Marketing, Advertising & Branding
Three words, or terminologies, are kicked around often in the mind of many small business owners when it comes to growing one’s business: marketing, advertising & branding. Many times branding and advertising are combined into the one word, “marketing.” So when one thinks of branding, he is thinking “marketing.” Or another might say, “I need to do some advertising”, he typically is thinking, “I need to market my business”. These important terminologies are actually quite different from each other and yet play a significant role in working together.
One of the best definitions I’ve heard to describe the word marketing came from a speaker who said something like this: “Marketing is everything you do or don’t do in your business.” In other words, we are always marketing. How you greet a prospect in person is marketing. Do you come across friendly and personal, or shy and standoffish? How you create and send proposals is marketing, too. When people come in contact with you or your employees, they will come away with either a positive, negative, or neutral mindset. So the goal here is to always be thinking of ways to market your “brand” in a way that your ideal prospect will become a loyal customer.
Marketing also involves the planning, organizing, and strategy of how you will promote your business. You might decide to use several different forms of “advertising.” “Marketing is branding building.” (22 Immutable Laws of Branding, Introduction)
Your branding is typically how you want your service or business to look in the eyes of your potential customer. It involves your logo, the colors, yard sign style, website, vehicles, and so forth. Again, quoting from the Immutable Laws of Branding book, “Branding ‘pre-sells’ your product or service to the user.” It typically can be looked at as a first impression. When a prospect comes to your website, will he (or she) find what he wants right away and feel confident you know what you are doing? When a prospect is sitting behind a company truck in traffic, will she feel any emotion to remember your brand (i.e. 800 Number, easy web address, clean logo?).
If a business has no brand, there really is nothing to sell or a way a prospect can remember your business. I recently spoke to an industrial coatings contractor who complained he was getting beaten out of work more than ever before by young companies. He admitted that they had good branding and he had none. No really. He did not have a brand. You could not find a logo, or really a name, and what he did anywhere on the web. He spent most of his 30+ years in the industry relying on his skills of being a really good industrial coatings contractor. What he does not realize is that his competitors are branding their businesses and their messages are sticking.
Finally we come to the word Advertising. This is basically the “how” one markets a brand to consumers. Will you decide to advertise using a plethora of things such as: postcards, social media, blogging, yard signs, community events, trade shows, or a website? Advertising is paying to spread your brand. You either pay for it with your time, your money, or a combination of the two.
A Great Example in the Painting Industry
All three things are crucial in running a successful service company. You need to always be aware of who your ideal customers are and who they are not! Don’t market your brand to the world. Narrow the focus to those who are most likely to hire you. Start by deciding what you want your customers to know about your contracting business that is different from your competitor.
My friend, Steve Burnett of Burnett 1-800 PAINTING, markets his brand with this slogan, “Home of the 9 Year Warranty.” I don’t know of another painter in his area that has a 9 year warranty. If there is now, it won’t make a difference, because Steve is relentless at marketing that slogan everywhere he goes. He uses a number of advertising outlets to promote his brand such as his famous “iClass” where he gives free iPhone/iPad training classes to senior citizens. It took him awhile for the iClass idea to take off. Yet he now gets a steady flow of leads and closes almost every job. His customers love his 9 year labor and material warranty, too!
How do you market your contracting company? Do your prospects know why you are different? Are you the leader in one key area that you can promote? You don’t need to tell people how great you are at painting or remodeling. No. Your customer just needs to feel that your company is a good fit for his or her needs. It is not always about the lowest bid! Take some time to review your branding this week. How is your website, your business cards, brochures, sales booths, vehicles? Does your logo need to be updated? I’ll close with this quote from Chapter 4 of The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding:
“Advertising may not pay for itself, but if you’re the leader, advertising will make your competitor pay through the nose for the privilege of competing with you. Many won’t be able to afford it; those who can won’t bother. Instead they’ll be content to nibble on the crumbs around your huge piece of the pie.”