Lisa Merriam, President at Merriam Associates, answers all of our branding and content marketing questions
Branding and content strategies are often an afterthought when starting a small business. Why are these important to consider when building out your business plan?
Marketing and sales are where the rubber meets the road in a business plan. They are the levers that create revenue. Many entrepreneurs think a great idea is enough, but the guy who wrote “build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door,” was a poet, not a businessman. If you are not thinking about reaching people, getting your value message across, and persuading them to buy, you can throw the rest of your business plan away.
What are your tips for starting the branding process for a small business?
Start with your strategy for defining what makes your offer special. Define the reputation you want to have. That’s positioning and differentiation. Stay away from the business jargon. If any of your copy uses words from this 30+-year-old tool, it’s time to think again.
Also, think beyond features and benefits and the basics like cost savings, quality, value, convenience, speed, access, etc. Those are table stakes, not the basis of a brand. If you can do these things, you’ll have something worthwhile and attention-getting instead of more verbal wallpaper—a politer way of saying…
Last piece of advice: Read my book Merriam’s Guide to Naming, which covers brand strategy basics, as well.
How do you start creating content if you are not a writer?
What should a small business’s initial branding and content marketing budget look like?
There are far too many variables and ways to spend money to come up with a figure based on facts. People have done well bootstrapping with $0; others have failed spectacularly spending millions.
Please tell us two small business success stories, one from good branding and one from good content marketing.
Much of the more rewarding work I do is with entrepreneurs and companies backed by private equity, hoping to grow. I partnered with Everbrand (now Pleos), a branding agency, to help a printing company that was spinning off software that managed advertising production details such as: start and end date of promotions, pricing, product details, and images, and connected the information upstream with product ordering and downstream with media outlets.
We organized the product offering, positioned it, created a name and logo with a visual system and usage guidelines, and wrote the initial messaging. We worked as their outsourced marketing department, handling trade shows, web site, demos and sales enablement/lead generation content, and more.
The project culminated with a multi-office launch that included key client sites and industry-wide PR. After the launch, we functioned as the outsourced marketing department and created a lead-generating content management program. The company was sold in Q2 2018 to dunnhumby, a leader in customer marketing.
As to content marketing, this Sherpa Marketing case study is an oldie but a goodie.
Do you have any recommended resources that small businesses can refer to for more information on creating branding and content marketing strategies?
- Here is some good basic information about brand strategy: https://lisamerriam.com/about-lisa-merriam/marketing-brand-services/branding-services/brand-strategy/
- A bit on a solid model for content marketing: https://lisamerriam.com/content-marketing-model-success/
- Some ideas for content creation: https://lisamerriam.com/repurpose-content/
- This book explains how terrorists use marketing—it explains the process that companies like Coca-Cola use from end to end and how other entities beyond consumer-packaged goods companies have used the same process: https://www.amazon.com/Weaponized-Marketing-Defeating-Professional-Intelligence/dp/1538137534