Branding the Right Message About Your Business

Branding-Article

Source: A company’s brand is more than just a logo or graphic; it is the internal and external message that a business represents to its employees, investors, clients, and to the surrounding community, one which best describes what that business does, why it exists, as well as what the business and its’ leadership believes in. What does your brand say about your company? What should be considered when branding your business? We report…..

So you just founded your venture. It could be a local, small, family owned Main Street business or a large endeavor with hopes to expand globally, creating a far reaching effect. Regardless of the size of your business, the message you choose to send to the street is paramount in explaining what type of business you have, the purpose your business serves, the product or service it offers, as well as the demographic populace and geographic locale in which you offer your value creation.

The next step most folks do, is to set out getting a logo or graphic created so they have an image to place on their business card. Then, when they pitch their business, there is a visual reminder for others about their company. Initially, this can be a costly mistake for many business owners. As we continue on in the article, it is further explained how understanding the entire meaning behind “branding” a company – including the completion of a branding exercise, is crucial for that company’s foundational success. This is because as a business out grows their initial logo or changes its product/service offering mix, the logo becomes obsolete.

Branding is more than just a logo or a font. It is the representation of all the internal and external factors about the company, translated into a set of graphics and text that tell the “elevator pitch” about the company; reminding people about all the dimensions of that business. Branding exercises and creation by a full-service marketing and advertising firm can cost thousands of dollars, but the investment in the long run will save tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars in having to re-brand a business owner’s company later and/or lost business due to the wrong message sent about the company to potential customers.

There are many factors that should be taken into consideration when learning how to properly brand one’s company. As founders of a business or an entrepreneurial enterprise, sometimes personal preferences get in the way of selecting company logo or graphic color schemes. Instead, it should be the story that tells the “why” behind the business that should be the deciding factor of the imagery and content selected for sharing a company’s message with the public. Just because the entrepreneur thinks it’s a cool look, does not mean that the general public will understand the logo or even be able to identify with its significance. That is why much thought, attention, and detail must be taken when deciding the final translation of a company brand.

The message you send to potential audiences about your company needs to be with a definite purpose in mind. It should summarize in brief the products and services being provided, and why the products and services should be deemed noteworthy by potential customers. Behind every business is a leader, or a group of leaders that are the drivers of that business, and the “why” they embrace, should be reflected throughout the context of the brand. Your brand should also have consistency throughout the entire purpose, or scope, of the company. Nothing is more confusing to a potential customer than picking some logo or tag saying that fails to reflect all of the company’s products/services.

When branding a company, consider internal factors just the same as the external message desired to be shared with clients. Internal branding is a reflection of a company’s internal core values, of which include a code of ethics, morals and beliefs, how the company should be organized, and the disciplines within the company an owner desires their staff to adopt. Internal branding should examine any message the employees need to understand. Using words such as “the company,” or “this business” versus, “the team,” and “our associates,” creates very distinct feels. A business owner should want to create a work experience where their employees realize how they are a part of a greater cause, and that their contributions are part of the greater success of the company; not one that fosters a culture of “cut throat – every person for themselves,” job environment.

Words and phrases such as previously mentioned, are located in a company employee handbook, on the company website, or on social media. How social media marketing is utilized will reflect the internal culture of any company.  Language selection is extremely important. It is so powerful and can either be very inviting and attractive to the right individuals a company wishes to employ, or it can be a total turn off for some; alienating many of the best talent that may otherwise have been recruited. Oftentimes, businesses focus on the external message they desire to purport without considering long term branding strategies for expanding their business, which would include recruiting talent to assist with such growth.

It is important to understand that an external message is more than just a sales pitch. The most valuable brands in the world don’t sell products, but the brand itself, for it has been said, “People don’t by products, they buy brands.” That means that a company’s brand must contain more information than just the products and/or services being sold. Within the external brand, its’ symbolism (which is the logo, color scheme, and anything visual) as well as the content (tag lines, by-lines, copy in ads, and anything auditory) should say what the business believes in, stands for, product/service offered, and the audience it serves; without saying it. That may sound confusing, but this is the most complicated consideration when choosing all the moving parts in successfully branding a business to the public.

Most marketing and advertising firms will usually begin the branding journey with a series of discovery sessions, in order to gain a better understanding of who the founders/leadership of the business are.  Part of the exercise is finding out the “why” behind the decision to go into business in the first place, or what the purpose is that has driven someone to take their invention or creation to the next level. Personality and core values are taken in consideration when trying to include a story being portrayed to the public. This is part of the “why” the potential customer should purchase a company’s product or service. Next, the branding expert will want information regarding all of the moving parts of an owner’s business. This will include a company’s current status, as well as what the company is expected to look like in five, ten, and even twenty-five years from now. The bigger picture is reflected as part of the brand.

Branding experts will take a deep look at which target audience is the right fit for a company’s product or service. They will research the demographic and geographic of every target potential client, and align them with what you have to offer. To many business owner’s and entrepreneur’s surprise, the target market they intended to sell to, may not be the right or best fit, after the branding research demonstrates larger opportunities not originally considered. Maybe a product or service is better suited for sales opportunities overseas where there is a greater need for a company’s invention. It is also possible that research may show an initial targeted audience may be lesser in volume of numbers than originally considered, but may be willing to pay more per individual sale for the item planning to be marketed. The branding exercises reveal so many options and truths about a business an owner may have not even realized.

Branding experts add value to a company because their train of thought is objective and concise. They examine a business, its’ products and services, as well as the owner’s positioning without judgement or bias. Branding experts are not working on behalf of any client nor are they working on the owner’s behalf (as in the founder, whom usually has an emotional tie to their value creation and company). These experts take a pragmatic approach to review all aspects of a business, utilizing part logic, part statistics and research, and part understanding on how the company’s potential audience should respond to the brand that ultimately translates the business’s message. They do this in a systematic series of questions and exercises. The more detail and time that is spent on the initial branding exercises, the more precise the branding expert will be in coining the logo, tag line, and content about the business.

A branding expert should be a company’s marketing department’s best friend, one that remains available throughout all of the phases of a company’s growth. Having the ability to work with one branding expert will assist you in the expediency to re-brand your company, for the initial branding expert already knows your back story and has monitored your growth. A changing message, product/service line expansion or the retelling of a story are all taken into consideration. The expert can eventually envision the business’s journey much the same as the company’s leadership, which will allow for consistent brand continuity throughout the entire company’s life cycle.

It would be foolish to think that small local businesses only need is a logo. Investing in appropriately telling the company’s story to the public will have a direct result on whether or not the public will have reason to develop a belief as to why they should patron from a particular business. Today, it is critical that small local businesses invest into proper branding just as much as a major corporation if it is to outlast the competition, as well as remain intriguing enough to the average consumer considering to give your business a try. A company’s brand should be strong enough that it reflects all of its’ internal and external messages while providing a need to be part of the cult following the brand a company represents.

A brand should carry a sense of value and integrity. Consumers don’t trust products or sales people; they trust brands – brands that follow through on their word even when everything is not perfect. The most profitable of companies in the world understand that their brand is more than a brand; it’s a culture and practice that consumers have come to trust in; making good on its promises even when it made a mistake. This takes patience, for great brands are built over time. Branding is an investment in one’s self, their company, their value creation, their value proposition, and the statement desired to make in the marketplace. The right brand will last a life time, while others will fade away. So brand wisely.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur who lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water, Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses, and Life in the Green Lane-in Pursuit of the American Dream.

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METHODS FOR TESTING THE QUALITY OF WATER AT HOME

Water-in-the-home-300x250Published by http://www.H2OEnergyFlow.com, Written by, Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter and author Published on 10/30/16, SamBurlum.com

Source: How do you know the quality of water that comes out of your faucet? If you have public water, the quality of the water is monitored and by law, a report must be made available to the public. What if you have your own well? What monitoring is in place to assure your own well is providing quality fresh drinking water? In some circumstances where your well or source of drinking water may be located near a petro hydro-fracking site or landfill, there arise additional concerns related to the quality of the source of drinking water. Here we share a few methods on how you can test the quality of water sources.

Water is well known as the very building block and essence of life. It sustains our existence, and is a necessary tool for manufacturing our majority of needs in modern society. Most of us are generally unaware of all the areas in which water affects our lives, except when we are in our own home, either using water for preparing a meal, or needing clean water for human hygiene. Often we do not question the quality of the water that is delivered until we notice a visible difference in either the color or texture of the water. It is only then that most individuals take action in addressing water quality concerns.

There are several methods with which an individual can test the quality of water coming from the tap on a regular basis. Some methods are complicated and costly, and are required by law when a party is planning to sell their home. Other methods are simple with tests that can be conducted by a landlord, renter or homeowner. Regardless of one’s budget, it is important to explore regular testing and monitoring of your own source of drinking water.

There are a number of at-home do-it-yourself water quality test kits available for purchase at your local hardware store, home supply outlet, and/or online. They cost anywhere from a few dollars to hundreds of dollars, depending on the amount of factors the water test kit will review. In choosing the type of water quality test kit, it is vital to know what elements you will be testing for. The most comprehensive at-home water quality test kits will check for heavy metals such as lead and iron, bacteria and harmful organisms, fertilizers and pollutants, and the water’s pH level.

Many of these at-home test kits use a grading system of color strip indicators that identify the levels of each influencing factor. If a test kit only has one test strip, then it is most likely only testing for the water’s pH level. The best at-home water quality kits enable you to test for multiple types of bacteria and pollutants. As you expose the test kit to the water from the tap, the color strips will change according to the mineral and bacteria content, as well as the host of pollutants that may or may not be present. Each test kit is slightly different; however, they use a scale of color coordinated coded keys for you to match the test bars against the test key so you may have a better understanding to what is really in your water source.

There are specific odors to be aware of; this provides additional important information. If the water has a heavy sent of bleach, then your water will have a high concentration of chlorine. The sent and concentration of chlorine usually disappears as the faucet runs, however if it is of a concern, you may purchase a filter which aides in dissolving the chlorine content from the water. If you smell a rotten egg scent, then you have a serious problem. This type of odor indicates either a bacteria and/or sulfur pollutant in your water. To be sure whether the odor is an isolated issue (as it could be just one clogged pipe within the home), or that it is a sign of something more, you will want to turn on and off each faucet throughout the home; checking each water outlet. If the smell continues throughout the entire home, you have a more serious issue; one where the water source itself has been compromised before it has reached your home. If this is the case, contact your municipality water authority immediately. If you notice a musty or earth smell, it could mean you have a clogged water drain and will want to correct this problem.

A visual inspection of water provides valuable information about the quality of your water. The best way to check is to pour water from the faucet into a clear drinking glass (not plastic) or glass container and hold it to a bright light. The light will reflect the contents of the water. If you see dark particles, it is a sign of decaying infrastructure, including metal and clay pipes that may need to be replaced and/or serviced. Cloudy water is a sign of either too much calcium and/or magnesium. If the water has a green tint, it is most likely you have an algae build-up in pipes and waterways. Extreme amounts of sediment, such as grits and sand may be an indicator that your water table and/or well have been compromised and/or is running dry. If your water is foamy, it is a sign that it contains a heavy amount of soap and detergents. Foam will rise to the top of the water sample and have a unique texture to the touch. Some water will have bubbles; however, it is not normal for these bubbles to remain once the water sample has been stabilized.

Other new, unique ways of testing water quality have advanced over the last few years. You can take a small water sample in a glass jar and light a match to it. If the water puts the match out, your water is normal. If the surface of the water begins to take flame and burn, your water has been influenced by a petro spill, or seepage of an underground oil tank. We do not recommend performing a flame test on your own. Leave this one to the professionals. UV light is also used to determine water quality. UV light is used at central water treatment plants to zap bacteria. You can use a black lamp (uv light) to search for specific minerals within a waters content. You will want to pour your water sample in a dish and in the dark, wave the black lamp over the sample. If you notice florescent lights, your water will have a high concentration of zinc and other related minerals in your water.

Another practice of water testing is sampling over time. This is a method in which at-home test kit results are documented over time with an extra step. This requires an individual to have sterile glass jars with lids, where water samples can be taken, tested, and stored. It is important to place a label on each sample stored in glass jars with the date and time in which the water sample was taken and tested Copies of results of each test should be kept on file. If there are ongoing issues or a history is needed to monitor water quality trends, you will have a former reference point when you first discovered the degrading of your water source.

You may hire a professional third party lab to oversee the testing and they will provide you with a report as to all of their findings. In New Jersey, as well as many other states, there is a law enacted called the Private Well Testing Act, which mandates testing of a private well whenever a property changes ownership or leased to a new tenant. This assures the next receiver of the property that they will have water that is healthy and safe for human consumption. If the quality of the water does not meet testing standards, then the seller or landlord is responsible for remedying the situation. This could mean a simple fix from servicing and replacing old plumbing and piping, to a costly endeavor of having to drill a new well. Testing can cost up to one thousand dollars and take up to two weeks to obtain. This is the most comprehensive test a property owner can perform and is a worth-while investment knowing whether or not you have a quality water source.

If you rely upon a public water source and desire to know the results of regular testing, then you may contact your local municipal utilities authority, or the local department of health. By law, all municipalities are required to provide these test results to the public. You can also obtain a Water Quality Report from the actual water provider. Many of these public water sources are under the command of a quasi-government agency or private corporation. A Water Quality Report is very extensive, and lists all the requirements in which a public water provider is responsible. This information can be reviewed by accessing the US EPA website link at: https://www.epa.gov/dwreginfo/drinking-water-regulatory-information.

In the event you discover your water has a high concentration of bacteria, pollutants, heavy metals, or other types of contaminates, you will want to reach out to a professional to mitigate the issue as soon as possible. Most common water problems can be resolved by adding a series of filters and/or upgrading rusting and degrading plumbing infrastructure. The longer you let these issues persist, the costlier the remedy will be. If your local public water source is not measuring up to the quality within regulatory standards, you may demand the agency and/or public water utility to address the problem at once. You will put them on official notice when you send the water utility a certified letter of your concerns, including requesting a response letter of their intent of action in addressing your complaint. You have a right to clean and healthy drinking water, and it is ultimately your responsibility to assure that the quality of water you are receiving is at its best for consumption.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur who lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water, Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses, and Life in the Green Lane-in Pursuit of the American Dream.

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