Creating a strong brand is serious business. Choosing typefaces and taglines isn’t enough: You first have to think deeply about your company’s personality. 

People focus too much on the external trappings of brand marketing, such as names, logos, and mottos. Such identifiers are important, but they only serve to signify the brand, not create it. 

Instead, the essence of a brand is not the exterior elements, but how you feel about the product or service.

Create Your Brand Personality

So, first consider what feelings you want to inspire in people. This will relate to the values you want your brand to embody. Think of this as your “brand personality.”

Are you easygoing and fun? Serious and professional? Iconoclastic and rebellious? What about witty? Nerdy? Idealistic? Caring? Here’s a worksheet that might help you decide. 

Your brand personality will come through in everything you do, from your interactions with your customers, to the voice you use in communications, to the visual elements you use.

Delight Your Customers

Every brand persona, no matter how edgy, should be geared toward providing customers a positive WOW! experience. That’s why it’s important to your brand to focus on responsiveness, communication, and service—all done in your own way to match your distinctive persona.

5 Reasons Brand Identity is Important for Your Business

A strong and recognizable brand can help a business be more successful, which is why creating an effective brand identity is so important. But what all does a brand identity entail, and why is it so important?

What is a brand identity?

When you create a brand identity, you’re essentially applying your brand values to any visual elements that will be used to promote your business. This means that a brand identity is more than just a logo, and consists of a variety of marketing materials. This might include:

  • Business cards
  • Stationary
  • Print materials (brochures, reports, flyers, etc.)
  • Signage
  • Product packaging
  • Apparel
  • Website
  • Logo
  • Color Palette
  • Fonts
  • Tag line
  • Imagery
  • Branding Guide

Keep Your Fans Feeling Good

Developing a cohesive and professional brand identity is an important part of any effective branding strategy. Creating a brand identity requires research and attention to detail in order to develop a style that successfully meets the goals of a business and gives off the appropriate message. Once a brand identity is created, many companies provide guidelines for how their brand should be represented on various mediums to ensure consistency.

The point of branding your company is to help customers fall in love with you. The values you choose to adhere to and the way you project those values will appeal to certain types of people—your target customers. Make those people feel good about you and you’re on your way to branding—and business—success.

About the Publisher

 Gordon Conner is a Marketing & Branding Consultant/Coach who helps build WOW brands for small local businesses. He has been providing advertising, marketing and branding and services for 40 years and lives in Midlothian, Virginia. He can be reached at, or read more at

By Annette Franz

Are you following the 10 Commandments of Customer Experiences? Or is it time for a confession?

In May 2016, I spoke at CallidusCloud Connections (C3); if you’ve never been to this event, be sure to check it out this year! The topic of my session was The 7 Deadly Sins of Customer Experience. With the topic of today’s blog post, I seem to be on a bit of a spiritual customer experience journey.

In thinking about the customer experience, there are at least 10 Commandments that must be adhered to as you embark on your customer experience journey. These are essentials to ensure a successful customer experience transformation. Here’s what I’ve come up with, in no particular order.

1. Thou shalt listen to customers and act on their feedback.
This is probably two commandments, but you really can’t do one without the other. Listening to customers is, without a doubt, important to designing a great experience and to business success. Without understanding customers, their expectations, and how well we perform against those expectations, we can never correctly or appropriately redesign the experience to meet their needs. But too many companies forget that the “work” doesn’t end with listening. It’s only just begun! You must act on what you hear.

2. Thou shalt map the customer journey in order to understand the experience.
You can’t transform something you don’t understand. If you don’t know and understand what the current state of the customer experience is, how can you possibly design the desired future state? Take the time to map it, and make sure you map it so that it’s actionable: map it from the customer’s viewpoint and be sure to bring in artifacts and data that bring the journey to life.

3. Thou shalt put employees more first.

The link between the employee experience and customer experience is real. And yet, many companies still refuse to make the employee experience a priority, focusing instead on shareholder value, the bottom line, or customer experience without considering the implications a poor employee experience has on all of the above. Yes, you’re in business to create and nurture customers. But without your employees, you have no customer experience. If employees aren’t happy, satisfied, and engaged, it will be very difficult for them to delight your customers. This is known as the spillover effect, i.e., “the tendency of one person’s emotions to affect how other people around him feel.”

4. Thou shalt define and communicate the brand promise.
A brand promise is, well, a promise to your customers. Everything you do should reflect this promise. It sets expectations and defines the benefits customers can expect to receive when they engage in your services or use your products, when they experience your brand. It’s not a mission statement or a brand position. It’s meant for employees and customers. Employees at all levels live the promise and deliver on it. In order for employees to deliver on it, they must know it, i.e.,  it must be clearly communicated to them and reiterated often.

5. Thou shalt hire for attitude and train for skill.

Hiring the right people for your company is always a challenge, but it’s critical. Get the right people in the door – not just those folks who fit your culture or your values but also those who truly want to be there, for the right reasons. Define what “right” means for your company. And when you have the right people, they will attract other “right people.” While you need to define what your culture fit looks like, typically hiring people who are positive, passionate about what you do and what the role entails, and love talking to and being around people will set you on a good path. With enthusiasm and passion for the brand, employees are eager to work hard and do what it takes to contribute to, and ensure, its success.

6. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s experience.
Imitation is the death of innovation. When imitating, there’s no need for innovation, right? Get motivated by what your competitors are doing, but don’t dwell on them. Don’t try to be just like them; nobody wins when you imitate. Instead, competition drives innovation, and vice versa. And innovation drives success, simply because it allows you and your competitors to offer a variety of products to meet your customers’ varying needs. When that happens, the customer wins. And then you do, too.

7. Thou shalt not proceed without getting executive commitment.
If your executives aren’t on board with developing a customer-focused and customer-centric organization, then forget it; it won’t happen. You might have localized or departmentalized efforts, but those will be siloed efforts that translate to siloed experiences for the customer. You must have global, cross-functional executive commitment; and most importantly, the CEO will lead the charge. Just know that, without executive commitment, you’ll never get resources – human, capital, or other – to execute on your customer experience strategy.

8. Thou shalt empower employees.
What does it mean to empower employees? Empowerment is all about responsibility, ownership, and accountability. It’s also about trust; the employee is given the keys to the castle and trusted to do what’s right for the customer and for the business. Empowerment means they never have to ask, “Is it OK if I do this for my customer?” Empowerment means not having to ask for permission. Because employees know. And why do they know? See the next commandment…

9. Thou shalt define a purpose, vision, and strategy.

Your purpose is your why. Why do you do what you do. Your vision is where you’re headed; the corporate vision must be aligned with the CX vision. The CX vision will be inspirational and aspirational; it will outline what you see as the future state of the customer experience. It will briefly describe the experience you plan to deliver. And it will serve as a guide to help choose future courses of action. Your strategy is how you’ll go about delivering on that vision.

10. Thou shalt communicate, communicate, communicate.

This one seems like such a no-brainer, but it’s one thing that folks need to be reminded of regularly: communication is critical to the successful execution of organizational and customer experience  transformations. Communication is a key leadership skill that must be mastered. With communication, we can instruct, motivate, convince and align the audience, drive open and candid discussions, share, and set expectations. It’s the most valuable tool in any relationship.

Bonus. Thou shalt kill bad policies and rules.
There’s one more commandment that I thought was worth adding as a bonus. In order to transform the organization and the experience, it’s imperative that we lose the “we’ve always done it that way” frame of mind. Question everything. Is there a better way to do something? Is there a stupid rule or policy in place whose origin cannot be recalled by anyone? Are there rules that make it painful for customers to do what it is that they’re trying to do? Are bad policies making it painful for employees to do their jobs well or to deliver the desired customer experience? Never let “that’s just how it’s always been done” get in the way of doing things more efficiently and with less effort.

Without a doubt, there are more customer experience commandments! Perhaps I’ll write about others in a future post. How many of these commandments have you fallen short on?

Gordon Conner is a Marketing & Branding Consultant/Coach who helps build WOW brands for small local businesses. He has been providing advertising, marketing and branding and services for 40 years and lives in Midlothian, Virginia. He can be reached at, or read more at

You know the back of your hand pretty well, right? How about your customers – do you know them? Like, *really* know them? Understanding who your customers are, and exactly what drives them, is important to increasing your conversion rate. When you make the decision to get to know your customers better, you’re making the decision to better your company and your brand.

1. Understand Your Demographics

The first thing you need to do to really understand your customers is to take a look at them. Who is buying products from you? Are you mostly getting sales from retired seniors? Is it internet billionaires who find your service irresistible? When you understand the demographics of the people purchasing from you, you’ll be able to take the next steps to truly understanding them.

2. Interact on Social Media

If you don’t have social media accounts for your company, you’re not giving your marketing strategy the teeth it needs to survive. Social media today allows you to truly interact with customers and clients. This gives you a completely new insight into the people you need to be working with. Through social media, you can find out who is buying, but more importantly you can interact with them.

Customer Analysis-3

3. Conduct Surveys

If you want honest feedback about your product or service, consider conducting surveys. There are a number of different types of surveys you can put out there. From customer service feedback to having surveys about the products, these help you understand how your customers think. Consider putting out personal surveys, as well. This gives you specific information on your customers.

4. Hit up Events

Are there small business expos or home shows in your area? How about in one of your target market areas? These events allow you to interact with customers one on one. When you go to these events, make sure that you’re up for the challenge. You may get customers that are happy with you, but you may also encounter those who have had trouble with your product or service. In addition, you’ll meet people who have never encountered your product before. Make sure to pay attention to the people who are interested in what you have to offer. Find out what interests them, and take this to heart.

5. Conduct Focus Groups

Customer Analysis-2Focus groups allow you to delve into the mind of customers and potential customers. You can spend some time with them in a laid back environment, asking questions about their lives and your product. Focus groups will generally yield a lot of information that other forums simply don’t. When you conduct a focus group, make sure that it is as laid back as possible. You want to get real information, you don’t want people telling you what they think you want to hear.

6. Create a Customer Profile (Persona)

You already know the demographics you’re working toward. Create a profile of the perfect customer. What is their family like? What are their interests and dislikes? When you create a customer profile you’re putting on paper what you think your customers are like. While you need to be willing to throw this out if you find your customer is someone else entirely, it’s a great way to start getting to know the needs of people purchasing from you.

7. Look at Your Data

Brand Plan-9If you already have customers, you also have data. You probably have more information on your visitors and customers than you think. Take a look at the analytics on your landing pages. This will let you know the physical locations of your customers. It also offers you information like what search terms they use to get to your landing page, and where they click once they’re on the page.

8. Let Go of Assumptions

If you really want to get to know who your customers are, you need to let go of assumptions or preconceived notions you have about them. This allows you a clean slate to truly understand where they are coming from, and what they want from you. This is especially important when you’re conducting surveys, meeting people, and interacting with those who have purchased or want to purchase from you. While it’s good to start with assumptions, be willing to let them go if it turns out that you were wrong in the first place.

Understanding your customers can be a long process. However, once you know them, you’ll be able to better advertise your products. While this can result in more sales, it also helps with customer loyalty. If people know that you’re truly interested in them, and not just the sale, they’re more likely to purchase again later.

About the Author

Gordon Conner is a Marketing & Branding Consultant/Coach who helps build WOW brands for small local businesses. He has been providing advertising, marketing and branding and services for 40 years and lives in Midlothian, Virginia. Read more from our blog at, or visit our website at

Retail Customer-2The outfit. The restaurant. The conversation. The goodnight kiss. The journey from acquaintances to something more is filled with moments that connect one to another, and while more romantic, it’s not much different from the relationship between customers and brands.

While we do love some brands, we ignore most – or at least tune them out. Misguided ads and unoriginal marketing concepts have desensitized us to most brand communications. But those brands that are loved are the ones that were heard. These brands connected with their audience in ways that guided them not just to a sale but also to a relationship. Online or off, the way in which your brand WOWs your customer along their journey can mean the difference between browsing and brand evangelism.

From Physical to Digital and Everything In Between

Retail customers-1Consider the customer experience from arrival (at a store), departure, and everything in between and you can imagine a literal, physical journey. As a customer arrives, she’s first greeted by a window display. She enters the store and is exposed to signs and color blocking that helps her navigate to the type of products she’s looking for. Hangtags and smaller displays might feature more detailed product benefits. Finally settling on a product she’ll head to the register, where she interacts with a customer service representative before paying and leaving.

There is an entire digital overlay to consider as well. She could have seen a Facebook post from the brand about a secret 10 percent off coupon, watched a YouTube video about how to wear a summer dress (that the store happens to sell) ten different ways – or might have seen someone pin a related image on a Pinterest page.

Customer journeys today are fragmented and impossible to accurately map. But when it comes to brand storytelling, success doesn’t hinge on whether or not a brand can guess which journey a customer is taking. Instead, it hinges upon how well the brand tells its story across all the potential customer touchpoints.

No Second Chances for a First Impression

Retail Customer-5Social channels, email, paid media, custom content, out-of-home, window displays-they’re all forms of marketing intended to make an impression, but not the same impression. The customer may welcome your branded messages (and even share them if you’re lucky), but they expect each message to serve different needs. If your brand sells a complicated product, it’s worthless to list all the technical specifics on a billboard, a window display or even a Facebook ad. Instead, those touchpoints should WOW and intrigue a potential customer enough to lead them to the next touchpoint where a new chapter is told.

One great example of this literally challenged the consumer to unearth a chapter of the story. The Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago created scratch-off advertising on bus shelters to promote a new exhibition. Instead of just using the ad space to give all the pertinent information, they challenged those at the bus stop to scratch off the topcoat to reveal artwork and a QR code that provided two-for-one tickets to the exhibit. The idea of scratching to unearth what’s beneath fit perfectly with the exhibit’s archaeological theme and enticed potential visitors to learn more.

blog apple store not worried about ripoff by microsoftWe’ve seen this historically too. Apple has created some of the most technically advanced products. A few of them completely changed the industry. But Apple didn’t try to explain all the product features and benefits at every touchpoint. You might not even address the product nuances until you’re in the process of purchasing them. Apple could have listed the first generation iPod’s capacity on their billboards, but instead they hooked us with, ” 1,000 songs in your pocket”-a brilliant first chapter.

A true story unfolds over a number of different chapters, and brand storytelling is no different. Tying marketing efforts together with a narrative thread requires careful thought about the role each touchpoint dynamically plays in the journey. A marketer must clearly define how they want or expect a customer to react when they interact with a piece of content.

Over the years, we’ve witnessed the significance of all touchpoints in the development of  successful brands. That’s why we focus so heavily on this aspect of the branding process and why so many of our client brands have been successful. Check out our many case stories.

About the Author 

Gordon Conner is a Marketing & Branding Consultant/Coach who helps build WOW brands for small local businesses. He has been providing advertising, marketing and branding and services for 40 years and lives in Midlothian, Virginia. He can be reached at, or read more at our website at

There’s a lot more to your brand than a logo and tagline. The brand of your company is made up of virtually everything that your business does and every experience your customer has with your company. This all determines whether they become a loyal customer or they walk away, never to be seen again. Here are some things to think about in your quest to position your business at the top of the ladder in your niche. And possibly even become a Category of One company.


Exactly Why Are You’re in Business?

Being a “Jack Of All Trades” is NOT your objective. On the contrary, you want to specialize. Being a specialist is the easiest way to stand out in the marketplace. It’s tempting to offer a wide array of products so that you’ll think you have an answer for every need. But don’t do it! Instead, become the expert at what you do and do it better than anyone else. That’s how you become known as the number one source, and a potential Category of One company.

Clearly Define Your Brand Promise

Your brand promise is the most powerful statement you can make to your customers. It tells them what they can expect from you every time they do business with you. It’s a real promise that you can prove every day. This promise is drawn from the Brand Audit you conducted for your brand and is based on your culture, analyses of your customers, competitors and employees and how you do business. Plus it shows customers how you can make their problems go away. This statement is all about how you make their lives better, and why they can’t get the same satisfaction anywhere else.

Here are some brand promises that you may be familiar with:

  • McDonald’s:fast food with a consistent taste and service, regardless of whether you are in Richmond or Rio.
  • Starbucks:good coffee in an inviting atmosphere — your home away from home
  • CarMax:You’ll never have to “haggle” for a car
  • pick the shoe; it’ll be there before you know it.

Everything you do to market your small business, or interface with your customer should reflect your brand promise. This includes things that you may, or may not have realized. It all adds up, the phone conversations, the manner in which the phone is answered, the look of company vehicles, your ads, company uniforms, even the color of your hair. Ask this question when developing your brand promise-“What is the one reason my customers buy from me?” The more specific the answer, the better your brand promise.

Describe You Target Customer

"What's Branding and Should Small Business Care?"You can’t serve everyone. If you are a guitar shop, you serve certain musicians. Day cares serve families. Tennis clubs serve tennis players. So you need to know who your customer is in order to properly provide what they need. And if you don’t know who to target as new customers, use the top 10 percent of your current customer base as a guide.

Be Authentic And Honest About Who You Are

When your brand speaks, it must tell it like it is. No inconsistency or confusion in the marketplace. If you’ve defined your market properly, that shouldn’t pose any problems. In other words, don’t be hip and casual if you are in the funeral business.

Clearly Define Your Value Proposition

Your Value Proposition is the statement that explains why you are better than your competition, and why. If you’re going to know what you do best and how that stacks up against your competition, you need to know your competition, and know them well. You’ll need to know how to pump up your strong points and play down your weaknesses. Or, to make adjustments so that those weaknesses are no longer weaknesses, and perhaps become strengths. For example, if you are a café in the suburbs, your position may be the neighborhood restaurant with easy parking.

Be Consistent And Look Like A Professional Business

Owner-31-BEvery piece of communication or sales materials should look like it all came from the same source. Reuse your primary selling points and specifically your Value Proposition. That goes for websites, brochures, signs or ads. The logo and tagline goes on everything. And don’t overlook colors, fonts, imagery, signage, packaging and all events.

Talk With Your Customers Regularly

You should have an on-going dialog with your customers all the time. It may be when they come in the store, a phone call or an email. But that interaction continues even when they’re not doing business with you. Here are some ways to keep the conversation going:

  • Post How-To video of your products or services to your Web site, Facebook page or YouTube.
  • Post a poll on Facebook. It doesn’t have to have anything to do with your business. (Ask if they are going to the Easter Parade.)
  • Ask for product reviews on your site and on other websites where your products are being offered.
  • Respond proactively and professionally to Yelp! or Angie’s List. Don’t ignore them.
  • Conduct customer appreciation days so they see you in a different light; people love to know they make a difference.
  • Share interesting information, don’t just send ads.
  • Send out email newsletters specifically aimed at your customers’ interests or purchase habits.
  • Send testimonials of satisfied customers.
  • Use customer satisfaction surveys regularly.

Give Customers a Great Consistent Experience at Every TouchPoint

It’s the Internet age and that makes it easier to reach our customers, but also harder in many ways. Even thought they are only a click away, you may never see them face-to-face. To compensate for that you need to make customer service the center of everything you do, and become known as the brand that is always there for the customer and gives the ultimate in service. There’s a tire dealer on the west coast who “runs” to the car when you pull onto his lot. That’s how bad he wants your business. Be constantly on the lookout for ideas of how you can make your customer service better. Consider how you can make an ever better impression, if the customer:

  • Sees your ad, mailing, Facebook page, or Web site for the first time.
  • Walks into your shop.
  • Calls you.
  • Places an order by phone or Website.
  • Sends you an inquiring email.
  • Signs up for your customer mailing list.
  • Returns for another purchase.

It may seem like a lot of extra work, but the end result is all worth it. Did you know there was a “Word of Mouth Association”? Me neither, but they claim that 55% of consumers recommend companies because of great customer service.

It Pays Off In The End-Big Time!

When you get started, this will seem like a lot of work. But you’re building your brand, and once you get it all rolling, it will become a lot easier and more routine. There are expert brand consultants and coaches that can make this exercise much easier. It’s important to stay on top of these branding initiatives to be sure that your efforts are consistent and steadily improving your brand. The salvation is going to be what you see on the bottom line in the months and years to come. Explore how we do it here at BranWorks.

About the Author 

Gordon Conner is a Marketing & Branding Consultant/Coach who helps build WOW brands for small local businesses. He has been providing advertising, marketing and branding and services for 40 years and lives in Midlothian, Virginia. Read more from our blog at, or visit our website at

 By: Gordon Conner

It Doesn’t Take Rocket Science to Build a Better Brand

If you want to build a company with a nice, friendly, compelling brand, you probably think that you’ll be pitched with terms like DNA, brand promise, manifesto and essence. You may even be exposed to strange concepts like a brand pyramid or ladder, or be swept away with all of the different aspects of brand architecture. Hey, folks, branding doesn’t have to be that way-it ain’t rocket science!

It really is simple. You just have to get people to like you. That’s all. Let’s face it; people do business with people they like. They don’t want to buy their new car from a shyster salesman. And they aren’t going to continue using a dry cleaner that consistency distroys their clothes. So, obviously, you need to start by doing your job. And doing it well. If you do it well enough, you may eventually have people talking about you, in a good way. And that could be the start of building a new brand. So, how do we build that fresh, new brand that will encourage folks to want to do business with you? Believe it or not, it all starts with four simple steps.

So what’s a touch point? A touch point is any exposure that your customer has to your business. It can be the smiling face of your sales clerk. It’s the inventory that you carry that offers a better selection than anyone else. It’s the cinnamon aroma in your shop. It’s the tie worn by your delivery person. It may even be your hairstyle. (That Mohawk haircut just may not be cutting it with your customers.) These are all touch points and they all have to relay the same message about what kind of company you are. It’s all about consistency.

So that’s it. Get these touch points right, and take the four steps mentioned here. Before you know it, you can have the brand that you’ve always wanted.

The basics of building a great brand are really very simple. But the problem is, there is always something, or someone, standing in your way-including yourself. And these things just complicate the issue. And if you let them, these issues can take over, and the brand that you so dearly wanted could turn into a nightmare in a heartbeat. And your business will never grow that way.

So what are some of these anti-brand culprits that are standing in the way of your success? Here are the most common:

  • The target market is everybody-You want your market to be everyone who has ever bought from you. Plus the people who you think should buy from you. Plus everyone that has a remote chance of buying in the next 10 years. When you have that many people, how are you going to please everyone? You can’t! Before you know it, your marketing is about as exciting as Billy’s lemonade sign.
  • Your Dominant Value “Point” Becomes “Points” So you think you need to share the complete laundry list of features and benefits in order to make you different. You’re convinced that every feature is critically important and your customers can’t wait to hear about each one. The fact is, buyers are swamped with too much info. They don’t want to hear about all of that. They’ll just ignore you.
  • You’re a small business. Don’t try branding like the big boys. It won’t work- Everybody wants to be the next Apple. If you try that, guess what will happen-you’ll end up with a pile of over-engineered doo-doo. You come up with this elaborate plan to create brands, sub-brands, manifestos and ladders and you can’t do it all. So what do you do? You give up and go back to doing it the old way, before you came up with this whole “branding thing” idea.

You need to keep it simple! And it can be simple if you make the tough choices and follow the steps.

Don’t forget that famous quote, “Any darn fool can make something complex; it takes a genius to make something simple.”

Building a great brand is all about keeping it simple. It ain’t rocket science. But, it takes lots of very hard, very smart work.

About the Author

Gordon Conner is a Marketing & Branding Consultant/Coach who helps build WOW brands for small local businesses. He has been providing advertising, marketing and branding and services for 40 years and lives in Midlothian, Virginia. He can be reached at, or read more at

Your brand is the house where your company lives. People get an idea of the people who live there by what they see from the street. If that house isn’t being kept up and the place looks outdated, we tend to think the inside must be sloppy and the people who live there must not care what others think.

Just like your home, your brand needs tender loving care. Those companies who built a good solid brand a few years ago, and have been letting that brand slide in recent years, are now realizing that their customers are dwindling and their image isn’t as solid as it once was. The small companies who were ignored by these brands are suddenly appearing to be more innovative and relevant in comparison. Sometimes it takes a fresh set of eyes to walk in and ask some tough questions. What is no longer resonating with customers and prospects? Is the old Value Proposition cutting it in comparison to the competition? Is the website making a good first impression? In other words, what is the brand’s curb appeal like now?

Is it time to take action? There are several options. It all depends on whether the needs are fixable, or is it time to start over?

Mission and values

A great example of a company that has done an excellent job of driving home the company’s mission and values is USAA. Each employee knows exactly what the mission is and has a real purpose for going to work every day. Your values need to be clearly articulated to employees, customers and stakeholders. The mission should let everyone know what your goals are. Test your company. Randomly ask your employees what your company’s mission is. If your mission is important to your employees and customers, don’t mess with it. But if your employees can’t answer affirmatively, they have jobs, but no purpose. This means the mission doesn’t have any value for them, or it isn’t being promoted properly. In this case, you need to take a fresh approach.

Messaging and positioning

How are you different from your competition? What makes you valuable in a special way? Most CEO’s think they have the answer. But CEO’s aren’t your customers. Sometimes they are simply too close to the forest to see the trees and their outlook is completely outdated. Or maybe the CEO does know, but the messages haven’t kept up with the times, nor have they been adapted for all of the critical touchpoints. Not sure? Start with some research to find out what customers and prospects really think. Now, compare this to what you want them to think. This, along with a solid brand audit, will tell you if you need a new approach to the market.

Creative storytelling

You may find that your mission, vision and values are solid. But after an audit, you may conclude that your messaging just isn’t cutting it for you. Your core messaging may simply be out of date, or you may not be getting your story across well enough to get attention and make your company remembered. Your story needs to take a life of its own. To do this you need to be bold and creative. Boring the market will never work. Your message should be making you just a bit nervous. If not, you aren’t taking it far enough to break through the clutter to convey a distinctive message.

As a leader, you need to pay attention to your brand and it’s responsibilities every day. Many CEO’s don’t think of their brand as a priority because they aren’t putting out brand fires every day. In the meantime, the brand is going downhill. The result can be a permanent damage to the foundation of your business. Maintenance is mandatory. Keep it fresh. Continuously monitor what your customers and prospects are thinking. If you can manage their impression of your business you can dramatically affect your bottom line. What are you doing to stay on top of your company’s brand? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

About the Author

gordon-at-st-john[2]BGordon Conner is a Marketing & Branding Consultant/Coach who helps build WOW brands for small local businesses. He has been providing advertising, marketing and branding and services for 40 years and lives in Midlothian, Virginia. Read more from our blog at, or visit our website at

Marketing Coach or Consultant. Which Do You Need?



If you’re an athlete and work with a coach, the coach’s job is to bring out the best in you so you can do the best job possible. Business coaches do the same thing by getting you to focus on the big picture of the goals for your business and discuss those things that will motivate you to obtain those goals. The coach wants to guide you towards your highest potential. The coach cheers you on and empathizes with you. The coaching relationship is designed to uncover honest insights into where things aren’t working as planned. The bottom line of business coaching is to develop an ultimate plan for moving toward your goals, with your coach supporting you on your path to reaching those goals.



A consultant comes to you as an expert in business marketing, branding and the various components that make up those disciplines. The consultant will teach you, as well as offer a strong plan for reaching your goals. The objective of consulting is to get your project done and producing results for your business.


An Analogy

This will perhaps give you a more clear understanding of the difference between the job of a coach and that of a consultant. A coach will help you learn how and why you might want to go fishing, figure out what’s holding you back from catching any fish, and stand next to you and urge you on regarding your casting technique.

A consultant will explain why one fishing rod is superior to another, teach you how to cast, and if necessary, catch the fish for you.

So what do you need, a coach or a consultant? Depends on your objectives, your time constraints and deadlines.

I am a coach AND a consultant. So I offer you the advantages of both coaching and consulting. Every business is different with unique needs of it’s own. By offering both disciplines, I can help you in a variety of ways and for a variety of clients and situations:

  • Advice when and how you need it.
  • Provide evolving business and marketing skills to keep you on your toes.
  • Encouragement and brainstorming when you get stuck.
  • Insight to let you do what you do best and to build your business to your ultimate potential.

    About the Author

    gordon-at-st-john[2]BGordon Conner is a Marketing & Branding Consultant/Coach who helps build WOW brands for small local businesses. He has been providing advertising, marketing and branding and services for 40 years and lives in Midlothian, Virginia. He can be reached at, or read more at

Most small and mid-sized companies don’t have internal marketing and branding expertise. They’re great at managing their company and being sure the lights are turned off at night. However, they typically don’t know the difference between brand equity and sweat equity.

So, it often makes sense to bring in the experts to be sure the brand is managed properly. After all, there could be as many as 20-25 touchpoints to keep in tow. The experts will spend regular time on the client’s premises, overseeing the implementation of the new marketing program, as well as any other marketing and/or communications needs the company may have. In essence, they can serve as your in-house marketing department. They may come in once a day, once a week, once a month or whenever you need them. Set it up to augment your own expertise.

As the CEO, you may have a good handle on all of your sales efforts, but you may not have a clue about what color to paint your trucks or how to motivate your receptionist. Just be sure to keep it all consistent and on-brand. (Even your part.) The more that’s managed through a single point of contact, the more integrated your efforts will be. By managing the brand in this way, you will insure the program’s sustainability and be able to adjust along the way.

About the Author
gordon-at-st-john[2]BGordon Conner
is a Marketing & Branding Consultant/Coach who helps build WOW brands for small local businesses. He has been providing advertising, marketing and branding and services for 40 years and lives in Midlothian, Virginia. He can be reached at, or read more at

How to Live Your Brand

How many times have you eaten at a diner that’s “famous” for their pie? And how many times has the pie been mediocre? “We’re famous for our pie” is a brand statement – and it’s easy as pie to proclaim it. Living up to that promise is another story.

Your own brand isn’t necessarily what you want it to be; instead, it’s the sum of all the ways your customers experience your company. And what consumers think of your brand may be very different from the message you’re putting out there.

At the most basic level, your brand isn’t the work you do, but it is how you do it. If you’re putting out limp pastry, that’s your brand: soggy pie.

You may have agonized over your company name and obsessed about your logo. Now, you need to live your brand, every day.

“The brand becomes the anchor identifying what you are promising to be with people. There’s a whole set of what look like little things that amount to something enormous when it’s done right,” says to Mark Stevens, CEO of management and marketing firm MSCO, and author of Your Marketing Sucks and The Macmillan Small Business Handbook.

The design of your office, retail space or reception area says something about your brand, as does your voicemail announcement and the way you answer the phone. The way you and your employees dress makes a brand statement; the music you play and sometimes even scent can contribute to branding.

“Your brand has to come through in all those different ways. If there’s a discrepancy in how you think of your brand and what customers expect, that’s a problem,” says Lori Jo Vest, co-author of Who’s Your Gladys? How to Turn Even the Most Difficult Customer into Your Biggest Fan.

Are Jeans Appropriate for Your Company?

Even the way you and your employees dress can support your brand, she says. For example, Vest is also managing director of television production studio Communicore Visual Communications. “We’re a down-to-earth, B2B company, and our tag line is, ‘Great work, sensible shoes,’” she says. “Our competitors across town target ad agencies, with producers who are more creative types. Over there, you’ll see the blue hair, studs in the ear and nose rings. For their branding, it makes sense.”

Clearly, the music you play in your office or store sets customers’ expectations for their experience; even the music they hear when they call in and are put on old can reinforce the message. RMS Sound Studios, a Birmingham, Mich. audio production house Vest mentions in her book, produced a three-minute sound collage on the theme of waiting to not only entertain callers but also showcase their work.

But the most important part of your branding doesn’t come from the design or your office, your fleet or your business card. It comes from the way you and your staff treat customers.

It’s What You Do For Your Customer That Counts.

“Operationally, what you actually deliver and do as a company for the customer, whether that’s on your website, in your store or working with your consultants, has to match the promise you made in the marketplace. It has to go more than skin deep,” says Maria Ross, founder of branding and marketing consultancy Red Slice and author of Branding Basics for Small Business: How to Create an Irresistible Brand on Any Budget (Norlights Press 2010).

This doesn’t mean you have to pull out PowerPoints or use a lot of marketing jargon. You can and should convey your company’s brand in simple language, with plenty of examples. Remind employees that they are all brand ambassadors – and give them the resources to deliver.

There are plenty companies that don’t deliver on their branding and are giving consumers a mixed branding message. You can fix such mismatches, however, by training your employees and changing your operations, but it’s just as important to be honest with yourself, Ross says. “You can’t be all things to all people. What are the two or three things you’re going to hang your brand on?”

For example, maybe your repair company’s technicians are geniuses but they can be brusque with customers. Play up the genius angle. Perhaps the products you retail aren’t so unusual, but you’ve created a truly inviting environment. Hang your brand on the experience of being in your store.

The bottom line: Your branding succeeds when what you actually do matches with the promise you’re making to your customers.

About the Author

gordon-at-st-john[2]BGordon Conner is a Marketing & Branding Consultant/Coach who helps build WOW brands for small local businesses. He has been providing advertising, marketing and branding and services for 40 years and lives in Midlothian, Virginia. Read more from our blog at, or visit our website at


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