How to Properly Execute Branding for Your Small Business – Alicia Brooks & Alex Radford The Edge Agency

How do you differentiate your business from so many others in the market? It all starts with branding. On today’s show, we’re talking about the importance of branding and how to execute it properly. We’re pleased to welcome back Alicia Brooks, Director of Business Development for the Edge Agency, and Alex Radford, Co-Owner and Partner, of the Edge Agency.

Transcription:

Jim Fitzpatrick:

Ladies, thank you so much for joining me back on the show.

Alex Radford:
Thank you.

Alicia Brooks:
Thank you for having us again. We appreciate.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Absolutely. Alex, I know that you have a lot to share with our audience about effective branding. Talk to us about what effective branding should look like, because there’s a lot of small businesses out there that say, “Branding, well, I’ve got a logo.” Is that what you mean by branding? Like a Nike swoosh? We’re good. We’re done with our branding. It’s not what it is, is it?

Alex Radford:
No, no. I can’t tell you how many times we have to tell our clients, your brand is not your logo, it’s you. Your logo is of course an element of your brand and the visual aspect of it. But your brand is you. It’s what differentiates you from your competitors. It’s why you got in business in the first place. It’s why you love what you do. And that part, that trickle down from the ownership throughout the employees internally and then externally to your client.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
This sounds like a lot of work. Tell us the do’s and don’ts of branding for small businesses. And folks, listen to this very closely because it’s so much more than a logo. And I think everybody needs a good understanding for those companies that are listening that are doing a great job in the area of branding their company great. You probably don’t need a lot of this, but everyone else, 95% of you really need to listen about what branding means, what it’s all about and how to do it effectively for your business.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
By the way, this is not something that is done five years after you’ve opened. A lot of small business owners go, “Why worry about that stuff. That feel good stuff later on. Let me just get out and sell my widgets, or let me get to doing my business out there with other business owners or other consumers. And I’ll worry about that whole branding thing later.” Major mistake, if you take that approach. Branding should be right up there with getting your license from the city you do business in to say, “On the top list here we incorporated, we got our license. Let’s focus on what we mean as a business.” I didn’t mean to go on there, but I’m passionate about this. So, go ahead.

Alex Radford:
Yeah, you’re exactly right. I actually use the analogy of a car and how the engine is your brand. The brand is the engine inside of the car. What you see on the outside, that logo, the design, that’s the design, that’s the graphic design, that’s the visual elements of what you see. And that road is really the marketing tactics. You’re going to do with that brand, once it’s up and running and able to propel you forward. We give that example all the time.

Alex Radford:
Another thing I’ll say is, perception is reality and your brand is more so how you’re perceived. And that is, from the time your answering the phone to your customer service, it goes so much further than the elements that you see. When we develop a brand important to us, that we are getting a message out about our clients that is authentic to who they are, that differentiates them from their competitors, that establishes alignment inside of their team to keep everyone just on the same page and communicating and knowing, “Hey, this is our core values. This is our mission statement. This is our target audience. This is what we’re here to do.” And establishing alignment internally as well as externally. We’re big believers, just that things trickle down from the inside out.

Alex Radford:
Having a powerful brand establishes trust and loyalty. We talk a lot about consistency, and if you’re going to do a mailer or you’re going to begin doing social media, that’s wonderful. But if you’re going to do it one time, it’s not going to be nearly as effective if you’re not consistent. The consistency reminds people, “This is the same every time I see it. I know what I’m getting when I walk through the door.” And it establishes trust. And that’s what you want as a brand, when you make a mistake, because we’re all human. You want the client to be loyal to you and say, “I know you, I know this is not normal.” We’re going to power through. Really that trust and loyalty is really important and it starts with that consistency.

Alicia Brooks:
It really sets you up for successful marketing. One thing we say too is that, your brand doesn’t necessarily belong to your marketing department. Your brand is something that’s more of a foundational piece that you don’t really want to start doing the marketing without your strong brand. Because then what are you pushing out on marketing? You’re just going by the seat of your pants and pushing out whatever you want when you don’t know. Does it resonate with your target audience? Does it give the message that you want to sell? Does it build trust and loyalty? Is it aligned across all the platforms?

Alicia Brooks:
Branding is really a foundational piece that you want to have very, very well-established before you start pushing all your marketing out. And then conversely, once you have that brand, turn over to your marketing. Have a very clear brand board while you have a very clear mission statement. And they can make sure whether it be working with someone like us as your marketing department, or if you have an internal marketing department, they can make sure that that brand is created and pushed out consecutively online and offline across all platforms.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
When someone thinks of Ritz-Carlton Hotel for instance, the logo is the logo, but the brand is that experience. When somebody thinks of Ritz-Carlton, and they think of top-notch service from the time you get out of your car and you’re greeted by that valet parker all the way through to the front desk experience. What you’re going to find in the hotel. The luxurious rooms. The service that you’re going to get in the hotel and in the bar. It’s all of that. A lot of it has to do with the customer experience, right?

Alicia Brooks:
Yes. Your brand really is something that appeals to all [five’s and 00:06:43] even think about when you walk in, the reps they have, I don’t know what air fresheners they use, but it smells amazing. And that just makes you feel like, “Ooh, I’m home. I’m in a great place.” And they converse it like you walk into a business and it stinks. It doesn’t look good. Are you going to stay there? Are you going to go back? Probably not.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
And then also the people, I think when you guys are talking about this, the culture of the company has so much to do with launching and maintaining a successful brand. Because you could have all of these things. You could have the great scent in the rooms or in the lobby, or you can have extremely luxurious redecorated hotel rooms and what have you. But if the people at the front desk, or the people that clean the room, or the bartender, or the waiter or waitress drops the ball on that, you have nothing. It really comes down to that interaction too with the staff.

Alex Radford:
Yeah, [crosstalk 00:07:43].

Alicia Brooks:
That’s tokens back to what you said about making sure that your core values and your mission statement are aligned. That’s as much for you and your family as it is for externally to your client. Because to your point exactly, if your employees are not bought in, it doesn’t matter what your brand is, what you want to push out. They’re not buying, and that’s going to show to a customer. That mission statement and those core values are not only important that you put them on paper, but that you actually famille them to your internal and external.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
For companies that are listening to us have this discussion right now, and they’re asking themselves, “What’s my brand all about? And in my business? And what does it mean to our customers?” Because this might be the first time somebody is really hearing this part of what branding looks like outside the sign and the logo. That it is so much more than that. Tell me, what is it that your company, I mean, you mentioned that you would start with a two hour meeting to really drill down to say what are your core beliefs? How do you want your customers to perceive you in the marketplace? How are you different from your competitors? And then how do we tell that story on an external basis with the marketing that the company does. Talk to us a little bit about the importance of the culture inside the companies.

Alex Radford:
I think you said it as far as culture inside of the companies, the trust and the communication that you have internally is reflective of the communication that you’re going to have with your clients. Just being extremely transparent with your team members and employees saying, “Hey, here’s where we’re at. Here’s where we did well.” And just being very open and honest about those things. I think making your team feel like they’re at home, and they’re in the know. And whether it’s good or bad, the communication and the truth is out there. I think that really just sets your employees up to feel they want to do their best like they’re invested. And that’s what translates outside of the company.

Alex Radford:
You mentioned about the branding session and for clients that once we get into all this meat of the heart of their business and why they’re in business and how that translates visually thereafter. And you mentioned one of the do’s of our do’s and don’ts of branding and it’s about color. And you touched on it a little bit already, even with the Ritz-Carlton, with the gold or the black, or those colors that really attract luxury, and high-end, and class, and that’s not done on accident.

Alex Radford:
We have some clients that come in and they say, “I’m all about education and communication.” And that’s the heart of their business, where they’re going to pull more yellows. We have some clients who are… They’re all about relationships and they want to have fun and they pull more pinks than oranges. And then we have bold where people are like, “I’m a powerhouse. I don’t even have any competitors.” And they’re blacks and reds and things like that. Do consider colors when you are developing your brand. And that’s a great question to ask the agency that you’re working with. If they say, “What color do you want to use?” That’s a problem. There needs to be a reason that they came up with these colors.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
For the people that are listening, they’re probably checking colors right now going, “I wonder if I pick the right colors.” Because sometimes people pick colors, they might pick red and black because they went to Georgia or maybe blue and orange if they went to Florida, or what have you. So it’s just crazy. Or these were my kids’ two favorite colors so we made them our company logo. It’s like, that’s cute but that’s not what we’re doing here with the branding, right?

Alex Radford:
Yes.

Alicia Brooks:
When we’re doing that to our brand session of we’re learning everything about you, your business, your goals short-term and long-term, your competitors. We are taking all of that information. And of course your target audience, which is really probably the biggest piece of it. And we don’t just say your target audience like, “My target audience is males from this age to this age.” No. It’s like, “Tell me who your favorite customer is?” They’re standing right here, describe them to me. What do they like to do? What’s what’s their hobbies? How many kids do they have? What’s their job? Everything about them because if that’s your favorite customer and your target audience, that’s who we’re going for. We’ve all of that information, we’ve pull it all out of you. Sometimes they’re almost like therapy sessions. These too are branding session is.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
But I’m sure it’s very good because sometimes it’s the first time that this business owner has gone through an exercise like this. And they probably say, “Wow, this is therapy.” Because it forces us to take a much closer look at who we are as a business. As a small business, before we become a big business. And these questions have got to be asked. And sometimes if you get a deer in the headlights you know that there might be an issue here that we have to address, right?

Alicia Brooks:
Exactly.

Alex Radford:
It certainly leaves the business owner with laser focused. And once we have their brand foundation developed and the logo is complete and the website is complete. And it’s this beautiful representation of who they are and their message is very clear. They have such clear vision of where they’re going after that. If they’re doing mailers, or social media, or a video, however they choose to promote their business or whatever we recommend, it’s just extremely effective because your brand was completed properly in the beginning. We have a lot of clients that come to us. They’ve already built a website. They never had a branding session. And so they end up having to go back and redo it, which is fine. But ultimately it ends up costing you more money in the long run.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Let me ask you this, every small business right now is asking some very, very difficult questions. We’re in the middle of a national pandemic, worldwide pandemic for that matter, but they’re nervous. What do we do about the balance of 2021?

Alex Radford:
It’s a great question and I can answer it very truthfully and honestly, because my business partner and I are small business owners. We just got back from our annual business retreat and we were asking ourselves these very questions. And our mindset is really just continuing our education and making sure we’re as knowledgeable as possible. We are experts in our craft. And all of our team is… They’re tools in their toolbox are sharp and they’re consistently being educated on upcoming trends. We’re continuing forward with our marketing as far as our social media and overall growth strategies for referral partnerships. And just, there’s a lot of different growth strategies out there. That’s been a big thing at the top of our minds. I would just encourage all of our business owners to create a business plan, and a plan just is so much more effective. We’ve got lots of clients right now that they’ve been or prospects where they’ve been throwing stuff together on the fly doing it themselves, and they need a strategy to hold them accountable and make sure that what they’re doing is effective.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Does your agency work with all size businesses out there or does there have to be a certain criteria in terms of companies only earned 5 million a year or more, or what have you? If somebody’s either just starting a business on a tight budget or somebody that’s been in business for only a couple of years, will you work with small businesses like that?

Alex Radford:
Yes. So our brand guidelines that help us decide when to accept a new client and when not to, is not so much based on their revenue. It’s more so based on their like-mindedness with us. We like to work with people who know they need marketing. There’s groups in LinkedIn than trying to have to convince someone of why they should invest in your service. Most of our clients, they know they need it. That’s a big thing. But yeah, we do work with startups who have no brand at all. We help them develop it from the ground up from their name, their tagline, their mission statement. And we’ve worked with several businesses that are $50 million companies, and we’re not typically developing brands for them. We’re more so establishing brand consistency internally for them with their teams, or we’re managing what they can’t handle in-house. They’re outsourcing it to us.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right, right, go ahead.

Alex Radford:
[inaudible 00:16:00] many different sizes and industries.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
What was that?

Alex Radford:
I was just saying many different sizes and different industries, but it’s pretty heavy. I would say professional service industries for us.

Alicia Brooks:
I would say that’s the great thing about us too, and for us, it’s a blue ocean opportunity because we don’t really have to work with a certain type of business or with a certain size of company. It can be anybody because whether they’re B to B or B to C, they’re putting stuff out there to a customer. Are there customer has another business or a consumer, you still need to have a brand in what you’re putting out there to your customer.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Alicia, will you also not just help them with their brand, but also help them develop it and market it to the marketplace. You guys can handle all of that. If they say, “We do need a new logo. We do need the colors. Tell us where we need to run our advertising and…” You guys can handle it all.

Alicia Brooks:
Absolutely. That’s a big part of what we do as well is, once that brand is established, whether we’re doing it or it’s already done, is then how do we strategically market that brand and what are the channels to do it on? I have a pretty extensive background in digital. Other people within the company have a very extensive background on organic channels. What’s the best mix between organic channels and digital, and who’s our target audience and what’s the best ways to reach them. Because if your target audiences is not on Facebook, then you don’t need to advertise on Facebook. If your target is on LinkedIn, then that’s where we need to be from an organic and a digital standpoint.

Alicia Brooks:
Actually right now we’re working with a lot of our customers, a lot of our clients and we’re putting together those 2021 marketing strategies for them, where we’re looking at everything about their business. Almost re-looking at their brands. And then putting together an entire 2021 strategy for them. So that whether we’re executing all of it or only some of it, they have a guidebook and they know, “Here’s what I’m doing for the year. My budget’s done. I already know what I’m doing.” Let’s go.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s great. That’s fantastic. Well, Alicia Brooks, Director of Business Development for the Edge Agency and Alex Radford, Co-Owner and Partner of the same agency. Ladies, I want to thank you so much for joining me here on the Atlanta Small Business Show. It is always a pleasure bringing you in. We get so many great comments whenever you’re on the show. And I think the insight that you bring to us is really invaluable to so many of our viewers and business owners and entrepreneurs out there. Thank you so much.

Alicia Brooks:
You’re welcome. Is great to talk to you, Jim. Thank you.

Alex Radford:
Thank you.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Thanks.


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