> You spend money on ads that bring in a slow trickle of sales.
> Your customers are a conglomerate of mostly one-time buyers, a raggedy group with no common thread between them.
> You don’t know where you will be in five years - just hopefully still in business!
And then you keep being chased by countless articles talking about the importance of branding.
Puh-leaze. It’s a bunch of fluffy hokey-pokey you don’t have time for. All you need is more sales.
I’ll admit it. “Branding” does sound fluffy. But it isn’t. The power of branding is real - ESPECIALLY for smaller brands.
When Amazon first emerged as a hot-shot disruptor in the book selling industry, it was a death knell for many brick-and-mortar bookshops. They simply didn’t have the resources to compete with a new player that had
Who did survive? Mostly the shops that:
Why did these shops survive? Because they were offering things that Amazon simply could not compete with.
Because they stopped competing and put themselves in a whole different league.
Back in the day, when people walked into stores, they bought what they saw. Sure, they’d pick the brand that was more familiar. It certainly helped if you had a huge marketing budget and cheaper pricing. And you still had to advertise your product in newspapers and radio ads and TV commercials.
For the most part, though, it wasn’t this all-encompassing, cut-throat endeavor that it is today. If you got your products into the major retailers - you were pretty much good to go.
Today, your customers can get millions of similar products with just the click of a finger. So it’s not enough to just be a good company with a good product. Sure, if you have a huge marketing budget and can flood the Facebook feed with ads all day, you might be fine. (But even then, as soon as the ads stop, the sales will stop.)
But for smaller businesses? That ain’t gonna work.
The reason you’re struggling is simple as this: you’re still selling like it’s 1990. Yes, you sell online and advertise online, instead of selling in a store and advertising in the paper. But the underlying method is still the same:
That was perfectly adequate in 2001.
But when you’re one tiny player in an enormous global market, it’s a whole different world.
Yeah, that’s it. You’ll spend thousands of dollars driving hundreds of customers to your site - and only a tiny fraction will actually buy something.
And it’s not just that. It’s also a lot harder to build trust and loyalty when your customers never see your face or get to know you or the salesperson. The face-to-face factor is gone.
THIS is why branding has become a buzzword. Because it’s not a buzzword - it’s something you really, really need to excel at if you want to stop surviving and start thriving. It’s your replacement for face-to-face interactions and hands-on shopping.
“You can’t look at the competition and say you’re going to do it better. You have to look at the competition and say you’re going to do it differently.” – Steve Jobs
There are too many companies offering the same products and services as you. So the only way to make it is by making sure they are not competitors.
How can you do that? By offering something those other companies don’t offer.
It can be a feeling. It can be camaraderie. It can be jokes and fun.
But you need that something.
Because otherwise, no matter how attractive or fancy your website and social feed looks, your business will stay in survival mode.
You need a way to make sure your products have fans and your customers trust you. You need to know that even if you stopped advertising for a month - you’d still make a nice number of sales.
It means there's a large market for your kind of product.
BUT - if you try to appeal to that entire market - all the millions of people nationwide who might stumble onto your product - you'll have a very tough time standing out and creating a loyal customer base
Solution? Be polarizing. Create marketing materials that highlight your differences. Ads that some will love and some will hate.
You might now only appeal to 25% of that customer base - but that 25% will love you and come back over and over again.
Never again will you be just "one of many choices".
Find your niche and OWN it!
Finding your niche - defining your market very clearly and focusing only on them - that is the foundation of powerful, effective branding.
Because if you know exactly who you’re trying to reach, your messaging and copy and design will start being intuitive.
Of course, the basis needs to be good quality products. But if your product is lovable, that isn’t enough to make raving fans.
As Simon Sinek said in his famous TEDtalk, people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. We don’t just buy products, we buy stories to tell ourselves.
Ask yourself “How do I get my customers so loyal that they buy from me before they check the account balance - even when the competition is cheaper?”
Find the answer to that, and you have your brand.
Guess what? Brand matters. A lot.
Let me tell you a story of 3 blind tests.
- In the UK, Heinz baked beans are really popular. One of its competitors wanted to find out why. They ran blind taste tests—and discovered that two thirds of customers preferred the taste of the competitor’s beans to Heinz’s.
But when they ran tests where the brands were revealed, customers preferred the Heinz beans.
- In 2004, Baylor College of Medicine monitored subjects’ brains via MRI while they tasted Coke and Pepsi. When the subjects didn’t know what brand they were drinking, the part of their brain involved with preference judgment remained inactive, while the part associated with reward lit up. And it lit up more when they drank Pepsi than when they drank Coke. Meaning - their taste buds enjoyed the Pepsi more.
But when subjects were told they were drinking Coke, the preference judgment region of their brain became active and lit up, overriding the reward center’s taste preference.
- In several studies, subjects were given two bottles of wine to taste - a $10 bottle and a $90 bottle. When asked which they preferred, which one was more expensive bottle, only the most sophisticated wine connoisseurs guessed right.
But when they knew which bottle was more expensive, they consistently said they preferred the $90 bottle!
Why is this? Are we humans so easily manipulated?
So if a brand really gets me, if they make me feel like I’m part of a great group, if they make me feel understood - I will like them better, even if objectively their product isn’t better.
This is the meaning of branding.
Sure, some products may make them fall in love and win their conversion long before they care about who you are. But for the most part, customers want to know you. And they’ll choose you over a competitor not because they like your product better, but because they feel more connected to you.
65% of people that feel an emotional connection to a brand, say it’s because “they care about people like me.”
How do you make them feel that you care?
By talking about things they like, in a way that they enjoy. By giving them those intangible warm, fuzzy feelings.
Probably not. But don’t be shortsighted. 70% of brand managers interviewed said building an audience is more important than converting sales. Branding success isn’t always measured in direct sales or dollar figures. The point is to build a following and establish trust.
If you don’t have a solid brand, in this flooded marketplace, you’re never gonna make it big. Want to be like Casper? Uber?
You can do it. But not if you don’t know EXACTLY who you are.
But with a solid brand? You’ll know what to write in your ads. Who to target. Where to place your ads.
Not sure how to start building your brand? Hit me up here.