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Posted: April 30, 2009

The secrets to ‘What’s in it for me?’  branding

Grassroots, targeted marketing can be done affordably

Esty Atlas

“Many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our point of view.” - Obi-Wan Kenobi, Jedi Master

Obi-Wan was right. We cling to what we believe. And, what we believe, oftentimes, is based on what we perceive. Here’s the first ah-ha! 

Perception may or may not be the actual truth. But it’s what can make or break a business. Any business can be defined by the consumer’s point of view. Perception, then, is one of the top identifying markers for the success one has in any business. That’s why so much time, money, and effort is spent by the larger companies branding a particular identity in the minds of their customers.

Nike: Just Do It!; BMW: The Ultimate Driving Machine; Obama for President: Yes We Can. 

Campaigning is an excellent example of creating perceptions that tie to one’s core beliefs. Barack Obama won the votes of the American majority when the field began with many better known (and what’s generally perceived as more experienced) candidates. How? That’s strategic marketing, baby. Don’t ever take it for granted. 

By better understanding what triggers people’s hearts and minds, as I discuss in my new book, “Roadrunner Marketing: Strategic Secrets You Wish You Knew,” you learn to define the image you need to present to your customers. Co-author Melanie Goetz and I combined over four decades of marketing and public outreach experience into an easy ‘how-to’ for the independent business owner and entrepreneur. Affordable marketing. Grassroots, targeted marketing. It can be done.

It must be done on all of your direct and indirect communications with current and future customers.  In any economy, particularly a recessionary one, you must take advantage of being seen and being memorable. 

This knowledge of ‘how to’ create the right perception, ‘how to’ get publicity, ‘how to’ differentiate yourself from your competition and ‘how to’ speak to consumers effectively is the key to success. Begin with understanding the difference between offense and defense.

Score first, by telling your story first. The first impression is the one that’s remembered. Maybe you've served on a jury and the judge strikes the prosecutor’s statement from the record after you've already heard it. The statement is not only told first, but it gets a second round of attention when retracted. The human brain cannot retract or delete like a computer. Once it's heard, it's stored. Guilty as charged. That’s why being proactive in your public outreach efforts from the beginning and creating the right perception will win the jury’s votes, or in your case, consumers. Having to defend yourself puts you in the undesirable position of having to explain, and hoping the reporter will choose the right “soundbite” or quote that substantiates your view. Good luck with that. 

Proactive identity branding is time consuming, but the benefits are well worth it, so craft your talking points carefully. The best advice here: WIFM. Most of you have heard the advertising adage, “What’s in it for me?” Just remember: “me” is not you, it’s your consumer. 
 
So, what’s your story? Everyone has one. It may not be obvious. What will the press and your customers find interesting? If, your business is doing something that makes a difference in the community, is a unique human interest story, or directly benefits the audience you are seeking with a timely event, then you’re onto the makings of something worth talking about. 

Now, you’re ready to discover the “how.” How you convey your message is critical. How you communicate is just as important as what it is you are saying. It must inspire, inform, educate, and motivate. Those four key words create loyalty. Loyalty begets consumerism. Consumerism equals ka-ching. Once you figure out what to say and how to say it, then today’s challenge is where to say it. The advertising landscape ain’t what it used to be (pardon the slang).

The general public’s lifestyles and behaviors have changed dramatically with technology. Our world is cluttered with so many new products, services and channels on the remote, people have hit their mental “mute” buttons altogether. So how does the independent business owner get noticed? That's a topic for another column. But it’s not nearly as difficult as the big PR firms would have you believe.

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Esty Atlas is a four-time Emmy award-winning writer, specializing in leadership communications, media and public relations. 303-919-2425; email: estycreative@yahoo.com or www.estycreative.com

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