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April 14, 2004
Branding Big When You’re Small

Not the ‘B’ word again I can hear you all moan… what’s new to say here? Nothing. That’s right… it’s all been thought of, said, done before. So why are we always seeking more? Hui-Hai, a great Zen master once said, “Your treasure house is within you. It holds everything you will ever need.” Tell that to the A types that dominate the ad business.

Years working for giant corporations and agencies whose names were longer than a new pharmaceutical have convinced me that size yields clout but being tiny enables agility—in thinking as well as acting. Drop the lingo and buzz words, the theories and philosophies and go Zen. Not only will it be refreshing, it will help you stand out from the clatter of those who are trying too hard.

So how can you clear the clutter and shine brightly among the goliaths out there? There are ways and here are just a few:

  • Know who you are—each individual (and each company) is unique and understanding and communicating your point of difference is an essential starting point. I’ve read far too many resumes or company profiles that are indistinguishable from each other. Is there safety in sameness? Does a distinctive style seem limiting? Worry not. Being expert in a specialty makes you invaluable to a select albeit smaller audience and also a great press source!
  • Say it simply but with style—unique needn’t mean oblique. Too often, businesses get lost in their own imagery or none at all. Your name, your logo, your website should not be an inside joke, some obscure illusion. There is a fine line between being boring and being obtuse. What’s more, personality should not be a special outfit you keep in the closet for cocktail parties and interviews… It should permeate all you think and do. Consider this as you write resumes, design websites, create communication packages for business development.
  • Listen before you speak—it’s not just good etiquette, it’s smart business! One size really doesn’t fit all and even brilliance is relative. Whether it’s landing a job, wooing a new client or finding a mate, lead by listening. You may—or may not—have what someone else needs but you must first learn about them. Then and only then can you offer ideas or solutions. There is something very appealing about telling a prospect ‘I don’t think I’m the right fit for your business but keep me in mind for futures’. Its integrity stands out and leads you to places you may never have gotten. Trust me… I know!
  • Stay in touch—relationships need nurturing and today, there are many ways to stay in touch and continue the learning process that never really ends. For some clients, electronic newsletters—with simple, useful information may work. For others, a regularly scheduled conference call. Drop notes that offer insights or leads on their business. Finally, get out there. Take advantage of opportunities to speak or write, participate on committees, be visible. It’s how your name is top of mind when a need arises.
  • Think BIG when you’re small - I actually AM talking about size here. Let's face it - if you're a party of one, it may be hard to devise a lofty ad campaign, but that's no reason for being shy. One of the smartest ways to get the word out is through guerrilla marketing. There are so many styles and funky ways to get noticed and for businesses with tiny budgets, a lot of bang for the buck! In fact, you might be able to swing a trade - your message here for your service there. Spunky at the very least!

Tactics aside, the best approach always is to trust your instincts (or should I first say—listen to them!), be who you are and stay open to change. Trying harder may not be best since discord and difficulty could well be a signal to move on. When you’re small, it’s actually easier to change course and small craft have speed on their side. Smooth sailing!

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Launched by Diane Cimine, Cimine Enterprises assists new businesses seeking ready markets as well as established businesses looking to expand. A talented professional, Diane Cimine has held impressive posts with Saatchi & Saatchi, American Express in London, and Philip Morris USA’s as Director of Media for tobacco brands. Most recently Diane was CMO of the Outdoor Advertising Association of America.
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