Feature Video

Answer These 4 Questions for a Better Understanding of Your Brand

randing isn't just for big businesses. Every company, from Nike to Nick's Plumbing needs to understand its brand and what it means to existing and potential customers.

Figuring out your own brand and how well you represent it may be a bit tricky, but it's a worthwhile exercise. The following four questions can help you determine if you truly understand your brand and the impact that day-to-day behaviours can have on it.

1. Do you have brand standards?
Simple things, including font and colour consistency across all communications can go a long way toward establishing your brand. Here's an exaggerated example: If you were an investment advisor responsible for taking care of your client's financial future, would you want this to be your brand font?

Jane Doe - Financial Advisor

If you, as a potential customer, saw this, would it inspire you to trust the company with your retirement fund? Of course not.

On the flip side, if you're trying to brand yourself as the low-cost alternative to your competition, using fancy letterhead or a prestigious-looking font can actually work against you:

Joe's Discount Emporium

2. How do you address customers or clients?
A very formal brand always refers to clients by their last name with an appropriate salutation, such as "Dear Mr. Smith" or "Dear John Smith." A moderately informal brand will often refer to clients by their last name, unless directed otherwise by the customer: "Hello, Mr. Smith" or "Hello, John." An informal brand will usually refer to clients by their first name: "Hi, John."

Beyond that, there are subtle but important differences in how you greet and refer to your customers in correspondence.

As a greeting, do you use "Hi"? "Hello"? "Hey"? "Dear"? "Attention"? Each of these conveys something slightly different. If you want your business to be perceived as fun, friendly and carefree, you might use "Hi" or "Hey." However, most businesses would fall safely into the "Hello" camp. More formal relationships would use "Dear" or "Attention" as it conveys a less-than-personal connection.

And what do you call the people who buy from you? Do you refer to them as customers? Clients? Patrons? A simple word change can impact the formality of the relationship. Consider how "one of our premier clients" has a completely different feel to it than "one of our favourite customers." Which is more appropriate for you and your company?

3. Can you pick a pen?
If presented with a collection of different promotional pens, could you choose the one (based on size, colour, weight, quality, etc.) that best represents your company? You may be surprised to know that most business people find that very difficult to do. And when they do choose, more often than not, they pick the wrong pen. But if you truly know your brand, it's an easy, instinctive choice.

If your company relies on trust, you wouldn't pick a fun, funky or cheap pen.

If your company appeals to people's playful side, you wouldn't pick the most basic, corporate pen available.

If your company is known for getting things done right, you'd keep it simple but temper it with high quality.

To practice this approach, you can also look at everyday items, including furniture, artwork, even coffee cups, and ask yourself, "If I had a waiting room, would I want this to be what potential customers see?" As you get better at answering that question, you'll get better at instinctively knowing your brand.

4. Do you live your brand every day?
Maintaining a professional image is important if you want to portray a professional brand. This applies to any aspect of your business that your customer will encounter. Your stationery, your storefront, your logo, your vehicle, your employees — everyone and everything that connects you with your customers needs to match the image you're trying to convey.

Here's another good brand identity exercise: Spend three days paying attention to everything that customers can and will see during your interactions with them. Then play a game of "which of these things is not like the others" to identify the points of contact that don't fully support the image you're trying to create.

With practice, you can become your own brand champion. You probably already know most of what makes up your brand. Just give yourself time to think about it and then get used to living it every day.

The overall benefit of having a strong brand is that your customers and potential customers will know what to think of you and, more important, when to think of you, i.e. at the time buying decisions are made.

5 Easy Ways to Market Your Business

Safeguard Newsletter

5 Easy Ways to Market Your Business

Many small business owners believe that marketing is something only big businesses can afford. That it takes a department full of strategists and experts to launch a successful marketing campaign.

What they may not realize is that every time they drop off a business card, send a free promotional pen to a prospective customer, or attend a trade show, they are marketing their business. Yes, it´s best to develop a strategy — a plan of action of what you want to accomplish and how you intend to accomplish it. It´s a lot easier to do than you think. Here are a few ideas that can help you develop your marketing plan.

Have the tools you need. Whether it´s a one-page flyer or a full-color brochure, you should be prepared to hand out, mail or deliver materials that describe your business and the products and services you offer. Good tools include business cards, catalogs, flyers, brochures, spec sheets, a list of frequently asked questions, customer testimonials and presentations.

Give something away to get potential customers. Everybody loves to receive something for free. Motivate people to give you their email address and other contact information with a freebie. The freebie could be your monthly newsletter, a white paper or a promotional item that would be of interest to them. In return for the freebie, ask them to supply their name, email address and phone number so you can add them to your list and market to them in the future — with their permission, of course!

Use the Internet. Having a website is almost as important as having a business card these days. And, with so many free and low-cost website hosting and design tools, there is no reason not to have one. Make sure your site has your contact information and a true representation of the products and services you provide. In addition, list your business on Google Places, free industry websites and business directories. Make sure your listing contains all the key words prospects are likely to search for and recognize.

Social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are additional platforms for small business marketing. These sites are a great way to introduce your business to potential and existing customers and start building an ongoing relationship with them.

Use the media. Think local. Find out who your local media contacts are and keep in touch. Become their expert or authoritative source. Write and submit articles related to your industry or the services you provide. Send news releases to the media about new products or services, a new employee or a small event you are participating in or hosting. Local media is always looking for regional stories and events, and what happens in your day-to-day business could be newsworthy.

Don´t neglect old but good methods. Make use of your industry association membership and attend events to gain knowledge and to network. Volunteer to speak at these events or at local business meetings. Also join networking groups in your area. All you need is your business card and a willingness to talk about your business.

Word of mouth is an often overlooked marketing method, but one of the most valuable. If someone is happy with your product or service, ask them to tell others.

Keep in regular contact with existing customers through an email newsletter, letter or visit. This is a great way to let them know what´s going on in your business and will help to keep you at the top of their minds.

Small things, such as responding promptly to emails, answering the phone professionally and following through with your commitments will set you apart from the crowd. Excellent customer service can generate great (and free) word-of-mouth marketing.

The Bottom Line Is This:
You want to get the word out to customers and prospects about your business and your capabilities. Every business uses some form of marketing. By taking the time to develop effective marketing strategies that fit with the interests of your target customers, you will save time, effort and money attracting and keeping customers in the long run.

For more information on how to develop effective marketing strategies, contact your personal consultant today. To locate a Safeguard Consultant in your area, call 800-616-9492 or visit

6 Smart Steps for Keeping Your Business Fraud Free

A recent survey by the Association for Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) provides some startling perspectives on the costs of fraud to today's businesses:

  • When you order new cheques, choose "signature required" upon receipt to make it harder for anyone who tries to intercept them before they arrive.
  • Nearly a quarter of all fraud incidents cost the affected company more than $1 million.
  • Respondents estimated that a typical business loses 5% of its revenue to fraud each year.

But the ACFE offers good news, too. Proactive, preventive security measures can dramatically reduce the cost of a fraud incident because they help a company detect the crime sooner. Fraud detected through surveillance and monitoring costs around $49,000, while instances discovered by law enforcement can cost a business in excess of $1 million.

While no prevention system can ever be fail-safe, the following steps can effectively help reduce your risk of fraud:

  1. Be vigilant about payment security Whether you're receiving payments or making them, payment security is paramount. For Internet sales, use address and card verification measures. Fully encrypt all points of payment to reduce the risk of hacking. When making payments, choose methods that have proven security protections in place, such as secure ePayment providers and high-security cheques.
  2. Monitor your business credit report Credit accounts are often the first place where signs of fraud will appear. Just as you monitor your personal credit, it's imperative to regularly monitor your business credit report for those telltale signs.
  3. Be careful during the hiring process Sadly, fraud often stems from internal sources. Thoroughly vet new employees, conducting full background checks on anyone who will have access to company funds, customer data or other proprietary information.
  4. Train employees in fraud recognition/prevention Educate employees who work with data, credit and cash about the signs of fraud and the steps they can take to protect your company. For example, train them to recognize how a credit card device might have been tampered with and stress the importance of shredding documents before disposal.
  5. Adopt and enforce cyber security measures In addition to keeping up-to-date anti-virus and anti-malware software on your company systems, implement and enforce a strict password policy. Establish clear guidelines for those who access company systems and implement a sensible policy for employees who want to use personal devices to interact with company systems.
  6. Manage cash and credit Keep a close eye on the movement of cash and credit within your business. Implement a checks & balances system, i.e. have one person sign cheques while a second person balances the company chequebook rather than having one person do both. Require approval for expenses and consider using security cameras to monitor inventory storage, credit-processing machines and cash registers.
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