Ask SCORE: Building a Strong Business Brand

Building a strong brand is critical to a business’ success. It is not, however, easy to develop. The following information outlines why building a strong brand matter and how you can get started.

A business brand is more than a recognizable name and logo. It is the way you will communicate with your clients, a promise on how you will do business and provide your service/product. In essence, it is your calling card. The style, color and words of the brand statement will influence potential customers. Having said this, creating a brand is a challenging task.

To build a strong brand, you must create opportunities for potential clients to connect with you in engaging ways that allow them to understand your company’s purpose and believe in the value you bring to their lives. It provides a cohesive story on who you are and how you differ from competition. Most importantly, it can create customer loyalty. 

While brand creation is one of the key components to a successful business, it takes much thought as well as trial and error. Following are some helpful questions to consider when working through the process of building your brand:

  • What is your business’ purpose?  What problem does it solve?
  • What is the first thing you want your customers to think of when they see your product or service?
  • If your customer were to tell a friend about your business, what would you want them to say?
  • What do you want your company to be known for?

Building brand strategy requires the following research and development components:

  1. Research to identify and understand the target audience and your competitors: This can be done by using Google to research competitors, talking to individuals who may be perspective clients to gather information on their needs and likes for the product/service, and by shopping yourself online to get the feel for how a potential customer would. This provides information on important words to include in your brand statement so when customers perform a search your product/service will appear. Competitor research will allow you to identify their strengths and weaknesses and assist in creating your advantage.

  2. Create a focus statement: The focus statement/value statement should be the center for all other brand materials created for the business. It is a 2–3-line statement that informs customers what value they can expect to get from your product/service. The important information contained in this should be: product/service, target market, value proposition and statement of differentiation from other products/services with the market.

  3. Slogan development: A good slogan is a short, catchy phrase that will be associated with your product/service. This should be used on your business cards, website headers, and other business materials. Slogans can and do evolve over time.

  4. Selection of appealing aesthetics: This may seem strange, however, color and font can communicate how you want the client to perceive you. It should help differentiate you from competitors.  When choosing a color/color scheme make sure it cannot be confused with a competitor. Also consider how print text and pictures you may add will look on the color pallet. Keep your font selected simple and never use more than 2 font types – one for heading and one for text.

  5. Logo design: The logo is the face of your business and will be on all materials. Therefore, the complexity of it should be kept to a minimum so it is scalable and can be utilized in various sizes within the business materials.  

The final step in the brand creation process is to consider the appropriate delivery channels. Selecting the optimal delivery channels should include consideration of potential clientele audience. In todays’ business environment, there are many options available. Following are the most common:

  • Email – personalized way to reach customers that can be used across all aspects of the customer relationship from initial marketing to sales, service delivery. 
  • Web content – personalized way to reach customers. Requires a good knowledge of potential customers and effective marketing content.
  • Social media – is scalable and allows business owner to build loyalty groups that can be brand advocates.
  • Organic search - Organic search is the use of search engines like Google to assist potential clients in finding the services/products they need. This is where the use of some critical words in the branding statement will have a significant impact on its success. 
  • Display ads – these can be posted on either mobile or more traditional venues. Consideration of client base may drive the approach utilized.
  • Traditional marketing materials such as brochures, business cards, trade shows or organizations.

Your brand will evolve as the business grows and changes over time. It is okay and even necessary to tweak messaging and make improvements along the way. Once you have your brand strategy in place and you know your message resonates with your customers, stick with it.


Content courtesy of
SCORE

Developing your business’ brand is the perfect time to bring in the support of a SCORE mentor. A SCORE mentor has experience building strong brands and has access to the best resources to help you along the way.

The Cleveland Chapter of SCORE was founded in 1965 to foster and support the small business community in Northeast Ohio through mentoring and education. There are currently 80 volunteers with experience in the fields of business ownership, managers, accountants, attorneys, and other business fields that are ready to share their knowledge through mentoring. For more information about our services for small business visit the website at www.cleveland.SCORE.org or call (216) 503-8160. 

Funded in part through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, conclusions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.

 



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  • Next up: National Entrepreneurship Month feature: Chris Wentz, Everykey

    National Entrepreneurship Month feature: Chris Wentz, Everykey

    Hear from Everykey's founder and CEO Chris Wentz about his entrepreneurship journey turning a college dream into reality.

     

    Every entrepreneur’s goal is to come up with a product or service that solves a problem for consumers. If you’ve ever lost a key or forgotten a password, the company Everykey, founded by COSE member Chris Wentz, has the solution for you. 

    Chris’s interest in small business and technology goes back as far as he can remember, but it was in his senior year at Case Western Reserve University that his journey to entrepreneurship really began. The professor of his entrepreneurial class asked students to present an original business idea—one that makes money, but that also solves a problem in the world and has an impact on people’s lives. 

    Chris pitched an idea for a wristband with the technology to unlock everything including your phone, laptop, car door and house—and that also stores all account passwords in one place. Chris knew he had a good idea, but thought it was an undertaking for a big company like Samsung, Google or Apple. 

    Little did he know that a handshake and an initial investment from this professor would lead to Everykey.

    In the beginning, Chris and his colleagues competed in student business plan competitions—mostly through the university. They were fortunate to win several and received money, as well as the attention of potential investors. And perhaps most importantly, there was validation that their product was worth pursuing.

    This traction led to prototypes and crowdfunding campaigns, which raised about $300,000 through pre-orders. They were also fortunate to be well-supported through local resources in the Northeast Ohio region, and then more broadly funded by several venture capital firms.

    While the actual device may have changed a bit since ideation, the concept is still the same. The finished Everykey product impacts consumers by not only making their lives convenient and easier, but also more secure through its military-grade encryption. 

    What was once a college dream has become a successful small business.

    Chris shares details of his entrepreneurship journey on COSE’s Small Business After Hours podcast. Here are three key takeaways from that conversation.

    Takeaway no. 1: Cleveland can be the next Silicon Valley. Chris views Northeast Ohio as one of the best places to start a business. Most technology startups are created in Silicon Valley, and many believe money must be raised there as well. Chris says this close-minded mindset was more prevalent pre-COVID, but that because remote work is so ubiquitous now, that philosophy is changing. 

    In Northeast Ohio, the cost of living is far lower than on the coast, allowing companies to hire more employees for the same price. This is a top reason that Cleveland could become home to some grand-slam-type companies, Chris says.

    Takeaway no. 2: There's no such thing as overnight success. Everything takes longer than expected—especially technology. The timeline from ideation to having a ready-to-go product was probably Everykey’s number one challenge, according to Chris. The complexity wasn’t in the hardware itself, but rather in developing the different apps required to work with all web browsers. 

    With a name like Everykey, the product must live up to the idea that it can be used everywhere and with all software, which Chris says meant developing from scratch each time. 

    As a result of investing so much time and effort into this technology, they are one of only a small handful of providers. And the hard work keeps paying off. Now that they own a patent for this unique technology, Everykey has become even more appealing to potential employees, investors and buyers.

    Takeaway no. 3: Every company has moments of doubt; Never give up. One of the lowest points the Everykey team experienced was early on when they were told it wasn’t possible for their technology to connect with all platforms and software. But, with faith that there’s a solution to every challenge, they didn’t let their doubts determine their outcome. 

    Chris knows that without those challenges, they could not have developed such inventive technology, they would not enjoy the success they have today, and they would not be as well-poised to expand their product into commercial markets.

    His parting advice for entrepreneurs? 

    “Even when the chips are down or it feels like all hope is lost, never give up. Continue to believe in your vision. Bust through the barriers people put in front of you and you will come out stronger in the end. We learned so much and created so much value out of the challenges we faced.”

    Hear more about Chris’ entrepreneurial journey in episode four of COSE’s Small Business After Hours podcast.

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  • Next up: Within Reach: Closing the gap between employers and their workforce

    Within Reach: Closing the gap between employers and their workforce

    Watch a recent webinar from GCP discussing the implications of local spatial mismatch.

    As Greater Cleveland continues to see substantial business growth and job creation along its outer edges, ensuring that employees have practical transportation options to these employment centers has become increasingly challenging.

    In a recent webinar, industry experts including representatives from the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) and the Fund for Our Economic Future discussed the impacts this spatial mismatch is having on our regional economic health and how organizations could benefit from a new program designed to close the gap between workers and the workplace.

    Watch the recording below:

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  • Next up: COSE Day at the Capitol: Advocacy, action and pecan pie

    COSE Day at the Capitol: Advocacy, action and pecan pie

    On May 24, small businesses had the unique opportunity to meet in-person with policymakers in Columbus to share challenges and to discuss how we can work together to enhance Ohio’s small business climate.

    Nearly 20 COSE members traveled to Columbus for a day of advocacy, education and camaraderie on Tuesday, May 24. COSE Day at the Capitol brought together restaurant owners and manufacturers, HR professionals and arts activists, music industry representatives, IT company owners, organic soap makers and others to meet with policymakers to share challenges and discuss ways to advance Ohio’s small business climate. The event included a tour of the Ohio Statehouse, led by Greater Cleveland Partnership’s own Director of Government Advocacy, Terry Donelon, and the opportunity to sit in on a legislative committee hearing. COSE members who arrived Monday night enjoyed a networking reception at a locally-owned barbecue joint, Pecan Penny’s, complete with hush puppies and pecan pie.

    “Giving small businesses access and the opportunity to speak directly with elected officials about issues that directly impact them, their businesses, and their employees is invaluable,” said Megan Kim, COSE’s Executive Director. “Historically, these connections and conversations have led to policy changes that have benefitted small businesses.”

    The day-long conference held in the historic Westin Great Southern Columbus, included a breakfast with public officials and discussions with State Representative Dan Troy, Chair of the House Democratic Caucus; Eric Kearney, Director of Equity and Inclusion at the Ohio Chamber of Commerce; State Representative Jon Cross, author of the GROW Act and a lunchtime conversation with Lydia Mihalik, Director of the Ohio Department of Development. The sessions concluded with a panel on Ohio politics and elections. COSE Day was also attended by Baiju Shah, President & CEO of Greater Cleveland Partnership.

    Before the sessions started, COSE named four recipients of the 2022 Small Business Advocate of the Year Award:

    · State Senator Michael A. Rulli

    · State Representative Dontavius L. Jarrells

    · State Representative Daniel P. Troy

    · State Representative Andrea White

    The award honors elected officials and those who sponsor, endorse, support, draft legislation or lead initiatives on behalf of small businesses throughout Ohio.

    Between sessions, COSE members and legislators had a chance to step into the “Green Room” for video interviews focusing on the impact COSE has on small businesses and making advocacy more accessible. Members shared their thoughts on workforce issues, post-COVID challenges and other concerns, and how COSE and legislators can assist with growth. Legislators emphasized the importance of business owners speaking up and making them aware of pressing issues, and outlined some of their plans for dealing with labor, transportation and other pressing issues.

    “Business growth doesn’t just happen in the office or the board room, it happens in the law too,” says Cheryl Perez, COSE board executive committee member, Greater Cleveland Partnership board member and founder and president of BIG-HR. “That’s why having advocates who can speak on your behalf with our lawmakers is so important. Small business is the bulk of our state’s and nation’s economy and we have a voice that deserves to be heard, and advocacy ensures that it is heard loud and clear!”

    Both members and government representatives commended COSE’s role in breaking down barriers between the two and making advocacy accessible.

    Several members shared advocacy success stories they achieved with the help of COSE and Greater Cleveland Partnership, including removing unduly restrictive rules on small organic businesses and even changing legislation regarding pedal bike tours.

    Look for more on these stories and the most pressing issues facing small businesses — and what can be done about them — in our upcoming COSE Day at the Capitol video recaps.

     

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  • Next up: COSE is turning 50, and you’re invited: Celebrating a half-century of grit, passion and advocacy – and you

    COSE is turning 50, and you’re invited: Celebrating a half-century of grit, passion and advocacy – and you

    COSE has accomplished a lot over a half-century. Join us July 28 as we celebrate these accomplishments and look toward the next 50 years.

     

    It all started with a 1970 trucker strike – and a group of determined business owners.

    Today, COSE is one of the United States’ largest and most active business expert organizations, providing cost-saving benefits, advocacy and education to 12,000 members. But in the early ‘70s, it was a grassroots response to a grave threat. A strike of 10,000 Ohio truck drivers paralyzed small businesses across the state, forcing many into bankruptcy. Cleveland manufacturing executive Edward H. Richard banded together 200 small business owners to apply pressure on political leaders to resolve the strike. Their “March on City Hall” put the spotlight on the need for a strong, unified voice for small businesses. 

    At the time, Richard also launched the Industrial Action Group. It fizzled after the strike, but interest in a small business coalition was growing. In 1972, businessman Bill Jones was appointed to oversee a committee to attract small businesses to the Growth Association. Instead, he created a small business owner board within the Growth Association. This board became known as the Council of Smaller Enterprises (COSE). 

    The organization began offering educational seminars, networking events and advisors for members. As the number of opportunities grew, more small business owners saw the value of becoming a COSE member.

    The rest, as they say, is history. Over the last 50 years, COSE has offered the power of unity, cost-saving benefits, educational seminars and advocacy to its members. But COSE is not slowing down at the half-century mark. We’re using the milestone as an occasion to celebrate both the past and the possibilities of the future. Now, more than ever, small business advocacy and unity is integral to growth and success. As we have for 50 years, we’ve got your back – and we’re moving forward together.

    That’s a reason to celebrate. Join us Thursday, July 28 for COSE’s 50th birthday party, at the storied Public Auditorium. This celebration isn’t just about COSE, it is about all of you – those who partner with us, those who give their time to support other entrepreneurs, those who inspire us, and those who drive us to keep working harder and harder to ensure small business success.

    Our celebration will include a panel with special guests discussing how important small businesses are in driving the economy locally, state-wide and nationally. We will recognize individuals and organizations that have had a lasting and memorable impact on COSE and in the small business community. Then, it is time to party! We will have food, drinks, music, interactive engagements and more – all supplied by small businesses, of course – and opportunities to reconnect with old friends and make some new ones.

    Click here to register and for more information. And click here to meet some of COSE’s ground-breaking, ceiling-smashing entrepreneurs in our ongoing video series.

     
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  • Next up: COSE Members Share Their Favorite Small Business Resources

    COSE Members Share Their Favorite Small Business Resources

    We asked some of our COSE members what resources they turn to while running their small businesses. Podcasts, books, websites, YouTube channels... check out their suggestions!

     

    From books to websites to podcasts, we asked some COSE members to tell us what resources they find valuable as they work day-to-day running their small businesses—including any they have personally written or produced. Check out their suggestions and consider adding some to your list.

    Margaret Cassidy, Esq., Principal, Cassidy Law

    A book I co-authored and co-edited, although titled Lawyer’s Corporate Social Responsibility Deskbook: Practical Guidance for Corporate Counsel and Law Firms, is a great tool for small and large businesses looking to design a social responsibility program or to simply take a more socially responsible approach to how they conduct business. It covers everything from cyber security to supply chain and includes checklists, case studies and other practice resources for your business.

    Tim Dimoff, CPP, President, SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Inc.

    I wrote a book The You in Business, which is for anyone who manages or owns a small business. Filled with real-life, in-the-trenches stories, it offers insight into the fundamentals of building a business from the ground up. Readers will also learn how to develop long-lasting customer relationships to grow their business and place it on the fast track to success. www.timothydimoff.com 

    Alex Gertsburg, Esq., CEO, The Gertsburg Law Firm

    One of the best books on starting a business is Shoe Dog by Phil Knight, about the first 20 years of Nike.  The best personal development book I’ve ever read, and the one I “gift” the most, is The Success Principles by Jack Canfield. The book I’m reading right now (one principle per day upon waking) is Principles by Ray Dalio. All three books should be required reading in any business course. They are amazing and provide enduring lessons for life and business, written in very readable ways by masters in both life and business.

    Janet Gosche, Business Advisor and Integrator

    In Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, Verne Harnish describes John D. Rockefeller's underlying strategy and adds his own suggested three winning habits: 1) Set priorities, 2) Measure key metrics, 3) Get a rhythm of well-organized meetings to keep everyone aligned and accountable. He also provides a tool to document your plan, called The One-Page-Plan. His website, gazelles.com, allows free downloads of the tools.

    jimcollins.com is a website from the author we love, including Good to Great. This site is filled with his articles, tools, and many other resources. It is easy to navigate and find all sorts of inspiring and helpful materials.

    Leadership Unlocked, Unleash the Power of Your Body for Impact and Fulfillment is written by a new local author, Yan Maschke, who shares leadership stories, lessons learned, and leadership practices in this easily digestible short read and quick reference guide.

    Erin Longmoon, CEO, Zephyr Recruiting

    Profit First, by Mike Michalowicz, will turn your accounting on its head and make your business profitable, sustainable, financially heathy, and resilient! Daring Greatly, or anything by Brené Brown... this book will transform your courage, leadership, and mission. Smart Strategy for CPA’s podcast by Geraldine Carter... I am not a CPA, nor in the accounting space at all, and this podcast is brilliant and has opened my eyes to new ways of thinking and solving my business challenges. The Dames, is an online (or some in-person chapters) networking group for female entrepreneurs who make 6+ figures, and who want to be surrounded by women business owners who mean business! LinkedIn with Louise, is a helpful podcast about everything LinkedIn.

    Cheryl Perez, President and CEO, BIG HR

    I have a complete library on my YouTube channel. Here you can find all the tips and tools you need from A-Z to start-up, step-up and level-up your business every week with How To-Tuesdays! My focus is inspiring entrepreneurs to develop and create the processes and systems to grow and scale their for-profit or non-profit organizations. My approach focuses on the structure, strategies, tools, and resources that can help you take your business to the next level and grow. 

    Harriet L. Russell, CEO, Cross-Cultural Strategist, Business Ease Overseas

    Do you have a local multicultural team and want to work better together? Do you travel internationally? Do you have global virtual connections? I authored Doing Business with Ease Overseas: Building Cross-Cultural Relationships That Last. In this resource, you get specific tools and tips to increase your intercultural competence and move through difficult issues with ease. The rich content is complemented with real life story examples, training questionnaires, and takeaway chapter summaries. It can be found on Amazon, but if you want a signed copy, my contact info is at www.HarrietRussell.com. Also, download there "How to Speak English to Non-Native Speakers."


    Do you have a business resource to share? Contact us—we’d love to hear about it!

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