7 Ways to Build More Profit Into Your Design Firm

7 Ways to Build More Profit Into Your Small Business

As you prepare your business for success in the coming year, will you focus your time and resources on sales growth? While it's important, it's often not enough. For sustainable growth and profit with a lot more control, spread your efforts around - creating small improvements in ALL areas of your business. It's the formula for a business that is simple, fun and profitable!
So where do you start? Here's the formula I recommend.
Planning. You don't need a 50 page business plan. But you do need some clear, measurable goals with specific 'actions' you need to take to achieve them. Written goals and a simple action plan provide you with focus and clarity. So take the time to write down what you WANT (results or outcomes) and what you need to DO (actions) to make it happen.
Products/Services. When was the last time you actually thought about the products or services you offer? It's more than just 'what price should I charge'. Which ones are most profitable, which produce the most sales? Do your products and services still meet the needs of your target customers and clients or do they need a facelift? Technology, competition and your customers needs change over time - make sure your products and services keep up!
Promotion. Sales don't just happen. So what are you doing to attract new clients and keep existing ones coming back and referring others? Most owners associate promotion with marketing for new clients - and invest few (if any) resources on current clients. Big mistake. Make sure your plans also include tactics to turn your current clients into raving fans - who spend more, buy more often and refer other quality people to your business.
Processes. Streamlining and standardizing procedures make daily operations easier, efficient and more effective, whether you are there or not. They are also a key to increased profitability. As you plan for the coming year, make systematizing your business more of a priority. Start with just a few. Focus on those that save you time, increase sales, or fix problems that consistently erode profit.
People. No business operates successfully in a vacuum - we all need help from others. While we often associate people with employees, building a strong network of contractors, vendors and alliance partners for your business is equally important. Your needs will vary based on your business - but most small businesses have an opportunity to improve in this area. Have a method for hiring or developing new relationships with people who are committed to your clients and the success of your business.
Personal Development. As you grow and improve, so will your business. We are all familiar with the phrase, knowledge is power, but it also translates to earnings or income. And it doesn't require a lot of time or money - just a commitment to learning and building skills and knowledge. Here's a few things to consider:
  • Invest 15 minutes a day reading and you will read about 12 books a year.
  • Turn drive time into learning with audio books.
  • Attend interactive workshops or webinars to improve knowledge gaps or simply get new ideas.
  • Meet with and build relationships with other successful business owners so you can share information and learn.
  • Work with a mentor or business coach who can help you find hidden opportunities, provide shortcuts to results and accountability to get more done.
Profit. You don't need to be an accountant or financial guru, but you do need to track and understand the numbers that drive your business - beyond just sales. Here's a few others to consider: average sale per clients or transaction, number of leads, revenue per employee, average accounts receivable, gross profit margins, clients retention rates and net profit. Monitor them and focus on activities that help to improve them - especially gross profit margins and net profit. If you keep them at the center of what you do, your small business will continue to serve your needs and the needs of your people and clients.
Remember, little improvements in ALL these areas will put more profit on the bottom line and in your wallet. So take the hybrid approach: bring together all the key elements that drive success - and you too will have a business that is simple, fun and profitable.

By Joan Nowak
Photography by © Rick Becker-leckrone

Joan Nowak is a Small Business Profit Builder, seasoned Business Coach, and creator of the Hybrid Coaching System for small businesses. For additional resources and ideas to grow your small business, visit http://www.HybridBizAdvisors.com. While you are there, join her mailing list to get her monthly eNewsletter and receive a FREE copy of her eBook, Mastering the 7 Elements of Business Success.


Top 10 Reasons You Don't Have Clients (And How to Change That)

If you really want to know why you don't have any clients, take a look at this list to see if anything sounds (uncomfortably) familiar, and then start thinking about what you can do about it:

Reason #1: You haven't got a clear vision of what you want to accomplish.

Before you start sputtering that indeed you DO have a clear vision, riddle me this: How many clients do you have in your vision? What hours do you work? What problems do you help your clients solve? How did you get these clients? What does success look like to you? Is it a number of clients, an income level, or something else? Well? If you don't know the details, you haven't got the vision, so what you need to do is...

Solution #1: Create a vision of success for yourself (and by create, I mean write it down!).

Be as specific as possible. One of the easiest and most compelling ways to do this is to choose a day in the near future (say six to twelve months from now), and describe in vivid detail what's going on in your business and life. Frame the statement in the present tense as if it were already true, using these questions as a guide: What day is it? What time is it? Where are you? What are you doing? What specific goals did you reach? What happened as a result of reaching those goals? How do you feel?

Just remember to ground your vision in reality. If you haven't got a single client, please don't sabotage yourself by envisioning a multi-million-dollar business within six months. Make it real, make it reasonable, and make it worth your while to achieve. See it, feel it, and then go for it!

Reason #2: You haven't got a written plan.

How will you know if you're on the right track if you have only a fuzzy idea of where you're going? Once you've written it all down, you can start making choices about how to spend your time and energy to get what you want. But until you do that, you're just stumbling around in the dark, and any successes you may have are pure dumb luck. So unless you're feeling very lucky, if you want to make a success of your small business, you must...

Solution #2: Document your plans.

Don't tell me that you're keeping it all in your head; that's just an excuse for not doing your due diligence, and you know it. Write it ALL down, including what service(s) you offer, who needs it, what packages you've got, how you plan to market your business, what your goals are (in terms of both income and number of clients or whatever makes sense for your business), when you're going to do whatever it is you do to market your business, and so on. If you need some help, take a look at my web site for an easy and very basic marketing plan, or if that's too overwhelming, then start by answering my Top 10 Marketing Questions. You CAN do it, and you'll thank me for it, I promise!

Reason #3: You don't (or can't) clearly articulate your value to your clients.

Can you distill the essence of your value to a particular and specific customer base in seven to nine words? I can, and let me tell you, it works wonders! Let me be blunt: Nobody cares about your title (coach, consultant, king of the world), your process (facilitating, coaching, teaching, empowering), or your education (CC, MBA, PhD, Harvard or Hogwart's School of Witchcraft & Wizardry). All your clients truly care about is what you can do for them, or more specifically, what benefit they will receive as a result of working with you. What that means is that you need to...

Solution #3: Create an absolutely killer "elevator" speech.

An elevator speech is a short sentence that distills the value of your services and benefit your clients get when working with you. It answers the question "what do you do?" which is really "what CAN you do for ME?" Add your name, your title if you want, and you've got a great introduction. To create your own killer elevator speech, download my Killer Elevator Speech tool.

Reason #4: You don't have the support you need to get where you want to go.

Doing all this on your own is more than tough--it's overwhelming! Having a group of people PLUS one partner or buddy who are/is familiar with and supportive of your goals enough to offer regular support, ideas, and feedback helps keep your energy and momentum up, and provides you with the strength you might need when the going gets tough. Doing it all alone doesn't make you a hero, so why don't you...

Solution #4: Get a coach, and join or create a group of people who are in the same situation (building a business) as you. You've got tons of options here; either join an existing group, or start your own. You can work with a coach, or find a buddy who will provide reciprocal coaching. Not many rules to this solution, except that the support must be consistent and regular (ideally, every week for the first six months of your start up or business building process).

Reason #5: You don't truly believe you can do it, so you're not "ready" for clients.

If you feel that you're not really ready, you're not, so stop whining and go back to sitting on the sidelines. But unless you're practicing a trade that requires a specific license that you haven't got, chances are that there are people out there who are willing to accept your level of expertise, no matter how new you are to the business. And the best way to get experience is by doing. So quit making excuses, and find those people! You may have to...

Solution #5: Work for free.

If you're truly so insecure that you feel shy about charging for your services, offer to perform your services for free until you've got some experience, positive feedback and confidence. And don't stop with one or two free clients; get as many as you can. Just one caveat: Set a limit on the free deal, either in number of hours or weeks/months of service. If you've provided adequate value, at least some of your free clients will turn into paying clients, and you'll have proven your value to yourself.

Reason #6: You're not focused on your goals and doing the work.

Maybe you've got your vision and plans documented, but you haven't looked at them in weeks (months?) and you don't recall off the top of your head exactly what your marketing tactics are. This is not good (but you knew that, right)? What you need to do is...

Solution #6: Focus and act!

Constant attention to your goals helps keep your eyes on the prize and the finish line in view. Remember, the greatest threat to progress is inertia. Keep your goals visible (in a notebook on your desk, posted by your computer, etc.) and do at least one task that is designed to move you toward your goal (this would be one of your marketing tactics) every day (yes, I really mean every day!), not just when you feel like it. Your progress may be slow, but the good news is that a slow and steady accumulation of small tasks will eventually get you where you want to be.

Reason #7: You don't know who your best client would be.

If you're still stuck in that rookie trap of thinking that "everyone in the world" would want your service, it's time for a dose of reality. The bottom line is that if you can't identify the person who would benefit the most from your service, then you may never get a clientele worth having. The best cure for that is to...

Solution #7: Create a profile of your best client.

Start by asking yourself this question: Who would benefit most from my services, and why? You want to know the age, gender, income level, interests and other defining characteristics so that you can find and speak directly to that person in your marketing efforts. If you've got a good idea who your best client is, but you're not sure, then interview a dozen or so people who fit the profile you've developed, and find out from them what their greatest concerns and needs are regarding your product or service. If you still haven't got enough information, then keep asking questions until you get some answers, or consider working with a coach or buddy to tease out the information.

Reason #8: You've tried a bunch of things, but nothing seems to work.

Maybe you tried a postcard, but that didn't work as well as you had hoped. Or you put up a web site, but nobody's visiting, or if they are, they're not calling you. Or perhaps you ran an ad once, but nothing much came of it. Knock knock! Who's there? Reality calling! You're not handing out free $100 bills, you're marketing, so that means you've got to...

Solution #8: Give your plans time to work.

If you're going to do something only once, you'd best be sure that that the offer is so compelling that people will break down your door to get it. What works best in the long run is repetition and consistency. If you think a tactic is good, then give it three months or so before you abandon it. Did you know that most people do not respond until they've seen a message at least seven times, and that most ads require 27 (yes, 27!) impressions before they are acted upon? You will be bored with your marketing long before your clients are, so when you make good plans, stick with them until they stop working, and don't dump them before they start!

Reason #9: You don't ask for the business.

You expect people to ask you to work for them, but that's not the way it works, pumpkin. Most people aren't mind readers, so your potential clients won't know that you want to work with them unless you say so. I know you don't want to hear this, but what you need to do is...

Solution #9: Ask for the business.

Remember back in the olden days when you were a young jobseeker? What was the one thing that you were told to do at the end of the interview? That's right, express your interest in the job, and if you were bold enough, ask for the job. It worked for me back then, and it still does today. Let it work for you, too.

Reason #10: You're letting fears get in your way.

If this is true of you, you certainly have my sympathy. Anything new can be intimidating and scary, but please believe me when I say that once you start doing what you need to do, you'll be too busy to remember to be fearful. If your fears become overwhelming, perhaps it's time to consider the services of a mental health professional. But if those fears are just fears of the unknown, all you need to do is...

Solution #10: Get over yourself.

You are neither the first nor the last person to start a small business, so stop thinking about your poor little baby self and start thinking about all those people (clients) whose lives you are going to enrich with your wonderful products or services. When you start focusing on your clients rather than your own petty fears, your business will take a quantum leap forward, and you'll feel a bit sheepish when you remember what a scaredy cat you were when you first started.

By Veronika (Ronnie) Noize
Photography by Malize

© Veronika Noize 2003. All rights reserved. This article was written by Veronika (Ronnie) Noize, the Marketing Coach. Ronnie's web site is a comprehensive marketing resource for small office/home office business professionals. For free marketing resources including articles and valuable marketing tools, visit her web site at http://www.VeronikaNoize.com, or email her at Ronnie@VeronikaNoize.com.


Creative Marketing for Interior Designers: Post Card Campaigns

Piotr Lewandowski
Postcard Marketing : Big success at a Low Price

Marketing is the process of making customers aware of products and services, attracting new customers to a product or service, keeping existing customers interested in a product or service, building and maintaining a customer base for a product or service.

Marketing includes the activities of listening to customer needs, assessing the competitive landscape and then designing and creating products and services accompanied by messages that shape audience perceptions, leading to opportunities for revenue.

The primary objective of marketing is to deliver products and services to the right audience at the right price and right time, thereby increasing brand loyalty.

Now we are clear with meaning of marketing. We have immense mediums to market & promote our businesses. Cost, speed and response rates are key attributes in any campaign.

The modern marketing era has introduced many levels of promotion. However, TV ads,  newspapers, magazines and celebrities are considered in heavier & more expensive mediums. If you are looking for less expensive, effective and speedy mediums, send your good news to your customers through postcards.

"Any business. Any service. Any product. Any target." – is a simple definition of promoting through postcard marketing.

Postcard marketing is a key promotion medium for small and middle scale firms and retailers to attract a large customer base.

Since the early days, postcard marketing has been a  favorite for guerilla marketers. Why?

1. Postcards are the fastest, easiest, most reliable way to dramatically increase your sales and profits without spending an extra dime on advertising or promotion.

2. Postcards are eye-catching. A beautiful, full-color, glossy postcard is not going in the trash without first being read.

3. Postcards don't need to be opened. They're "naked" mail. No more trying to write envelope copy to get your prospects and customers to see what's inside.

4. Postcards are 'guerrilla marketing' at its finest - they target your customers one-by-one instead of mass advertising.

5. Postcards are associated with happy memories. We all like getting postcards from friends and family on holidays. Postcards create a pleasant emotional response because they are usually received by friends and family.

7. It is hidden from your competitor’s eyes. When you advertise your business anywhere else, your competition knows it. However, when you use postcards to communicate with your customers, it is directed to them and your competition will have no idea.

8. If you are asking recipients to bring the card into your store for a special discount then it is easy to track campaign success rate also.

9. Postcard marketing is affordable, even for the smallest of businesses.

10. Cost of 5,000 postcards sized of 4.25"x6" be somewhere $200. Isn’t it cost effective to convey your message?

11. Postcards achieve almost 100 percent readership and generate a high rate of response.

Now you've agreed to send postcards to your client pool but what will you send inside?

1. Thanks letter

2. Gift Certificates & coupons

3. Sales after service

4. New services & products

5. Make them your favorites and invite them for special sale

6. Announcing your web presence

7. Special days – Holidays, birthdays & festivals

8. Reminders

9. To be in touch

10. Gratitude. Make your customers part of your every success. Thanks them on your success or awards.

11. Invite customers to special events

12. The firm's move to a larger office

What do you need to promote yourself through postcard marketing?

1. Identify your best customers or target market. Manage customers database and details on their first visit. Your first letter may be to invite them to your shop or nearest show room but later on it should be personalized.

2. Print beautifully designed & full color postcards.

3. Hire an advertising & promotion agency if needed.

4. Use online media or web to promote through e-cards.

5. Make your marketing plan genuinely.

6. You can use Microsoft Publisher to design postcard your own way.

7. Use portal like needpostcards.com to design cards.

Postcard marketing is an unconventional marketing method intended to get maximum results from minimal resources. Thus, it is advisable to use postcard marketing as a healthy tool to promote yourself. Before closing, here's the caveat: Sending too many postcards may negatively affect your reputation. Use it for select times and  the  right place.

Happy Message Dropping!

By Jay C.

5 Cures for Self Doubt & "The Little Ol' Me" Syndrome

How Great Are You?

I was talking with a client recently who was wondering out loud if she was really worth her salt. "What if I can't help this client? What if they realize I don't have an advanced degree? Do I really have something of value to offer? Why would anyone buy a book that I write? I've only been doing this a few years."

This woman had what I call "But It's Just Me" Syndrome. In other words, she was thinking: When will they find out I'm a fake - it's just little ole' me?

Of course, she isn't a fake. In fact, she's light years from it. But her comments stood out to me because it showed me that even a business owner who is closing in on doing a million dollars in business this year can struggle with the same self-doubt that others do who are not yet at that level. I see it over and over. Many of us share the same thoughts, feelings and internal chatter. I believe that we are all more alike than we are different. Our commonalities are so much greater than we know.

If you find yourself suffering from "But It's Just Me" Syndrome, here are some practical things that you can do to quickly distance yourself from energy-depleting thoughts and get you back on track so you can continue to serve the people you are meant to serve and enjoy your life:

1. Start hoarding: Keep every card, note, email and tweet that comes to you expressing gratitude. Post them on a bulletin board or somewhere you'll see them frequently. If you get too many to keep out in clear view, place them in a binder. The great thing about having a binder is that you can take it to trade shows to help showcase your brilliance or just read through it from time to time to give yourself a boost.

2. Fill in the blank: "The results I help my clients achieve are..." Make a list of 30-40 results you have helped your clients achieve. The more specific you can get with this, the better. Take it in and realize how much you have given those clients. Perhaps it's more organization, peace of mind, more money, clarity, focus, a strategy, a product they need, etc.

3. Read your testimonials: This is a very valuable tip, and it's reason enough to collect testimonials! Yes, you should use testimonials in your marketing, but when you start to question your value or if it's time to raise your rates, read through your testimonials and take note of how much you have helped others accomplish. It's a real eye-opener.

4. Tally up the numbers: Start looking at your numbers. For example, how many people have you helped in the last year? How many new subscribers joined your ezine list? How many referrals have you gotten? Remember that people will not pay money to work with you, read your ezine or put their own reputations on the line if you're not great at what you do. These statistics tell a compelling story about you and the value you bring to your community.

5. Pay it forward: Remember that most people you meet who are in business for themselves will struggle with "But It's Just Me" Syndrome from time-to-time. In other words, you're not the only one with occasional self doubt. Take a few minutes and write someone else a note or testimonial each month. Let them know how much you appreciate them. Specifically, tell them about the impact they have had on your life or business. Writing a letter like this does a couple of wonderful things. It allows you to feel and express gratitude while also lifting someone's spirits. It's a win/win!

These simple ideas can really give you a huge dose of motivation, remind you of how great you really are and add some pep to your step when you need it most.

By Meredith Liepelt
(c) 2009 Meredith Liepelt
Image by Lisa Mckown

© 2011 Meredith Liepelt, Rich Life Marketing Meredith Liepelt, President of Rich Life Marketing, offers a free report called "101 Ways to Attract Ideal Clients, Build Your List and Raise Your Profile," which can be downloaded immediately at RichLifeMarketing.com.


10 Ways to Gain Publicity for Your Design Firm

Top Ways to Gain Free Publicity

Get free publicity for your business using the ideas listed here. Refresh yourself with the knowledge that sometimes the best things in life really are free.

Release a new or improved product

Something that has legitimate value over competing products will make news and spread like wildfire. Innovation thrives on free publicity, so put on your thinking cap and make some groundbreaking discoveries.

Celebrate your anniversary

Milestones call for special recognition. Make a special anniversary logo for your business website, send out press releases and offer special promotions and the publicity will be yours for free. Get the word out when you have completed five years, ten years, twenty five years, etc. in business.

Bring on a new team member

Local newspapers often publish news about local businesses, so send in an announcement about your new hire. Highlight the special skills and experience that person brings to the table and include a photo. Additionally, have your new hire write a blog, email blast or business website column to get to know your customers.

Offer something worthwhile for free

Technically, this method is not really free, but the publicity you get is free. Service companies can offer a free consultation or inspection. Software companies can offer a free trial of their software. Restaurants can offer a free meal or dish. Buy one, get one free deals offer additional publicity. Also, a free and functional promotional item bearing the name of your company will get your business name exposed to the public for a long time.

Take a poll

Media outlets always look for surprising correlations or indications of new social trends. Even a survey that shows what people actually do with your products can make a newsworthy report.

Perform a stunt

You don't have to jump over school buses on a motorcycle to get attention. Camp on a billboard, eat doughnuts on a rooftop, or find another crazy thing to do that will get you and your business in the news.

Provide free knowledge

Those who have expertise in a particular business or industry can write free columns for the local newspaper. Radio and television stations also call upon subject matter experts to provide relevant commentary about a current event. Get your name out there along with your employees' so your business can demonstrate its expertise while the public is listening.

Get involved in charity

By giving and working with local and national organisations, you build community credibility. When they see your charitable activities listed on your business website, they know your company has more than just profits on their mind. Also, charities often list event sponsors in their advertising, providing even more free exposure.

By Ruth Williams
Photography by Navarone


IDRA Financing Quicktips!

Financing Quicktips:

Here are some creative business financing ideas that will help you get the money you want.

Savings Account: Here we are talking about your own savings account. Before you dip into your kitty of savings, consider the following: How much savings have you got in that account? Are you dependant on that money for your day to day expenses? How confident are you that your business venture will succeed? Be realistic while you make these considerations. If the savings account is not something you depend upon and you can afford to forget about the money you take from it should you incur a loss, then go ahead and take the money from it. The upside to this is that you are taking an interest free loan from yourself and saving quite a bit of money on that end. You can even repay this loan in variable installments, and not suffer penalties for it.

Family and Friends: This is also a good option for you to acquire funds for your business venture. Depending upon what you discuss with your friends and family members, you can choose the method of repayment and also if you are liable to pay interest. The downside to this is that if you cannot repay the money back in the time that you promised, you stand to lose a good relative or friend.

Partners: Another good manner of generating funding is to take on partners in your business. This is again a matter of choice. And your partner must have the money and the inclination to invest into your business.

Loans: This may not be a very creative idea, but some banks offer very interesting kind of personal and business loans. It is worth a shot to go have a look at these options. You may just strike a gold mine and find the perfect method of financing your business.

Sell the Junk: If you have any unused premises, or unused inventory lying around, or unused trademarks and licensing rights, it is a good idea to sell them to those who need them. This is a good method of recycling your own assets to create finance for your business. The downside is that this option cannot work for a new business venture.

Sell Shares: Selling the shares of your company is a time-honored method of creating finances for your company. If you have a new company, you can do it. You can also do it if you are an old company. You can also sell the shares to your employees. Talk to your CPA and get more details.

Advertise: This sounds silly, but sometimes an advertisement can also generate interested financers for your project. Putting word out there ensures that you generate interest from persons looking for a good investment opportunity. It also gives you a chance to advertise about your company along with it.

By Madhavi Ghare


10 Easy Steps for DIY Bookkeeping

Banish Those Bookkeeping Blues

Are you one of those people who are guilty of just stuffing your receipts into a folder and thinking 'I'll sort that out when I've got time'? Do you need a more organised bookkeeping system, nothing too flashy, just something that's simple and easy to manage?

Follow my tips below and you'll soon have that simple and easy-to-manage bookkeeping system that won't bring you out in a cold sweat whenever you hear the words 'tax return'. And I promise you, it works!

Gather your supplies!

Get hold of a large ring binder, divider cards, A4/letter-sized paper, stapler, pen, all your business receipts and invoices, plastic folders and a large coffee (or whatever else you prefer!).

Then lock yourself away for a couple of hours.

Get organised

You now need to organise your ring binder into the following sections:

  • Invoices - Unpaid -- this section is for your outgoing business expenses that have not yet been paid i.e. supplier invoices. Write on the top of each invoice the date it needs to be paid by and place all unpaid invoices in 'date to be paid' order with the earliest one on top.

  • Invoices - Paid -- this section is for your outgoing business expenses that have been paid or you've paid at the time service was rendered, i.e. that ream of paper that you bought from the office supplies store. Staple each receipt on to a blank piece of paper rather than just putting them directly into the ring binder. This just makes it easier to see at a glance all your receipts and you can also make notes on the paper. Also write on the top of each invoice/piece of paper the method of payment.

  • Receipts - Unpaid -- this section is for all your invoices that you have sent to clients that have not yet been paid. Write on the top date payment is due and put them in date order so that it's easier if you have to chase overdue invoices.

  • Receipts - Paid -- this section is for all your invoices that have been paid. Write on the top the date it was paid and how it was paid i.e. bank transfer, cheque, credit card etc.

  • Bank Statements -- this section is self-explanatory! Just keep everything in date order.

Schedule It In

Now that you've got your system in place, schedule in each week/month to keep your bookkeeping binder up-to-date. In between updating place all your receipts and invoices in a plastic folder so that everything is together when you come to update your system--it would be too time-consuming to add each receipt as you get it!

What Next?

Depending on how far you want to handle your own accounts, you can either hand your very organised bookkeeping binder over to your accountant at the end of the financial year for them to prepare your final accounts, or you can maintain your own books with the use of financial accounting software.

Either way, you've now got a bookkeeping system that is simple and easy-to-manage and won't cause you to break out into a cold sweat at the very mention of the words 'tax return'.

By Tracey Lawton
Image by

Online Business Development Strategist, Tracey Lawton, teaches solo service professionals how to create a thriving and profitable business through the implementation of simple office organization and online marketing systems, which leads to more clients, more profits, and more freedom. Get your fr.ee "Office Organization Success Toolkit" plus how-to articles, resources, tips, and tools at http://www.officeorganizationsuccess.com.


8 Steps to Branding Your Design Firm

Discover Who You Are as a Designer and Sell Your Brand's Message

Eight Steps in Branding

Developing a brand strategy can be challenging, but is a vital step in creating a strong business strategy and lays the foundation for your business plan. Spending time investigating and researching, defining, and building your brand is critical for your future success and defines your business, marketing and internal communication plan.

To help you develop your branding strategy, we have created a simplified seven part process to guide you through each step. While some of it is easy to do on your own, you may need a professional for other parts of this process, especially to facilitate agreements for several stakeholders, review outcomes, or assist you in the development of logos, web and collateral, customer research and analysis.

There are two fundamental pieces to the branding process:

1. Your brand positioning and unique value proposition

2. Your name and visual identity

Critical to an effective branding strategy is a clear definition and agreement by all key team members about your objectives, target audience and values. Therefore, prior to proceeding with the branding process, it is critical to align team members, both management and employees, to ensure key issues and concerns are addressed and that future positioning considers all stakeholders' values and goals.

Part I - Stakeholder Positioning, Clarifications, Industry Research

This part of creating a brand strategy clarifies expectations, vision and core beliefs of the stakeholders. To succeed you must discuss issues candidly (the sooner the better) and invest sufficient time in addressing how personal goals will fit into your future brand. Part of this process is an evaluation of industry and competition, preliminary organizational chart and financial analysis.

     1. Record each stakeholder's current orientation and agree on a desired state

     2. Devise a strategy to move each stakeholder towards alignment

     3. Develop high level organizational chart and commitment level

     4. Prepare initial industry research to discuss brand positioning ideas and values

     5. Prepare financial analysis

     6. Create project plan

Part II - Create Value Propositions

In part II of the branding process, you will define your core messages, identify customer segments and define benefits of your brand for your target audience.

     1. Develop your Unique Value Proposition (UVP), core messages and supporting messages

     2. Develop your brand positioning statement

     3. Create your supporting messages for different customer groups and services

     4. Differentiation: You may match a competitor on every dimension of value except one

     5. Excellence (in at least one element of value): You become the best choice for your customers

Part III - Develop your Mission and Vision

This step in the branding process defines your Vision & Mission so as to clearly and concisely convey the direction of the organization and the key measure or measures of the organization's success. Its prime audience is the leadership team and/or stockholders (investors).

Part IV - Develop your Name

Once you have an understanding of what your brand is representing, its customers and your primary market benefits, you can proceed with the naming process for your brand. Part IV of the branding process therefore deals with the naming of your brand.

     1. Define attributes and value propositions that will drive the brand

     2. Develop naming ideas, brainstorm and record your ideas (consider: Service/Trademarks, online search results to compete against, naming considerations)

     3. Use the competitive research you did earlier and the brand definition work you have already done

     4. Create a way to evaluate and tally the results of your naming research so you can make a decision (consider sound, associations, competiiors names)

     5. Agree on a name and register name

Part V - Prepare your Visual Identity

Once you have settled on a name, it's time to create the visuals for your brand. This includes your logo, your style guide and all assets related to your visual identity.

     1. Review competitive findings on colors, logo types and branding to differentiate yourself

     2. Review logo trends and agree on direction

     3. Develop your logo for different media types, sizes, applications

     4. Develop a style guide to ensure clear communication guidelines for use of your logo and graphics

Part VI - Create a Launch Plan

Now you are ready to put things into action. Start implementing all the ideas, train and educate employees and finalize your plan with the financials and activities to reach your goals

     1. Finalize business plan, marketing plan

     2. Develop your collateral, website and visibility

     3. Evaluate, differentiate and define brand touch points

     4. Launch internally - then externally

     5. Develop standards & guidelines

     6. Nurture brand champions

Part VII - Implement & Launch

Now you are ready for prime time! Measurements and strategies for review and adjustment should be in place. Quarterly review of your goals and ensuring your brand plan and business plan continue to align with your sales and marketing activities to benchmark success.

     1. Benchmarking

     2. Adjustments

     3. Quarterly and Annual Planning

     4. Strategic Reviews

Inka Traktman is president and owner of Greenfire Strategies, a strategic brand consultancy and product marketing company specializing in brand positioning, product positioning and digital marketing.

By Inka Traktman


Marketing Basics: Building Blocks for Your Marketing Campaign

Marketing Basics: A, E, I O, U and Always Y

A is for Action: You must take action. Your output must be equal to your input. In other words, if you love attending seminars and workshops but taking action is not your thing, get yourself in a coaching club, hire a coach, find a mastermind group or accountability group or somehow find the support you need that will help you to take action. We learn mostly from doing. And we certainly make progress by doing. It's time to get up and take action and start seeing some results!

E is for Education: Being educated in your field is very important. Being educated in marketing is equally as important. You can find great marketing education through free resources like business and marketing books from your library, subscribing to great ezines, or attending free teleseminars or webinars. Low cost options include attending workshops, teleseminars or summits. You can also be educated through private or group coaching programs. The point is to always be learning because once you stop learning, you stop growing.

I is for Information: Having access to the best information you can find on marketing a solo business will allow you to make informed strategic decisions from a place of knowledge, not fear. It will allow you to be focused on the big picture and be less swayed to chase the latest and greatest tactic with a half-hearted effort.

O is for Outline: Having an outline (a plan) of where you are going in your business is critical. As Dr. Phil says, "You've got to name it to claim it." Having an outline will help guide you in your decision making and keep you focused as opportunities present themselves. If you do not have an outline, you are much more likely to take on activities, projects and clients that do not move you closer to your desires.

U is for Unique: To stand out in a crowd, you simply have to be unique. You need to "be the blue tree," as my friend and colleague Barbara Wayman of Blue Tree Media says. Being different than others in your field will draw the kind of attention you want so you can attract your ideal clients, customers, joint venture partners and affiliates.

Y is for You: As a solopreneur, you are your brand. Everything from the way you wear your hair to your elevator speech, your logo and how you communicate with your clients defines your brand. Years ago I recall hearing supermodel Cindy Crawford say, "I'm not a supermodel. I'm the CEO of the Cindy Crawford brand." That was an ah-ha moment for me. You, too, are CEO of brand you. Embrace all that is you and share it with the world!

Applying these basics to your business will help you build a strong foundation from which you can grow both professionally and personally.

By Meredith Liepelt
© 2011 Meredith Liepelt, Rich Life Marketing
Image by Spirokwok

© 2011 Meredith Liepelt, Rich Life Marketing Meredith Liepelt, President of Rich Life Marketing, offers a free report called "101 Ways to Attract Ideal Clients, Build Your List and Raise Your Profile," which can be downloaded immediately at RichLifeMarketing.com.

How to Get More Clients with Contact Management System

5 Simple Steps to Keep a Steady Flow of Clients and Prospects Coming Into YOUR Business

You cannot begin to market your business if you can't find the information you need, don't know who you are marketing to, and don't know where you are in your business.

So, let's go back to basics and take a look at one of the key office organization systems you need to have in place to "manage" your business before you can start to "market" your business - your contact management system!

If set up correctly your contact management system allows you to:

* Keep a note of clients, potential clients, and colleagues contact information.

* Easily and effectively follow-up with a prospect.

* Locate critical client contact information quickly and easily.

* Build your business.

Having all of your contact data readily to hand will allow you to build your business. You have all the information you need; it's all in one place, and you can locate it quickly and easily. Follow-up becomes a much smoother process and in turn it builds your business.

Let me share with you below my 5 easy steps for creating your ideal contact management system so that you constantly have a full pipeline of interested clients and prospects:

1. Choose your system. You need to decide on a system that works best for YOU and YOUR business. This could be using Outlook (as I do) to manage all your contact data, appointments, To Do lists, etc. or you could use dedicated contact management software. A third option might be to utilize one of the many web-based contact management systems.

2. Draw clients into your pipeline. Once you've got your contact management system in place, you need to have a system for keeping in touch with people you meet at in-person events, online networking forums, or visitors to your website. One way to do that is to publish a regular ezine (electronic newsletter). This will keep clients and prospects flowing into your business and provide you with a base of interested people who want to find out more about you, your services, and your products.

3. Define the process for working with new clients. Once you've got prospects into your pipeline the next step is to create a system so that those clients who are ready to work with you are able to do so. This could be through an initial complimentary consultation to determine if you are a good fit for one another. List everything you currently do and come up with a system for streamlining the whole process.

4. Keep it all up-to-date. It's all well and good having the systems in place, but if you're not keeping it all current, then your contact management system quickly becomes of no use to you at all. Ideally, you should be updating your client data as you go along, but if you find you're not doing that, spend 15/20 minutes at the end of each day, before you shut down your PC, reviewing who you've talked to/emailed, what the outcome was, and when you promised to follow-up with them. Note it all down in your contact management system.

5. Create a waiting list! If you find that you have more clients wanting to work with you than you can handle, offer to put them on your waiting list. If you suddenly get a client who has to cancel (and it does happen, for a variety of reasons), then you're not left with a big hole in your cashflow - you simply approach your waiting list and let them know you have an opening available. Plan to keep in touch with your waiting list on a regular basis so that they don't forget you!

Consistency is the key to keeping a steady flow of clients and prospects coming into your business. Make the commitment to spend time each and every day on your contact management system, and watch your business grow!

By Tracey Lawton
(c) 2008 Tracey Lawton

Online Business Development Strategist, Tracey Lawton, teaches solo service professionals how to create a thriving and profitable business through the implementation of simple office organization and online marketing systems, which leads to more clients, more profits, and more freedom. Get your fr.ee "Office Organization Success Toolkit" plus how-to articles, resources, tips, and tools at http://www.officeorganizationsuccess.com.