Today’s Guest Post is from Maria Ross! Maris is a brand strategist, speaker and author who believes cash flow and creativity are not mutually exclusive. She is creator of Red Slice, advising start-ups, small businesses and entrepreneurs on how to craft irresistible brands. Maria’s latest book, the 2nd edition of her Amazon best-seller, Branding Basics for Small Business: How to Create an Irresistible Brand on Any Budget launched on April 1. Below is an adapted excerpt for your reading pleasure.
Along with believing brand is the same thing as a logo, people often confuse branding with public relations and marketing tactics, such as press releases, advertising, social media—even price promotions. In reality, brand forms the foundation of your marketing plan: it shouldn’t come after the fact. Only by clarifying your Brand Strategy are you able to make the right decisions, such as if and where to advertise, whether to buy a booth at a particular event, and where to send press releases.
Branding and Marketing Are Not the Same
If any of you suffered through business school as I did, you learned about the Four P’s of Marketing—product, price, place, and promotion:
1. Product (or Service): What do we sell and how do we make it?
2. Price: How much do we charge for it?
3. Place: Where and how do we get it to our end consumers?
4. Promotion: How do we get people to know it exists and convince them to buy it?
So, broadly, marketing is an umbrella term for bringing products or services to “market” and effectively selling them. Too often, small business owners only think of marketing in terms of the fourth P, Promotion. But marketing encompasses so much more. Subcategories that fall under marketing can include areas such as advertising, events, marketing research, media/press relations, lead generation, website, search engine marketing, social media, pricing, competitive analysis – just to name a few.
Organizations roll all the associated strategies and tactics within these subcategories into a collective marketing plan. The marketing plan covers the tactics and themes each group will execute during the year: Which ads will be placed, where will those ads go, and what will be the main messages? On which markets will we focus? What products will we promote at different times of the year? What is the product release schedule? What is the competition doing this year? What customer-acquisition campaigns will take place? Which events will we sponsor?
Brand forms the foundation of your overall marketing strategy but is not the same thing as a marketing strategy. Brand touches much more than marketing and can serve as a litmus test for your operations, hiring practices, distribution strategy, and partner selection.
People often believe advertising and branding are inter-changeable and mean the same thing. They don’t. Advertising is a marketing tactic based on the Brand Strategy. Advertising is but one vehicle to communicate your brand message to the world. Brand positioning should be thought out before you create an advertisement.
The beauty of owning a small business is that things are far less complicated and you have a huge opportunity to get this right where the big guys might trip up. If you’re new and just launching a business, this is the perfect time to build your Brand Strategy. Determine the brand before you create a marketing plan, so you won’t spend precious time and money chasing your tail.
As a small business owner, you don’t need a complicated marketing plan. A Brand Strategy can show you what you do and don’t need. Being small means you’re close to your customers and all decisions are made by you. This means you call the shots and can ensure all the pieces align. Being nimble and small are strengths and can help you build your brand the right way from the start.