Once upon a time, branding your business wasn’t all that important. In the early days of the gift basket industry, there were fewer choices. A gift basket was either a fruit basket or a lot of things stuffed into a basket Little Red Riding Hood style.
Then along came some of the visionaries. They started arranging, styling, wrapping, and adding enhancements and beautiful bows. That created a new and vibrant industry that has grown to what we have today.
Way back then, the gorgeous designs sold themselves. Most of the businesses were small and sales were local. Marketing was simply a matter of getting a sample basket in front of a potential customer who would be impressed enough to buy. There were few gift basket companies taking advantage of the internet, still in its toddler stage, and fewer customers using it to buy these gorgeous creations. As a whole, the early websites were simple and amateurish.
But times have changed.
The gift basket industry has mushroomed as more and more people who think “just about anyone can make a gift basket” enter the business. Some take time to learn the ropes and succeed while others discover that it’s not as simple as it looks and fall along the wayside.
The internet has created a whole new medium for marketing. Expanding to include more than just a website, its versatility of marketing tools now includes e-mails, blogs, search engine marketing, and social networks of all kinds. Unless you have more business than you can handle locally, you’re missing a big opportunity if you’re not using the web to market.
“But wait a minute,” you may be thinking. “My local phone book has pages of other gift basket businesses that I’m competing with. And Google has 146,000,000 pages indexed just for the word gift baskets. How can I compete with them?”
It’s not as hard as you think.
Out of those millions of pages of gift baskets, only a few hundred would be real competition. Many of them have made the mistakes that you can avoid making. They were too cheap to invest the small amount of money and time it takes to really create a viable internet business. It’s much cheaper to build and operate a successful online business than a brick-and-mortar one. They used free or very cheap hosting companies that makes their sites take forever to open and load, didn’t take time to learn how to market themselves on the web, and how to make sure people could find them. But just as important, they had no idea how to build a website that actually sells once a customer does find them.
But that’s not you.
You already have a website. You have it optimized for the search engines so that you rank fairly high under selected keywords that aren’t as competitive as gift baskets but are still searched for frequently. But, alas, there’s still competition with those other companies that have done the same thing. So what can you do to set yourself apart from the others?
The answer is branding. That word has been tossed around so much that it has little meaning. But the one thing to remember is that BRANDS CREATE EMOTIONS.
Regardless of what you’ve heard, branding isn’t just your cute logo or tagline. It’s the whole shebang. Branding is everything your customer sees or hears about your business. And what most experts won’t tell you is that branding doesn’t begin with your logo creation. Branding begins with a story. Your story. What makes you different than all those other companies? Once you have your story, it’s much easier to create your brand and your marketing tools.
“But I’m not a storyteller, or a writer!” you may say.
You don’t have to be. I’m going to guide you through the process. One way to create a brand story for yourself is to think of your business as a character. Create that character and you’ll have your story.
Professional writers create a whole back story for their principal characters. Try to do this for your business. You won’t use all this information in the story that your customers read but it will make you understand why and how your business operates. Why did you start the business? What did you hope to gain? Do you operate your business as a perfectionist, penny-pincher, butterfly that loves to network, as an underdog determined to succeed, or whatever? Are you competitive, friendly, a loner, determined? Are you known for creating the impossible within budget and on time?
As an example, you can read my brand story at my website shopcreativegifts.com/about-us Most buyers who come to your website without knowing you usually read your ABOUT page. I’ve found that it is the second most read page on my website. The first most read is the homepage. Now, if you’re really serious about this business, sit down and create a story that is uniquely you. And use it.
How can you apply your brand story to all the copy that you create for your business? It has to show how different you are from your competitors. To accomplish this, you need to research your competitor’s sales copy. Look at their brochures, their business cards, and their website copy. Do they write long or short to the point sentences? What works in their copy and what doesn’t? Does it appeal to the emotions? How can you be unique and different?
For illustration, let’s examine three major companies listed on the first page of google for gift baskets. I’m not going to critique their websites – only the copy used to create their brand.
First, there is gourmetgiftbaskets.com. They say that they are family owned for over a decade, use the highest quality ingredients, and have excellent customer service. . Couldn’t this same text apply to thousands of other businesses?
The second company is HarryandDavid.com. They are just one member of a corporation made up of 11 different companies and don’t have an About page. You even have to click to a second page to see their gift baskets as they sell many other products as well. This is a company that people buy from because of their deep pockets for advertising and not for their story.
The third listing is 1800flowers.com which is another member of the group that included HarryandDavid. This company, like HarryandDavid, depends on heavy advertising dollars and discounts to sell. They do have an “ABOUT” page that is linked to in the footer of the website. The About page tells us that the company is simply the best gift basket experience you’ll ever have. They also say that each one of our gift baskets is expertly designed by our talented team of Product, Basket and Gift Designers. But no story — nothing about who they are, why they exist, other than that they are a member of this big group of companies. Just another generic gift basket company with lots of money for marketing and advertising.
You can do this with a number of other companies you’re competing with. Then ask yourself, if what they are doing works and why.
With these three companies, their search engine optimization techniques, as well as their money spent on advertising have launched them to the top for the keywords gift baskets. But getting to the top isn’t enough. Ask yourself if they appeal to your emotions? It’s true that photos play a large part in the gift basket industry but the text can be equally important. Is their text boring? Are these companies unique for any reason? Do these companies show a personality? Do they solve a problem? Could you say the same thing about your company or could any of the other hundreds of companies on the web say the same?
You will find it difficult to compete with their advertising but there are other ways that you can compete and win. And one way is to use your story to create your unique brand.
Learn from what your competitors are doing but don’t copy them.
So many gift basket companies — even those we just talked about — look much the same on the web. How many websites have you seen that start with “Welcome to XYZ Company” The homepage is usually a big slider with a generic message followed by photos of products and catagories. Some of them try to entice customers by increasing their prices and then offering discounts or free shipping. They mail out full-color catalogs with more pictures and generic descriptions.
How many gift basket websites have you remembered that made you smile or feel some other emotion ? Most of them look much the same.
So what are you doing differently?
Look at your website and your other marketing materials. Mark out all mention of your company name. Is what is left any different than that of all the other companies? Is your text professional but dull and boring? Is your personality showing through?
A banker that I know wears cowboy hats and jeans and advertises his bank as one for “folks just like you.” A few years ago, one of the gift basket companies played off the owner’s name by using a fox in all her marketing materials and even the name of her business. They created a story and a brand to go with that story.
As the Internet has evolved and more attention is paid to Search Engine Optimization, companies are less likely to use their story to stand out from the crowd of look-alike companies.You can use that to create an edge with your company.
When creating your brand, remember it’s about your customers. It’s not about you.
How you present yourself is your brand. The impression and memory it leaves with your customer is using that brand to sell. Sit down and brainstorm on paper. Your customer is the second character in your story. Get into their head and answer the questions of why they buy, what they want, what they need, and what they really desire most of all. These are the emotions that you want to appeal to with your sales copy.
How can you make your own sales materials unique?
The best way is to establish several things that are uniquely you and always use them in your messages. Here are some ideas to get your thought processes started.
When you send out your newsletter, in addition to always using the same template, header, and logo, perhaps create a greeting that is different. Would your business character say: Hi there folks. Hello y’all. Greetings from Grand Canyon Country. The buzz is back. These are all possibilities for different markets and different personalities.
Create an emotional appealing tagline that only can apply to you and your company and use it regularly. Empty words such as “the gift basket experts” or “pick the best, we always do” could apply to every one of our companies. For my company in Arizona, I say “From the deepest canyon to the highest mountain, we create memories that says it all for you.”
There’s much more to this but basically your marketing materials shouldn’t read like they’re designed for the masses and be so impersonal that they have no emotional impact.
Writing sales copy is a one-on-one exchange using “you” more often than “I”. Picture your business as a character and the person you are writing for as a character. Feel their pain and understand their needs and then put it into words. Your sales copy will be more human and more likely to grab and tug them in. This will result in more sales. Isn’t that what business is all about?
For more information about starting and growing your business, check out Gift Basket Business INSIDER