May 15, 2014
Building a Business Brand
Everyone is known for something. As much as you may wish that’s not the case at times. Similarly every business is known for something, be it a product, service, or character quality. What is your business brand and how does it affect what you’re known for?
According to Wikipedia, a brand is defined as follows:
Brand is the “name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s product distinct from those of other sellers.”
Does this truly define what a brand is when you look at a company? If we look at some open source companies lets see if we can identify what makes up their brand. Then we can see how this applies to building a business brand for your small business.
Does A Business Brand Matter?
First question, does it matter if you have a business brand? Do you have to define a brand for your business? I think this is a great starting point. Based on my first sentence in this article you already know I believe a brand is an inherent part of a business. Rather than a contrived, artificial creation by some marketing team I believe a business brand always exists. What matters is the definition of that brand and how the brand is represented by the marketing team and other business outreaches.
Open Source Branding
Open source organizations are no exception. If we look at some popular open source platforms we’ll still find the existence and identifying effects of a brand. One example, Drupal, an open source content management system has created a page just for the purpose of defining their brand. You’ll find they have defined brand slightly different from the dictionary definition above. Rather, Drupal believes “a brand incorporates the values, culture, mission, personality and image of an organization.” This is an interesting difference.
Open source places their brand identity in the intangible aspects of the people who make up their community. I think this is a fantastic application of the branding definition.
The people within a business define and represent the brand.
Learn from Open Source
When building a business brand you would do well to learn from the open source organizations. A small business has the opportunity to establish itself both in culture and in branding. Don’t try to be just like someone else. Find ways to differentiate yourself. That sometimes feels easier said than done. Especially in some fields where the barrier to entry is low and competition is strong. How do you differentiate your business when building a business brand?
Everyone is Unique
At first glance the question can seem to be a difficult one and uncertainty can leave you unsure where to begin when building a brand. But the truth is building a successful brand is simple. You don’t have to build a brand. You embody a brand. You are the brand. As we discussed earlier, every business has a brand already. Every person in your business represents and lives the brand. And the great news is everyone is unique. There is no one exactly like you on this planet. Because of this simple fact the business which you are a part of is also unique. Build your business around this principle.
You’re not building a brand in the creation sense. You’re sharing a brand that already exists and drives your business.
Take the open source example above. Merge that example with the concept that everyone leaves an impression. The result is where you focus your attentions and efforts. Rather than attempting to “build” a brand you should focus on sharing, nurturing, and growing your brand. Look at the people in your company. (Here’s another benefit to being a small business.) What are the core values, beliefs, principles, and values you and your fellow team members hold? This is what guides your business. This is what you will be known for.
At the end of the day, your business brand reflects the people which make up your business and ultimately the products, service, support, or whatever it might be you are selling. Don’t attempt to create a false brand under the assumption it will increase your sales. Be genuine in sharing your brand. Your brand is a reflection of your culture. Interested in how this relates to your company culture?
Small Business First
Small businesses have the greatest opportunity to share unique, creative, and fun brands. Your small business can share the culture, the community, the passion of your team members through a brand which matches you. Building a business brand is simple. Learn from others, Establish values, Be genuine, and share your passion with others.
Remember, we’re all in this together!
Our Joomla Developer series continues with setting up the ideal environment to create beautiful Joomla CMS code.
In this short video we’ll continue our setup process for organizing our work environment in order to create beautiful code. It should be noted that the best way to write good code and structure things properly involves establishing the right foundation.
Lesson 3: Code Versioning and Backups
Accompanying Slides for JD101: Lesson 3
Previous Posts in Series
May 13, 2014
Free Marketing Ideas for Small Business
Most small businesses also have small marketing budgets. And it’s pretty much a fact of life that there will always be bigger companies with bigger budgets working in the same space. How can the little guy get noticed?
There are a variety of ways a small business can effectively market themselves and their product without competing in the paid marketing arena so easily dominated by larger companies. Below is a short list of 10 ways you can generate traffic and interest in your company without breaking the bank. That’s right, free marketing. Remember, these are in no particular order. Try to apply some of these to your business and see if you have more success than the larger companies.
1. Make Your Size Matter
Find the benefits of having a smaller company size in your particular market. Does it increase your customer care? Then brag about it. Figure out the ways in which your size is a positive over the other companies in your same industry. It’s not always the best thing to be the biggest company around.
2. Take Advantage of Social Media
Social media provides an excellent opportunity for leveling a playing field. You can create a Facebook page or Twitter account just as easily as the next company. And there’s no reason not to. Of course there are paid or “promoted” tweets and advertising opportunities on other social media. Even still, the opportunity to interact with your users one-on-one and do more than just shout into a void exists for all companies equally. I’ll have a full post in the future on proper use of social media.
Everyone can write. Sure it takes some people longer than others to write good content, but there is no cost obstacle to writing. This is often the single biggest hurdle that businesses must overcome. Often writing is seen as a time-consuming venture which does not yield a return. The truth is writing fresh content can be the single biggest factor for improving your on-site SEO and although the return is not immediate, there is absolutely an incredible amount of value in good content.
4. Be the Expert
Small businesses usually started because the founder(s) knew something. They saw a problem and they created a solution. They are experts at what they do. When competing with a big company the best thing the little guy can do is to establish themselves as an expert in their field. Showcase why you do what you do and why you’re passionate about it.
Focus on what makes you different and those areas where your knowledge makes you more powerful.
5. Feature Guests
Don’t be afraid to reach out to others to have them post information to your website. This will first of all encourage others to point traffic to your site, and secondly, will show that you are open to connections and sharing of information. Everyone is eager to share things they are working on and when they have an opportunity to share that on someone’s site they will not only be willing to guest appear, they will tell everyone they know about it. This will help your small business stay relevant in the industry and become a worthy competitor.
6. Build Lists
Everyone likes to be put on a list (as long as its a positive list). If you are in an industry where you can compile a top 10 (top 100?) then be sure to do so. Not only will you have many other people now interested in where they ranked and how they did but they will also understand you’ve spent time reviewing each. This points again to your expertise in your field. Be sure to do this thoughtfully and carefully.
7. Go Local
Big companies very often fail to understand the nuances and differences of a small community. Small businesses which are involved in their local community understand those details and as a result can meet the needs of their local groups more effectively. You may not get the best business from your local community, but word of mouth spreads rapidly and the more you are involved locally the better chance you have of being recognized elsewhere. Good work spreads.
8. Get Involved
As a small business its important to find ways to be involved. Involved in your local community (as mentioned above) but also involved in your industry. Find the trade shows, the meet-ups, the other places where like-minded people from your field are gathering, and get involved. You don’t have to have the biggest and best booth – in fact you don’t have to have a booth at all. Just be present, shake hands, introduce yourself, make friends.
9. Be Original
Small businesses should never try to just mimic the behemoth company. Of course there are always things to be learned from the others and especially the big companies which have been successful. However, small businesses should focus on what makes them unique and original. This ties into several of the points above. It’s all about finding a niche, demonstrating expertise and differentiating. Being original means being true to the character of the founder and creating the right type of company culture.
Similar to the previous point about being original, the best possible thing is to be willing to be innovative. Capitalize on your company size and your ability to pivot quickly. Find the failure points in the business field you’re in and capitalize on them. Don’t follow the status quo. Be willing to take chances and make changes which the big company will be too reticent to make. Use your size to your advantage and suddenly your perceived weakness (being small) becomes one of your greatest assets.
Small businesses make up the majority of the economy and there is absolutely nothing wrong with being a small business. I love them and love working in them. Just because there is no multi-million dollar marketing budget does not mean we cannot compete with the bigger companies. You don’t have to spend money to have a great marketing campaign. Use some of the points above and begin building your traffic and your audience without spending a penny.
Remember, we’re all in this together.
May 13, 2014
[R4S] Reading For Success
This is the start of a ridiculously fun series about reading for success. I hope to share insights and advice I’ve received from various business books. If you struggle to find time to read or what to read maybe this series will help.
I should begin by sharing that I love to read. In fact is one of y all time favorite things to do and I’m pretty fast. (Interested in how fast you are? You can take a very quick test here for free. If you’re curious I’ll share what my average normally is.) And thankfully I can retain most everything I read and recall it later.
I thought perhaps others would be interested in an abbreviated list of books and summaries I’ve found to be helpful as they relate to business and personal success. Please don’t think I’ve been successful with all of these or have already mastered the advice. I merely hope to share things that I find interesting or helpful.
Ok, without any further delay, let’s jump into the first book.
The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership
By John C. Maxwell
“Everything rises and falls on leadership,” says Maxwell. “These laws carry consequences with them. I’ve seen them at work in more than ninety countries around the world. Apply the laws and people will follow you. Violate or ignore them, and you will not be able to lead others. But here’s the good news: every one of the laws can be learned.”
In this book John Maxwell highlights 21 principles he’s uncovered throughout his business career. He applies these principles to various situations throughout history and provides anecdotal applications based on these 21 principles. Many of them are logical and easy to understand.
Some of these “laws” you’re probably already aware of, Maxwell simply gives it a name and applies to to a particular situation to make it easier to grasp. Overall, I found this book to be an easy one to read and held some good applicable concepts which I could relate to and apply to my own business.
I highly recommend this book and have personally found many great applicable ideas. Especially when looking at the power of an open source community and examining how some of these dynamics relate to an open source situation. If you have the time you should definitely pick up a copy (ebooks are great).
Here are the 21 laws as defined by the author. So many of these are of incredible importance and help define a strong leader.
- The Law of the Lid
Leadership ability is the lid that determines a person’s level of effectiveness. The lower your ability to lead, the lower the lid on your potential.
- The Law of Influence
The power to influence lies in the ability to get people to participate. If no one follows then you are not leading. Management is part of being a leader, but managing is not the only requirement of a leader.
- The Law of Process
This law demonstrates what matters most is what you do for the long haul. A good leader requires a lifetime of dedication and perseverance. Truly successful leaders are demonstrated in the day-to-day.
- The Law of Navigation
Leaders are navigators. They count the cost before making commitments for themselves and for others. Anyone can steer. Leaders chart a course.
- The Law of E.F. Hutton
When real leaders speak, people listen. Learn how a person became a leader: their background, who, what, where, when, why.
- The Law of Solid Ground
Good character builds trust. Trust is the foundation of leadership. To build trust a leader must demonstrate: competence, connection and character.
- The Law of Respect
People naturally follow leaders who are stronger than they are. if people do not trust you they will not respect you and they will not follow you.
- The Law of Intuition
Leaders see things with a bias. Leaders instinctively know what should be done in a situation. Leadership intuition separates the great leaders from good leaders.
- The Law of Magnetism
Who you are will define who you attract. People follow leaders with whom they share several key areas (e.g. attitude, generation, background, values, life experience etc…)
- The Law of Connection
Strong leaders touch hearts before asking for hands. Each connection is between individuals and the relationship between them is what matters most. Six keys to connection are provided.
- The Law of the Inner Circle
A leader’s potential is determined by those closest to him. Look for greatness in others. Find people you should include in your inner circle.
- The Law of Empowerment
Secure leaders give power to others. If a leader is able to give away power the organization becomes more powerful. Only empowered people reach their full potential.
- The Law of Reproduction
Leaders are the ones which help others become leaders. Leaders develop others to see the big picture, attract other leaders, create an environment which nurtures leadership.
- The Law of Buy-In
People follow worthy leaders who promote worthwhile causes. The leader and the vision always go together. A leader must have people believe in them and the vision before becoming a reality.
- The Law of Victory
Leaders find ways for their team to win. There are 3 components to victory: unity of vision, diversity of skills, encourages others to reach potential.
- The Law of the Big Mo
Leaders develop momentum. Leaders concentrate on what they can accomplish not what they can’t. They celebrate victories regardless of the size. Leaders endure under pressure.
- The Law of Priorities
Leaders recognize the importance of organization. Leaders follow the 3 R’s when prioritizing: required, return, and reward.
- The Law of Sacrifice
Leaders are willing to give up to go up. Sacrifice is the true nature of strong leaders.
- The Law of Timing
Leaders understand knowing when to lead is just as important as knowing what to do and where to go. The right action at the right time is what bring success.
- The Law of Explosive Growth
Explosive growth requires the ability to develop the right leaders. Leaders who develop leaders position themselves for explosive growth as compared to leaders who develop followers.
- The Law of Legacy
A leader’s lasting value is measured by succession. A team of good leaders is required to succeed long-term. Always be developing your successor. A good leader knows when to walk away.
We focus on the development environment in this second lesson of Joomla Development 101. I will share tools I’ve found to be useful and currently use.
Please keep in mind these are tools which I have found to be good for my workflow. You may prefer others and that is perfectly acceptable. The important thing is to find those programs which work best for you
Lesson 2: Setting Up Your Development Environment
Accompanying Slides for JD101: Lesson 2
May 8, 2014
Small Business Matters: A Series
The numbers are overwhelming. Small business make up the majority of revenues generated in the US. Statistics show this particular area continues to grow with each year. This series will explore a number of topics which matter to a small business. Because small business matters.
I realize there’s a million articles and resources available for small businesses. In fact, in the United States there is an entire government agency created simply to assist and help these small businesses. I would like, however, to focus on specific topics with more practical application. Some of these will be related to situations where I have learned the hard way through firsthand experience and others I have learned from the wisdom and advice of others.
I also realize not everything I share will be applicable to a global audience and I apologize in advance for any information which may feel to American focused. I will do my best to share information from my experiences and connections from a worldwide perspective however occasionally may share information most relevant to those businesses based in the United States.
So without further delay let’s jump right in. We should begin a series with a proper definition of terms involved and layout some groundwork for what we want to cover throughout the series. Obviously the most important term is, small business. What is a small business and how do we categorize them?
Small Business Definition
A small business can be defined in a number of ways and depending on the setting may have different interpretations. You may see a small business defined to be any business under a certain number of employees or where the gross profits are under a certain monetary total (e.g. under 500 employees or under $5 million dollars in annual gross revenue). This is a difficult line to draw. I’ve seen businesses with 5 employees generating well over 10 million in revenue, does this mean they are still a small business? I’m not certain. For the purpose of this series I will define a small business as the following:
Any business where decisions are made by a select few individuals and these individuals spend an inordinate amount of their time outside of a typical workday focused on generating revenue for their business to become or stay profitable.
In other words, a small business is a business fighting to be profitable and the weight of the responsibility falls firmly on the shoulders of a few select individuals. I’m writing for those people. I’m writing for the little guy, the underdog, the ones struggling to make it and the ones barely hanging on. Sure, others may profit and you may find value in the information shared within this series. I truly hope you do.
You will notice I don’t refer to a specific revenue amount or a specific number of employees. I don’t believe these two factors adequately define what comprises a small business. Small business is more than a number, small business is a mindset, it’s a state of being, a lifestyle. Sometimes this is a great lifestyle and sometimes its a bit more “tedious” (for lack of a better word).
A Frame of Mind
A small business frame of mind has some particular features which I think can be identified. I’ve attempted to include a few in my definition above. First, a small business typically has only a handful of decision makers, many times only a single one. The more decision makes involved usually means a disbursement of both power and stress. The greater this disbursement the less the feeling of personal liability. Second, a small business usually means those same decision makers are working excessively (and I don’t mean 50 hours). And even when they are not working – eating, sleeping (or not sleeping) they are still focused on the success of their business. This constant feeling of fighting to “stay afloat” is pervasive with small businesses.
This Series Goal
Small business is special. It takes a special type of person to start with nothing and attempt to build a business. Every big business, every medium business began as a small business. But there’s something else. Every small business is a small business. That sounds stupid but I say it to make a point. Some small businesses don’t want to be big business. Sometimes being a small business is the goal. There is nothing wrong with this goal. It’s important to keep in mind that size is not everything. Whether seeking to grow or simply seeking to stay successful my opening statement holds true.
Small Business Matters.