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In advertising, 30% to 60% is wasted money. That’s from Bolivar Bueno, author of “Customers First.”
The problem? “Nothing is sold until it’s branded,” said Catherine Kaputa, author of “Breakthrough Branding.”
Thanks to that branding marketing mix, customers connect with a company. If the process is done well, the product or service can sell itself. Kaputa and Bueno share tips:
• Stay directed. By starting small and staying focused, you can refine branding ideas to connect with customers, Kaputa says. As the idea grows, the harder you must work to keep it simple and even more focused. Even as you innovate or add products or services, guard against your customers being confused about what your brand is, she says.
• Be bold. Own an attitude, a proprietary emotion or a key attribute that defines your business, Kaputa told IBD: “Think of blogging and brand-building CEOs like Tony Hsieh of Zappos (the online shoe firm owned by Amazon (AMZN), who built a remarkable business brand with bold customer service strategies like free shipping both ways.”
Zappos bolstered his company identity with his book “Delivering Happiness,” along with speaking engagements that touted the company culture he established.
• Name it. A catchy, Internet-available one gives your brand a big boost. Kaputa said breakthrough names are often quirky ones like Spanx, Lululemon (LULU) and Spotify, or “names that creatively put together two words to convey the brand idea like Facebook(FB), Zipcar (ZIP) and Dropbox.”
• See it. Brand visually. Kaputa cites the pink ribbons of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure or a logo like Twitter’s bird or a shape like POM’s hourglass bottle.
• Make a statement. Craft what Bueno calls a brand vision. That explains who your best customers are, who you are and what the ideal emotional experience your brand evokes in your customers, he said.
Kaputa suggested putting growth and branding responsibilities in everyone’s job description: “Bold brand ideas can come from anywhere, from frontline employees as well as the marketing department or executive suite.”
• Play favorites. Put your best customers first and serve them better than any other business can, says Bueno. Your best customers are also the best ambassadors for your brand. Word of mouth has always been powerful, especially now with the Internet. “Businesses that build their brands around the needs and wants of their best customers win,” he said.
• Listen up. Talk to your customers. Ask questions. “Find out why they love you or hate you,” Bueno said. “Learn what bothers your customers and find ways to resolve them.” If you can understand the motivations of your customers for their purchasing decisions, “you open up a gateway to their hearts and minds.”
This information helps refine your brand. Now you can see how your strengths differentiate you from the competition.
• Take charge. “Entrepreneurs and business leaders can’t afford to hide behind an impersonal website or hole up in the corner office,” Kaputa said. Certainly not with social media such as Facebook, Twitter and blogs linking your customers to one another and to you 24/7. “If you don’t brand yourself, other people will — and they are not likely to brand you in the way you want to be branded.”