CrayonsDo you sell products or services? Or do you promote a brand?

For the most successful small businesses, it’s the latter. They realize that it’s the way to capture mind share with customers and prospects.

Everything is marketing

If you want to be one of them, you have to realize that everything is marketing.

  • your facility
  • your vehicles
  • your letterhead
  • your invoices
  • your ads

But the list expands beyond the things associated with the business to you personally:

  • your e-mails
  • your voice message
  • your business card
  • the clothes you wear
  • your appearance
  • how you answer your phone
  • how you greet people in person

If you have employees, it extends to them as well. The list could go on and on.

What a brand really is

Literally, everything you do – in text, orally or visually – is marketing. It’s the tangible evidence of your brand’s promise.

And that’s exactly what a brand is – a promise. If the two of us do business with you, we can expect certain things. You promised!

Your long-term goal should go beyond building a brand. You want to build a business. But even that’s not sufficient.

Many small business owners feel trapped. And for good reason.

Their business may provide a decent living. But they have to continue working to keep making money. They’re on a treadmill and it just keeps going faster and faster!

Your business should serve you, not the other way around. Your ultimate goal isn’t really to build a business, is it? That’s not the end; it’s a means to the end.

You want to build a life. You want security. You want freedom. You may want to keep working, but you want to do it on your own terms.

A brand is the foundation upon which you build this life. In order to do that, you must realize that everything is marketing. But you have to also understand something else:

Marketing is not everything

Brands build trust by setting expectations (the brand promise). But that’s not enough.

You have to deliver upon those promises. Talk is cheap. Behavior builds your business.

Everyone in your company has to get on board with this idea. Departments don’t matter.

It takes everyone’s commitment. A commitment to these three keys to delivering upon your brand promises:

  • Be consistent – Great brands deliver consistently. Here’s an interesting tidbit: You’re better off being consistently average (read that as mediocre) than having occasional spurts of greatness followed by spells of disappointing performance. People base their decisions on expectations. If they don’t know what to expect, they won’t buy what you offer. Of course, you don’t want to be average. You want to be exceptional. That’s where the next two points come into play.
  • Follow through – Great brands live up to their promises. If you tell someone you’re going to do something, do it! This statement probably won’t surprise you – a lot of businesses don’t follow through on what they say. Use that to your advantage. When your customers know they can depend on you, they’ll happily give you more and more opportunities.
  • Improve continually – You can only exceed someone’s expectations once. Do you believe that? You shouldn’t. But it’s true if you don’t continually improve yourself. When you exceed someone’s expectations today, they’ll expect that same level of performance tomorrow. So you can only meet their expectations the second time. Is that a blessing or a curse?

Outstanding business people think it’s a blessing. Because it challenges you to constantly improve yourself so you can exceed their expectations every time.

It turns this thing we call work into a game. And isn’t playing a game a whole lot more fun than working?