In this article we’ll examine 6 potential ways to transform your drabby startup brand into a phenomenon; something that feels like a $100 million-dollar brand to those that interact with it! Why ‘feel’ instead of ‘look’? Well, that’s what you’re here to find out.
I love stumbling into insightful, impactful and largely unknown marketing philosophers that never really got much play.
You know? Hidden gems.
Rather than being referred by a close friend, or reading about it in the NYT, you just happen to randomly bump into them or via loosely-related study.
Well, as it just so happens, while researching the topic of turning an average SMB into a $100-million dollar brand, I discovered this book called, “Billion-Dollar Branding: Brand Your Small Business Like a Big Business and Make Great Things Happen” by Honey Parker & Blaine Parker.
Published in 2012, the last update seems to have come out in 2013.
This book was WAY ahead of its time. In fact, I felt confused initially as I skimmed through it because the aside from such great writing…the ideas and insights are so 2020!
Here’s the core philosophy:
“Your brand is the one way you want customers to feel about your business.”
Feeling. That’s what drives nearly every purchase you and I have ever, or will ever make. There’s no use in arguing the point, the objective truth is staring us in the face everywhere around us.
Why did we buy that phone, these shoes, or work with so and so?
Feelings. The logical reasoning mind plays its part, but feelings are the deciders – for most, there are some pretty ‘cold’ folks out there…
Famous quote time! Wolfgang Mozart – “I pay no attention whatever to anybody’s praise or blame. I simply follow my own feelings.”
To stoke an imaginative and innovative fire in your mind, consider a handful of popular brands you use everyday. How did they earn your loyalty? See beyond the rationale of mind and sense the core feelings beneath it.
You can design a brand around these feelings – anyone can; though few do.
And while you may not have the budget of household names, you have it in your power to create a consistent brand that delivers a feeling of substance. Let’s use this as a premise to get into the following ways to present your startup like a $100 million-dollar brand with nothing but success on the horizon.
Tip #1: Truly Refine Your Offering
A quote from Billion Dollar Branding:
“Two of the biggest stumbling blocks to creating good branding are fear & ego. Fear says, you have to stand for more than one thing or you’ll lose people. Wrong. Ego says, you can stand for more than one thing because you’re special. Wrong.”
Countless, innumerable small businesses and sole proprietors tackle this – whether they should market a single offering, or advertise a range of skills.
So, instead of your typical digital marketing agency advertising, “SEO, Copywriting, Web Design, App Development, etc.” They put their minds together and figure out one concrete service they perform exceedingly well, and market that.
But if they advertise just one skill, like app development, they might miss out on everyone looking for…
What if that way of thinking is complete bollocks?
Emotions aren’t usually a mixed bag either. They aren’t complex. When we’re talking about which sweater you’re going to buy, the one you choose won’t be because a rollercoaster of emotion sweeps through you as you smell it and scrunch the cotton sleeves into your fingers.
More than likely it’s the feeling you experience, ever so briefly, as you see yourself with the sweater on sitting at the coffee shop, waltzing through the party, or snuggled up at home with the heat off.
You get the idea. We can think of many words to describe a simple feeling, but it’s still an isolated feeling rather than a convoluted blend.
Isolate your brand. Refine it. Look at whatever it is you’re offering, and even if it’s complex in nature the brand you use to usher it into the market can be simplified. Take one stance. Aim to be utterly astounding at one thing.
Tip #2: Write a Mock Sales Video Script
Some entrepreneurs do this as a way to test business concepts and it’s brilliant! If you can’t develop a decent script around an idea, then the idea needs work (likely refining).
Create a roughly 3 to 6-minute sales video script (or a half hour…) which tells the audience about your offering, why it’s awesome, how they get involved, and where the brand’s headed. Cool thing is effective video scripts are conversational and flow.
Sounds easy doesn’t it.
If you’ve never tried anything of the sort, a great place to begin would be articles like HubSpot’s How to Write a Video Script [Template + Video] that summarizes steps into bit-size chunks of info.
You can get as fancy as you’d like, but just start with a simple script.
Don’t self-edit in the beginning. Don’t try to polish. Just have you and your team mentally barf the information in a shared-doc or on a whiteboard, then begin polishing and assembling the pieces. This will point out the rough patches and holes that need filling.
If you’re looking for a template, I love the 10-part Video Sales Letter Script Formula from Jim Edwards.
Here are the 10 steps in brief:
- Open with a Shocking Statement: Typically relevant to the problem you’re solving.
- State the Problem and WHY It’s a Big Deal: What your ideal users face and why.
- Agitate the Problem: Now you rub their noses in why it’s worse than they thought.
- Make It Worse: Really hammer down on the problems you’re addressing.
- Introduce The Solution: Now it’s your time to shine.
- Credibility: Why they should listen to you or your brand.
- Proof: Prove what you’re saying is true with an example or two.
- What They Get: Tell them everything included in your offer.
- Specific Reasons to Act: One or two on why they should act now rather than later.
- Close: Seal the deal!
Salesy? Is it about persuasion? No and no. When you’re onto an idea of real substance and reach, this kind of logical progression should roll right off the tongue. Remember, it’s about feeling.
Once you get something put together, show people! Get feedback. Gather questions. Fill gaps. See what’s there and if you/your team is a good fit for bringing it to market. Already on the market? Great, this sales script will likely become a powerful branding asset.
Tip #2: Tackle the Photography WITH a Pro
Can’t be understated…
The importance of photography is paramount. Absolutely critical when it comes to imparting feelings, or creating brand-feelings. Whether we’re talking about emails to initial customers, introductory blog-based assets, PDFs or your website’s core pages, approach visuals with heart attack severity.
No, not brand icons or logos. Not snazzy design elements. Not…NOT stock photography (unless it’s been used to create a custom graphic). Photography.
I like to think of quality photography as the, “Spork of Digital Marketing” because technically a spork is better than a spoon or a fork, but, how many people use them?
- There are endless ways to work with photographers who own decent cameras, so leverage one that works for your budget.
- For physical products, with an amazing smartphone you can set up a home studio for DIY product photography. These appear as professional shots to most. Add photo-editing skills into the mix…boom.
- Enure they’re cohesively ornamented around a feeling-theme, motif, or concept.
Again, scrutinize highly-successful brands connected to your niche and their photography or aesthetic approach. We’ll get to great copywriting in Tip #6, but aside from words, context is everything.
Interesting Fact: Let’s say you meet a stranger, chat for 10 minutes and go your separate ways. According to human body language experts, what you say and look like play almost ZERO role in whether they’ll want to meet you again. All that matters is how they FEEL when in your presence. Do they want to feel more of that?
$100-million dollar brands don’t often nickel and dime image/video content. The trick is you CAN create similar visuals for less…much less. These visuals you present online, or in hard copy content, develop the context for your conversations with users/customers.
Tip #3: Great Packaging – Boosted Product Appeal
In-step with great visuals are great packaging details. One of the coolest things I ever purchased online, and I can’t disclose the company right now, but the reason I love their brand has NOTHING to do with the actual product…
Nope. The reason I fell completely in love with the brand is because along with their product they took the time to package it well, uniquely, with class and attention to detail. They also provided a well-designed card outlining a short brand story aside a custom picture/graphic, and a thank you note on it in a neat little dark suede bag.
The bag had purple and gold strings to match the specific product packaging. Nice detail.
Getting the postal package, finding their box inside, and discovering these extra pieces created an experience that made me feel special. And I’ll never forget them for that.
There’s an infinite number of creative inexpensive ways to beef up how you package and deliver your offering, no matter what. Even if you sell software, what if you sent everyone who signed up for your service something unique and special in the mail?
It might tighten your margins a bit, but you could be shocked to see the overall ‘ROI butterfly effect’ of that decision – branding!
Tip #4: Acquisition Funnel Optimization
I know, the word ‘funnel’ has been used too heavily in digital marketing circles – too many salesy information products created around the term.
In essence what we’re discussing are the ways in which someone goes from discovering your brand and getting interested, to becoming engaged and then making a purchase or investment.
- Chart what that funnel looks like and what it feels like to go through.
- Identify all of the touchpoints people have or will have with your brand.
- Map out conversion points between customer acquisition phases.
- Conserve marketing $ and spend it on development until product/market fit is reached.
There are so many contexts here, but begin brainstorming by considering how you were introduced to the last couple brands that impressed you. Was it through seeing someone you admire using it? Perhaps someone you thought was beautiful or handsome? Was it a referral?
Once you identify some brands you were introduced to, think about the funnel you chose to engage with, what that interaction looked like, and how it makes you feel.
What’s the #1 thing startups do that mess up their user or customer acquisition funnels even after they’ve achieved a solid market fit?
I like how David Skok puts it simply is his post Customer Acquisition: Maximizing Your Funnel,
And what really motivates us? Yep, you got it, feelings.
A buddy of mine is in love with Puma shoes. When I pestered, he said it has to do with the feeling he experiences while wearing them which traces back to childhood – middle school. And listen, he’s the kind of guy that wipes and polishes the sneakers to keep them squeaky clean.
But, he has trouble finding the style of Puma shoes he prefers. They weren’t in a large sporting goods store we visited, they weren’t readily available on Amazon, or in any chunk of a nearby mall. Puma has a zillion shoes coming out!
Why does Puma keep pumping out so many styles? In general, Mr. Skok would said in his article,
“This happens because most companies design their customer acquisition process around their own view of the world, instead of first taking the time to understand the customer’s buying process, and their concerns at each stage.”
Puma’s an amazing company, no doubt (founded 1948 in Germany by the brother of the guy who founded Adidas that same year), but not for my friend. To be frank, he needs to start paying attention to the styles he likes rather than fishing around hundreds of different kinds with variant colors on Zappos or Amazon.
If I started a shoe company, trust me, I’d create one core shoe and HAMMER down on that until there was perfect market fit and the easiest acquisition funnel possible. Although I wonder how many different styles these brothers have created with their two companies to stay alive since 1948 – Puma & Adidas?
Point is, their acquisition funnels don’t seem to be designed for people like my comrade. How’s your funnel and who’s it optimized for?
Tip #5: Build A “You” Platform
How about another juicy tidbit from Honey and Blaine Parker, authors of Billion Dollar Branding:
“In an increasingly fragmented media environment, where more and more people are clamoring for your customer’s attention, having a strong and perhaps polarizing brand is more important than ever.”
When you step back and look at your average year-old startup, you’ll often see a collection of web-based assets and content. The question is, how much of that content is about what they’re doing, the story of their team, who they are, the features of their software or app, reviews about them, and so on…
And how much is about their customers?
Our theme throughout this article has been that your brand, or a brand, is how customers feel about a company, product or service. All the web assets a startup has is how they communicate this brand, but who should it ideally be about?
A startup’s web assets might perform better if they’re focused on its customers – who they are, how they’re being helped, ways they get engaged, why they chose to buy the product or service, etc. Finally, perhaps it shouldn’t attempt to appeal to everyone – but a specific group or niche.
Tip #6: Update Your Copy Routine
We’ll cap our shindig off with a final quote from Billion Dollar Branding and a comical discussion,
“Integrating a potent brand with evocative direct response copywriting is a priceless skill…With all other things being equal, the company with the strongest brand will win the direct response war over the company with no brand.”
Chapter 4 of their book is called ‘The Sound Of A One-Man Band Laughing All The Way To The Bank’ and it’s all about comedians.
Each successful comedian is a business with an easily-identifiable brand and a repeatable routine, that focuses like 4% of their personality into eliciting a feeling (happiness) from typically specific types/crowds of people.
If we look at your brand as a comedian, your copy is the routine – the jokes and presentation. And yes, it should be refined, targeted, genuine, and hopefully unique. As stand-alone as Jeff Foxworthy and his ‘You might be a redneck if…” routine that just about everyone my age and a decade or two younger has at least seen or heard once or twice.
Doesn’t matter if you’re going into a market with plenty of stiff competition. Do we imagine it’s any easier for comedians to build unique and popular routines? Crafting great words (communication) that projects the feeling of your brand and elicits potent emotion is hard!
You think every awesome joke brilliant comedians think of are hits?
Nope. Most probably aren’t but we don’t see that. When comedians do stand-up to big audiences and on network shows, what we see is a branded routine that’s been highly-refined and perfected over time, in hundreds of small night clubs, endless hours performing for family, friends, and mirrors.
As they say,
“Promoters and producers would have no idea what to do with an Atlanta redneck computer geek from Georgia Tech who tells jokes [neither would we]. Too much information. But get rid of all the extras that send you in different directions, focus down to one resonant concept, and it’s easy to figure out what to do with Mr. You Might Be A Redneck If…”
Point is, what you’re after is a marriage between good direct response ‘you focused’ copy and a defined image – a well-packaged comedian with solid jokes that mesh well with their brand.
Tip #1: Truly Refine Your Offering
Tip #2: Write a Mock Sales Video Script
Tip #3: Great Packaging – Boost Your Product Appeal
Tip #4: Acquisition Funnel Optimization
Tip #5: Build a ‘You’ Platform
Tip #6: Update Your Copy Routine
Thanks so much for your time. I hope it was as fun going through as it was putting it together for you. To walk away with one golden nugget, remember that your brand is how people should feel about your product or service while interacting with it.