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Marketing like the Big Brands

Being a brand is what separates you from your competitors and creates a much stronger connection with your customers.

Marketing like the Big Brands shows entrepreneurs on a small-business budget how to apply marketing strategies used by big brands. 

Whether or not you realized it before, if you're a small business owner, you're also a marketer. Maybe you were never trained, but you are in fact marketing your business. While lots of people have different perceptions about what marketing should be, for me, good marketing is all about creating a powerful and compelling brand experience for customers.

It takes a special kind of person to run a small business. You wear many hats. Entrepreneurs don't often have a clearly defined role within a well-oiled machine, nor can they generally count on multiple resources to complete projects. There's no marketing team to do the heavy lifting.

We also expect marketing to be a never-ending job. The minute we have our plan in place, something changes -- a competitor enters the market, legislation changes the rules or a technological advance requires a rethink.

This is true of big businesses and it's certainly true of small ones. Many entrepreneurs look longingly at the big brands, wishing they could replicate their activities and generate their impact. I believe that in small business, you can get the same kind of results as the big brands, just on a different scale.

The methodology needed to create an amazing brand experience remains the same whether you're Nike, a local restaurant, BMW or a consultant. It's the same process regardless of the size of the business. Sure, the budgets may be different, but how you get there is essentially the same.

To start, small businesses can learn a lot from how big brands create experiences that connect with customers, creating sharing and loyalty.

It's a matter of knowing what you want to accomplish and following proven best practices that work on any size business. It's a matter of turning your business into a brand by creating an experience tailored to your specific customer. Small businesses can often do that even better than big ones.

Brands should be inspiring. That should be your ultimate goal. As an entrepreneur, you may not think you can be inspirational, but you couldn't be more wrong. It comes with the entrepreneurial territory. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and way of life. You can add more value to people's lives than most large corporations. Innovation and creativity doesn't necessarily come from the towers of big business. It comes from the breakthrough, on-the-ground thinking of small businesses.

Explore the different aspects of small business marketing, using principles seen from the big brands. Investigate how to act like a brand, identify your target customer, position your business and map out touch points -- all with the goal of helping to create a comprehensive marketing plan that builds toward a compelling brand experience.

Forget What Your Customers Need; Branding Is About What They Want

There's a major distinction between advancing your marketing efforts and actually transforming yourself into a brand. If you want to be a brand -- which should be your ultimate goal -- you need to understand the difference between what your customers "need" and what they "want."

Need. Our customers need certain things from our business. A need is fulfilled by a functional benefit -- a fact or rational attribute about your company. Generally speaking, most competitors in any field supply roughly the same functional benefits and can therefore generally fulfill the needs of their customers. If they couldn't, they wouldn't be in business. Fulfilling a need doesn't differentiate one business from another; it's a cost of entry.

Want. In order to be truly successful in business, your customers have to move beyond just needing your product or service to actually wanting it. While they may need the functional benefits that your business offers, it's important for your brand that they want to choose you over other options. The "want" is what separates your business from others, and turns you into a brand.

"Want" is an emotion, and therefore represents the more connective benefits your business and brand offers. When you reach an emotional level with your customers, you become a brand in their minds. You've made an emotional connection that rises above functional features and that builds loyalty. It's the "want" that moves you from being an ordinary product or service to being a desired brand.

Let me illustrate. You need to wear a shirt every day -- we all do -- to keep warm and dress appropriately for work. These are functional benefits you quite honestly can get from almost any shirt company.

But let's say you personally choose a shirt brand that targets a younger more stylish consumer. Maybe it's the style and fit of the shirt, or the way it's merchandised in-store, or the website that draws your attention and sweeps you in. In fact, all of the above work together to build an emotional connection that make you want this specific brand shirt.

But it's that emotional connection that resonates most with you. You "want" these shirts because they help you feel younger, stylish and more individual. You want them because of how the brand makes you feel. It's an emotional choice based on emotional benefits that the brand provides for you, personally.

This brand, for you, has risen above the functional benefits of just any shirt to the emotional benefits of what the brand does for you. 

Finding the "want" is key to building a stronger, more emotional connection with your customers. And it's this emotional benefit that will become the basis of your entire marketing plan moving forward.

Through your daily activities with customers, start thinking about how you can connect more emotionally, moving them beyond just needing you to actually wanting you. Think beyond product needs and think of customer wants.

Is There a Difference Between a Product and a Brand?

So what is the difference between a product and a brand? It’s been a fascinating exploration because on the surface it probably seems like there is no difference between a product and a brand. But when you dig a little deeper, there actually is a big difference -- a huge one.

I’m going to take you on a journey, so to speak, in a class-by-class, column-by-column look at what separates a product from a brand. 
If I were to sum it up in one word, the difference is emotional. You’ll see what I mean.

Products perform a function.

They have properties that when combined together do something for customers. The problem is that within any given category, most products perform similar functions. There’s very little differentiation. Ingredients are ingredients and they tend to be the same across a category.

Products are all about what they do for people. Products fulfill a customer’s needs.
Functions, ingredients and needs -- that’s what makes up a product.

Brands offer an emotion.

Brands are actually quite different from products because they don’t just cover a customer’s needs, they fulfill a customer’s wants.

We don’t fall in love with products -- we fall in love with brands. Brands offer a promise and an emotion. Brands are about how they make people feel. Brands fulfill a customer’s wants.
Promises, emotions and wants -- that’s what makes up a brand.

The big difference.

In short, while you may need a product, you will want a brand.
So for example, I may need a cup of coffee, but I personally want to get it at Starbucks.

Coffee is the product in this case and caffeine is the ingredient. I need it to get going in the morning and I could get it literally anywhere, including at Dunkin’ Donuts, the corner market or at home. But I choose Starbucks.

Starbucks is the brand in this case, and the experience at Starbucks is the emotion I want in the morning. I want a Starbucks coffee because of the unique experience I get and from how it makes me feel. It prepares me for the day ahead and makes me productive in the morning. With Starbucks coffee, I am ready! I want Starbucks for how it makes me feel.
Products equal functions. Brands equal emotions.
Hopefully you can see that products are basically at parity to each other, they fulfill the same needs. Brands are what differentiate because of how they uniquely make people feel. This is the basic lesson we can learn from Big Brands which we can apply to our brands - Make your customers WANT your brand.