Category Archives: branding

Small is Not a Bad Word

Here are a few reasons why small businesses should embrace their size and not feel pressure to stretch the truth or their size:

You have an expertise. Instead of building a long list of product/service offerings, focus on your strongest capabilities. Build your business on these, and you limit the risk of mistakes, which can damage your brand image.

This will also help you focus your brand and corner your niche.

Red tape is non-existent. A great asset is there is little room for bureaucracy. Instead of dealing with an automated service, boilerplate answers and inflexible rules, your customers get to deal with a person. Trust me, that’s invaluable.

There is no “bait and switch”. How many times have you been pitched by the VP or another high-level executive at a company, only to find out you will never work with that person? Instead, you will be working with a junior team that is nowhere near the initial meeting.

Yes, this junior team may be capable, but it doesn’t matter because you’ve built a report with the initial pitch team. Eliminating the bait and switch puts you at an advantage and sets the tone for an honest work relationship.

Your business is flexible. Most small businesses are nimble by design. Can you meet or complete projects at unconventional times? Do you have a unique way to work (special worksheets, work plans, etc.)? Make sure your clients know about it.

A Time for Evaluation

With today’s businesses, there is little room for fluff and even less time for “this is how it’s always been done.” There is a bottom line that must be met.

 

Considering this, have you evaluated the value you provide to your clients? Do your clients know your value? Are there things you can do to increase your value?

 

Many businesses are courting new clients right now, and you can believe that your current clients are on someone’s list. While you can’t stop that, you can make sure that your clients know exactly how much value you provide.

 

Trust me, when a prospective vendor sends in their list of services with a cheaper price tag, that might just capture some attention.

 

However, the things you provide that can’t be listed on a generic list of services will be your ammunition in defending your turf. And it’s better to think about that before you get called into a meeting.

 

 

Towanda Long aka mscafe

MySpace Should Not Be Your Main Website

MySpace, like other social networking sites, is a great way to meet new people, add to your network and become a part of online conversations. As a part of your online marketing it can be a useful tool.

 

However, it’s just that – one tool. It should not be your only online presence.

 

Here are a few reasons why:

 

  • Many corporations block it. Imagine the problems you’ll have trying to get sponsors, advertisers, etc. if the company representative can’t open your site.
  • It still has the stigma of being a site for teenagers. This will most certainly affect people taking your product/service seriously.
  • The platform is limiting in the amount of information that you include. For instance, you can’t have a multiple-page site.
  • You lose the free marketing of having a “yourname@yoursite.com” email address. Without a corporate site you’re stuck promoting yahoo, gmail or another free email service.
  • Do you really want to send the CEO of ABC, Corp. to your MySpace page for more information on your company?

Towanda Long aka mscafe

Fairy Godmother of Marketing

For the past few weeks I have been playing a “Fairy Godmother of Marketing”. There are so many small business owners that are good at what they do, but their branding and marketing efforts do not reflect their talent (see previous post for examples).

 

So, with no ulterior motive (okay, maybe I was in the holiday spirit…) I began offering free advice. This has sparked my newest project.

 

Beginning January 1, 2009 I’ll be launching a new challenge, My Marketing Needs Help. It’ll be for small businesses that need assistance with their marketing – online, print, media, etc.

 

People will be able to nominate themselves and/or other businesses that can use some help. I’ll be choosing three winners for a complete marketing makeover.

 

Also, cafe30.com will be devoting the next 6 weeks to basic marketing tips. So, even if you’re not a winner you can get some guidance.

 

Towanda Long aka mscafe

Five Marketing Mistakes Small Business Owners Make

Unprofessional materials. This includes everything from business cards on the wrong paper stock to brochures printed on regular copier paper to poorly designed websites. With so many affordable options there really is no excuse.

 

Typos. It will get your resume filed in the trash and it will do the same for your business’ reputation. Hire a proofreader, or at the least get an English-savvy friend to review your writing.

 

Poor phone etiquette. No one wants to call a business and here “Hello.” Maybe “Hello, thank you for calling…”, but not just “Hello.” And we especially don’t want to hear your child answer the phone. If you are running a home-based business, invest in distinguished ring. It’s only a couple of dollars and when the phone rings you’ll know it’s a business call. Plus, you can train your kids not to answer the double ring.

 

Inconsistent message. If your messaging is based on newly designed technology, your CEO should not show up to the pitch meeting with a mobile phone circa 1988.

 

Disregard the customer experience. Your excellent product will not bring loyal customers if the person that answers the phone is rude, orders arrive late or people don’t feel appreciated. A great experience is just as important as a great product.

 

Towanda Long aka mscafe

Reasons People Like You

  • You remind them of themselves. It’s that whole “birds of a feather” thing…
  • You’re knowledgeable (but not a know-it-all).
  • You add value to their life/project/business.
  • You have qualities they find inspiring.
  • You make them feel comfortable.
  • You have a sense of humor.
  • You’re honest.
  • You’re reliable.
  • You make them smile.

 

Just a quick reminder that being likable is a great personality trait.

 

Towanda Long aka mscafe

Keeping Your Weakest Link

One of the things that have been a blessing and a curse for me is my laid-back personality (except when I’m driving, but that’s another story…). Some find it admirable that I can remain calm in stressful situations; others think I don’t show enough emotion.  

 

I don’t run around like it’s the end of the world. I do meet deadlines, whether I have five minutes or five months (I should be so lucky…). I once had a boss get upset because I wasn’t “urgently” taking care of a last minute request, even though I finished my portion of the project before him…

 

Yes, running around may look good, but it’s not efficient for me.

 

I say that to say this. It’s important to know how others see you. And it’s good to know whether they think certain characteristics are good or if they see them as your weakest link.

 

But, it’s also important to know when your weakest link is something that makes you special, something that you want to keep.

 

Towanda Long aka mscafe

The Addiction to Twitter

After a few weeks as a Twitterite I will admit, I’m addicted. And for once (okay, maybe twice, because I actually don’t mind the shopping thing…), I am okay with it.

 

My Twitter experience started with my inherent need to be knowledgeable about all things marketing. Articles kept popping up, people I respect sang its praises and so I thought, “Why not?”.

 

Well, now I get it. Twitter is great for many reasons, but here’s my top five:

 

  1. It’s like an AP Wire for those of us not in a newsroom. I follow ABC, NPR & ESPN, to name a few. So, when something happens I know right away. And the news is given to me in 140 characters or less! (Once you join Twitter you can decide whom you want to follow. The updates of these Twitterites then show up on your homepage.).
  2. It feeds my need to be knowledgeable about all things marketing. Twitterites are a diverse group. Many tweet links to very interesting articles, etc. that I would probably not find on my own. It’s not just, “I had a salad for dinner and now I’m going to bed” tweets.
  3. I can tweet about what I’m doing, offer food for thought (i.e. Great marketing does not supersede poor customer service.), or forward links to things I think are interesting.  
  4. The 140 character limit forces me to write succinctly.
  5. It’s kinda cool to see what other people do all day.

Yes, this is my list, but let me know your thoughts. I’m sure I’m not by myself…

 

Towanda Long aka mscafe

(my name on Twitter in case you want to follow me)

 

 

Using the Skills of Your PR Agency

I’ve been debating with a few of my colleagues (not PR professionals) about measuring the effectiveness of a PR agency. My colleagues think media placements are the best way to measure results. I disagree.

PR Agencies are so much more than pitching vehicles for mass and trade media. It is their job to develop and implement a plan that builds a positive relationship with the public. The goal of this relationship is normally to foster goodwill in the office and in the community, to attract clients and to fuel an overall positive perception.

There are many tools a PR Firm can use to do this. Of course, media placements are on the list, but it’s not the only thing. There’s speaking engagements, employee communications, white papers, social media initiatives, sponsorships and the list goes on.

If you are only using your agency for media hits, you are leaving one of your best resources untapped. It’s like going to an accountant once a year for your taxes, but not using him/her for financial and business advice. It just doesn’t make sense.

This is how I think their effectiveness should be measured. What were our sore spots a year ago? Have their initiatives addressed these? Has our image been improved in the marketplace and with our employees? If so, how much so?

These answers tell us if our agency is the right fit. After all, does it really matter how many times we were quoted in the press if our image is the same and we have the same sore spots?

Towanda Long aka Mscafe

(I’m twittering now and mscafe was available, therefore my new alias…)

It’s The Experience

People like experiences. When they go to a restaurant they want good food AND great service. But, they will pay even more for ambiance and to feel special (think The Melting Pot).

 

When people go to a hair salon they want a style that is flattering. But they will pay extra if the salon offers perks (i.e. soothing music and an extra five minute scalp massage).

 

Think about the experience your clients have when they interact with you and your products/services. Then think about how you can make it better.

 

You’ll not only have satisfied customers, you’ll have brand loyalists. People like a brand because they know and like the experience that comes with it. And they’ll talk about it if that experience makes them feel special.

 

Towanda Long aka The Café Lady