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Make Branding Part of Your Marketing Strategy

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In a world of short attention spans, a great product or first-class service is rarely enough to sustain a lasting impression among your customers. A sound branding strategy will help ensure that customers remember your business as the “go-to” source for their needs, especially in today’s competitive marketplace.

A branding strategy includes your company’s name, logo, symbols, Web site, and other tools that define your small business in the minds of consumers and, perhaps more importantly, differentiates it from others providing the same products or services in your target market. According to marketing experts such as Laura Ries, president of the Atlanta-based Ries & Ries marketing firm, branding and marketing go hand-in-hand.

“If you can build a powerful brand you will have a powerful marketing program,” Ries says. “If you can’t, then all the advertising, fancy packaging, sales promotions and PR in the world won’t help you succeed.”

Almost anything can be branded, including you. But branding is complex and involves the customer’s total experience with you, your product or your service. The most effective branding combines both online and off-line elements. The Web offers tremendous opportunities for promoting your brand, through low-cost search engine ads or interactive features on your Web site.

Keep in mind that the best brands tend to tap emotions and appeal to a person’s natural need for involvement. Be original in identifying your brand identity—the thing that truly sets your small business apart. Everybody touts quality and service, for example, so look for something that’s really different. If you are having trouble pinpointing a branding message, try asking your customers what they need from you the most. Then base your brand on that.

Your brand should also last a long time, so avoid elements or catch phrases linked to trends likely to disappear or become outdated. Simplicity is also a virtue in your branding message. Buyers are overwhelmed by excess information. Too much information confuses your brand message.

A number of resources can help you understand and craft a sound branding strategy, including The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding. Written by market guru Al Ries and daughter Laura, this smart and accessible book includes 11 Immutable Laws of Internet Branding. Peter Montoya’s The Brand Called You offers ideas and advice on how entrepreneurs can promote themselves, personally, as a brand. Australian branding expert Martin Lindstrom also offers an extensive library of branding articles on his Web site, www.martinlindstrom.com.

To learn more about branding and other marketing matters for your small business, contact SCORE "Counselors to America's Small Business." SCORE is a nonprofit organization of more than 10,500 volunteer business counselors who provide free, confidential business counseling and training workshops to small business owners. Call 1-800/634-0245 for the SCORE chapter nearest you, or find a counselor online at www.score.org. San Diego and Imperial Counties call 619-557-7272, Email score@score-sandiego.org or visit www.score-sandiego.org for additional information.

Success Story

Sweetfields’ founder and president, John Clemons, has been the leading grower of fresh edible flowers (Sunset Farms) since the 1980s. In the mid 1990s, Clemons came across a flower crystallization recipe and decided to try it. The art of crystallizing flowers by hand has been around for hundreds of years. Anyone who has experience with this art form can probably attest to the fact that it time-consuming. There are many people and businesses that do not have the time, resources, or skill to yield quality crystallized flowers, yet would love to have them readily available to garnish desserts, entrees, cakes or beverages. This is where Clemons recognized a huge business opportunity.

In April 1995, Clemons sold his first crystallized flower but it took him about ten years to perfect the art and science to take flower crystallization from a very tedious process into mass production. His technique enhances the natural beauty of the flower while enabling a much more even application of the solution than traditional methods. Upon identifying the components of the perfect recipe and steps to achieve a picture-perfect, mouth-watering crystallized flower, Clemons applied for both domestic and international patents. Soon after, he amended the patent to include glazed flowers, gold and silver-dusted flowers, chocolate dipped crystallized flowers and new concepts that will be introduced to the market at a later date.

In May 2007, Sweetfields, Inc., received a $20,000 SBA guaranteed line of credit through U.S. Bank to help fund expansion efforts. Today, Sweetfields is a family owned and operated business that delivers beautiful candied, edible flowers to worldwide customers. In addition, the business has recently been expanded to include a line of jewelry called Blooming Jewels. Real pansies, violas and rose petals are used to make pendant style necklaces. Different jewelry designs such as rings, bracelets, belt buckles and hair ties will soon be added to the collection. All of the flowers originate from Sunset Farms, the family-owned 33-acre farm in the foothills of Jamul, CA, where they’re grown using organic principles, then transformed into edible works of art. Clemons grew up on the farm and continues to call it home.

Submitted by: U.S. Small Business Administration, Source: SCORE Counselors to America’s Small Business

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