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The 7 things you are probably screwing up in your branding

(Marketing) Branding is an exact science, and we all have room for improvement, so what does this expert know that you might not? Read on to find out.

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No one is perfect

Whether you’re the CEO of a sizable brand or a single-person startup, you influence your company’s branding, and the truth is that no one is perfect. You may only be committing two of the seven sins outlined below, but you may be committing them all, so keep reading.

We refuse to regurgitate the same business advice you’ve already read everywhere else, so we’ve tapped the brain of brand builder and keynote speaker, Jeremy Miller, who is the well-known President of Sticky Branding, and he’s insanely good at helping companies stand out.

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Miller didn’t bat an eye at naming the common sins across all industries when it comes to branding, so in his own words below are not only the seven ways you’re probably screwing up, but ways to correct your errors:

1. Selling At All Costs

No one wants to be sold.

No one wants to deal with pushy sales reps and over-the-top marketing campaigns, but that’s what so many brands do. They push, push, push and talk, talk, talk.

Sticky Brands build relationships. They engage their customers upwards of three years before their products and services are needed. That way their customers know, like, and trust them, and they call them first when they have a need.

Take off your sales hat and focus on your customers, build lasting relationships with them.

2. An Out of Date Website

Branding is not an event, it’s a process

An outdated website is a sign of neglect. If you haven’t updated your website design in four years, I have to ask. Why don’t you like your brand? Was it mean to you?

Sticky Brands are constantly polishing and improving their brand collateral. The work is never done.

3. Bland, Boring, and Blue

A third of the top 100 global brands are blue. Brands like P&G, IBM, Facebook, GE, HP, Ford, and Samsung all use blue as the primary brand color.

Blue is a pretty good color. It connotes a company that is trustworthy, established, and secure. It’s the color of big, old, and professional.

As a result, a disproportionate number of small- and mid-sized companies default to using blue in their identities too. They assume blue is a better branding choice because it signals they are like the big, established brands.

That may be true, but blue is average. If everyone else is blue, pick another color. Make your brand visibly different!

4. Being “Good Enough”

We all work with plenty of companies that do a good job. They are efficient, effective, and deliver good value for the price. But good is not enough. Good is average, and average is not worth bragging about.

Find what makes your company unique or special, and bake that into everything you do. Be better than good — be the best in your business, and your brand will be hard to beat.

5. Ignoring your Values and Crashing your Brand

The pressure to perform is intense in companies, and sometimes you may look for a shortcut to hit a short term goal.

But short term gains can create long term pains.

If you ignore your values to achieve a short term goal or to overcome a crisis, you may crash your brand.

Your company’s values are the glue that holds it together. They form the bonds of your culture, attract the right people, and help you serve your clients.

What does your business believe? What are your morals? The more you know and understand your values, the better you can protect your brand.

6. Being too Focused on the Exit Strategy

Steve Jobs said, “I hate it when people call themselves ‘entrepreneurs’ when what they’re really trying to do is launch a startup and then sell or go public, so they can cash in and move on. They’re unwilling to do the work it takes to build a real company, which is the hardest work in business.”

Are you building a business to cash out, or are your building a brand? Brand building focuses on building a business that can transition through the generations.

7. Losing sight of what’s most important, your customers

To paraphrase James Carville, “It’s the customer, stupid.” Your customers are the only reason your business exists. The CEO might sign the paychecks, but it’s your customers that make that possible.

As companies scale and grow they risk “losing the plot.” This means thinking something that doesn’t matter one iota to your customers should be important. Or vice-versa.

Sticky Brands are built by putting their customers first. They innovate, challenge the status quo, and win, because they are intensely focused on serving and delighting their customers.

Read more of Millers’ insight in his new book, Sticky Branding: 12.5 Principles to Stand Out, Attract Customers and Grow an Incredible Brand.

Marti Trewe reports on business and technology news, chasing his passion for helping entrepreneurs and small businesses to stay well informed in the fast paced 140-character world. Marti rarely sleeps and thrives on reader news tips, especially about startups and big moves in leadership.

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Business Marketing

Bite-sized retail: Macy’s plans to move out of malls

(BUSINESS MARKETING) While Macy’s shares have recently climbed, the department store chain is making a change in regards to big retail shopping malls.

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Macy's retail storefront, which may look different as they scale to smaller stores.

I was recently listening to a podcast on Barstool Sports, and was surprised to hear that their presenting sponsor was Macy’s. This struck me as odd considering the demographic for the show is women in their twenties to thirties, and Macy’s typically doesn’t cater to that crowd. Furthermore, department retail stores are becoming a bit antiquated as is.

The sponsorship made more sense once I learned that Macy’s is restructuring their operation, and now allowing their brand to go the way of the ghost. They feel that while malls will remain in operation, only the best (AKA the malls with the most foot traffic) will stand the test of changes in the shopping experience.

As we’ve seen a gigantic rise this year in online shopping, stores like Macy’s and JC Penney are working hard to keep themselves afloat. There is so much changing in brick and mortar retail that major shifts need to be made.

So, what is Macy’s proposing to do?

The upscale department store chain is going to be testing smaller stores in locations outside of major shopping malls. Bloomingdale’s stores will be doing the same. “We continue to believe that the best malls in the country will thrive,” CEO Jeff Gennette told CNBC analysts. “However, we also know that Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s have high potential [off]-mall and in smaller formats.”

While the pandemic assuredly plays a role in this, the need for change came even before the hit in March. Macy’s had announced in February their plans to close 125 stores in the next three years. This is in conjunction with Macy’s expansion of Macy’s Backstage, which offers more affordable options.

Gennette also stated that while those original plans are still in place, Macy’s has been closely monitoring the competition in the event that they need to adjust the store closure timeline. At the end of the second quarter, Macy’s had 771 stores, including Bloomingdale’s and Bluemercury.

Last week, Macy’s shares climbed 3 percent, after the retailer reported a more narrow loss than originally expected, along with stronger sales due to an uptick in their online business. So they’re already doing well in that regard. But will smaller stores be the change they need to survive?

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Business Marketing

Why you must nix MLM experience from your resume

(BUSINESS MARKETING) MLMs prey on people without much choice, but once you try to switch to something more stable, don’t use the MLM as experience.

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Discussing including MLM experience on a resume.

MLM experience… Is it worth keeping on your resume?

Are you or someone you know looking for a job after a stint in an MLM? Well, first off, congratulations for pursuing a real job that will provide a steady salary! But I also know that transition can be hard. The job market is already tight and if you don’t have much other work experience on your resume, is it worth trying to leverage your MLM experience?

The short answer? Heck no.

As Ask the Manager puts it, there’s a “strong stigma against [MLMs],” meaning your work experience might very well put a bad taste in the mouth of anyone looking through resumes. And looking past the sketchy products many offer, when nearly half of people in MLMs lose money and another quarter barely break even, it sure doesn’t paint you in a good light to be involved.

(Not to mention, many who do turn a profit only do so by recruiting more people, not actually by selling many products.)

“But I wouldn’t say I worked for an MLM,” you or your friend might say, “I was a small business owner!”

It’s a common selling point for MLMs, that often throw around pseudo-feminist feel good slang like “Boss Babe” or a “Momtrepreneur,” to tell women joining that they’re now business women! Except, as you might have guessed, that’s not actually the case, unless by “Boss Babe” you mean “Babe Who Goes Bankrupt or Tries to Bankrupt Her Friends.”

A more accurate title for the job you did at an MLM would be Sales Rep, because you have no stake in the creation of the product, or setting the prices, or any of the myriad of tasks that a real entrepreneur has to face.

Okay, that doesn’t sound nearly as impressive as “small business owner.” And I know it’s tempting to talk up your experience on a resume, but that can fall apart pretty quickly if you can’t actually speak to actual entrepreneur experience. It makes you look like you don’t know what you’re talking about…which is also not a good look for the job hunt.

That said… Depending on your situation, it might be difficult to leave any potential work experience off your resume. I get it. MLMs often target people who don’t have options for other work opportunities – and it’s possible you’re one of the unlucky ones who doesn’t have much else to put on paper.

In this case, you’ll want to do it carefully. Use the sales representative title (or something similar) and, if you’re like the roughly 50% of people who lose money from MLMs, highlight your soft skills. Did you do cold calls? Tailor events to the people who would be attending? Get creative, just make sure to do it within reason.

It’s not ideal to use your MLM experience on a resume, but sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures. Still, congratulations to you, or anyone you know, who has decided to pursue something that will actually help pay the bills.

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Business Marketing

This smart card manages employee spending with ease

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Clever credit cards make it easier for companies to set spending policies and help alleviate expense problems for both them and their employees.

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Spendesk showing off its company credit cards.

Company credit cards are a wonderful solution to managing business expenses. They work almost exactly like debit cards, which we all know how to use, am I right? It is the twenty-first century after all. Simply swipe, dip, or tap, and a transaction is complete.

However, keeping up with invoices and receipts is a nightmare. I know I’ve had my fair share of hunting down wrinkled pieces of paper after organizing work events. Filling out endless expense reports is tedious. Plus, the back and forth communication with the finance team to justify purchases can cause a headache on both ends.

Company credit cards make it easier for companies to keep track of who’s spending money and how much. However, they aren’t able to see final numbers until expense reports are submitted. This makes monitoring spending a challenge. Also, reviewing all the paperwork to reimburse employees is time-consuming.

But Spendesk is here to combat those downsides! This all-in-one corporate expense and spend management service provides a promising alternative to internal management. The French startup “combines spend approvals, company cards, and automated accounting into one refreshingly easy spend management solution.”

Their clever company cards are what companies and employees have all been waiting for! With increasing remote workforces, this new form of payment comes at just the right moment to help companies simplify their expenditures.

These smart cards remove limitations regular company cards have today. Spendesk’s employee debit cards offer companies options to monitor budgets, customize settings, and set specific authorizations. For instance, companies can set predefined budgets and spending category limitations on flights, hotels, restaurants, etc. Then they don’t have to worry about an employee taking advantage of their card by booking a first-class flight or eating at a high-end steakhouse.

All transactions are tracked in real time so finance and accounting can see purchases right as they happen. Increasing visibility is important, especially when your employee is working remotely.

And for employees, this new form of payment is more convenient and easier on the pocket. “These are smart employee company cards with built-in spending policies. Employees can pay for business expenses when they need to without ever having to spend their own money,” the company demonstrated in a company video.

Not having to dip into your checking account is a plus in my book! And for remote employees who just need to make a single purchase, Spendesk has single-use virtual debit cards, too.

Now, that’s a smart card!

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