Wednesday, December 16, 2009

In the Film Business – or Any Business – Marketing and Branding Should Get Top Billing

A special article for
by Lucy Rosen of the Business Development Group

The idea of branding ourselves or our small business is a foreign concept to lot of people. We think branding is for big corporations like Coca Cola, Whole Foods and McDonalds because they're huge companies with big budgets, million dollar tag-lines and a whole lot of advertising behind them. You may also think that the rules for branding your small business or career as a filmmaker don't apply, right?

Wrong. Every business, no matter its size or industry, needs to "brand" itself, to create an identity in the marketplace and an emotional connection with its customers. In fact, branding is one of the most important steps that businesses today should be taking. The good news is that it's easier than you think - if you give branding, marketing and networking yourself the "top billing" it deserves.

Let me give you an example. Over the past two decades, I've worked to successfully "brand" my own two businesses - a national women's networking organization that I founded in 1985 called Women on the Fast Track, and The Business Development Group -- a full-service marketing, public relations and business development firm that I've grown to now have offices in both New York and New Mexico.

I've also helped to brand, and grow, hundreds of other businesses in industries across the board - from national food and beverage companies, to local arts councils, to just about every type of company and not-for-profit organization in between. I've learned what works, and here's what you need to know.

Steps to Effective Branding: The Right Packaging Sells

• It starts with you. The first step in creating your brand is to figure out who you are, and what you want to be. What makes you different, unique? It’s not about assigning yourself a label, but about assuming and promoting an identity that makes you feel the most comfortable. It’s what you’re going to be doing and representing all day – is it something you can “live with” and feel good about 24/7?

• Look for the “soul” of your brand. What do you stand for, want to live up to, consider most important to your life and core values? (ie Are you saving the planet or feeding people the most nutritious food possible? Do you want to be a game-changing screenwriter or producer?) Also, what skills do you bring to the table? Don’t limit it to things that are career oriented; if you can’t make a good list, ask people what they like about you. Do you have an ability to get people to talk? Do you walk into a room of cranky people and change the mood instantly? Find your key attributes – and go from there. It’s best to start with your strengths.

Create a great logo – and an even better tagline.
Just like a movie’s title can make (or break) a film, an effective name and tagline for your business can be a great way to create excitement about, and interest in, your company. Everyone remembers a good tagline: Because I’m Worth It (L’Oreal); The World, On Time (Federal Express); You’re in Good Hands with Allstate; We Try Harder (Avis). Taglines are benefit-driven, or descriptive. They’re what people hope they will get from the product (or the person).

In creating taglines for my companies, I capitalized on what my businesses offer my clients – and what sets us apart from others in their industry. For Women on the Fast Track, my tagline is “The Absolutely Best Networking Organization for Business and Professional Women.” For my marketing/public relations agency, our tagline is ”The Ultimate in Creativity and Follow-through with an Emphasis on the Client Bottom Line.” Those tag-lines should leave no doubt about what we do. So, the question is, what do you do? If you can’t answer that quickly and with confidence, its time to go back to the drawing board. Think of a line that tells your clients – and potential clients - what it is that you can do for them.

Set business goals - and write them down!
Another key step in branding is to clearly define your goals and objectives. Make them specific, and write them down. Goals only work when they are clearly outlined and written in stone. Take the time to really think this through and ask yourself some key “life questions” when coming up with your goals. How much money do you want to make? When do you want to retire? Where do you want to work? What do you want to do at work? Be specific. It’s not enough to say you want to get more business or to secure a new job. Where do you want it? What city, what state? What do you want to do there? Once you have your goals, the next step is to make an action plan outlining what you are going to do to get there. The key is to then follow this “script” for success as closely as possible in order to reach, and even exceed, these initial goals.

Go after your “audience” with everything you’ve got.
Much like in movies, knowing what your audience wants, and delivering it to them, is really the key to success in any business branding effort. But first you need to define exactly who your target audience is, which starts with a few basic (but crucial) questions: Who is the target for your business? Where are they located? What do they need? What do you want them to need? Who is competing for their loyalty?

While these questions seem simple, a clear understanding of your target audience is critical as you brand yourself in the marketplace – and deliver, time and time again, exactly what your audience is looking for from you and your business. Remember, though: often we are so busy telling a market who we are and what we can do that we don’t take time to stand in their shoes to figure out if what we’re selling is what they’re buying.

While creating – and building – a successful brand for your business is one of the most important things you need to be doing in today’s competitive marketplace, it’s really only the first step. In order to take it to the next level, you need a solid plan for marketing, promotion and publicity.

There are so many ways to get out there: making contacts at networking events, securing positive media coverage about you and/or your business, developing striking collateral materials (brochures, direct mail, website, etc.) that will not only showcase your brand – but will separate you from your competition. A good plan will be your roadmap to success. A great plan will take you to a whole new dimension of success.

I’ve said it, and I’ve seen it, so many times in my career: Branding works. Let it work for you, and you’ll be reaping the benefits of your hard work that you’ve always known was within reach.