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Should You Hire Your Own Publicist? How to Stay Relevant in an Ever-Changing Business Landscape.

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5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Cindy Krupp has more than 20 years of experience in brand strategy and public relations. The founder and president of Krupp Group sat down with Jessica Abo to share her journey and how brands can stay relevant in an ever-changing world. 

Jessica Abo: Tell us a little bit about your career path.

Cindy Krupp: I was the head of communications at Barney’s and left the company in 2000 to work with emerging brands that were looking to define their brand voice and establish themselves in the marketplace. 

What has your agency done to stay relevant?

We have to make sure our clients are everywhere. We tackle each communication strategy from a 360-degree approach ⁠— a strong media play both in print and digital, identifying and working with key influencers to support their brand and help to tell their brand story. For celebrities, we work to secure both red carpet placements as well as what we call the “Starbucks shot,” where they’re out and about in a more casual day look. We find the opportunity and we get our brands placed. In order to create that brand stickiness, brands need to be seen numerous times in numerous places.

How have digital influencers changed your business?

Digital influencers have absolutely become a critical part of any communication strategy, and we often layer in media placements. The placements fuel each other. We work with influencers on storytelling, brand awareness plays, collaborations and brand partnerships. It’s an amazing opportunity for brands to really build an authentic connection with their community.

What advice do you have for entrepreneurs right now who are struggling with staying relevant?

Diversify your capabilities. Listen to your customers and your clients. What are their needs? Don’t stick your head in the sand. Things are changing. Don’t blow smoke in the direction of your customers or your clients. Even more so now than ever before, whether you’re a consumer-facing brand or you’re behind the scenes, people are seeking authenticity and transparency. They want to understand who’s working behind the brand. What does the brand stand for? Also, don’t be afraid to admit when you screw up and to take ownership of it. Humility can be a strong brand attribute. 

How should brands use their social channels?

I encourage every brand to communicate directly through their social channels and lean into them ⁠— have fun with them and have a consistent brand voice. Use those platforms to articulate what the brand is about. I think it’s an amazing way to engage customers, and it didn’t exist before. You don’t have to have a big budget to do it and do it well!

Where should people be spending their budget these days?

People will say, “We have a limited budget. Should we spend it on an influencer, or should we spend it on a celebrity, or should we spend it on PR?”

Nothing works on its own anymore. You need to be firing on all cylinders in order to achieve a sustainable level of brand awareness. Brands need to focus on creating great content for their social channels and all of their direct communication with their customers. They still need solid consistent press coverage as well as a strong influencer campaign and celebrity placements.

The consumer has so much information coming at them at any given moment, and the way in which they shop and the way they discover brands is different than ever before. As a brand, you need to be in every room, even when you’re not in the room.

At what point do you think someone should hire a publicist?

It’s never too early to have the conversation with a publicist. We speak with a lot of brands before they are actually ready to bring us on board. They reach out to us to have the conversation, to plant the seeds, which I think every brand should do, or every entrepreneur. I think it’s really important. It takes time to get your ducks in a row. The assets that we need to be set up for success can be expensive and can take a while to perfect.

What are some of the assets that people would need before working with a publicist?

You need to have a founder’s story. You need a core mission and an elevator pitch. Everyone needs to be able to quickly identify what their company and their brand is about. Are there founders at the helm? Who are the spokespeople for the brand or for the company?

We often receive totally anemic bios, and we completely rewrite them. If you are a consumer-facing brand, you want great images of your product. The media today often uses high-res images that we provide so that they don’t have to shoot the product. Investing in high quality high-res images is a good investment. Those are some of the core assets that in any industry you really need to be successful with your PR.

What else should entrepreneurs know about working with a PR team?

Surround yourself with experts and empower them to do their jobs. Allow your PR team to help you define what is relevant in your messaging and your story. Don’t worry about editing it yourself. Have transparency and authenticity in that partnership, because that is the key to our success.

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3 Reasons Brands Should Shift to a Direct-to-Consumer Model

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In the new era of online shopping, it pays to establish a direct connection between your brand and its customers.

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The days of having to leave the house, deal with traffic, find parking and fight the crowds in a retail environment are long gone. Online shopping is not as foreign to most consumers as it once was. It’s now mainstream and preferred, with its convenience, ease of use and low-cost options. 

Many companies sell online, but they sell via marketplaces like Amazon, eBay and Walmart. Then, there are brands that went direct-to-consumer right away and grew into billion-dollar whales that dominated their space in a short period of time.

Brands like Dollar Shave Club, Casper, Purple and BarkBox came out swinging, gained momentum and snowballed their growth selling directly to consumers without any retail partners or third-party marketplaces.

Related: One Direct-to-Consumer Company’s Secrets to Success

While there are some added details and costs  like warehouses, order fulfillment and customer service  to consider, there are several benefits of going the D2C route.  

1. You control and collect valuable consumer-insight data

When you sell direct-to-consumer, you maintain control of all your customer data and have access to analytics and data that you won’t get if you sell on Amazon, for example. Sure, your seller account gives you some information, but nothing like you have access to when you own and control the platform.

Seeing where your conversion traffic comes from before making a sale allows you to learn about your customers and also identify potential advertising opportunities. Seeing how your website visitors interact on your website and what flow they follow before making a purchase allows you to provide a better overall customer journey.

Every action that a consumer takes on your website has a reasoning behind it. Being able to track and analyze this data allows you to discover the “why” part, which can then help you better market and cater to your audience. The benefit is more conversions.

Also, when you control your data, it eliminates the possibility of being on the receiving end of the backlash caused by a data leak. Even though it’s not the brands’ fault, consumers will often relate a bad experience like that with the product they purchased on the platform.

Related: How Consumer Insights Can Turbo Charge Your Brand’s Marketing

2. Existing demand drives new revenue

For brands that sell via third-party outlets and platforms, the consumer is usually introduced to them when they visit a physical retail store or shop on a platform such as Amazon or Walmart. That retail store or third-party platform is being compensated in the form of profit margin or a percentage of the sale for that introduction.

A brand that builds a loyal following and happy customers via a D2C model doesn’t need that other channel for that introduction. The demand is already created, and once it is, that “middle man” isn’t needed to fulfill it.

A brand can take that money saved by skipping a third-party partner (revenue cuts taken by platforms and the lower margins selling wholesale) and invest that money into growing its presence on social media. This alone can help create a huge following and demand.

Related: Is Direct-to-Consumer Segment Seeing a Revival?

3. You can ensure a pleasant direct customer experience

Nobody can tell your brand’s story the way you can, directly. Today, consumers become attached to a certain brand because they feel a connection. The only way to create that connection in the first place and maintain that relationship is by selling directly to the consumer.

That connection will never occur in a retail setting, or on Amazon or another mega online marketplace. Selling direct also allows you to ensure each customer has a pleasant experience. You have no control over how a third-party marketplace treats your customers or how a retail employee interacts with someone buying your product.

The only way to be 100% certain that each customer is treated properly and your brand is portrayed and represented professionally is to eliminate the middleman. Then, there is nobody to blame but yourself in the event a customer is not satisfied with his or her experience. If this happens, you can pinpoint the problem, make changes and then offer an even better direct experience for your customers.

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Brand Yourself Better with Authentic Stock Photography

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This the female-founded startup is on a mission to make stock photography more diverse, authentic, and affordable.

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In a crowded digital marketplace with many competitors around the same products, branding is one of the most important elements to help your business stand out from the crowd. You don’t want to promote your product as just the same as everyone else’s, or use bland stock photography to showcase your company’s story. Go beyond the ordinary stock photo libraries with Scopio Authentic Stock Photography.

Featured on CNN and HuffPost, the female-founded Scopio is on a mission to make stock photography more diverse, authentic, and affordable. 

Scopio’s extensive (and growing) library includes more than 400,000 diverse images taken by more than 13,000 photographers across 150 countries. When you sign up, you’ll get access to all of it with standard and extended licenses, giving you the flexibility to use images in a multitude of ways. With Scopio, you’ll get access to amazing photography from authentic creators to use in your marketing, ads, websites, social media, merchandise, and more—all for one upfront price.

Scopio goes beyond normal stock libraries by using AI to help businesses and creatives alike connect to find unlimited, royalty-free images daily. No photo on Scopio is posed or redundant, they’ve already gone above and beyond to purge the library of duplicates or too-similar imagery. Better yet, Scopio pays creators well so you can rest easy knowing you’re not exploiting the creative industry.

With fewer restrictions, you’ll have unlimited access to an enormous, diverse photo library and gain access to new editorial images and current events every month. No matter how you want to brand your business, Scopio will help you do it in a meaningful, thoughtful way.

Supercharge your branding with Scopio. Right now, you can sign up for a lifetime subscription and also get $30 in store credit for just $29.99.

Prices subject to change.

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3 Reasons Simple Isn’t Always Better When It Comes Logo Designs

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5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Let’s say that, like me, you’ve been thinking about redesigning your logo. You don’t want anything too drastic. You want to keep your recognizability and avoid alienating your existing customers. With this much at stake, a minimal design seems ideal.

Minimalism could be defined as simple taken to extremes, and simple is good, right?

In fact, before I started analyzing my rebranding process, I would have said that simple was better — always.

Related: 5 Cardinal Rules of Logo Design

After all, simplicity is frequently touted as a major strength in graphic design in general. Some may even go so far as to say unequivocally that simple design is a must. But minimalism is a style that could potentially detract from your logo design, so it isn’t always the best choice.

I don’t want to knock it — simple does work in a lot of cases. But I’ve discovered some important reasons why simple logos to the extent of minimalism may not be best for my logo — and maybe not for yours, either.

Loss of uniqueness and memorability

If I made a shortlist of qualities that a logo absolutely must have, two of them would be the uniqueness factor and memorability.

These two really go hand in hand. A unique logo is often memorable simply because it’s unique. Of course, that doesn’t always mean it’s a good logo. Nor does it always mean that it’s successful. I tend to remember bad logos far easier than good ones, usually because they made me laugh or took me by surprise. “How did that one get approved?”

But it’s one thing if you’re mocking up a logo. It’s quite another if you’re designing a long-term logo that needs to carry the load of your branded visuals. 

This calls for balance. It may be easy to get too complicated with a logo by adding a plethora of elements that don’t need to be there. But you can err on the other side, too. I’ve worked on my own mock-ups for logo ideas in the past, and I tend to keep reducing the number of elements hoping that minimalism will bring clarity.

What I’ve found instead is that sometimes excessive minimalism strips away everything unique and memorable about the design. If it’s a question of retaining those two vital elements or keeping things “minimalistic,” then I most definitely advise adding details back in.

Related: How to Create a Logo

Potential for poor messaging

Every once in a while, I come across a logo for a company that is so minimalistic I can’t quite figure out what the logo is. Or what company it represents. Or how I’m supposed to feel about it. Or whether I’m even the intended audience.

Logos are vital for marketing and brand identity, and that all comes back to the message that the logo sends.

In working on my rebrand, I want to ensure that my logo makes my company — and its goals — clear. For me, that means using a combination mark with a graphic and my company name. It can be done simply, true, but it still requires a few extra elements. And I’m willing to add those in, in order to clarify my messaging.

Minimalism is in the eye of the beholder

A final reason not to force simplicity and minimalism in your logo design is that everyone defines “minimal” differently. For complex designers, five elements might be considered minimal. For those graduates of the minimalist school, a single element may be perfection, and everything else is superfluous.

Not only do graphic designers view “minimalism” as a moveable goal line, so does the audience. I could do a test run of a logo I consider simple, or even minimal, and get feedback from one person that says it’s boring and from another that says it’s too gaudy and overstuffed.

Related: 5 Tips for Professional Marketing Materials 

Don’t get me wrong — I absolutely advocate getting feedback from unbiased third parties, and I feel that all feedback is valid and potentially valuable. But pushing a particular design style will only impact the designer; your audience is more interested in how the logo design works overall.

If you’re chasing a minimalistic logo design, continually stripping away elements, it may not come across to your audience as “minimal” but “unfinished.”

Putting it simply

So if you shouldn’t chase minimalism, does that mean that you should overload your logo design, hoping that the plethora of elements makes it unique, memorable, on-message, and appealing to your audience?

In a word — no.

I always advocate for balance in design, especially as it relates to branding. Going too far one way or the other is more likely to alienate some of your target audience. For my rebrand, I want a logo that is clean, easy to understand, and doesn’t distract from the message. For me, I doubt minimalism will give me the results that I want. But neither will a crowded, chaotic logo design.

The point I ultimately want to make here is reflected in the way the title is worded: I don’t want to chase minimal design. Chasing design trends down tends to make the finished product feel forced and unnatural. In my business, I’ve found that it’s far more effective to allow an organic design process, which results in a logo that fits the brand — and promotes success.

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If You’re Using These Marketing Tactics, You’re Hurting Your Brand’s Credibility

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You’ll need good marketing to increase sales in your business, so have a solid strategy.

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Entrepreneurs are always hungry for new clients and growth strategies that work. The online gurus know this, so they use emotional-trigger-based marketing tactics to convince business leaders to buy their courses or services. These questionable marketing tactics tend to lead to refund requests, chargebacks and consumers that won’t do business with them again.

Even if you provide something of value, how you market it will affect your sales depending on your approach. As you build out your marketing strategy, avoid these three commonly used marketing tactics because they tie you to a culture of bro-marketing and online gurus. Consider a different approach before these tactics detail your business growth. 

Related: 4 Annoying Online Marketing Tactics to Stop Right Now

1. Displaying revenue screenshots.

These days, it’s common for entrepreneurs to display Stripe or PayPal revenue screenshots on social media, or even on their websites. There’s no doubt that consumers are drawn to seeing sales and big numbers. But it’s a toxic marketing strategy — it may generate sales in the short term, but it repels high-end clients and more potential customers in the long term. 

The consumers who buy based on what they see in revenue screenshots tend to be in a challenging financial position and need to generate income quickly. They aren’t in the place to focus on what it takes to do the work that increases revenue, and they end up disappointed when they buy as a result of flashy marketing. 

Real wealth and growth don’t self-advertise. Have you ever seen business leaders such as Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, or Oprah post revenue screenshots? The results that your customers experience are a better way to market your business. Publish solid content and you can nurture cold prospects. Separate yourself from guru marketing by relentlessly focusing on serving your customers. 

Related: 6 Outdated Marketing Tactics You Need to Leave in the Past (Where They Belong)

2. Sharing client wins with no attribution.

Have you ever seen an entrepreneur posting about clients getting X results, but they never name or tag the clients? The clients they’re posting about may very well be experiencing wins, but in a guru marketing world, the consumer is skeptical.

Some clients would prefer to remain private and not share their information — that’s understandable. But, more than a few of your clients would welcome a shout-out. You have clients that are comfortable with you sharing their wins. The only way to know for sure is to ask. 

The goal is to show what your business offers, and you can do this by sharing your clients’ results and testimonials. Get permission where possible — don’t just share wins that don’t appear real to cold consumers. 

Related: 3 Marketing Tactics to Avoid Next Year

3. Marketing results from years ago. 

Over your years of building a business, you’ll no doubt experience wins. You’ll get results that consumers and colleagues will want to know more about. In marketing, your goal is to prove that your philosophy does work — mainly through marketing the results you and your clients have experienced. 

However, growth-focused entrepreneurs stay at the forefront of their industries. They don’t get a result and market those wins for years without working on getting more results. It’s acceptable to market the results you’ve obtained in the past, but ask yourself if you continue to do the work that helps you grow.

When cold prospects see that your marketing results are old, it will dissuade them from doing business with you. Consumers want to do business with industry leaders, and you become a leader by constantly honing the work you’re putting into your craft. One of the best ways to grow a business is by doing the work that optimizes your personal growth. Commit to becoming the best at what you do. 

If you’re going to increase sales in your business, you’ll need good marketing. However, there’s a way to market your business more authentically. Avoid tactics that may work for a little while but will ultimately hurt your brand credibility. 

Related: 7 Ways to Correct a Failing Marketing Strategy

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How To Avoid Rainbow-Washing In Your Pride Marketing Efforts

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Rainbow logo: check. Here’s what else you should consider.

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I get pitched a lot by publicists, agents and agencies for this column. Because I often use the behavior of certain people or companies as a jump-off point for articles, it makes sense that PR professionals would seek out similar coverage for their clients.

Publicists and account reps have many different resources for building their network, and an increasingly popular approach is to join and participate in online communities such as PR-focused Facebook groups. I’m in a few of these myself to stay informed, and the other day I saw a passing post that mentioned some new LGBTQ-related research. I’m always interested in seeing and referencing new data-backed studies, so I commented and asked for the press release.

I thought I wrote “Feel free to send that report my way.” But from the looks of my inbox the past few weeks, perhaps I blacked out and actually said something more along the lines of “Open Sesame!”, because the number of pitches I’ve received lately has been bonkers. 

Brand after brand has forwarded me their “revolutionary” new campaign in which they’ve printed a rainbow version of their product and are giving a portion of proceeds to an LGBTQ-focused charity. I’ll certainly never turn my nose up at a company’s charitable giving efforts. But I’m also worried. For many of these companies, a rainbow version of their product for the month of June feels both performative and — dare I say it — lazy. 

We know that we exist. So we want to see more than awareness in your pride marketing; we want to see allyship and innovation. Here are a few ideas on what that could look like — and why companies should care.

Related: The LGBTQ+ Community Has $3.7 Trillion In Purchasing Power; Here’s How We Want You to Sell to Us.

Consumer psychology has changed

Consumers increasingly look to where a brand stands on topics of social justice to determine their loyalty. Your customers and clients want to follow your company and buy your product not only for what it does, but also for what you stand for. 

We all like to purchase from companies that get us. And according to polling data from Gallup, the roar of both the LGBTQ community and economy is only getting louder. Highlights from that data include:

  • 5.6% of Americans identifying as LGBTQ, up from 4.5% in 2017,

  • 9.1% of millennials identifying as LGBTQ, with about half of that population identifying as bisexual, and

  • Nearly 16% of gen Z identifying as LGBTQ, with 72% of that population identifying as bisexual. 1.8% of Gen Z identifies as transgender.

Translation? Queer people exist, and younger people identify as queer in greater numbers. Oppression efforts continue to run rampant, so we need your help.

As of this writing, 17 anti-transgender bills have already been signed into law this year, per a press release from the Human Rights Campaign. The impact these bills will have on trans youth is staggering; a University of Arizona study found that trans youth experience far higher suicide attempt rates, but an affirmation of their identity and pronouns by parents can greatly reduce this number.

Financial data on the LGBTQ community also paints a complex picture. Mainstream stereotypes depict queer people as lavish and fabulous. But overall, LGBTQ people are more likely to experience socioeconomic inequality, according to a demographics report from UCLA.

As you create awareness for the LGBTQ community during pride month, take time in your messaging to give context. Share with your audience about the current challenges we face as well as where your company stands.

Related: This Is What LGBTQ Customers Actually Want to See During Pride Month

How to attract loyal customers who promote you on their behalf

If pride marketing feels like walking on eggshells this year, here are a few steps you can take that are largely guaranteed to make a difference.

  • Hand the microphone over. Instead of rainbow-washing a community’s needs, partner with a community leader who can speak to important issues in an informed, compelling way. Influencer marketing is still a slippery slope, but spokespeople have been a tried-and-true visibility tactic for decades. The approach is win/win.

  • Do something outside of June. If you’ve missed the opportunity to promote pride in June… there are LGBTQ-related awareness days throughout the year. Your campaign is less likely to get caught in the rainbow-washed echo chamber that is June, too.

  • Go local. GLAAD’s Media Reference Guide includes a directory of community organizations to spotlight and be aware of. What are your local organizations, and how can you encourage supporting them? These grassroots initiatives often make an immediate impact and can literally save lives.

Related: As Pride Month Ends, Here Are 3 Ways To Continue Supporting The LGBTQ+ Community

The LGBTQ economy continues to grow, and as a result the pride marketing landscape is changing. Instead of phoning it in, use marketing dollars to spotlight issues that truly matter to your customers. Challenge yourself to zig when others zag, and you’re more likely to command our market’s attention for months and years to come.

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Free Webinar | May 11: Smart Storytelling for Impactful Marketing

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Join Julian Mitchelll, co-founder of IQ Labs Inc to learn the art of strong brand building through impactful storytelling.

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The convergence of media, marketing and technology has redefined the mechanics of building brands in the modern world. In a digital era dominated by social media and short-form video, brands express their value and perspective through storytelling, making content the language brands use to communicate. Thus, the most impactful brands understand that content is more than a marketing strategy; it’s a tool to create conversation, build community and design culture.

Join Julian Mitchell, award-winning marketer, multimedia journalist and co-founder of IQ Labs Inc, for an encore viewing of his workshop about the mechanics of building impactful brands through smart and effective storytelling.

  • Lesson 1: Identify the market-fit opportunity
  • Lesson 2: How to shape your brand story
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Julian Mitchell is an award-winning marketer, instructor, and multimedia journalist and founder of IQ Labs Inc. He’s spearheaded content and campaign strategy for brands like Beats By Dre, Honda, Wells Fargo, Google, Amazon Studios, Luc Belaire, the NFL and Magic Johnson Enterprises. In 2013, Mitchell worked alongside Sean “Diddy” Combs to launch REVOLT Media & TV as Social Media and Editorial Director.

Prior to launching IQ Labs, Mitchell spent four years as a Forbes columnist covering disruptive entrepreneurs and startups, in addition to profiling the biggest names and news across music, media and entertainment. Mitchell carries years of experience as an instructor for MediaBistro, also speaking and serving on the advisory board of notable conferences such as CES, VidCon, Summit, Social Media Week, ANA, A3C, and MegaFest among others.

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The Danger of Linking Yourself to Your Brand

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6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Have you ever stopped and thought about how self-promotion has evolved over the years? Back when I joined the workforce decades ago, you promoted yourself via a fully-stocked resume. A college degree. An internship with a reputable company.

These days, it’s just as common to see someone brand themselves as an entrepreneur and launch a startup based on their TikTok presence and facility with YouTube tutorials. Not that there’s anything wrong with that — we should all be in favor of the entrepreneurial spirit, regardless of how it manifests itself. And we’ve all been taught that we should mold our brands around ourselves, that we should love what we do, that our companies deserve our passion.

Related: 7 Easy Ways to Use TikTok to Make Money

And that’s right — at least, to a certain degree. Once you get past that point, though, there can be a downside to molding a brand in the entrepreneur’s exact image behind it. There’s a dangerous trap in this that could hinder the growth and development of your brand.

Personal branding vs. company branding

First off, when I talk about personal branding, it isn’t that I’m against it. As an entrepreneur and CEO of a logo design company, I have first-hand experience of the importance of personal branding. If you are your company — if you’re an entertainer, an artist, if you do something inherently dependent on your personality — then it’s necessary.

Sometimes it seems like individuals can take it a little far, monetizing every little aspect of their lives, but that’s a personal decision. The road diverges, though, when company branding comes into play. Personal branding is about the individual; company branding is about the larger brand as a whole.

Company branding requires cohesiveness from everyone involved in the brand. Personal branding really only requires that the individual behind it follows through.

Related: 3 Principles for Personal Branding Success

The two may seem easy enough to keep separate, but when a brand has a big, bold personality behind it, things can start to get complicated.

Take Tesla as an example. Generally, the perception in recent years has been that Tesla owners and fans are also big fans of the company’s CEO, a name you may have heard of — Elon Musk.  Musk is inextricably entwined with his brands, and his name is one that most will think of when asked to provide an example of a successful entrepreneur. He’s built brands on his ideals, ideas, values, and spirit of exploration and innovation — and he’s made some controversial decisions, to say the least.

However, an interesting survey by Escalent notes that the CEO is actually one of the biggest factors against purchasing a Tesla for most potential consumers. Think about it. If there’s someone who understands personal branding, it’s Musk. And he’s very upfront about his personality, likes and dislikes, etc., all especially obvious if you follow him on Twitter. But his out-loud opinions and failure to use an inside voice, metaphorically speaking, have caused his personality to bleed into his brands’ perception.

That’s one of the clearest examples I can think of where a brand is just too closely linked to the entrepreneur behind it.

Related: The Basics of Branding

When an entrepreneur’s personality overshadows the brand identity

It isn’t always this clear-cut, of course. Some entrepreneurs have larger-than-life personalities; it isn’t their fault, necessarily, but there is something that can be done about it.

What it boils down to is the awareness of prioritizing brand over the individual. For an entrepreneur, pouring our hearts into our startup and trying to get everything just so that can be difficult to remember.

That’s part of why it’s so important to keep going back to your original goal with your startup. If you set out with the goal of company branding rather than personal branding, analyze your marketing, social media use, and other interactions and see whether you’re sticking by that.

Not every entrepreneur has an out-loud personality, of course. But there can be detractions in other ways, too. Too closely identifying your brand with your own personality runs the risk that if someone doesn’t like you as the entrepreneur, they’ll avoid your company, too. Whether you’re loud or quiet, your reputation becomes the reputation of the brand.

Note that this is going to happen to some degree, regardless of what measures you take. But it’s better, in the long run, to focus on building the brand personality; it will mitigate the impact that your own personality has, to a certain extent, and allows you as the entrepreneur to cultivate a brand that reflects your values and passions — not your opinions.

Balancing the cult of personality with brand growth

If you’re one of those entrepreneurs with a charismatic personality, able to talk your way out or into anything, with a winning smile and a whimsical charm — well, congratulations. Not everybody is born that way.

Charisma is a bonus for an entrepreneur, but it isn’t a requirement of entry to the world of startups and product launches.

It’s perfectly fine to leverage personal charm on behalf of your brand. As any entrepreneur knows, we need to use all the tools we have at our disposal to make a success of our business.

But it’s smart to be cautious about how much emphasis you put on yourself as a person at the brand’s expense. A big, bold personality doesn’t have to be negative — it just has to be appropriately channeled.

As the entrepreneur behind your startup, you may consider yourself the face of the brand, but don’t forget that the brand personality has to shine through. That’s the best way to avoid wearing your brand’s reputation on your sleeve, and one of the best things you can do to help your brand has a life of its own — even beyond yours.

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4 Ways to Build Brand Loyalty as the Economy Opens Back Up

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5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Despite the economy starting to open back up, many businesses have not been able to survive the the events of the last year or so. However, there are many others that have kept their doors open. Although it is commendable that your business remains, there is no time to celebrate. 

Instead, you need to stay focused on efforts to build brand loyalty. With the reopening of the economy, those who had previously shuttered businesses may try to open a new one and fresh entrepreneurs will also step up to compete for the attention of today’s consumers. 

The unprecedented times over the course of the last year changed many things, including consumer preferences, expectations and purchase behaviors. To maintain and add more loyal followers, consider these four tactics. 

Related: Why You Should Use WhatsApp Business in 2021

What’s to love?

Start by identifying why your best customers love you. Is it the value they perceive from your product or service? Does their demographic profile (age, income, location, and other factors) draw them to what you offer?

Once you determine the factors that make you attractive to others, then you can leverage those factors in your marketing materials. You will want to share those attributes across all channels in a consistent way. 

Once you have the messaging ready, it’s time to reach out to those in your target audience so they see your offer. Put together testimonials and lean into what makes your business great within the messaging. You may even want to ask current fans of your brand to serve as ambassadors to share what they love about your products and services with their social circle. 

Related: How Taco Bell Proves Old-School Marketing Tactics Still Work

Rewards for referrals and ongoing use

The last thing you want is to make your customers feel they are being taken for granted. If you never return the love they are giving your brand, then they might not believe you truly value them.

You can build brand loyalty with your existing customers by showing them regular appreciation when they share your products and services with others. That means rewarding your current customer base with some type of monetary incentive, discount or exclusive product/service so they feel special. 

Two ways to implement a rewards system are to incentivize referrals as well as the continued purchase of your products or services. Both are clear “thank you’s” to your customers. That appreciation will most likely compel them to remain loyal. 

To offer these rewards in a consistent way, you will need to develop and oversee a formal referral program. Creating a structured program not only makes it easy for customers to refer their friends, family and colleagues, but it also facilitates your tracking of those referrals. Doing so will give you the data that shows the return on investment (ROI) of these reward programs. 

Related: Make Sure to Ask Yourself These 3 Business Questions for 2021

Creativity on the edge

With ever-changing expectations, needs and perspectives among your customer base and target audience, you can’t become complacent and just stick with “what has always worked.” There will come a time (sooner, more likely than later) where what worked no longer does. 

To continue building brand loyalty, you will need to be creative, push the limits and take risks. This includes challenging all your assumptions about your business and your old ways of interacting with your customers. Stretch the boundaries of what you develop as new products, services and workflows. Over time, this daring approach will be one of the only ways to stand out and continue adding value for customers and your audience, especially as competition intensifies. 

You can encourage your team to take creativity to the edge by hosting brainstorming sessions and contests to reward the most innovative approaches to product development, marketing, and customer interaction. Cultivating a culture that thrives on continual change can also inspire everyone to seek different messaging and unique products and services that keep customers coming back for more.  

Related: 8 Content Marketing Ideas to Strengthen Your Bottom Line

Sooner is better

If we have learned anything from the past year, it’s that we do not have the luxury of time to decide how to change. The faster you can pivot to address evolving customer preferences and experiences, the better opportunity you will have to retain as many customers as possible. 

If you do not start building brand loyalty immediately, you will only face greater competition. Recent increases in job postings and loosened restrictions point to more businesses opening up. Thanks to economic stimulus and increasing confidence that the economy is set to fully open across the country, entrepreneurs and small business owners will be inspired to take action. As an organization that made it through the past year, the time to make a move is now. The newly opened businesses are eager and hungry, so they will do whatever it takes to win over customers, including those you have counted on for years. 

Although there is urgency involved in addressing brand loyalty, it is also important to take a thoughtful and measured approach to implement a results-based brand loyalty strategy and accompanying tactics. Before getting started, check in with your customers and find out what’s on their minds, including listening to anything that has changed for them. Not only will this inform how you select brand loyalty initiatives, but the act of reaching out to them to better understand what it takes to retain them can have a positive effect on your loyalty efforts. 

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How to Test and Choose the Best Name for Your Business

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6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


The following excerpt is from Brad Flowers’s The Naming Book. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound or click here to buy it directly from us and SAVE 60% on this book when you use code MARKET2021 through 4/24/21.

When beta testing your business name, my first inclination is to say “Don’t.” Be confident. Stick to your choice. But that’s hard to do. You’ve likely never named a company before and will want some assurance that you aren’t totally crazy.

But some ways of getting feedback are better than others. Here’s how to set up a test for your name finalists.

Create a Deck

Using presentation software, find a photo that’s relevant to your industry. Place the image in the background of the slide and make it darker so the word will be clearly legible when viewed in white text. The image will make the word feel more like a brand name and less like a word on a screen. People must be able to imagine the name as something that stands for a company, not just a word on paper. I’d use the same image on each slide to ensure your group is responding to the word and not the image. Then create two slides for each name using two different fonts. For the first slide, use Helvetica. For the second, use Times New Roman.

Run a Focus Group

Gather a small focus group. The best group will have a broad cross-section of people. Ideally, they’d be potential customers, but that might be logistically difficult. The main thing is to ensure you have a range of people, from those who know a lot about language to those who have a fairly low literacy level. By that, I mean people who don’t read much or think critically about language. (This will be easy because that’s the majority of people.) This kind of group will give you valuable insight into how very different people will respond to your potential names. One person’s “I love it!” is someone else’s “No way. I don’t get it.”

Give your focus group 30 seconds with each slide, or a total of 60 seconds per name. Have them rate each name from 1 to 10. Also ask them to jot down a few initial impressions. Then go back through and tell them a few sentences about the back story to each name. Have them note down whether knowing what the name means makes their reaction more or less favorable. This will tell you if an origin story will help the name or hurt it.

Tally up the results. This information shouldn’t make the decision for you, but it will tell you how some people might respond to your name. Here’s a word of caution from Alexandra Watkins in her book Hello, My Name Is Awesome: “Because language belongs to all of us, most people feel very qualified to comment on it. What’s tricky is that we’re not very good at drawing the line as to which bits of linguistic comment require specialist knowledge and which don’t.”In other words, listen to what people say about the name, but remember that they’re not experts. Often people feel obligated to give their opinion when asked, even if they have no knowledge base for making that judgment.

How to Pick Just One

After eliminating some names with the above criteria and testing the remaining names with your focus group, you should now have fewer than five names on your list. Here are a few concrete ways to narrow your list down even more and determine which name is the best choice for you.

State Business Name Search

Go to your secretary of state’s website to see if the name is already registered in your state. There’s likely to be some competition for many names. You have to be able to register your name with the state to do business there, so the level of competition will help you eliminate some of your choices. Making sure no other business has your exact name is important; however, you’ll likely find names that are similar or that use some parts of your proposed name. For example, you might find an Acme Business Solutions. That does not prohibit you from registering Acme Pools as a business name.

 

At this point, you aren’t actually registering any names. You’re simply using the state business name search tool to whittle down your shortlist of names. You’ll likely be able to eliminate one or more names because they’re too similar to another name in your state and in your industry.

Basic Market Research

Next, do some Google searches to check for direct competitors with the same or similar names. Try looking by geography. For example, if you wanted to start an athletic shoe company in the Pacific Northwest called Nike (obviously not a good idea), you could search for “Nike Portland.” Or you can search by type of business: “Nike Athletic Shoes.” Or “Nike running shoes.”

You can do similar searches on social media platforms. Sometimes international companies that you might have missed elsewhere will show up there. Again, this isn’t a definitive approach to picking one name. These simple steps will eliminate any obvious, glaring issues that might come up, such as another company by the same or similar name in the same or a related industry. You won’t catch everything with these searches, but don’t worry—the next step will get anything you missed.

Trademarking

The next step is to run your finalists through a trademark search. You need to know if there’s someone out there who already has and will defend the name you want to use. The easiest place to do this is at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s website (https://www.uspto.gov/). This isn’t a substitute for applying for your own trademark—at this point, you’re just trying to eliminate names that are already trademarked by someone else.

In the end, it comes down to a difficult decision. With all the criteria, care, and technique in the world, you still can’t predict whether your customers will get it, love it, or just ignore it. You can put your best foot forward, though. And this process is oriented toward that goal.

Did you enjoy your book preview? Click here to grab a copy today—now 60% off when you use code MARKET2021 through 4/24/21.

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