I’ve been working my way through Eben Pagan‘s DVD recordings of his “Get Altitude” program, which was a $10,000 per head live in-person seminar presented as advanced entrepreneur training. It’s focused on people who already have businesses who want to grow their operation towards seven and then eight figure turnover.
One of the concepts I’ve heard Eben teach over and over again is the idea of dominating your market. This is more than just being successful, this is creating the perception that what you do is in a category all of its own. You don’t have competitors if you’re the only supplier in the mind of the customer, even if what you actually supply is provided by other companies.
The great thing about this concept is that you can dominate a market without changing anything about your product. Through a strategic marketing process, you can establish a frame of perception associated with your brand that is entirely unique. This isn’t actually something tangible, since most tangible elements can be replicated. This is a feeling that your marketing will emote from your prospects and customers when they think about what you offer.
When you establish a brand perception that is emotionally stimulating in a positive way, you have a very powerful advantage. You don’t have to compete on price, and assuming your product is at least adequate in quality, you will make more sales, even more sales than better products because you have a stronger brand.
What Is A Brand?
In my previous article from way back in December 2005 – Small Business Branding – It’s Not “We”, It’s “Me” – I defined branding, in this particular case a “personal brand” as –
Small business branding is not a good logo, a rhyming name, or special font. Small business branding is the owner. It’s what the owner does, says and how the owner’s traits come through in every aspect of the business. It’s the way relationships are built and maintained, the way a person does business and treats other people. It’s how rapport is established at an individual level, where trust and comfort exist as human characteristics, not from theme music, models or slogans.
A brand is intangible so you can’t really quantify its value. Advertising companies do their best to come up with some kind of brand value metrics, otherwise they wouldn’t have a means to value their services, but even the best technology is still making assumptions about the value of a brand.
When marketing is advertising and when advertising doesn’t have a measurable correlation to a response of some kind, then you’re making some assumptions about the outcomes you will get for your money invested. You can’t prove that X dollars spent resulted in Y dollars in new revenue from sales.
In other words, when you spend money on advertisements and you can’t directly correlate that with actual sales, then you are assuming it will have a positive impact on your bottom line, even though it might even have the reverse effect or be worth less than what you spent.
Can You Quantify Your Outcomes?
Small businesses rarely invest extensively in advertising purely for the sake of branding. We need to know that when we spend money we make more money in return. This is why the Internet is so good. Since actions and responses can be measured, you can determine how much you make based on how much you spend.
Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising is one of the best examples of this principle. If you can spend $100 a day to make $150 in profit, and you can know this by directly linking traffic coming from your PPC campaign that result in customers spending money, then you know it’s worth your while.
The same goes for any kind of traffic source resulting in a sale where we can quantify a result. Since we know where the traffic comes from, even down to what keywords someone used to find our website, or what medium they came from to find us (an email, a search engine, a paid advertisement), we can assess the value of that traffic to us.
This type of advertising is called “direct response” and while it was first coined to describe offline marketing used by guys like Dan Kennedy, it applies even better online because it is cheaper and you can measure more variables.
For most small operations, direct response online advertising is the only form of advertising that people invest money in, and branding, if it is even thought about at all, is not a concern.
Even people who don’t spend a penny on advertising, focus on methods of online marketing that are measurable in some shape or form, so they can focus on what works and skip what doesn’t.
So where in this mix does branding fit in?
Perceived Differentiation and Brand Awareness
One of the very first ways I made money online was by selling banners on my websites.
Although years ago clicks on banners where at least returning a positive outcome, nowadays banners deliver terrible click through rates. It’s very hard to justify spending money on banners as a direct response mechanism, especially when there are such better tools available, like Pay Per Click.
As a result of this I started selling banners to advertisers more as a branding tool, and less about direct traffic. I was taught this lesson by one of my long term sponsors on a website I used to own years ago.
This particular sponsor paid me $100 each and every month to place their 468×60 banner all over my site, and they did so for years. I monitored the clicks on their banners, and although initially the response was good while the banner was fresh, the click-rate dropped dramatically as the banner became “old”.
I told sponsors it’s a good idea to rotate in different banner designs from time to time due to what is known as banner blindness. People become “blind” to exposure of a particular banner, and if you change your design on a regular basis you can attract more clicks.
The sponsor never adhered to my advice and explained they were not sponsoring my website for the clicks, they considered any direct traffic a bonus. What they wanted is the branding that being associated with my website provided.
In this case, the sponsor was looking for two outcomes, which I believe are the much better reasons to do any kind of banner advertising.
- Brand Awareness: My site had a very targeted traffic base for what this particular sponsor offered (they had a physical shop in Sydney in this case). What they wanted was “mindshare” in their consumer base, so when the need arose to purchase something, their store brand came into the thought of the potential customer thanks to the continuous exposure their brand was given on my site.
- Brand Association: My site was a leader in the industry and thus it had credibility. Some of this credibility was transferred to my sponsor. As I said earlier, this is an intangible feeling, so in this case the association with my website brand transferred some of the “good” feeling to the sponsor’s brand.
You Are Everywhere
Although banner blindness is a problem, there’s a lot to be said when it comes to being “ubiquitous“. Although few people click on the banner, if a person is repeatedly exposed to the same image over and over again it starts to create a feeling of association with that particular product category.
When a potential customer sees your banner everywhere, and I mean not just on one website but on many and some of the leading websites in your industry, you become cemented in the awareness of people for that particular product. That doesn’t mean they will buy from you of course, but it does mean they will consider you.
Trust is also enhanced by being ubiquitous because people infer that you are successful and credible, since it appears so many people support you. This increases the likelihood the prospect will choose you to buy from.
Seth Godin, in his usual succinct and eloquent style, summarized this idea in a recent blog post of his – On becoming a household name.
The Branding Power Of Affiliates
I’ve written previously about the power of having your online peer group support you when you do a launch, in this case the leaders in your industry (see You Are As Good As The People Around You), but smaller affiliates play a role too.
Although the majority of affiliates never make a sale, they are valuable because they help to enhance your brand by plastering your banners all over their websites. Although each individual affiliate has minimal traffic, the collective exposure from an “army” of affiliates all promoting your banners, creates the intangible branding benefits that I’ve discussed in this article.
It’s through repeat exposure that your brand can become synonymous with a product category (awareness) and position you as the leader (trust).
Does Any Of This Matter?
Most of what I’m talking about in this article refers to elements of your brand that are intangible. What I’ve written of course makes sense – it’s logical – but it is hard to measure since you would need a direct wire into the brain of every customer you have to figure out their motivation when buying your product.
Most good branding occurs as a side effect of good marketing and it’s not likely as a small business that you will invest money on marketing or advertising that is purely about branding. It is however worth considering the impact on your brand whenever you evaluate the effectiveness of an online campaign.
Positive branding can lead to an increase in sales, but more important is the underlying psychology behind why that is. With a strong brand perception, people will choose your offer above everyone else because of the “feeling” associated with you and what you do. Much of this is developed in the subconscious within the mind of your prospects and customers as they go about their business online.
Keep this in mind next time you do any marketing activity – have you considered what impact it will have on your brand?