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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 

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

Learning Across the Globe From Your Comfy Chair

If there’s a subject you’re interested in,  you more than likely do a quick search online to find out details, right? You can apply the same principle to your ongoing business education. With so many social media platforms launching on a regular basis, you can easily stay abreast of hot topics in your industry from your comfy chair. Here’s 4 quick methods you can use to stay current with your industry’s trending topics:

  • Virtual trade shows – This concept is gaining in popularity, and it’s a great way to hear industry-related speakers and topics in one place without the travel expense.
  • Online events, such as webinars, tweetchats, and facebook chats.  I attend at least a couple of these weekly to keep current on trending topics and stay in touch with colleagues and competitors. Did you know many webinar hosts will provide a recording of their webinar if you pre-register?
  • LinkedIn Groups – there is a wealth of industry specific information being shared right now on LinkedIn. Become a member of relevant LinkedIn groups, subscribe to receive updates, and participate in the discussions.
  • Read websites/blogs that relate to your field and subscribe to their RSS Feed. It’s like building an online textbook one article at a time.

Making It Work:  Add these events and activities to your calendar the same as you would if they were in person. 

Did you notice there are no physical boundaries with any of the above mentioned methods? One hour I might be chatting with someone in Australia, the next hour I’m watching a presentation in Canada. Don’t limit yourself or your business!  Just because you’re already established or done with school doesn’t mean the learning is over. Join global conversations, stay current, and ensure your piece of the profit. You can literally get an international education from the comfort of your home.
Ciao,
Miss Kemya

You Are Your Brand, Own It!

I had the pleasure of attending a fantastic social media seminar, dubbed an Online Marketing & Social Media Crash Course, featuring none other than Entrepreneur Magazine expert Starr Hall.  Now since I already know Starr I was prepared to be blown away by all her proven tips to navigate the online marketing environment. For those of you that don’t her, let me tell you she is indeed an expert!

My friend and event attendee Author Brian L Thompson asked me a question after the event that really had me stumped. He asked me “What was THE most important thing I learned? And what am I going to do with it?” The nerve of him asking me such a loaded question right?! After giving some it some thought, I answered: I think the most significant takeaway for me is that I AM THE BRAND. My personality must resonate in everything I do, so I’m working on adjusting all my communications – social media and otherwise – to accurately reflect my brand.

Why am I sharing this? As business owners, we spend so much time making our clients look fabulous that we often neglect our own businesses in the process – don’t despair because I’m guilty too! As it relates to branding and communication, part of this stems from traditional marketing tactics. You see, before the age of transparency via the internet and social media, too many of us were taught to NOT put a personal spin on our communications, thus we would write a bunch of stodgy copy for our marketing collateral. Great design elements, but the copy would either bore you to sleep or be too sales-pushy. Unfortunately, many of us still accidentally succumb to this traditional ideology and it hinders our success – again, call me guilty. As I pondered my most significant takeaway from the event, all of the tips and tricks I learned are rooted in the understanding that it’s okay for me to let my personality shine through as I build my brand. My personality, my uniqueness,  is what you buy, not my degrees or brochures! Ok, maybe you buy my degrees but you know what I mean!

What makes this so ironic is that Janice Clark, one of my tweeps and mentors, pointed this very thing out to me a couple weeks ago. Anytime I try to hide my personality I bomb, as in no “hits”, no feedback, no inquiries = no sales. So how timely is it that I attended this seminar while I am in the midst of making drastic updates to my online persona? Sometimes timing is everything isn’t it? If you’re reading this post I’d dare to guess the same lesson applies for your business – YOU ARE YOUR BRAND!

I could write a thesis on all the things I learned from Starr during this seminar, but you need to check her out for yourself… Seriously though, I am thankful to know people like Brian, Starr, Janice and my tons of business friends for asking me loaded questions and forcing me to think and ACT on strategies to build my business. Remember, you are judged by the company you keep, and  I happen to choose my company carefully. After all, I AM MY BRAND!

Ciao,
 MissKemya

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!

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