Your brand is the most important asset you have, it’s the virtual you.

June 17, 2010 -- Blog post. Recently I had the pleasure of working with an incredible photographer. It was during a photo shoot that I realized that he, in particular, was more than a picture taker, he was an image maker. He takes the subtle nuances and feelings of a person, place or thing that can only be experienced in real life, then conveys as many of them as possible in his photography, so the viewer can experience those same nuances and feelings via the photo. It is these subtle nuances and feelings that also make up a person or company's brand.

A lot of small businesses joke with me when we talk about their brand, "I am not a brand, Coke, Nike and Wal-Mart are brands." I usually reply "Yes you are!" Every person, place, thing or entity is a brand. They all emote feelings and/or images when we talk or think about them which in turn defines their brand. The big question is "Is the brand fully defined and who defined it?" When we mention Coke or Nike or Wal-Mart certain feelings and/or images immediately come to our minds. These companies spend billions defining their brand and what it means to consumers, hoping that the feelings and/or images result in sales.

A brand can be defined by the company or by its consumers. If consumers define a brand the company has lost control of the brand. For example - Brand A is viewed as a cheap alternative to Brand X yet Brand X sells much more product because it's brand is viewed as a better value, even though it is more expensive and lower quality. Brand A did very little marketing and let each consumers define their brand, while Brand X executed a well thought out marketing strategy to define and manage its brand.

Everything a business does defines their brand. How the phone is answered, the appearance of a delivery person, how an invoice looks, even how timely their collections are; these are all reflections of the business which ultimately defines the brand even more than marketing. Accordingly everything that touches a client should be reviewed as a marketing and brand defining opportunity. Consumers indirectly view it this way, so should businesses.

For most small businesses, their brand is typically the last thing they think about. Yet over coming a bad or consumer defined brand is much more expensive and time consuming then properly planning your brand strategy as part of your marketing strategy. A well defined and supported brand facilitates and accelerates word-of-mouth marketing, referrals and loyal recurring customers - the very things that will determine if a business is slightly or extremely profitable.

Small businesses have more to gain by properly defining their brand because they can focus on the specific needs of their market much better than the national brand of a big box or chain store. Small businesses need to invest in their biggest and most competitive asset, their brand, before someone else takes control for them.