There was a time when the internet leveled the playing field between big business and small business. Small businesses suddenly looked bigger. Internet-savvy niche players stood out from the mega-brands because of their focus on words and phrases their customers were searching for. Big business fumbled; attached to traditional mass marketing, print and advertising, their big expensive brands weren’t at the top of the search engine rankings. But those days are gone.
Search expert, Aaron Wall reported that the latest Google algorithm update is favoring bigger brands. He quotes Google CEO, Eric Schmidt in his post:
The internet is fast becoming a "cesspool" where false information thrives, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said yesterday. Speaking with an audience of magazine executives visiting the Google campus here as part of their annual industry conference, he said their brands were increasingly important signals that content can be trusted.
"Brands are the solution, not the problem," Mr. Schmidt said. "Brands are how you sort out the cesspool."
"Brand affinity is clearly hard wired," he said. "It is so fundamental to human existence that it's not going away. It must have a genetic component."
Aaron’s charts show how bigger brand names in common search areas like airlines, insurance, boots, online degrees and watches are “suddenly” appearing on the first page “out of nowhere.”
I’m not a search engine expert, but it’s becoming clear that Google is working hard to understand what their customers mean when they search for a phrase. SEOBook’s analysis is showing that big brands were 80% to 90% of the items listed on the first page.
Branding Isn’t Just For the Big Guys Anymore
Small business has to stop treating “branding” as a Fortune 500 activity. Brand development does not mean throwing millions of dollars at a new logo or advertising campaign. The process of developing a profitable brand can take as little as $50,000 and can be completed in under six months. The return on investment for that work can be ten-fold or more. Look at it this way. A solid, recognizable brand is literally an asset to your business. It adds value because it can be sold, extended with new products, licensed and leveraged.
Consumer-based businesses have been on board for a long time now. But the business-to-business sector continues to think that “businesses” make purchasing decisions and not people. When a group of people (buying center) is responsible for deciding whether or not to choose your company as a supplier, branding becomes even MORE important. Remember the old IBM commercial that shows everyone in a meeting and across the screen you see the words “No one ever got fired for choosing IBM.” That is a clear and emotional brand promise aimed at the industrial buying group.
How to Start Developing Your Brand Today
My friends in the ad agency business will hate me for this, but I say this in their best interest. Ad agencies cannot develop your brand for you (at least not for $50,000). They can only take what you tell them and show them and come up with creative ways to communicate it. Here is what you can do that will save you tens of thousands of dollars (maybe more) and years of aggravation. And the ad agency you ultimately hire will love you for doing this work for yourself.
1. Find a marketing strategist. While marketing people are a dime a dozen, good brand development strategists are few. You’re looking for someone who can assess your internal culture and strength as well as collect solid research from customers. This person then has to have the insight and facilitative skills to weave that information together to identify a solid differentiation and profitable position that you can consistently deliver on.
2. Find your strength. Use your marketing strategist to help identify what sets your business apart and in what ways this uniqueness makes you the obvious choice.
3. Identify a target customer. This might be a demographic profile i.e. men under 40 who wear glasses or it might be a benefit demographic i.e. people who are allergic to wheat.
4. Hone in on the benefit. Like a great song, a strong brand requires a hook. “Delivery in 30 minutes or less” -- that is a clear hook with a benefit.
5. Brainstorm your own ideas. You are more creative than you think. Brainstorm some ideas as to how you can get the word out about your brand.
6. Hire an agency for finishing touches. Now you are ready to start interviewing creative types. Share what you know and let them brainstorm with you. You will be pleased with the results.