Speaking at the Dauphin Direct Farm Marketing Conference


On March 9th I had an privilege to speak to a fabulous group of farm business owners, MAFRI folks and others. Being my first public speaking opportunity, I was honestly a little intimidated. But from all the reports and feedback, it went very well. And I really enjoyed it. A shout out to the all the organizers of the weekend, including Friday evening’s Savour the Flavour Event. It was great.

Many of you have been asking for my Coles Notes version of my talk, so I’ve finally put it up here:

Tell your Story to build Your Brand Business

What is branding? At one time it was a simple mark of ownership for cattlemen. While it still conveys the ownership idea, over the past 30+ years branding has morphed into a rather sophisticated art and science of differentiating companies from one another.

Here’s one possible working definition of branding:

Your brand is your personal or corporate promise. It tells your customer what to expect from your products and services. It sets you and your offerings apart from your competitors. Your brand is not only who you are, who you want to be, it is, more importantly, what your customers, competitors and public say you are.

Now an entire industry has sprung up around branding – complete with it’s own brandspeak, lexicon, and jargon. In my humble opinion the many definitions of brands (and branding vocabulary) have become convoluted, conflicting and rather confusing.

So let’s stop talking about branding. Instead lets have a conversation about building your business. I have noticed most small business owners get pretty excited about dicussing their business, product or sevice offerings –but shut down with a blank look when asked about their brand or brands. So lets just talk about your business.

What business challenges do you face?

What do you want? – more sales, more customers, better customers, paying customers, etc. to inform, to develop awareness, to educate

Your business should begin with your story.

Give yourself permission to be authentic. Tell your own story. Define who you are. It can be difficult, time-consuming and certainly uncomfortable. At a bare minimum, answer these questions:

  1. Why do you do what you do? (What is your mission and purpose)
  2. How do you do it?
  3. What do you do?

Instead of the normal what, how, and why, the above set of questions were flipped. Because what you do doesn’t matter as much when you know your why. “Why” gets you up in the morning. Knowing why is energizing. And most customers, studies show, don’t really buy what you do. They buy why you do it. They buy from you because there is something about your story that resonates with them. Check out Simon Sinek’s book entitled Start with Why.

Write it down. 

Just the simple act of putting it on paper helps you enter into it. What are the key elements you want to communicate about your business? What emotion do you want to convey. Be authentic. Be real. Share your failures. Share your triumphs.

Develop a tagline.

This is also referred to as a positioning statement. Write a memorable, meaningful and concise statement that captures the essence of who you are. It doesn’t have to be a sentence. A good rule is one to six words.

An example: I helped Select Incentives, a company that developed travel packages as sales incentives come up with two words – Rewarding Work – why did it work? It actually worked on a couple levels. For the company, it emphasized how they felt about what they did. And for their clients, it instantly stated their promise.

Your marketing communication material all that you include in your communications and imagery – online and off – should really maintain a consistent tone and look. A few things to keep in mind:

Begin with emotion.

Studies have shown that 100 percent of decisions are based entirely in emotion. They are reinforced by facts, but it’s the the gut feeling you get -your intuition that initiates a buying decision. What feelings do you want to convey regarding your business?  Develop a colour pallete to match the emotion – primary and secondary color pallette and again, keep it consistent.

Choose a typeface. Read Stop Stealing Sheep and Start Designing Real Type – A good rule is to limit yourself to two fonts – A san serif for headlines and captions, and a serif font for body text. Used properly can enhance and emphasize your story.

Develop templates and standards (for all company materials). Again use consistent imagery and color scheme. Don’t be afraid to own the look. Make it yours. Are you quarky, fun?

Where and how you use your logo is important. A general rule of thumb: your logo is the finishing touch and subtle reminder of who you are. It’s not a billboard – it’s  the hood ornament. Fight the temptation to make your logo bigger.

Again, be consistent. From what you say, to how you say it, absolutely everything reflects your business. Think beyond marketing material – think email signatures, Phone ettiquette, sales attire

And most importantly, Integrity is not a verb. But ‘doing’ the right thing is. Customers won’t return to you–or refer you to anyone else–if you don’t do the right thing every time, all the time.