July 2009


Written by Lori Thiessen

I’m so old that I remember a time when branding just meant taking a fresh-from-the-fire hot piece of metal and searing it into the hides of poor, unsuspecting cows.

Branding has now become the by-word on everybody’s lips as THE way to succeed in business. While I don’t think it is the only element in a successful business, it is necessary to distinguish yourself from the herd, so to speak.

Remember that the average attention span has decreased considerably and the load of media stuff coming at us all the time has increased exponentially. And, yes Virginia, there is a correlation between the two.  So your  business brand needs to sear the brain matter of your potential clients like the flame-red brand on a cow hide.  Can your potential clients feel the sizzle of your brand?

When Gregg and I started the Coffee Shop Office Project, neither of us were strong on the branding (marketing) side of business. We knew we had to do it but didn’t know exactly what it meant or how to do it. So we just tried to choose a name that would kind of say who we were and what we did. Then we stopped.

In an effort to get our branding sorted out, I’ve been doing some research on the topic. Here’s what I’ve learned so far.

Definition of branding, according to the American Marketing Association:

name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers.

1. Part of brand development means you have to pin down exactly what your business does. This may seem like a no-brainer but sit down with your trusty paper and pen and list everything your company does and how it delivers its products and services. It will take a while, trust me.

2. Imagine what your ideal client is like. Who are they? Where do they do business? What are their values? Where do they hang out the most? How will your product/service fit in with their lifestyle?

3. If your business was a person, what would it be like? What are its values? What kinds of attributes does it possess? meticulous professionalism, laid back , fun, urbane, ecological, etc.

4. Are you really comfortable with the personality you developed for your company? If you aren’t,  you may want to re-think it.

5. Compare the personalities of your ideal client and your company. How well do they match up? If they don’t match up that well, then you might want to re-think it.

6. Choose a name that reflects the personality of your company.

7. Create a tag line that reflects the personality of the company and also says what it offers. Think of it as your business’ pick-up line; the better the pick-up line, the more clients’ attention you will hold.

There are oodles of information on branding out there in old-fashioned book form and online.  As a starting point, check out the article:  What is Branding and How Important is it to Your Marketing Strategy? By Laura Lake at about.com.

Also, if you are looking for a real, live person to give you some help, I can recommend Liz Gaige of Marketing Navigators (http://www.marketnavigators.ca). Gregg and I hired her to help us with our branding confusion. She guided us to a clearer vision of what we wanted to project to do and how to achieve it. We just haven’t made the time to implement those ideas. Anybody know a professional butt-kicker?

Even though Liz is based in Vancouver, thanks to the wonders of technology, you may be able to engage Liz’s service in the virtual realm.

I would recommend hiring a marketing strategist overall if you are feeling fuzzy about how to brand your business. Achieving greater clarity is worth the time and money. It’s an investment in your business.

Branding takes a while to get right but in the end being clear about what your business does can pay major dividends. I believe it will help you work more effectively and calmly because you know exactly what your company does and who your clients are.

It also helps your client to know your company better.  The more familiar a client feels with a company the more likely they are to use your company’s products/services again and again, and they will recommend their friends and family. Bottom line–more efficient, effective branding could lead to repeat business which equals increased revenue.

Q: What books or online resources on branding have you found most useful?

Thanks for dropping by and I’ll save your seat until next time!

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Written by Lori Thiessen

I came across this great post about how to be at your office without actually being there. Sounds magical and mysterious but it ain’t. Harry Potter fans can put away their spell books and wands and read on.

Jonathon Wilson wrote into Lifehacker.com that he uses Skype and VNC (virtual network computing) to simulate his presence in the office.

Wilson still has his cubicle at work and in the cubicle is a computer that is programmed to pick up automatically when he dials in on Skype.  The monitor at work connects with his desktop at home through VNC.

The upshot of all of this is that with the Skype connection, people at the office can stop by the cubical and chat with Wilson as if he was really there. The bonus feature is that he can listen to the office chatter going on around him. So that’s the old isolation problem sorted.

With the VNC connection, Wilson’s bosses and co-workers can see what he’s doing because his desktop is visible on the monitor in the office. Cool, eh? That’s the old productivity/supervision problem sorted.

Plus Wilson gets to miss the commute and the lunchtime rush out to the local fast food joints.

Though I wonder why Wilson is working through Skype and not a webcam? Inappropriate attire, one wonders? Hmmm. Perhaps it’s more cost efficient to work with Skype and not a webcam feed.

Nevertheless, I congratulate Jonathon Wilson on his clever and effective plan to make remote working really work for himself.

Q:  Do you know of other cost effective and efficient ways to connect remote to your co-workers?

Thanks for dropping by and I’ll save your seat until next time!

written by Lori Thiessen

As cafe commuters, our lives tend to rest solidly on technology and our ability to get information to clients at the agreed upon time.

The Mac or PC debate has been raging since the two systems were invented and developed. Which is the better system?

Just as people will defend (almost) to the death the superiority of say, their dentist over another person’s dentist, so will MAC and PC users vociferously advocate for their system of choice.

I must come clean on where I stand in this debate. I’ve been a PC user since I succumbed to the fact that computers were here to stay and I had to learn how to use ’em. My pathetic reason for being a PC user is that I learned on one and I’m used to it.  Over the years, I’ve not only learned how to use a PC but I’ve even become enamored of and far too reliant on its usefulness in carrying on my business and social life.

While MAC’s have cornered the market on sheer eye-appeal (you have to admit that MAC’s are pretty sexy looking) and their North American ads are clever as can be,  the anti-MAC brigade seems to score a few solid points.

The points being:

*program compatibility. As Adam McNutt pointed out in his critique of QuickBooks (see comments), he can’t send QB info from his MAC to his account who uses a PC.  I’ve run into other similar problems when trying to cross the MAC/PC divide when it comes to programs. Although, I understand it’s getting better now.

*not able to modify MAC OS easily.

*MAC is good at graphic design stuff but not other apps.

*according to a rather rude column by Charlie Brookner of the Guardian newspaper, MAC is ‘a Fisher-Price activity centre for grown-ups’. Which roughly translated, means that MAC is for fun and PC is for serious people who want to do business.

*MAC’s one-button mouse sucks.

*MAC’s are not easy to upgrade.

If you want to know where I, a computer illiterate, got my MAC info, look no further than an editorial by CBC’s own Paul Jay and his article entitled, “Mac vs. PC, the editorial smackdow“, as well as the many, many comments from his readers.

PC’s do have their flaws, I grant you. They are prone to viruses. The security is lax or non-existent sometimes.  And they do crash or hang from time to time — ah save me from the blitzkrieg of the blue screen of death! But in my experience it isn’t that often.

Basically, the debate boils down to people’s preferences. MAC is good for the click-‘n-go crowd and PC is the choice for those who like to tinker and customize.  That’s a very simplistic summary but apt, I believe.

As I commented earlier in this post, I’m no computer guru so if you are please feel free to comment. A couple of guidelines though, please don’t go on at great length and please don’t be rude.

Thanks for dropping by and I’ll save your seat until next time!