CEO of Brand ‘You’

The larger agencies and major franchises have huge budgets and well-staffed marketing departments to develop and maintain their brands, so how can a small business or even a sole operator compete with the big guys? Learn from them. Story by Kirsty Spraggon

The larger agencies and major franchises have huge budgets and well-staffed marketing departments to develop and maintain their brands, so how can a small business or even a sole operator compete with the big guys? Learn from them. Story by Kirsty Spraggon

When I first started out in real estate I must admit I had very little idea of what a brand was or how it would affect me as a solo operator. I didn’t think I really had the budget at that stage to worry about it too much either. And because I was working within an established franchise I didn’t give the subject of branding much thought. Like most agents I had a different business card every six months with new photos, different coloring and brochures, which bore no resemblance to the rest of my stationery; there was no consistency at all as far as that went. Looking back now I would do things very differently. This time around with my new business venture the first thing I invested time and money in was getting my branding right. I will gladly share with you what I have learned and found useful so that you can avoid some of the mistakes I made.

Firstly the word ‘brand’ refers to something distinctly different from a product or service. Although it is very real, it is also intangible and exists in the mind of the consumer. A brand is not only built through communications or appealing logos but also through the total experience that it offers customers.

“When we think of really great, successful brands such as Apple, Virgin or Coca-Cola we notice that they all make us feel something: loyalty, love, or even inspiration.” Successful brands prompt us to think, feel or do something. Our relationship with these brands goes way beyond the actual product or service they represent. Successful and effective brands create long-lasting ties and lifetime emotional connections with their customers. Now I know we may not be Apple or Virgin but even as solo operators there is a lot we can do to build a successful brand. The mistake most people make is to stop at having created a meaningless logo on a business card. Your brand is not about a fancy font or a pretty logo: it is about the emotional experience.

If you’re wondering where to start with all of this, don’t panic – it’s an ongoing learning process. The best thing to do is to educate yourself on some branding basics first. As I have already mentioned, brands are more than just their logos. It is important to engage all of your customers’ senses in creating a memorable experience. Use sound, taste, smell, colour and texture, not only in your marketing material but also as a part of your personal image and in your office. Some ideas include: the smell of coffee brewing in your office; tactile business cards; stylish uniforms and the use of corporate colours.

“Even as a business of one you can still put these things in place and achieve consistency with your brand’s image in everything you do.” The key is that whatever you decide to do needs to be carried through into everything else you do. You cannot afford to disappoint your customers because if they have a certain expectation of a brand experience but in reality it doesn’t match up, then they will not return.

Aim to build the most predictable and emotionally engaging experience you possibly can. One way to do this is to have a blueprint and set systems in place around every ‘touch point’ (point of contact) through which your customer experiences your brand, starting with the very first time they interact with you. Blueprinting one element, such as your service delivery for example, will help create a consistent experience for your customers. One such example of this could be that every time a sale is made the client receives a card or gift or their product is couriered to them within an hour.

Even a business of one has the opportunity to make a lasting impression, so take the time to really think about what your brand is and what you stand for. Some other questions to ask yourself are:

  • What is my product or service?
  • What is unique about it?
  • Who is my target market?
  • What problem do they have?
  • What solution do I offer?

Take the time to sit down and actually answer each of these questions.

Have a game plan
Why do you need a marketing plan? Because it’s a lot more effective than doing it on an ad-hoc basis. When I first started out, I was asked to sponsor a calendar for a local school. I was excited because this calendar was going to be on the fridge of every home in my target market so surely this time the phone would be ringing off the hook! I had hit on a gem of an idea – what luck. But things didn’t quite work out that way, I’m sorry to say. It wasn’t until I discovered ‘the Layering Principle’ that my marketing really started to generate measurable results.

The layering principle
You see, what I didn’t know at the time I started out was that in order to be effective you need to layer your marketing. The definition of ‘layering’ in this context is: “to overlay several marketing campaigns”. For example, once I understood this I was quick to put the following in place:

  1. a billboard that my target market drove by everyday
  2. a newsletter with local business discount vouchers on their fridges at home
  3. my personal presence in their lives at various local events I attended
  4. a fortnightly letterbox drop with my photo on the flyer.

I began touching my target market far more regularly and in several different ways. I was becoming a trusted and familiar brand, “a household name” if you will. The perception that started to form around my brand in the marketplace was that I was reliable, consistent, familiar, local and dedicated. I learned the hard way not to put all my marketing eggs in one basket or rely on any one thing (such as the miracle calendar) to deliver results. The other thing I had to learn was to marry my proactive implementation with a little ordinary patience.

This is an excerpt from Chapter Four of Kirsty’s book, Work As If You Own It.

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Kirsty Spraggon

Kirsty Spraggon is a relationship building expert that assists you to increase, your sales, networks and connections for life & business success. Her show @kirstytv has just hit 100,000 views on youtube. For more information visit