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The secret to small business success is…………….

For years the word differentiation was touted as the solution to growth. We were told that if we wanted to achieve business success we had to offer something different. This position is flawed! To begin with, differentiation is very expensive, it takes a lot of time and, unfortunately, it can be quickly copied by someone else.

A good example is the touchscreen technology that Apple introduced to the cell phone market. It was a point of differentiation, but now it is a standard feature on most smart phones. Most every product and service has been duplicated to some degree. So, unless you have something completely different as Apple had with the touchscreen and have the resources to keep innovation at the forefront of your business, a one-time new product/service will not be enough to sustain profitable growth.

Marketing guru, Philip Kotler, suggested an alternative focus and called it an Emotional Selling Proposition (ESP). He said that the task of marketing is to “generate an emotional connection to the brand that is so strong that customers perceive difference from the competition.”I recently visited an IKEA store for the first time. I had to find out for myself what all the hype was about. I was impressed, not only by the low prices, but the entire store provided a unique customer experience. From the large arrows painted on the floor which guided us on a predesigned tour, to the Swedish meatballs I purchased in their restaurant, the entire experience branded IKEA in my mind as something special. I shared my experience and encouraged others to visit the store. When I am lacking for something to tell visitors to do and if they have not experienced IKEA, I suggest a visit.

I believe that for most companies brands are their primary source of competitive advantage as well as being their most valuable asset. Focus on building a brand for your business should be in the forefront of all your marketing efforts. While a logo and tag line are important part of brand building there is a lot more involved. Branding starts with an idea that should be different than that of the competition. The idea should provide a service or product that your target market wants/needs. A company’s values and vision are elements that are integrated into a brand’s personality.

Many other components are necessary to launch a successful brand building campaign. Among the most important is providing a unique and consistent customer experience. Every aspect of what a company does has to support the brand building process from the speed of delivery of a product/service to customer follow-up and communications.

The following is a definition which identifies what a brand is: “a brand is the difference between a   bottle of sugar flavored, fizzy water and a bottle of Coca-Cola. It is the sum of the functional and emotional characteristics, both tangible and intangible, that a consumer attributes to a product or service.”

The ability to convert ideas to things is the secret of outward success.    Henry Ward Beecher

Nick J. Petra CFP…

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