The term branding is increasingly used, but what is it? Is it important for you and your sole proprietorship company? More and more people are self-employed. They like the freedom of being their own boss. But how do you go about promoting yourself? How do you get clients? How can you differentiate yourself from your competitors in the marketplace?
This course will answer those questions.
In this course you will learn:
The phrase "All things being equal in all aspects, the predominant factor which will differentiate between two identical products is the price" should be your mantra in this section.
If you do not want to have clients and potential clients come to you because you are the cheapest option, then you need to pay attention to your unique proposal.
What do we mean by a unique proposal which is difficult to reproduce? In another words, you must explain to your clients and potential clients why you are the best option to solving the problems that they have and for which you are in business.
An easy route is: I am the best. By definition, we said that it would be hard to reproduce. If you go in that direction, then your competitors only have to say that they are better. There is no substance, nothing attached to it, and it is VERY easily reproduced.
Here are a few examples of what your unique selling proposal could be:
Telling your story is very important because of the emotional bond that you create with the potential clients reading about you and/or listening to you. Why did you start your business? What was the ideal? What do you want to change? What is the purpose? How do you want to make a difference?
This story has to be short, to the point, and highly personal. Do not write it to get SEO points or better ranking with keywords density. Do it so that you touch the soul of your readers and they want to embark on this journey with you.
Of course you have to be aware that not everybody will embark with you on this journey. The Internet is a very vast place and a lot of different views and aspirations are out there. But the goal here is to reach out to like minded individuals that understand you.
In this video we talk about the following points:
You will have to be thick skinned as not every one receiving your message will want to join you on the journey and might be critical;
Not all criticism is negative, some might help you improve your message or refine your business model.
In this video, we talk about the following points:
Choosing your name is not so simple.
Is choosing your own personal name a good option?
Another option for a company name is to be very specific in what you are doing. This is a great idea in principle as your brand and offering become one. For example: US Airways. Very specific and you know exactly what they do and where they are located. But what happens when you want to branch out? Do you want to use cross-marketing initiatives?:
Yet another option would be to use a very generic name for your company (eg. Apple):
Another option can be a name that is spelled in a unique way. I could not come up with an example in the video, but Flickr is a great example of that.
Before committing to a name, you must find out its availability as a domain name (or variations of it).
In this video we talk about:
What image should you choose to represent your brand/your company?
When you are starting out, using you own photo is not a bad idea, unlike using your name for which we identified all the limitations in the previous module. Why? There are a few reasons:
Down the line a logo will be important, but to start out you can do without.
In this video, we talk about how much you should charge. This video is mainly for service industries, but the techniques are also good for product industries.
The three main options are:
Cost based pricing takes into account all of the elements that you have in your business (fixed costs, variable costs, profit margin) and from there you end up with the price you should charge. It is very mathematical in nature as it relies only on numbers.
This technique has pros and cons:
Market based pricing is a strategy that relies on the information provided by the market, either for your products/services or for something providing similar benefits. Of course some adaptations can be made, for example if you have more experience than you competitor you might set a premium in your price.
This technique has its pros and cons:
The next technique is using price as a positioning tool. An example of this technique is the i-Phone. Priced significantly higher than its Android counterpart, some of the price differences are for the features but some are also to position the product as an "elite" product (you are part of the hip "Apple" crowd). This can also be applied for the service industry, but would need to be justified with the right argument to help you get a better margin with existing clients and be less into the volume industry. At the other end of the spectrum, you could use pricing to get market shares by being cheaper than your competitors.
Now you may very well be using elements of the three techniques to come up with your price proposal. These are not mutually exclusive of one another.
In this video we talk about choosing your place of business. With the Internet many things have changed. Not so long ago your business address was very important, especially for the service industry. Now if clients go and see you this element might still be very important. But less so if you travel to meet with your clients.
Nowadays some of the money that you would traditionally spend on a prestigious location could be spent on having an accessible place (Downtown prestigious towers can be difficult to access if your clients are not part of the downtown core), and a great website.
One consideration for example is retail stores: to pay a premium rent to get goodwill, get a flow of clients seeing the business when renting at a popular mall for example. Same can be said for health practitioners, where you can rent an office in a medical clinic that will provide traffic for your practice. In this instance the following analysis should be done: is the extra money spent for that premium location worth it, considering the traffic that it will generate? Or should I take that money and put it toward cheaper rent and advertising with the aim of getting the same amount of traffic? Internet provides you with great tools to self promote and it could be worthwhile to do this analysis.
Another consideration is for when you go and see your clients (if they do not come to you). If you do not have to welcome your clients, more and more people are working from home. And for times when you do have to organize a meeting, there are many options out there for part time offices: coworking spaces, virtual office spaces, business centers, coffee shops, etc... There is also the option of doing a remote meeting via videoconferencing tools like: Skype, GoToMeeting, Google Hangout, etc... All you need is a great place at your home that looks like a nice office and you can give a nice virtual meeting. No longer do you need to sign a yearly rent. So you can be free of these fixed costs.
In this video we talk about what type of communication tools you need.
Your website should be on top of the list. What elements should your website have?
Business cards are still valid and useful even in today's environment. But you need to participate in activities that will get them out there. If not, they are of no use to you.
Social media presence is also very important in today’s environment. Choosing the right social media platform is important and will go in line with what type of business and what type of customers you have. Another important consideration is how visual your products and services are. For example, if you are in the interior design industry then a more visual social media page might be good for you. The big ones are:
The traditional pamphlets and flyers might not be as useful as they used to be because you can develop an excellent PDF presentation via email for a fraction of the cost, all the while building your list. The exception to this would be if you are aiming at getting known in your area, then you would need mass mailing of flyers or promotions.
In this video, we talk about how to choose social media to promote yourself. Social media is becoming very important for self promotion regardless if you are in the B2B (business to business) or B2C (business to consumer).
For B2B businesses, social medias like:
For the B2C businesses, social media like:
There are a lot more social media platforms. If you have some you would like to share, I will add them up here in this list.
A very important thing to consider, after having selected the right platforms for you, is to be active on the platform. It is better to be "dominant" on fewer platforms than to seldom post in all of them, so you have to be constant. If you start posting you must keep at it to get results and maintain your followers interest and gain a foothold into their network of contacts. You have resources that can help; using third party content or hiring someone to do that for you can help with regularity.
In this video we talk about what type of marketing activities you should do to get yourself known. In the module on social media we talked about getting content marketing out there to get yourself known. I have another course that goes into more details if you are interested. But here we will look at the basics to get you going.
In this section we will go into the three types of clients that you should pursue.
Your existing clients. This group of clients should be your main focus as they are already buying from you. Most of your clients will get to know you for one of your product/services and not really understand the full range of what you have to offer. The fact that they bought from you, and assuming that they liked the experience, you should develop communication tools that will keep you on their mind (top-of-mind strategy) and get them to know the full spectrum of what you have to offer. The other reason why this is important is that by providing your existing clients with excellent value added content they are likely to share them within their network of contacts. Therefore you are making them your brand ambassadors. Also consider this: your existing client is the most profitable client. A large amount of efforts should be deployed by your company to retain and ensure those clients are satisfied.
Your existing clients network. By using social media and email marketing with your existing clients, you can gain access to your clients' network of contacts. By making your current clients your brand ambassadors, you are creating a trusted representative of your company, talking about the quality of your products/services you provide or sharing value added information that you will have put together. Do not use this trusted channel only to sell. Use the 80/20 rule: 80% of what you publish/share/send via email marketing, should be informative in nature. Less than 20% should be selling. As well, if you use your network only to sell by using discount promotions, chances are you will create two things: a habit within your network of people waiting for promotions to buy from you and a high unregister rate. Both are undesirable behaviour. We are using the good old word-of-mouth strategy that is excellent in marketing but it takes a long time. We are speeding it up and using the digital tools that we have in today’s environment to make it happen faster.
New clients are the priciest of the three. If you are starting out or if you have implemented the strategies mentioned above, then you have to look at new client acquisition. How do you do this? You first have to understand who your clients are. Are they local? Are they international? If you have local clients; mailing, local newspaper ads, events participation, networking activities, advertisement online (I did not mention this in the video) could all be good options. But you have to analyse the cost of acquiring a client vs the value of a client. And when analyzing the value of a client, we do so over the life cycle of a client. If your client's value is low, doing networking activities might not be the best use of your time. More mass advertisement is required. But if the ticket item of each client is high, cold calling is another activity that works well. If you are well organized (first sending a well laid out letter and then making a follow up call), you can have a good success rate. But like all of the promotional activities, volume is the key (not over quality). Most of the people will say "no", but if 1/10 is interested in your product/services then things will start to move in the right direction. When you are starting out, what you have is time. So you can do some of the time consuming promotional activities to get your business off the ground. By doing them yourself, you lower your start-up costs.
In this video we talk about using freebies to promote yourself. This expression is not accurate as we are not "giving away" what we sell, but rather we are exchanging it. We are offering what we do at a discount, or free, in exchange for exposure in a well established network of people. Which ones? Business associations, chambers of commerce, a well-established business, events, fairs, etc...
The first thing you need to do to make this work is to match the targeted network with your client type. If you are a lawyer and target a sporting event aimed at kids, it might not be the right mix. You might get some business from parents being with their kids, but you also might have other networks that would be more productive for you.
Once you have associated a good network, you can offer your product/services to them in exchange for exposure. You can participate in events, be a volunteer, be a speaker, help with the accounting (if you are an accountant), be on the board of directors, etc... in exchange for your name, or the name of your business, circulating within that circle.
Stéphane Elmaleh Riel is a born entrepreneur. During his 25 years of work experience, he was self-employed for 18 of them.
He holds an MBA in marketing and business strategy from HEC-Montreal and a B.Ed from McGill University. Since he began his career he has worked in marketing.
In an ever-changing world, he has over 18 years experience in e-marketing. As early as 1998 he was managing a transactional website which generated more than 80% of new sales.
When he started he worked for Kodiak, one of the better-known trademarks in Canada. At that time, the company was extending its brand. Partnerships were established with prominent companies for the use of the Kodiak name on their apparels. Sub-brands were also created to protect the brand’s value and, at the same time, the discount stores were given the brand notoriety that they were looking for.
Subsequently he was involved in the launch of more than 15 businesses or divisions for himself or as a business consultant. These ventures included a regional retail chain in Mexico.
It is this experience and more that he brings with him as a trainer.