5 branding mistakes you might be making

Don't make these blunders while establishing your brand
You know part of building a successful business means establishing a successful brand. Branding includes your website, logo, name, print campaigns and billboards. But branding is not limited to merely advertising.
Your brand includes your customer experience, your employees’ experiences, how you present your business and your product, and how people perceive your business.
You are likely going to spend a lot of time and money developing your brand, so make sure that you don’t make these five branding mistakes along the way.
1. A lack of passion
Many businesses focus too much on making rational branding decisions without considering the emotional benefits they can provide. Your customer wants to relate to your business on an emotional level. However, customers can’t become emotionally invested if you’re not.
Passion is organic. You need to believe in your branding because you can’t successfully market an idea in which you aren’t passionate. Passion leads to genuine enthusiasm about your brand, and it’s infectious.
2. Inconsistencies
If you are using different logos for different aspects of marketing, your branding will fail. How you present yourself on your logo, website, social media platforms, business cards, billboards and in your office should all be consistent.
If you change your website, you need to change your brand across all levels. You need to ensure you’re using the same name, logo and tagline with every contact inside and outside the company.
Even your internal branding and how your employees perceive your company should be consistent with how customers perceive your brand.
Also, how your phone is answered, how your employees represent your company and how any potential customer hears about your company should be consistent with your branding. Have branding guidelines that outline a consistent brand identity.
3. No focus
It is essential that you have a detailed marketing plan in place before putting your branding strategy into action. Have a strong, committed focus.
You can’t reach everyone. You need to know who you want to reach and focus on them when creating your branding strategy.
Know what your brand is and how you want your audience to perceive your brand.
4. Trying too hard
As stated above, your customers need to relate to you. Don’t go too far with inside jokes and jargon. You want to be noticed in a way that increases sales, not in a way that induces confusion.
With so many mediums, there is a lot of pressure to create phenomenal branding that has the potential of going viral.
However, there is a fine line between engaging your customers and repelling them. If your content imitates other viral content, it’s lazy content.
Great branding requires thoughtful work and dedication. Don’t try too hard to be silly, edgy, hip or trendy unless it’s genuine and reflects your overall brand. Otherwise, you just look like the weird old man using the term “bae.”
5. No branding communication
Your employees are essentially a live representation of your branding. They’re your walking billboards and business cards. Keep them in the loop on your branding strategy, and get them excited to share it with others.
Train your employees how you want them to represent your company’s brand. Give them incentives, and award them when they do it effectively. Successful branding starts inside your business.
Branding is a fundamental aspect of any successful business, but it doesn’t need to be complicated. If you avoid the branding mistakes listed above, you can help your business grow by making critical connections with your customers.
Jarad Hull is the CEO at Blueroof360.
Email Jarad Hull.

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Give great customer service and success will follow

Happy customers lead to good reviews, positive visibility and a successful business. A study done by Sage concludes that 86 percent of customers will pay more for great service. Maximize your customer service and increase your success by re-focusing your commitment to customer relationships:
  1. Get to know your core customer. Find out why your products are valuable to customers and what enhancements and competitive services interest them.  
  2. Let customers get to know you. Relationships matter. You’ll build loyalty and gain more referrals by getting to know your customers personally and letting them get to know you. 
  3. Always follow-up and listen. Show your customers that you care. Call them or shoot a quick email to find out how your product or service served their needs. Ask open-ended questions and listen. At Cox, customer satisfaction is up 57 percent at our Tucson Solution Stores because of our new customer engagement philosophy formed by strong feedback from our customers.
  4. Make giving feedback easy. Provide a convenient way for your customers to leave feedback through social media or email. 
  5. Anticipate customer needs. Pay attention to trends in your market, watch your competition and use data to build richer customer profiles.  
  6. Be easy to reach. Make sure your website is optimized for mobile devices, list your hours and provide clickable contact information so your customers can get to you quickly. 
  7. Demonstrate market leadership. Demonstrate your teams’ expertise through articles, tips, media interviews and social media engagement in the channels your customers follow.
  8. Give more than what is expected. Instead of following strict policy, give your employees the freedom to do what is right by the customer by offering options and solutions. Delighted customers will tell their friends.
  9. Make loyal customers feel appreciated. Organize customer appreciation days and special discounts for your base. Celebrate positive feedback by featuring testimonials on your website.
  10. Say yes! If you can say yes, you should. Customers want this more than anything and if the request is reasonable, you will build equity for when you must say no. 
Lisa Lovallo is the Southern Arizona Market vice president for Cox Communications. She has been named “A Woman of Influence” by Inside Tucson Business. Cox has a network of nearly 1,000 Wi-Fi hot spots around Tucson, so customers can tweet on the go. Reach her at lisa.lovallo@cox.com.

Starting a Business in 2016? Avoid These 5 'Beginner' Mistakes.

Starting a Business in 2016? Avoid These 5 'Beginner' Mistakes.

If you are planning on starting a business this year you are undoubtedly full of excitement. While raw excitement, infatuation and determination are all great, you need to make sure that you proceed with caution so as not to encounter the common pitfalls that lead to business failure.

Avoid making these five beginner mistakes many new entrepreneurs often make -- and good luck with your new business venture!

1. Expecting overnight success

Very few businesses are going to go from launch to successful revenue monster overnight. Yes, it happens, but not as often as one might think. The media is always going to talk about a unicorn startup that was conceived on a bar napkin and valued at $100 million two months later, rather than a business that’s been plugging away for the past few years, barely staying above water.

So, go into it knowing that you may potentially need a long time to get your business off the ground. If it happens quickly, that’s a bonus, but it’s better to have realistic expectations and not be disappointed.

2. Sitting back and assuming sales will roll in

It doesn’t matter how great your product or service is -- if nobody knows it exists, your business will die. You have to market your business and put it directly in front of your target audience.

My online marketing company receives a lot of inquiries from startups that all have the same question: “What do we do if we don’t have a marketing budget?" Actually, there are plenty of things that you can do if you are willing to put in the work. A well-thought-out content marketing strategy and media outreach campaign can be executed with little to no marketing budget.

Simply assuming that your target audience will magically discover your brand is foolish -- be prepared to grind hard in the beginning to generate momentum.

3. Failing to perform simple due diligence

Will your business name be infringing on an existing trademark?

Is there a domain name available that will make it easy for potential customers to find your business online?

Is your business name available on all the popular social profiles?

These are just a few examples of basic due diligence that can help you avoid problems down the road. A basic word mark search through the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) should be your first step. If it looks like your business name isn’t going to infringe on a mark, see if the domain name is available and then move on to social media profiles.

There are plenty of coupons floating around online that will allow you to register a domain for a dollar, and creating social media profiles won’t cost you a dime. Just be sure to secure your online footprint first.

4. Not going in with a long-term plan

Running a business "on the fly" without a well-thought-out plan is entrepreneurial suicide. On the fly can lead to mismanagement of funds and resources, which will ultimately sink your ship.

While you can’t predict (or prevent) all obstacles you will encounter, setting up some long-term planning will help you avoid inexcusable mistakes. For example, a long-term marketing budget will help ensure that you have funds to cover the marketing, while still leaving enough money to handle operations and payroll.

Imagine that you didn’t have a long-term plan mapped out and instead allocated a large chunk of money to an advertising campaign that didn’t pan out as expected: You'd lack the funds to cover operations and payroll -- and you'd be dead in the water.

5. Not embracing the lifestyle 100 percent.

Being an entrepreneur is perceived as "cool" these days, thanks to mainstream media, the hit TV show Shark Tank (which places business owners on a pedestal) and billion-dollar companies, like Facebook, Uber and Snapchat, dominating the news headlines.

But starting a business requires more than media smarts. It requires that you embrace the lifestyle that comes with the territory. Long hours, constant problem-solving and stress are just a few things to expect, along with:

  • Saying goodbye to a major chunk of your free time and sleep
  • Limiting time for family and friends
  • Putting hobbies and personal interests on pause
  • Making your new business the top priority in your life

Are you up to it? Then you have surmounted one of those five big "beginner" mistakes and are on your way.

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Venture Development Presentation and Plan Graphics

What should be in a venture development presentation, a business plan? It will depend on who the plan is for and the purpose of the plan. A common general purpose business plan is used to convey the key concepts of the plan to a general audience. Guy Kawasaki is a business development author who put together a 10-slide presentation guideline that is pretty popular. It forces the authors to be clear and concise. It's a good starting point and incorporated in the following 18 slide outline. Why 18? Simply because I don't think the 10-slide outline covered quite enough. And I know one particular business development executive who isn't even satisfied with about 200 slides! She wants lots of details. So, suggestion: error in favor of having lots of "backup" slides with pertinent details about your venture, but somewhere between 10 and 20 slides with the "key" information. Here are some suggestions for graphics to use as the base for these key slides ...

Venture Start-up Scorecard

How to Use the Venture Startup Scorecard

1 The purpose of this Venture Startup Scorecard is to to identify both strong and weaker areas of a new venture.
2 There are 30 venture evaluation criteria. Each criteria is scored from 0 to 4.
3 The maximum possible total score is 120, the lowest possible score is 0. (A venture with a score of 0 simply does not exist ... it is a null case!)
4 The score of a venture will change as the venture stabilizes. The objective is for the management team to increase the score as the venture progresses.
5 An early-stage venture will typically have a lower score than a more mature venture, and the score will usually increase as the venture matures ... but not always!
6 Each key team member, mentor, investor, and stakeholder individually evaluates each criteria of the venture using their own best judgment.
7 The venture evaluation should be done by teams based on the venture status as of a particular point in time (for example: where is the venture today?)
8 The General Manager collects the individual evaluations and averages the scores and standard deviation (SD) for each criteria.
9 Where the venture scores are lower, the management team should evaluate venture goals and strategies for that area.
10 Where the standard deviations are higher, the management team should discuss why their individual opinions diverge.
11 The Scorecard is a tool for venture development. The scoring is a method for focusing venture management on areas that need the most attention.
12 The higher the total score, the more likely the venture will be successful ... but keep in mind that venture development is far more art than science.
13 The criteria used in this Scorecard are not cast in stone. A venture team could certainly add, subtract, reword, et al the criteria to better fit their specific venture.
14 Questions, comments, suggestions, complaints, et al? Talk to Jim Jindrick as that dude put this together to make your venture and life better.

McG teams ... upload the GM total score sheet (with individual criteria scores and SDs) to Blackboard, but bring all your individual scoresheets to your mentor meeting.

And here it is ... Venture Start-up Scorecard (pdf)

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Startup Financial Objectives Worksheets

Here are the pdf versions of the income, use of funds, and source of funds worksheets. Operative word here: worksheet. Work through your numbers, experiment a bit, see what works and what doesn't. PLEASE do keep in mind that for a start-up company, financials are objectives to be met (with a reasonable tolerance band, high and low). They are not projections since there is no history in a new venture. Rather, they are the targets to be achieved, or not.

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Stages of Enterprise Evolution Timeline

  1. Opportunity ... gap in market, new technology ... maybe, just maybe, we can do something here
  2. Idea ... clear problems, viable solutions ... hmmm, something here
  3. Concept ... viable strategies for earning a profit solving customer problems better than the competition
  4. Venture ... viable innovation concept (product, service, process, position, method); team (innovator, entrepreneur, money manager); resources (people, places, things, time, money)
  5. Organization ... team, roles, clear strategies,
  6. Company ... legal formation, pre-sales, unstable financials (raising funds)
  7. Business ... low-hanging fruit, sales, customers, stable, positive EBITDA, viable business model
  8. Enterprise ... scale, scope, markets, growth, significant EBITDA, defined task and assignments, employees
  9. Institution ... significant market share, significant industry position, re-invention, continual innovation
  10. Tombstone ... the cows have run out of milk

An alternative is for a venture to become a not-for-profit organization.


Jim Jindrick

Welcome to VentureNotebook.com ... a collection of tips, tools, and rules of thumb for innovators and entrepreneurs! The articles are indexed below: click on a subject of interest to find related material. Jim Jindrick, Editor.

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