Establishing Brand Should Be a Top Priority

Published in UT San Diego, February 9, 2015

Your brand is your company’s promise to your customers. It tells them what you excel at, differentiates you from your competitors, and can be your most valuable asset.

Unfortunately, some small business- es pay very little attention to marketing — a process that starts with figuring out your brand. They mistakenly believe that having a good product or service is enough and that customers will simply show up.

Think about some well-known brands like Nike, Nordstrom and Apple, and how one word or a few words quickly conjures up an image of the company’s promise — just do it, service and innovation.

At ProFlowers, the brand focused on providing customers with the freshest, longest-lasting flowers. Customers could believe this because they knew the flowers came direct from the grower, and they offered a seven-day freshness guarantee. What sounds simple came out of a lot of research.

“Creating a brand is not sitting in a room with a white board and jotting down what you think it is,” said Steve Bellach, who was chief marketing officer at ProFlowers and is now co-founder and principal of BottomLine Marketing. “It’s getting out and talking to current, past and potential customers to understand what they value about you and why they choose to do business with you, and in analyzing what your competitors are doing. This is important for B2C and B2B businesses of all sizes.”

You can hire a consultant and brand strategy expert like Bellach to help with the process, but you also need to be actively involved. Over a year ago, Peter Preovolos, co-founder, president and CEO of PenChecks, a La Mesa third-party administrator for pension services, decided that it was time to update the La Mesa company’s brand strategy.

“We’ve gone through iterations of our brand over the years. My concern was that we needed to improve the way we market and communicate with customers, and it was time to step into the social media world. I also thought that we needed a more sophisticated, fresh look,” said Preovolos.

Founded in 1994, PenChecks had grown to become a leader in the industry for benefit payment distributions, default and missing-participant IRA programs, uncashed check solutions and abandoned plan services. It processes more than $1 billion a year in payments and serves more than 1,000 customers of all sizes, including the Florida Marlins baseball team, Payless Shoes and PayPal.

Preovolos turned to BottomLine Marketing for assistance. “Although we didn’t have the tools to do it on our own, we don’t have an unlimited marketing budget. All of us in the organization had to take ownership of parts of the project,” he said.

The key outcomes of the process, he said, were identifying what they and their competitors were doing right and wrong (“We found out that every time we did something new, they copied us”), positioning themselves as the innovation leader in our industry, and ultimately developing a new color palette, brand image, logo and tagline — “distributions made simple.”

Preovolos also “learned that although the foundation of our business is in the retirement business, what we are really good at is writing checks. We also write checks or distribute funds for the oil and gas industry, real estate partnerships and class-action lawsuits.” He said writing checks will soon become an anachronism as the industry is moving to using debit cards and prepaid cards to distribute funds and eventually to your smartphone.

To reflect the new brand and its messaging, the company redesigned its website to include a content-rich learning center with white papers and webinars and updated its marketing and trade-show materials.

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