Will Branding Grow Your Business?

26 07 2010


We have talked before about how to grow your business.  Obviously, you will follow a business plan to help get your business off the ground, the business plan will also provide a basic path for you to follow as your business grows.  But  a big question is, will branding grow your business?

Let’s first go into what, exactly, is Branding?  We are not talking about marking livestock or people, but we are referring to branding as a marketing term.  When you reach for a tissue, how many people want a Kleenex?  If you want to tape something together, do you ask for Scotch Tape?  What about getting a soda, don’t you ask for a Coke or Pepsi if you are wanting a cola type soda?  That is the branding we are discussing tonight. 

Branding is the assigning of a name, slogan, symbol to a product or service.  It has evolved into including the identity of the company, or the personality of the business to the product.  As we are mainly small entrepreneurs, branding anything we may have will most likely take much more capital investment than we will see in our near future.  So, it begs the question, is it really important to have whatever we are offering to the public (be it product or service) branded? 

We have all seen how a familiar product brand will outsell its competition, even the generic brand.  You see people tending towards the familiar brands, even if the other labeled products are exactly the same and less expensive.  Consumers will tend towards the familiar over something new and even less expensive.  If you think about branding though, isn’t a brand just a name or a concept that we have become familiar with?  It is not necessarily all the marketing that we have been exposed to, granted the marketing helps, but that is not all.  If you try a particular brand-named product and have a good experience, then you will let others know about the good experience.  The reverse is true too.

So, really the key to branding on the small business level, is to let people become familiar with your product and / or service.  The more familiar they are with what you have to offer, compared to similar items others are offering, the higher the likelihood that your product / service will outsell the competition.  Even if you have a product or service that is not common, if you have developed familiarity with your consumer base, people will be more willing to purchase from you than from any competitor who may crop up in the future. 

Part of what branding would be for small business is the concept of you branding your company, not necessarily the specific products you are offering.  It is stated this way, because as stated in earlier blogs, as the business climate changes, your product line may be modified to meet the new needs of your customers.  What you should probably focus on, is your own unique method of presenting the products and services.  You should be offering with your product or service, something that no one else is offering.  You may want to emphasise your business integrity, or perhaps that the product you are selling is the first in its field.  You want to offer to the customer something they have been looking for, and have not been able to locate in any of the competition.  Once you discover that aspect, you want to be sure your customers know that you offer something nobody else offers. 

Once your customers discover you are offering what they have been looking for, your “branding” will be advertised through them.   You want to create the thought in your customer’s mind that you and your offerings are unique and what the customer wants.  They in turn will tell their friends and your business will grow.  You will have discovered the small business version of branding to grow your business

If you are interested in starting up your own small business, please feel free to check out our website, www.hawgwash.net.  We offer several types of small business opportunities for those looking for a second income. 

Until next week…

Consequences of Not Following Your Business Plan

19 07 2010

Last week we talked about not forcing yourself to review your business plan on a regular basis.  After a while you believe that you know the plan so well that you don’t need to refer to it anymore.  This week we are going to continue to review the consequences of not following your business plan and how to rectify those consequences.  By year 3 we started adding other products and services to our business without cross-referencing with our original business plan.  Since we had been reviewing the business plan so much, we figured we didn’t have to keep reviewing it. 

Diversification is a good thing, but you need to do it and still keep it within the confines of your business plan.  If you add more products and services, you really do need to go back to your original business plan and modify the plan to include the changes.  Not only do you need to include the additional products, but you should be doing more market research and then taking a step back to determine if what you have added to your product line will enhance your overall business position and help you to move your company forward.  You need to validate that you have not picked up additional products that do not complement your core competency. 

Diversification can be good for your business, but diversification, like change, for change sake may not be a good thing for your business.  You don’t make changes “just because”.  Any changes or diversification you do should remain in line with your overall business plan and goals.  By the end of year 3 and into the beginning of year 4, we had focused so much on diversifying that we lost sight of who we were and what we stood for. 

We looked at our business plan, finally, and discovered that we were so far away from what we had originally planned, that we did not recognize the business we were working anymore.  Our profits showed the same loss of focus too.  We were profitable, but we were working harder for those same profits and we didn’t feel the same sense of accomplishment as we had when we first started out.  In year 4 we discovered that we had to go back to basics and re-work our business plan

By now, all of the original plans and backup plans were defunct.  We pretty much had to start the process of writing a business plan all over again.  The good news is that we had the original template, so now all we had to do was to review where we were and confirm where we wanted to go.  Then we needed to write a business plan that would get us back on track and back to growing and developing the business.  At this point we had almost lost our business identity.  Our loyal customers had been trying to warn us, they would periodically ask what we had in mind for our business.  It took one customer asking us what our business focus was.  He said our business looked like a mish-mash of everything and nothing in particular.  That comment stopped us short.

After that wake-up call, we went back to the drawing board and started asking the hard questions.  We went to our business plan and re-confirmed our goals and strategy and reiterated who we were as a business.  We spent the remainder of the year striving to regain control of our business and to get it back on track with our business plan.  It is amazing how hard it is, once you lose sight of your business plans and goals, to get your business back on track.  Part of our challenge was the re-aligning of our business coincided with the downturn in the economy.  The downturn in the economy helped us to streamline our business processes and really focus on what we wanted for the business.  We are coming out of this stronger and better prepared than we had ever originally envisioned.  

We have now included an annual review of our business plan, whether we need it or not so that we do not fall into the same rut we did.  It is a good idea to review your business plan after the end of your fiscal year anyway, most large corporations do that, so there is no reason why, as a small entrepreneur we should not do the same.  It is an excellent habit to get into and you should then not experience the same challenges that we did when we lost sight of our business plan.  Never assume that you know your plan inside and out.  It will always change as your business and the external environment changes.  Always remember to follow your business plan, no matter how well you think you know it.

If you are interested  in starting your own business, please feel free to visit our website at www.hawgwash.net.  We may have a business opportunity that would fit your lifestyle.

 Until next week…

Not Following Your Business Plan

12 07 2010

Last week we had continued our discussion about implementing your business plan.   We talked about the challenges of discovering what actually will happen when you move from a business plan on paper to physically acting on the plan.  This week we are going to talk about what happens when you take your eye off the ball and you find you are not following your business plan

One of our booth configurationsIf you read last weeks post, as our rallys progressed, we did continue to touch base with our business plan to be sure we were on track.  By the end of the year, we felt we had become very proficient in working our business plan.  Each rally we attended we performed better at, our booth displays became eye-catching and we kept drawing more people to come and talk with us about what we had to offer, both with products, services and business opportunities.    By the end of our first fiscal year (and the end of the rally year) we were already planning on which rallies we were going to attend in the following year. 

During second year we performed even better than our first year, partly because now the same people who saw us the first year saw us again and realized that we were in the game for the long haul.  We continued to adjust our displays to appeal to the specific crowds and we continued to grow the business.  By the end of the second year though, attendance at the rallys were beginning to slow down, and sales were not as robust as they had been.  When referring to our business plan, our third and fourth backup plans had also fallen apart, but at the time we were not overly concerned since our primary model had been working so well.

At the end of the second year, we started talking to other vendors and were strongly encouraged to diversify our product line in order to capture more of the market.  This is when we began to loose sight of our focus and were not following our business plan.  As we explored other items to bring to rallies, we did not adjust our business plan accordingly.  Why should we?  We had been successful with the business plan for the last two years, we knew the plan, why should we continue to review and physically revise our business plan?  It seemed like a waste of time since we knew what we were doing.

What had we become?

Boy, was that a big mistake.  Once you are not following your business plan, you start losing focus altogether of where you want to grow your business.  Somehow between year 3 and year 4 we began focusing on just selling products and services and not watching our overall strategy of where we wanted to grow our business, or even how we planned on growing our business.  Focusing on selling is not a bad thing, please don’t get me wrong, but selling for selling’s sake is not what our original business plan called for.  Just selling turned us into a retail type of business, and nothing more.  We lost sight of what we wanted out of the business and how we planned to leverage our business down the road. 

We picked up products to sell that would be almost like an impulse purchase.  That is good, but again, it was not originally part of the business plan.  Those product types did nothing to help us grow our business and move it forward.  By the end of the third year, we discovered that with all the selling we had done, we had not performed much better than we did in year 2.  We had added so many different products without measuring and balancing against the original business plan that we ended up having a business that was almost not recognizable from its original state.  We had completely lost focus on who we were and what our business represented. 

Next week we will finish this thought and talk about what we are doing now with our Business Plan and how we plan to not lose sight of it again. 

If you are interested  in starting your own business, please feel free to visit our website at www.hawgwash.net.  We may have a business opportunity that would fit your lifestyle.

Until next week…

Implementing Your Business Plan

5 07 2010

Last week we continued talking about turning your Business Plan into an Action Plan.  I had identified that you need more than one plan before you actually go into business, because there is a high likelihood that your first plan will not go exactly as anticipated.  This week we are continuing the discussion on implementing your business plan

Implementing your Business Plan is critical to a strong, successful start to a new home-based business.  Why would you want to take the time to write-up a Business Plan if you had no intention of following it?  Your Business Plan is your initial map for growing your business.  It is always important to refer to your Business Plan, but you should include in your Business plan several alternate plans.  I am often reminded of the shortened quote from a poem by Robert Burns, “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”, and that does seem to be very much the truth when working your own business. 

With all of that in mind, Steve and I developed a back-up Business Plan, and a back-up to the backup plan.  By the time I had submitted my resignation to my “regular” job, we had what we believed many of the bases covered.  Then it all boiled down to scheduling the events, being realistic about which events would be good, and then proceeding to the events.   

In the beginning, we started events with a 10×10 booth space and one table.  As we participated in rallies, we started playing around with our displays so that they became more eye-catching and interesting for people to stop by and look at.  In a rally or really any event, you have to be able to catch a person’s imagination very quickly as they walk by.  If your display is a basic table with some product on top, what is going to cause the potential customer to stop and look at what you have to offer?  This is where marketing really comes into play, which is part of your Business Plan. 

At the various rallies that first year, we kept requesting people’s opinion about our booth and asking them what they were interested in.  The key to successfully growing your business is to identify what your potential customer wants, not what you want to offer your customer.  You have to very quickly let your customer know that you can help them with a particular problem that they are wrestling with.  You do not want them thinking that you are going to force them to purchase the latest and greatest gadget that they will never use.

We did make many mistakes in setting up the displays for the first few months.  We had not gone into detail in the Business Plan what a good display would entail.  Steve and I had different ways to approach customers.  Again, we did not originally include that in our Business Plan.   In the beginning, I had more problems talking with potential customers because I was shy (you wouldn’t know that now, but in the beginning I was terrified to talk to potential customers).  I understood what the products could do to help people, but I was unsure and uncomfortable in effectively presenting that information to the customer.  I stumbled over my tongue a bunch of times.  Initially, Steve had to poke me often to make me talk to people, I was so nervous.  I quickly learned to listen to what customers wanted instead of telling them what I thought they wanted.  After that, it was much easier for me to talk to complete strangers.  I was no longer making a sales pitch, I was offering a solution to a customer’s problem.

We kept referring to our Business Plan before and after each rally, comparing what we had anticipated to what actually occurred and we adjusted the Business Plan accordingly.  By the end of the year, our Business Plan had changed, but we remained successful and continued growing our new business. 

Next week we will talk about what happens when you lose sight of your business plan while working your business…

If you are interested  in starting your own business, please feel free to visit our website at www.hawgwash.net.  We may have a business opportunity that would fit your lifestyle.

Until next week…