Jeff Shearer, Publisher of On The Bay and former vice president, marketing of The Toronto Star, shares his insights on how to successfully brand, market and advertise your business.

The Keys to Branding

Many business owners believe that simply advertising their product or service constitutes ‘branding.’ The truth is that advertising is the very last step in the branding process, which begins with developing a precise position for your product or service within your competitive market.
Below are some key thoughts for you as to what ‘branding’ really is:

  • Branding should be seen as a permanent positioning of your business to its various publics or target markets.
  • Branding must be developed with an accurate understanding of how your market honestly views your product or business, not how you or your staff see yourselves.
  • Branding is all about permission, and what your customers or members are prepared to accept about what you say you are.
  • Branding – and all of your communications – must extol the benefits of your product or service.
  • Your staff must believe and live your branding if they are to deliver on the promise of your business; staff and manager education is key.
  • Branding must be done professionally to work. It is well outside the skill-set of most retailers and business owners to accomplish on their own. Your time and effort is better spent running your business, and working with a professional to brand and market your business.

What are the first steps in the marketing process for a business?

  • Define your product offering in 3 sentences
  • Describe the market in which you operate
  • Define your customer target, primary then secondary
  • Outline the benefits to your customers of using your product or service
  • Identify your 2 biggest competitors & their strengths and weaknesses
  • Talk to your customers to confirm their views of why they do business with you
  • Finally, define your immediate, mid-term and long term goals

Using SWOT Analysis to Strengthen Your Business

What is a SWOT analysis?

Strengths: attributes of the business that contribute to achieving success
Weaknesses: attributes of the business that are weak or missing, relative to your competition
Opportunities: external conditions that are helpful to achieving success
Threats: external conditions that are harmful to achieving the objective
How to use SWOT to strengthen your business

  • How can we better utilize or position each of our strengths?
  • How can we eliminate or minimize each weakness?
  • How can we better exploit each opportunity?
  • How can we defend against each threat?

The Basics of Branding

How to brand your business:

• Create an identity, an attitude, a position that stands for a set of values
• Emblazon your product or service with it
• Communicate it consistently through everything you do and say
• Become a way of life for a loyal following of customers and consumers
• Attract new customers and if you do it right, grow your business

Now, how do you get the message out about your product or service? First, use direct sales tools:

  • Public Relations
  • Event Marketing
  • Telemarketing
  • Direct mail marketing
  • In-store merchandising and signage
  • Collateral materials
  • Your staff and your customers

How to Get the Message Out About Your Brand or Service

Direct Sales Tools:

  • Public Relations
  • Event Marketing
  • Telemarketing
  • Direct mail marketing
  • In-store merchandising and signage
  • Collateral materials
  • Your staff and your customers

 Media Vehicles:

Pros: immediacy, time spent, affordable storytelling
Cons: no visual or image, low and local reach

Pros: strong info/sale/price medium, new openings, urgency
Cons: very short life, repro not strong, not an “image” medium

Pros: strong visual medium, most targeted, credible, long-lasting, repeat exposure, high reach, image and branding medium
Cons: because of longer lead times, not for “sale” or “promotional” messages

Pros: strong impact, visual
Cons: higher cost medium, costly ad production, fragmented

Pros: the perfect six-word medium, high impact, geographically selective
Cons: demographically unselective, support medium more than a brand builder, higher production costs

Event Marketing
Pros: good extension for a brand, through association with right event
Cons: high cost per sale unless very high sticker price and margin

Pros: great potential
Cons: huge competition, needs strong site, professionally and creatively built with SEO and wide promotion

Online Advertising
Pros: targeted reach
Cons: needs to be on a destination site with reasons for people to visit every week

Building a Media Plan: What NOT to do!

Don’t advertise in more than 2 or 3 media vehicles at one time. ‎Choose based on the audience of those media and the size of their audience. Better to concentrate your spending into your key selling seasons of the year than to advertise all the time.

  • Don’t send different advertising messages through different media.
  • Don’t use “mother in-law” research to pick media. Ask the media to provide hard evidence of their performance and audience.
  • Don’t advertise too often (esp. TV and radio), or you risk “message fatigue”.
  • Don’t absent yourself from your media plan too long, as you will literally disappear from your customers’ radar.
  • Choose your media based on your target demographics, your image needs, content needs and timing.