I recently sat down with Maria Ross of Red Slice – a branding consultancy for solopreneurs and small businesses, where unforgettable stories become irresistible brands. Maria also serves up a digital elixir of stories, advice & strategies for entrepreneurs who crave real business-building juice.
We chatted all things branding, a key step in growing a business that so many people skip. Here’s our convo:
Power Chicks: Lots of folks think branding is their logo, colors or overall look. But a company’s visuals and their actual brand – which you describe as the core or essence of a business – are very different. Can you explain?
Red Slice: Brand is really your foundation. It’s your reputation, what you want to be known for, what you believe. (Tweet this tidbit!) Are you high-end and exclusive? Are you dedicated to philanthropy? Are you playful and whimsical? Once you articulate that, you can then choose a logo, colors and overall look that communicate what you are and what value you offer.
Shapes, colors, fonts, word choice – all of those decisions communicate a certain personality and attract a certain type of person. Until you’re clear on what that personality is and who that target customer is, you shouldn’t tackle the design. Brand is the content; the visual elements are just vehicles through which you consistently communicate that content to the world.
Power Chicks: What’s the number one benefit of strategic branding?
Red Slice: Focus. And its little sister, Clarity. When you develop a strategic brand, you get clear on what value you offer, to whom and why you are different. This means you can laser-focus your marketing and communication efforts on talking to the right people who will actually buy what you have to offer. It helps you avoid wasted time, money and energy. And with a strong brand strategy, you can find the right words, tone and benefit statements to clearly and crisply communicate to your target audience.
Power Chicks: What is a persona, and how can developing one – or more – help business owners find their just-right customers and clients?
Red Slice: A persona is merely a character sketch of your ideal client. It’s like a screenplay describing the main character: “Hannah is in her early 30’s. Bright but shy, she hates trying new things but loves reading about them.” That sort of thing. I help clients develop a page-long character description with their gut and a minimum of high-level research. Most of the time, we have the image of the perfect client in our heads, but we’ve never documented who they are, what they care about or what they need in a way that helps us focus our marketing efforts to be where they are! It involves using your imagination and determining not just their age, gender and education level, but what they do for fun, where they work, what type of person they are, which websites do they visit, what clubs do they belong to, what issues do they care about, etc. The more real you can make this person, the more connective and personal your communications will be.
Power Chicks: Wow – sounds helpful! But let’s get real. Can’t branding be expensive? Advice?
Red Slice: Putting together a strategy could be as simple as sitting down and answering some of the key questions I pose in my book, Branding Basics for Small Business. It shatters the myth that branding has to be expensive.
For clients that want some extra research, expertise, tough-love objectivity and brainstorming, I offer my one-day one-on-one SLICE strategic retreats, which is like a dedicated “speed date with your brand” to get them going on crafting a strong brand strategy and to formulate the next steps to making it happen fast.
It actually gets more expensive to fire away on tactics before crafting a firm brand strategy first! (Tweet this tidbit!) I call this “performing random acts of marketing.” If you have never determined your target, how do you know where to aim? Effective branding is not about how much money you spend. It’s about spending the money you have more wisely and in a more targeted-manner.
You can inject your brand into everything that you do – even the free stuff, like social media, your voicemail message or your email signature. Sure, you need to spend some money on high-quality design and deliverables, but you can tailor that based on your budget. Plus, you’ll have less billable hours and wasted effort on those things if you have your brand strategy baked first to be used as the foundation.
Exclusive Power Chicks offer: Save $300 on a SLICE Strategic Retreat when you book with Maria by Oct. 22, 2011! Perfect if committing to a painstakingly slow brand development process makes your heart sink – The SLICE is a swift + high-impact alternative. More info, pricing and booking Red Slice.
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