Welcome To The BLG (Biggest Little Group)


For the past six years, I’ve dedicated myself to the craft of branding in all its elaborate definitions and executions.  SmartBrand (and this blog we’ve called SmartBrandBlog,has been my passion and focus throughout those years, and I’ve had the pleasure of working with truly talented people for some amazing clients.  Throughout my experience, it became apparent that my clients really all wanted one thing: a single source, turnkey effort for their communications through marketing, advertising, pr, web and social channels.

The problem was, quite frankly, within the term “brand” itself.  For me,  a “brand” is your business and personal communications strategy.  The same kind of detailed planning and strategy a competent attorney or accountant would bring to your business; you need for your integrated communications as well.  Branding is  strategic planning, competitive positioning and creative consistency that lives in every aspect of your business, from both personal and business perspectives.

Where does your brand reside?  Not on a well designed piece of paper;  but in the minds and hearts of your customers and prospects.  Their perception is really your brand, and not simply how you want to be perceived.  Branding is, at its very core, about building your own community of loyal fans and participants: people who love what you do; and why you do it.  Branding is so much more than graphic arts, media, or photography – yet it is at the core of all those, and so much more.

As a collaboratively structured company, SmartBrand assembled a pool of amazing freelance teams to meet client’s goals and needs; and we were pretty darn successful at it.  Still, the many individual interpretations of the term “brand” simply didn’t communicate the scope of our work and focus to a majority of our client roster.

Which leads me here today to BLG (Biggest Little Group).  A new, fresh, small, talented agency that singularly addresses and solves your brand’s communication needs.  A full service, turn-key, kick-butt group of professionals who have already worked together as partners.

I hope you’ll continue to check back with our blogsite as we talk about the many people, places, events and images we help our clients create and celebrate.  And certainly, please return to contribute to the love we feel for this amazing community – our Biggest Little City In The World.

Because you, the good people, amazing places, engaging events and lively discussions of northern Nevada – are at the very core of our agency brand.

Are You Ready To Hire A Marketing Firm?


Every business owner is faced with the similar options and approaches to handling their communications strategy and campaigns.  Most start by trying it themselves, because they believe they know their business best, and want to give a try at the “fun stuff” – like marketing and advertising.

Like many businesses, you might also consider hiring a full or part-time marketing assistant or consultant.  Before you do…ask yourself this: When your business needs electrical work do you do it yourself? Hire an electrician to be on staff full-time? Or ask your plumber to handle it?

Bring in the Experts.

Though simple marketing and advertising might seem simple enough to do yourself, nothing hurts as much as a costly misfire.  Not only will you send the wrong message to a very busy public, but your budget will likely suffer and you’ll be in no position to recover or redirect the funds and time wasted.  The fact is, no one can do the job as effectively and efficiently as someone who lives and breathes the industry everyday.

Seeing the forest and the trees.

With any luck, the consultant you hire will bring with them an objective opinion and a fresh perspective.  It’s easy for many business owners to lose perspective on their brand as they become immersed in daily operations.  When you’re managing the minutia of business, it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture.  Often, a business’ marketing will reflect this, and the actual benefits of a product or service is lost to a detailed description of its functions and product details.  All emotion is lost in the pitch, and as such, isn’t received by the intended audience.

If you add another ball, technically it is juggling.

Even if you give the added tasks of marketing to an employee, attention is being taken away from other important responsibilities and projects.  Consultants on the other hand, are dedicated to one, and only one, important portion of your business.  The right one will stay focused on your brand’s image and sales – allowing you to keep your attention on other important development projects and goals.

Be Like Gumby.

The right consultant will remain very flexible, and should be ready to take on an assignment at a moment’s notices.  The ease of getting a project started is just a phone call away from being put into production.  Conversely, hiring a new employee to handle your marketing takes time to advertise, interview, and sort through candidates – often to find you may or may not have committed to the overhead of an employee.

The C- Word

Hiring a marketing consultant or firm may not require a long-term Commitment.  When a marketing firm completes a project, they have the flexibility to move into whatever position you need, from quarterly analysis, to basic maintenance, to completely out of the picture while remaining on the sidelines when you’re ready to take a new step forward.

Whatever your stage in business, it’s worth your time to set clear strategic goals for your marketing budget – and spend it wisely.  Investing in a professional or team of consultants to help you execute your campaign will not only save you money in the long run, but deliver greater results for your investment.

Do you work with a marketing firm?  If so…we’d love to hear about your experience!

Building A Smarter Brand


If you’re an entrepreneur in today’s market – my hat’s off to you.  You possess the power to see opportunity where others see obstacles, and you know how to act quickly to take advantage of that window to success.  Time, in today’s economy, is more precious and fleeting than ever as our lives move faster with technology and communications.

Besides endless hours of hard work getting your business financed and established, today’s entrepreneur wears an additionally daunting cap – broadcaster and market leader.  Building a loyal following of customers and fans is more important today than ever before – and the channels to reach them are increasing in complexity and reach with each passing day.

In the heat of the hunt for immediate results, many new (and existing) businesses dash past the brand development stage, and march quickly into delivering logos, websites and collateral from limited or multiple resources.  Who has time to ponder the personality of the language used to describe your product or service?  People just want to know about it, and hopefully stop long enough to pay attention.

Breaking that pattern of rushing to market is a key component to building a solid communications foundation that will serve you and your growing business for years.  Spending the time creating and defining your brand platform with a team of professionals will not only save you precious time, but precious funds in the short and long-term.  If done right, your brand platform will influence every single business decision you’ll make today, and in the future.

So what are the real bottom-line benefits you’ll get from establishing a solid brand platform and strategy?

1. Stand Out From The Competition

So much competition, and so little time to compare for too long, the window of opportunity to connect with today’s consumer is ever decreasing.  We multi-task on a variety of devices, all while maintaining several streams of conversation and potential distraction.  “New and Improved” simply isn’t enough to attract and keep consumer’s attention today; you have to prove your real, authentic value in competition with everyone.  Truly standing out in today’s market is harder than ever – and reaps even greater rewards when done well.

2. Communicate Your Value Quickly And Clearly

With a solid brand strategy and well-defined personality and language, you’ll be able to  speak with clarity and speed.  While speeding down the highway in your car, your billboard will have but a few seconds to be attracted and memorable to a stream of potential customers.  The internet is like a highway as well; with similar rules of quick and clear attraction requirements.  Keep your message concise and most importantly – make it memorable.

3. Attract Both Customers And Investors

Ask any budding young entrepreneur today who is just beginning to develop business ideas, and they’ll confirm that a strong brand is something they must have to secure funding.  “Build It And They Will Come” is notorious as a poor rationale to develop a product or service.  As humans, we want to believe that our realm of experience is similar if not exactly like our target market’s… which is often not true.   Spending the time to clearly define your target market, and give them reasons to buy from you from their perspective and experience is a critical step to financial returns.

4. Enjoy Lasting Marketing Returns

A well-defined brand platform is one business strategy that gives back for years if executed correctly.  As the company grows, so do you expand on the foundation that was established through a formal branding process.  Without that foundation, you’ll likely change messages and tactics enough to never gain traction in any specific market; and waste critical resources of time and money while doing it.  Developing a solid brand promise also translates into better information for creative expression; saving you time, money, and the sapping effort of going through rounds of creative attempts and evaluation.

5. Grow Faster With Purpose

One of the biggest challenges facing small businesses is to stay on track. It’s hard to know which opportunities to pursue, and which ones to pass on. Particularly when you don’t have the structure and decision-making processes of a large company. A well-defined Brand should be used as a continual, actionable filter to review everything: products, partnerships, people for fit to your core values. If they don’t fit, even if they have merit, then pass.

Brand platform building, especially defining your target market and your unique positioning is a powerful need for every business.  Many businesses see the branding process as a challenge, and not an advantage.

How do you see branding in your business today?  Is your brand platform clear to you and your market?
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Focus Your Branding For Success


One of the important challenges we face as a communications team is convincing new and old companies that having a formal, written, focused marketing strategy is and essential foundation for success.  You’d think this wouldn’t be all that difficult to accept from a logical perspective; planning is key to reach any of your goals.  Yet, we’re constantly surprised at how few do have one, and how many say they do… but really don’t.

Focus, in marketing, is critical.  The risk of losing focus is failure, and often signals the end for a brand.  But how do you go about focusing and developing a cohesive, integrated brand marketing strategy?  Our advice (obviously) would be to hire a professional to help you… unless you have a strong background in marketing; let alone advertising, public relations, social media, and web development.  All of these important brand strategy tools are there for you to consider, and strategically plan into an actionable list of tactics and to-do’s.

If you don’t have the experience or funds to invest in a professional’s guidance and help, strategizing and defining your unique communications is more than challenging – it’s nearly impossible for many entrepreneurs and emerging brands.  Although you may not have the resources to hire a professional or agency, the need remains, and many businesses close their doors because of scattered and unfocused brand strategies.

There are a few mistakes that continue to reveal themselves when investigating our client’s unique brand stories and goals.  If you can identify any these trends in your communications, consider that it might be time to adjust your thinking and plans:

Serving Too Many Masters.  Focus your attention on one, possibly two messages at any given time.  Consistency is key – in both appearance, tone, and frequency.  If you can’t clearly communicate your value in various time frames you’ll encounter from the elevator pitch to the hour long lunch, you’ve not defined your brand clearly enough for anyone to easily understand.

Not Everyone Is A Fan.  In fact, few people will be fans as you introduce and continue to communicate your brand’s services or products.  If you’ve not defined your target market with extreme precision and detail, you’ll not spend your time or money wisely with a shot-gun approach.  Your unique enthusiasm for what you do, and who you serve needs to be carefully tailored to be in the tone and mode your very specific audience is welcoming.

Cheap Is Not Always Good.  That 150,000 coupon booklet opportunity might seem like a great media buy – until they scatter your brand in the wind after delivery to your neighbors doorstep.  Randomly choosing media options that appear to be a good deal is not part of a targeted media campaign.  While great deals happen, you need to have a media and communications plan (PR+Social Media+Advertising) that broadcasts your message to a very specific audience. Start with a 90 day commitment at a miniumum with good frequency for that specific media channel.

Not Following The Herd.  Investing time mingling in social circles that your brand should be known is, including networking events and social media channels, may be one of the most effective use of time and money for your brand’s success.  Even the largest national brands maintain strong social presences in their specific industry’s circles.  Once you’ve got a solid brand strategy and communications plan in place, it’s critical to network your way to larger circles of connections – and opportunity.

Don’t forget – the 80/20 rule still applies in brand marketing today, especially with tighter budgets and more communication channels to choose.  Time is still money – and spending both are critical first steps for any brand – no matter what its age.  If you find you’re in need of direction with this critically important step in branding, please contact us.

Focus your brand’s strategy on an innovative, integrated communications plan – and get started on the path to greater rewards for your investment of time and money now.

Gather ‘Round The Brand Fire


Since the very dawn of man, we have gathered around fire to share and communicate.  Today’s complex network of media channels have replaced the tended campfires of old, but the process of communicating via emotionally engaging and meaningful stories has never changed.  Even with today’s technological advances, we crave the basics of meeting our needs through sharing the emotional journey of a good story.

Everyone can agree that, at its deepest core, great marketing and advertising is basically good storytelling.  The most memorable ads whisk us along a journey that appeal directly to our wants and desires.  The fire in messaging is sparked by connecting your product or service with the desires and emotions of your specific audience.  When that emotional connection is made and the timing is right… the story brings a flood of emotion into their reality.  Reality is much more than an advertising promise – it’s an experience they’ll come back for time and again.

Today’s marketer has a much bigger toolbox at their fingertips to help communicate these engaging brand stories.  In combination: online/offline ads, events, websites, retail spaces, public relations and social media, all play key roles and share the brand story telling experience.  Really understanding exactly how and where to target your customer…where they routinely and comfortably consume media and would welcome your story, is key to effectively positioning your brand’s story.

How do you craft a successful brand story?

First…you must understand how your brand’s services or products really connect with your customer’s basic emotional needs.  Everyone has deeply rooted emotional needs on a variety of levels, your job is to connect the benefit of your brand directly to that deep desire.  Even if the need is not physically oriented, nearly everyone seeks prestige, acknowledgement or pride.

Once you honestly understand the subtle values and emotions you’re connecting your story to, research to learn two things:

1) What media your potential customer may physically be exposed to your story, and

2) What is their emotional state is at the time their engaged with that media. This is critically important, because no matter how engaging your message may be, if it’s not delivered at a time that is open for reception, the message won’t resonate at all with your target audience.  It’s one of the simple, basic needs we all increasingly have in today’s mash of brand stories.

Finally, make sure your brand story is consistent about your story – no matter what campfire you may be gathered around.  Inconsistency in the subtle nuances of your story degrades the power and impact of your emotional connection – especially if it’s changed again and again over time.

Every brand has a story… including your personal brand as well as your business’ product or service. Engage your customers with an captivating, emotionally connected story that speaks to their specific desire, and you’ll begin a conversation that will develop loyal fans, referrals and sales for years to come.

Do you have your brand’s story written out in detail?  Is it as concise and engaging as it can possibly be?  Do you really know if it’s resonating with your audience? Or are you honestly just guessing because it resonates with you? 

If you’re confident you can consistently engage your audience with an emotionally connecting brand story  – you’ve taken the first important step toward building a growing community of loyal fans and customers.

6 Important Brand Strategy Steps


Spring is in the air, and this is the time of year businesses are energized about meeting and exceeding their goals.  I like to call it “new better bigger stronger” season.

It’s also time that many businesses consider a change in their marketing efforts and presentation overall to help reach new prospects and customers.  Many brands go as far as consider developing a refreshed positioning message overall to upgrade and uplift their communications to new potential clients.

If you’re one of those thinking hard about your brand’s real position in your market today, there are a few simple steps you can take that will get you down the path to a good start:

1. Conduct A Comprehensive Brand Audit: Take the time (and a survey) to listen in on how your prospects, customers and employees/vendor really perceive your brand.  This feedback is critical to discover any “disconnect” between what you think you’re conveying, and what they’re perceiving.  Once you find the gaps in your strategy, you can make appropriate changes for resolutions.

2. Take Time To Create Your Brand Architecture: It’s important that you take time to really define your unique value position, and prioritize it’s very specific features and benefits. Now is also a good time to define some important keywords that you’ll target your communications with for search engines and your various audiences.

3. Develop A Brand Strategy: Take the findings of your unique architecture and match that messaging with your various target audiences.  Make a list of where you plan to find and engage them, and what type of media or marketing support you may need.  Consider every possible media channel you can think of, from public relations and social media to traditional and interactive media.  Write them down and make a list!

4. Create Your Brand’s Story: By developing and writing out your compelling story that addresses your brand strategy, you’ll begin to be prepared to communicate with your market.  Be sure to think from your target audience’s perspective, and not from you own as an owner or employee.

5. Determine Your Brand’s Visual Requirements: Now for the fun part – from selecting colors, type styles and logo characteristics, you must visually reinforce your brand at every step of the way. Perhaps it’s a tweak of your existing logo that’s in order to update it, or an entirely different visual brand is needed – now is the time to make and execute on that part of the brand process.

6.  Develop Your Brand’s Operational Requirements: From logo use, to how the phone is answered – it’s important that you communicate the tone of the first five steps to every single person you engage.  Consistency is key to branding – and you now have the power behind your brand to communicate it with confidence.

Complete and document these steps with care, and you’ll not only see how you stand out from the competition, but you’ll be laying the foundation to grow faster than competitive brands in your same category – even in your same smaller community.

The biggest brands in the world know from experience that a well-defined business brand will generate more leads, rapidly accelerate their sales cycle, and create solid returns to their bottom line in faster time frames.  No matter what size company you are, the same principles of success apply to you.

If you’re like most of our clients and need help clearly defining and positioning your brand, we’re here to help.

4 Pinterest(ing) Reasons To Build Your Brand


(ING)

Unless you’ve been huddled under your own little social media rock without outside contact, you’ve probably heard of Pinterest by now.  Considering its staggering audience growth as the brand is exponentially building a following from today’s 7.2+ million active participants.  Launched in 2010, the Palo Alto based company has secured a solid place in today’s online marketing mix; especially for very specific, key demographics.

It would be impossible to review all the potential uses of the largely visual platform in one blog post, but suffice it to think there are some basically good reasons you should explore adding Pinterest to your social media marketing mix:

1. SEO Goodness:

With each image/photo you publish on Pinterest, you can link back to the image’s original online location, which in turn can help your search engine rankings.   Links back to your website on various boards do count toward your inbound link strategy.  Be sure to use easy keywords in your descriptions to aid in making it easy for others to locate you online.

2. A Viable Social Media Channel:

I know…we all agree…how many social media channels can one person, let alone business, keep in motion successfully?  The options without professional content help can feel overwhelming, to say the least.  But… it’s called social media marketing for a reason; with Pinterest now playing an increasingly important role for some brands to be visible, and connected to.  Unlike Facebook and Twitter, this channel takes little time to develop and maintain – and is simple to navigate and use.

3. Reach A Specific Target Audience:

Pinterest itself says it best: Redecorate your home! Plan a wedding! Find your style! and Save your inspirations!  Clearly – the main audience on this channel is female, and interested in sharing their many stages of lifestyles and dreams.  But that’s not the only audience on Pinterest, just the most prominent.  Your audience is likely there and just now developing into a cohesive chain of professionals and individuals with your specific likes as well.   The better news is, it’s viral.  Once you’ve been “repinned”, that audience is now connected to your visual identity or interest – and on your brand goes without much effort to like-minded/friendly potential followers.

4. Bonus Bennies

It’s easy to use. Known social contacts from other channels will join you and help spread your brand images (personal or professional) by “re-pinning” and sharing with their network of friends.  Although you do need to keep an eye on your Pinterest site(s), it’s much easier to simply pin images with brief notes and links than having to write a blog or maintain conversations and comments (like Facebook and Twitter).

Jump in to Pinterest, and start discovering your own path to the benefits of this free, new social channel. While you’re there, stop by and say hi.

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