me to spend my money, time and effort with you and not your competitor.

Think about iconic brands like Starbucks, Ferrari, ESPN, and Neiman Marcus. When you hear the names of these companies you immediately think of a host of attributes for each of them. Well, it’s their BRAND you’re thinking of! Now do you understand why your brand is so important, and why you need to manage your company’s brand? Good, we’re on the same page. Consider these criteria to start defining your brand:

  1. Company name: does it say anything / mean anything to your ideal client? Is it easy to remember? Hard to pronounce? Keep in mind, you can leverage uniqueness.
  2. Logo: do you have a logo? Is it well designed? Symbolic? Appropriate in style and color for your industry? Does your company name or logo convey and emotion or inferences at all to your prospects? Is it in sync with your mission?
  3. What’s your niche? This will help define your brand as experienced in whatever product/service you offer. Are you trying to sell to everyone? Tsk, tsk. This is what I call the lazy-non-marketing strategy. There’s a 99% chance you have a target client, so work on identifying your niche area of expertise and find targets that fit your niche.
  4. Make a list of 20 attributes you want people to think of when they hear your company name.

Your answers will help you start to really pinpoint your brand from a strategic perspective. When you review all the answers in totality, you can begin shaping a brand identity. You’ll be on your way to developing a brand your customers will love!

Ciao,
Miss Kemya

Why Use Social Media As A Marketing Tool?

I read an article this week that made my jaw drop! It talked about how 64% of small businesses don’t think social media is important. What?! If this is the case, this means these business aren’t incorporating social media into their marketing strategy. My only caveat: there was a small sampling of business owners, and stats can always be misconstrued. However, these stats are alarming, sample size and industry aside, so I was compelled to discuss.

I could write a thesis on the value of social media but neither of use has time for that. I will give you a some answers to help bridge the social media divide, from the perspective of a person who started a marketing career before the age of the internet and social media, back when we used phone books, land lines, and unannounced drop-ins to prospect for clients. <I see you looking at my pic trying to guess my age>

So what’s wrong with this notion that social media is not important? Understand the correlation between “traditional” marketing and social media as a marketing tool:

  • Small businesses look for inexpensive ways to communicate their products to the public. If you have time to market your business, you have the resources you need to use social media. You can use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Blogs, etc. and shell out $0 monetary costs. Don’t believe me? Ask me and I’ll show you.
  • Small businesses thrive on word of mouth marketing. Social media is the most organic form of word of mouth marketing there is. The whole point of social media is to build your street credibility through word of mouth. That’s why you can message, repost, retweet, comment and share, it’s all about communication, no physical boundaries required!
  • When you run a business and marketing is not your strength, you usually hire someone for marketing, correct? This marketing person usually teaches you some tips and tricks you can use on a daily basis, and then they build the bigger marketing plans and strategies. So why are you not using your hired marketing person to understand social media?
  • Your brand is your image. It doesn’t matter what you think of your image, it matters what your clients think of your image. What does your brand, your image, look like when it’s stuck in the twentieth century? I’ll let you ponder that for a moment.

So why am I disturbed by the statistics of small business owners who refuse to adopt current marketing practices? Because they are missing out on a huge opportunity to catapult their businesses to the next level. Because small businesses provide a big chunk of the private sector jobs in this country. Because I recognize that small businesses are the life blood of our economy. This is no secret! Thus it is very important, not only to me but to us, for small businesses to stay strong, adapt to a changing business climate, and rebuild our country.

Know a small business that’s falling by the wayside because of their inability to adapt new, broader means of communication to grow their business? I will almost bet it’s because they don’t understand the value of using social media. I just have one favor to ask of you: email this post to your fellow business owners that have this notion, since they’re probably not regularly using Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs, etc. so they won’t see it online. Or better yet, print this post and drop it in snail mail if you can actually find a postage stamp.

If you or someone you know fits in the 64% category, I implore you to join us on the other side. How? Call me. I happen to be a Strategic Marketing Consultant who finds value in social media.

Ciao,
Miss Kemya

Working Full Time and Part Time Can Work!

I try to start every work day by reading a thought-provoking business article of inspiration to get me motivated. This morning was no exception, and I was inspired to deliver this quick post.

I work at a full-time corporate job while running my consulting business part-time and have done so for several years. It is with this arrangement that I have been able to meet some fascinating people and explore so many opportunities that I wouldn’t have been able to leverage as easily otherwise. All the while I have been able to hone my leadership skills while managing other people’s schedules, projects, and implementing their strategic objectives. I still find time to volunteer time as a mentor, committee member, etc. as I connect the dots between my day job, consulting biz, and personal passions. You’ll never hear me talking about work/life balance, I’m more of a puzzle player!  

For those of you that work corporate 9 to 5 jobs while running your own biz, consider this as a big salute from me! You are not walking the lone path friends! In fact, I recently learned of a new term to identify our activities: hybrid entrepreneurship. Who knew we had a catch phrase?

The key is to pay attention! You can find nuggets of time and opportunities to develop your career and business. Do you know where to look? Have you figured out how to put the puzzle pieces together? You can successfully integrate your day job responsibilities with your part-time entrepreneurial venture in order to maximize your time and actions efficiently. Use technology and social media to your advantage, there are great tools available to help. Even if you are at a job that doesn’t fit with your goals, adjust your lenses and look at your situation differently. How can you use what you have to get where you need to be?

Thank you to Black Enterprise Magazine, LaToya M. Smith and Felicia Joy for inspiring this post. Sometimes it’s nice to read about others that share your approach! Read more in the article that inspired this post:  “What Is Hybrid Entrepreneurship?”

Do you know a business owner that could use a pep talk? Or maybe you’re thinking about starting a business but you’re not sure how to make it work while having a “day” job? Share this blog post and remember: Miss Kemya says GO FOR IT!

Ciao!
Miss Kemya

Marketing Budget Mindset: Tightwad or Splurger?

I was on a conference call with a PR genius last week and she took a brief poll of all the participants prior to the call. She posed the question: Do you have a marketing budget? Since I work primarily with startups and solopreneurs, this got me to thinking…

For some reason, when people are starting a new business venture, they usually fall into two camps when it comes to marketing budgets: tightwads or splurgers. Now the tightwads don’t want to spend money on anything, thinking their grand business concept will appeal to everyone and magically lead all these fascinated customers straight to their sales door. The others, splurgers, throw money at their new concept and buy a bunch of promotional items they call “marketing” with the business name plastered all over everything. If I gave you a keychain with my business name on it, how can you possibly NOT buy something from me?

If you even remotely recognize yourself as falling into one of these categories, listen up: run to the middleMarketing is not just tee-shirts and mugs, those are promotional items. And please know that I will always, do you hear me, always accept a tee shirt and mug from you with no intention of buying whatever it is you’re selling.

In order to generate sales for your business, you need to market your business.

Your budget doesn’t have to be extravagant (mine isn’t) but you have to at least have a dedicated percentage of your total estimated revenue put aside as your marketing budget. This can be used for promotional items, conference fees, networking events, ads, etc. You must identify a marketing budget and use it wisely in order to market your product or service.

Don’t know where to begin? You are not alone. Many business people really don’t understand they need a marketing budget, nor do they understand what to do with it. Call me, I’ll help you figure it out!

Your competition has a marketing budget, and they know how to use it…

Solopreneurs Need Staff Meetings Too!

Yes, the title is an oxymoron, but indulge me for a moment. This post came about because I am often asked how I keep track of all the different aspects of running a business as a solopreneur.

As a solopreneur you’re pretty much responsible for wearing EVERY hat in the company – accounting, marketing, IT, snacks – you already know this. As I started attending more events, growing the biz and just getting busier, I needed to get a better handle on all the different aspects of running my business, not just “get the client and do the work”. Sound familiar??

One day I’ll grow to the point where I need to hire employees. In the meantime, I needed a way to organize all the “departments” in my business. This got me to thinking about corporate Monday morning staff meetings, when each department reports on what they accomplished last week and what they have planned for the upcoming week. Next thing I knew, the Phisco Marketing Staff Meeting was born.

Now, I don’t technically have a staff, but that doesn’t make a difference.  Here’s how it goes: As the boss/CEO/COO you divide your staff meeting “agenda” into departments and list responsibilities as though each department head has to give a weekly report. Next, complete the agenda below as your first order of business on Monday morning (I usually complete mine on Sunday evening to get a jump on the week). Then plan your actions accordingly, even scheduling in those “where did that come from?” tasks that creep up on you.

Important note: A client is any entity that you do work for. If you sit on a Board, that’s a client. If you are an active member of any committee, that counts as a client too. Do you perform volunteer work on a regular basis? Client. You get the picture.

Here’s my Staff Meeting Template. I added basic notes so you can see what I include for each department. Yes I really use this one, colors and all, I didn’t pretty it up for y’all one bit!

At the end of your week (whichever day that may be for you) review what you accomplished, and push the items that didn’t get done to next week’s agenda, rinse and repeat! This can’t replace a quarterly review, business overhaul, etc. but it can function as your prioritized week-at-a-glance. This has been my saving grace for the last 6 weeks or so!

Sometimes a simple structure can make life less complicated.  Feel free to use, re-purpose, modify as you like,  all I request is that you let me know how it works for you! If you have another method, do tell!

I’m ALL IN, Are You?

Last week I participated in a fun Facebook group chat with the publisher of the new e-magazine Going Pro.  (To see the premier issue of this awesome mag, click http://stephaniepollock.com/goingpromagazine/) So we’re chatting and our moderator/publisher Stephanie poses the question: What is possible when you really go ALL IN? Well, this got me to thinking, especially since this is a phrase I use quite often. The problem is, I don’t know the answer…YET.  

Have you ever truly gone ALL IN and put forth 99.99% effort to building the business of your dreams, even if only for a short period of time? How much “productive” time do you actually spend daily? I’m not talking about the half-a$$ busy work you do, I’m talking real strategy and execution of your ideas. Be honest: write that number down, and then throw it away!

Two weeks ago I decided that I’m ALL IN for the month of April. I threw this decision out to the universe (and Twitterverse) because I wanted to challenge myself in order to find out what ALL IN really means. So far, I have to admit, I’m having fun embracing the challenge. It’s causing me to be more productive with my time and more aggressive with my business decisions. Rather than half-a$$ it, I’m acting like I have the business that I dream of TODAY. It’s amazing what a catch-phrase can do for you, huh?

So, I challenge you to answer the question: Are you half-a$$in’ or ALL IN? If you’ve never went ALL IN, consider yourself challenged! Put together a just-out-of-reach action plan and for the rest of the month, act like the world is yours for the taking! Join me this month and leave a comment to let me know how you’re embracing the challenge. I’ll certainly share my adventures with you!

Ciao!
Miss Kemya


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