Lisa Merriam, president of Merriam Associates, answers all of our branding and content marketing questions
Branding and content strategies are often consistent when starting a small business. Why are they important to consider when creating your business plan?
Marketing and sales are where the rubber meets the road in the business plan. Those are the levers that generate income. Many entrepreneurs think a great idea is enough, but the guy who wrote “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door” was a poet, not a businessman. If you don’t think about reaching people, delivering your value message, and convincing them to buy, you can throw away the rest of your business plan.
What are your tips for starting a branding process for a small business?
Start with your strategy to define what makes your offer unique. Define the authority you want to have. That’s positioning and differentiation. Stay away from business jargon. If any of your examples use words from this 30+ year old tool, it’s time to think again.
Also, consider features and benefits, as well as fundamentals such as cost savings, quality, value, convenience, speed, availability, and more. They are table stakes, not the foundation of the brand. If you can do these things, you’ll have something valuable and attention-grabbing instead of a more verbose poster—a more polite way of saying…
Last tip: read my book Maryam name guidewhich also covers the basics of brand strategy.
How do you start creating content if you’re not a writer?
If you can’t write, design, or produce a video, you need to hire someone. Upwork and Fiverr are good places to look for freelancers, although you may need to try a few before you find the right team.
What should be the starting budget for small business branding and content marketing?
There are too many variables and ways to spend money to come up with facts-based numbers. People have done well bootstrapping with $0; others have failed spectacularly, spending millions.
Please tell us two small business success stories, one from good branding and one from good content marketing.
A lot of the more rewarding work I do is with entrepreneurs and companies that are backed by private equity hoping to grow. I partnered with branding agency Everbrand (now Pleos) to help a print company develop software that managed ad production details such as promotion start and end dates, pricing, product details and images, and enabled the information. upstream with product orders and downstream with media.
We organized the product offering, pitched it, created a name and logo with a visual system and usage guidelines, and wrote the initial message. We worked as their outsourced marketing department, developing trade shows, websites, demos and sales activation/lead content, etc.
The project culminated in a multi-office rollout that included key client sites and industry PR. After launch, we acted as an outbound marketing department and built a leading content management program. The company was sold in the second quarter of 2018 to customer marketing leader Dunnhumby.
When it comes to content marketing, this case study from Sherpa Marketing is an oldie but a goodie.