I’m a marketing guy, always have been and always will be. I was one of those kids who would watch the television commercials more so than the show itself and always preferred the print ads to the articles. I was fascinated by marketing at a young age, although I certainly didn’t call it that or even have the sense that I could ever make a career out of it.
Midway (hopefully) through my career I caught the writing bug and released my first book, The Experience Effect (AMACOM, 2012) about big-brand marketing. Something interesting happened along the way that I never would have expected. People started asking me how to apply this thinking to their small business. Small business? I'm a big-brand kind of guy.
But as we look to recover from this economic mess, it's our entrepreneurial spirit that will re-shape the economy. So I decided to translate all that I have learned in big-brand theory and apply it to small-business marketing in my book The Experience Effect for Small Business. (See a recording of Joseph's webinar on branding secrets. Login required.)
Related: Five Low-Cost Local Marketing Ideas
Here is some advice that I would give to virtually any small-business owner, distilled to three core areas as "secrets" of the big brands.
- Target your customer. You can’t be all things to all people. A big part of being a “brand” is making hard choices about targeting your best and potentially most loyal customer base. The more focused the better so that you can create a customized experience that will make your brand indispensible in their lives. You have a much better chance of making a connection with a customer if you know specifically who they are and what they want. For example, just targeting women is probably too broad, but putting definition around what “kind” of women (like new mothers) will provide direction on how to reach them.
- Find your emotional benefit. Functional facts and figures are only half of the story and chances are that they alone won’t differentiate from your competition. But discovering how you can make your customers feel can set you apart and become the basis for building your brand experience. A restaurant, as an example, should not just claim to satisfy their customers’ hunger, as that is merely a functional benefit. Instead, connect with your customers by offering home-cooked meals without the hassle of cleaning up and suddenly there’s an emotional benefit to leverage.
- Create a consistent experience. Marketing is all about creating an experience that adds value to your customers’ lives. The trick is to apply that experience across every single touchpoint so that your brand is consistent at each and every interaction. Everything is a touchpoint. . . right down to your logo, your sales staff, your company website, and your sales force. Imagine, though, if your company receptionist was rude and insulting to your customers. Your entire brand could be destroyed by just that one interaction.
Jim Joseph is the North American president of New York-based communications agency Cohn & Wolfe, part of the media company WPP Group PLC. He is the author of three books, including the latest, The Personal Experience Effect (Happy About 2013). Joseph also teaches marketing at New York University and blogs at JimJosephExp.com.