Heed the mouse: Who do you serve and what do they need?

02.17.15 Brands for all markets (blog)

A trip to Disneyland and my husband’s profound comment recently put me in my place. Here’s the tale:

In my own book, Branding Basics for Small Business (2nd Edition), there’s a passage titled: All Markets Have a Brand Need. In it, I seek to clarify that “brand” is not just about high-end “luxury brands” but about being clear and consistent in the audience you reach and the market need you fill. From page 49:

Sometimes people think brand means expensive, as in “brand name.” High cost and exquisite quality are indeed brand attributes, but you could choose to sell a generic T-shirt or dinnerware that’s cheap and disposable, since certain audience segments have a real need for those items. As long as you clearly convey this message in everything you do, you can become known as the place to buy inexpensive white T-shirts or the most stylish, cheap, disposable dinnerware. Doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with that.

Having a strong brand doesn’t mean you have to charge the highest prices or offer the highest quality. It’s a nice side effect that often brand loyalty means customers are not buying based on price alone. But if your brand represents low prices (Wal-Mart) you can’t just all of the sudden start charging a boatload.

Brand is about setting expectations – and delivering on them. (Tweet this!)

Witness my recent trip to the Disneyland Resort to deliver a conference keynote. I texted a good friend that the Disney experience was so perplexing. High-touch customer service, calling you by name, a VIP Concierge at my beck and call (well, as the speaker, I guess!), and all staff (cast members) catering to your every whim. Such white-glove service – juxtaposed with people walking into a high-end steakhouse with flip-flops, mouse ears, and football jerseys.

And then I got snarky. As I’m prone to do.

“But such class and yet so much trashiness in one place is very confusing.”

OK, so I’m not proud of the “trashy’ comment. People are on vacation. Sometimes a vacation for which they’ve saved up for years. It was incredibly snobby even though I was just trying to be funny.  (Sorry, I’m human)

When I tempered this remark to my husband later on the phone, explaining how perplexed I was by the contradicting Disney brand experience, this clever man said,

“That’s what Disney is all about, though: that everyone deserves special VIP treatment, especially when they are on vacation. Doesn’t matter who you are: Disney treats you like royalty. That is their brand.”

And it hit me like a ton of bricks. There was no duality in the Disney brand. It was perfectly consistent with that brand strategy, as my husband described it. There are markets for everything and Disney’s market is making everyday people feel like royalty. So you see a wide array of demographics when you visit. Because it’s not about incomes, or tastes, or whether you like the opera or NASCAR. It’s about serving people of all ages who want to experience magic. Who want to be treated like VIP’s. Who want to be awed, delighted and spoiled rotten for a brief period of time.

There are all kinds of markets. And there are indeed all kinds of brands to serve those markets. Disney is not confused. It knows exactly who it serves and why.

The question is: Do you know who you serve? And can those people quickly tell from everything you say, do and offer that you will serve them exactly what they want and need?

Heed the Mouse. He’s a pretty smart little guy, isn’t he? (And so is my husband)

Your turn: Can you describe your target audience’s main desire that you serve? Or do you feel like you sometimes serve multiple audiences and have challenges creating a consistent brand as a result? Fire away in the Comments below!

Image Credit: Sean MacEntee via Flickr

Who is the hero of your brand?

How to be the Hero of Your Brand

You can always tell “ego brands.” They are the heroes of their own story, it’s all about them and they could care less about the value, satisfaction or delight of their customers or clients.

C’mon: I KNOW you’re thinking of an example right now!

Great brands like Apple, Starbucks (yes, despite my break up with them), Disney, Nike, Tom’s Shoes, Virgin America, Zappos all make the customer the hero. It’s about their needs, their experience, what the brand says about them as a person.

It’s about delighting the heroes of their story: their customers. (Tweet this!)

Good story structure always has a protagonist facing an antagonist to achieve his or her ultimate goal. Without the conflict, there is no good story. Who wants to read about Cinderella being this perfectly happy young girl who went to a ball and married her prince?


But throw in some mean stepsisters, a deadline of midnight and her unhappy life standing between her and her prince and – BAM – you get a riveting classic.

Your customer is the hero, the protagonist. Their pain points and unmet needs are all the conflicts they face. And your brand is the handsome prince. But never forget that the story is called Cinderella – not The Handsome Prince. It was never really about the prince. The story is about her.

How do you make your customers or clients the heroes of their own story? How do you solve their problems, remove the conflict and utterly delight and surprise them?

This post was inspired by a video I recently saw from Scotland’s Celtic football club – my husband’s favorite team from back home. This young boy is one of the team’s biggest fans and they have adopted him as their own, often having him in the team huddle (click here for the video plus full backstory). This moment will leave you in speechless tears of joy. The brand could have just celebrated its own win that day. But the team chose to share it with their biggest fan. This – THIS – is how you make your customers – your fans – the real heroes of the story.

3 Foolproof Networking Tips to Survive the Holidays

11.3 networking tips (blog)

Trick or treaters, pumpkin spice lattes and chilly weather usually signify one thing (the chilly weather part for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere anyway): the holidays are right around the corner.

And with that…the dreaded holiday networking mixer circuit.

While you know you should be doing more networking to boost your brand awareness and grow your business, it’s sort of like knowing you SHOULD be having more kale smoothies – but the thought makes you want to vomit.

But no need to dread, my friend. Here to share 3 tips to survive the holiday networking chaos is my friend and frequent Red Slice collaborator (some of you have read her guest posts here before), networking expert and author Sandy Jones-Kaminski of Bella Domain Media.

Holiday networking is not all eggnog, idle chit chat and cheesy sweaters. It CAN benefit your brand, too (Tweet this!)

  1. Don’t take networking too seriously. It can and should be fun. Connect with the intention of helping others rather than simply expecting to find the elusive perfect client or biz partner. Relax, take the pressure off yourself and focus on what you can bring to the party or offer in the form of ideas, knowledge or resources (websites, apps, connections, etc).
  2. Improve your outlook and your fortune will change. If you have a negative outlook on networking, you’re probably sabotaging your chances at connecting with the “right” people. Put all the negative or disappointing encounters behind you and focus on “what’s possible.”
  3. Take a proactive approach and get off the couch or out from behind your screen and get out there! You eventually have to meet people to know if you’ll really connect with them, and the more people you meet, the more likely you are to find the “right” people for you or your business.



What sanity-saving tips do you have for surviving the holiday networking season? Please share your thoughts below so we can all breathe easier!

Image credit USACE Europe via Flickr

Marketing 101: The Music Analogy

I am often asked to explain the difference between brand and marketing, and  strategy versus tactics to audiences and clients. But today guest columnist Boyan Blocka, a writer, marketer and business consultant based in Vancouver, Canada, gives us a musical jam version of these definitions that are way more fun. His company, Kyosei Consulting works with clients worldwide. 

When meeting with first-time small business owners, it’s not unusual that their marketing-speak is a little bit blurred. To help everyone get on the same page, I sometimes introduce a music analogy as a sort of quick ‘Marketing 101.’ 

So, without further adieu, ‘Marketing 101: The Music Analogy.’

Brand = Musical Style

I liken brand to your unique musical style. It determines ‘what and how’ you play (ie. market yourself) and is heavily influenced by your intended audience. Just like a unique musical style, your brand sets expectations in the customer’s mind, well before you even play your marketing piece.

If you think of Apple, you know their style well before they even touch their first keynote (pun intended). Hence, just like you know what Jazz sounds like without needing to know the name of the song, it’s easy to pinpoint Apple’s brand with only a few clues or even spot a brand copycat! 

Of course at this point, if my clients and I stay stuck in brand minutiae – I quickly plug my peer Maria Ross and her book ‘Branding Basics for Small Business’ (second edition now in print!) – but I digress… (Editor’s Note: Aw, thanks Boyan!)

Campaign = The Concert

A campaign is to a marketer what a concert is to a musician. Campaigns (just like good concerts) piggyback on and speak to current trends and audience preferences – all with designs to move an audience emotionally. So when companies measure and tweak their marketing based on user metrics – in rough musical terms, really what they’re doing is practicing their set and honing it to better get a rise out of you.

Marketing Piece = The Song

The actual marketing piece is the song that’s played. Carefully scored and crafted, drafted and re-drafted, a marketing piece must live and breathe the spirit of the brand and be consistent with the goals of the campaign it serves.

Strategy = The Hook of the Song

Next is strategy. Psychologically, strategies are like hooks (or catchy riffs in music parlance) used to capture the ear of the listener. The key differentiator of a strategy (versus, say, a tactic) is that strategies are as powerful today as they will be a hundred years from now. They’re timeless. A common example of a strategy is the use of ‘a free offer’ to tempt a prospect to try something new.

Strategies stem from an understanding of human behavior, memory, cognitive bias and effect. And, just like a good hook in music, they work reliably regardless of the instrument of delivery – be it ebook, web, television or lemonade stand. Have a listen to these unconventionally played pieces here and here and see if you’re still moved by their memorable hooks.

Tactics = The playable parts of an instrument

Finally, that lands us on the most contentious of all areas for me – tactics. Tactics are like the keys of the piano. They’re the trending ‘bright shiny objects’ of the moment. They’re social media sites. Neato metrics. Cool ways to link, friend, like, post, photograph, etc. … but they’re not everything – and they don’t work forever.

Use tactics in the right order with the right timing (informed by your strategy, campaign and brand) – and you have marketing music. Hit tactics too hard, randomly, repeatedly, or all at once – and all you get is noise. (Tweet this!

A good thing to remember next time your Social Media person is emphatic about playing ‘Twitter, Twitter, Little Star’ one more time!

Photo credit: Jason Eppink on Flickr

What other fun marketing analogies do you love that help you keep it all straight? “Marketing is like ________” Please share with us for fun!

A Dear John letter for Starbucks

Dear Starbucks,

We’ve been through a lot, you and I.  But it’s time for me to see other brands. It’s not you, it’s me. No, that’s a lie. It’s totally you.

You swept me off my feet in my early 20’s and taught me how to love coffee – for that I will be eternally grateful. Late Saturday mornings in Chicago. Stolen afternoons in Washington D.C. Even in Indianapolis – back before they actually had a Starbucks – I made do with brief encounters with you at Barnes and Noble whenever I could.

I adored everything about you and people were sick of hearing about my brand crush. I devoured Howard Schulz’s autobiography, Pour Your Heart Into It, as a brand manifesto for how to delight customers and make a a difference. You created a cherished “Third Place” for people to gather – and when I began working for myself, you were right there by my side, hosting meetings and giving me a comfy place to work.

Others tried to make me hate you. Especially when I moved to Seattle (I was thrilled to live in your hometown!). They scorned you as a mass market sell-out, a bland factory coffee line for people who didn’t know better. They scoffed at your hipster lingo, your (in their eyes) sub-par quality. “No, but I love them!” I would scream. Starbucks delivers everything they promise and that’s why they are so great. They deliver a convenient, cozy and consistent experience.  And the Seattle Starbucks locations were flawless models of efficiency, service, and experience.

I held you up as my Prince Charming of a Brand Story.

But then, I moved back to the San Francisco Bay Area and something changed. You stopped delivering the brand benefits I’d come to know and love.

Every Starbucks in the Bay Area let me down – on the Peninsula to be exact. At first, I thought it was a fluke. Had to just be one store. So I tried another. And another. Same story: long wait times, non-engaging baristas, even inconsistent latte quality.  I witnessed your baristas being surly, brusque and downright rude sometimes. Then you started warming up pastries – and nearly scalded my tongue. Why were you being so mean? I thought maybe, since we weren’t in Seattle anymore, you just stopped trying to impress Corporate visitors who might pop in.

Still I kept defending you. I tried to communicate with you. Reaching out on Twitter several times, you gave me radio silence. Other brands like Virgin America and Nordstrom respond back, but you, you just gave me the cold shoulder.

My loyalty is worth more than this, I thought.  So I started dating around. And every time I went somewhere else, I felt like they valued me and my time more that you do. They delivered my latte hot, fresh, and fast. It tasted better. The baristas smiled at me. They seemed like they had their acts together.

And then, the kicker. Peet’s started offering almond milk. Oh, how could I resist?

I tried to get you to change. I tweeted several times to ask if you’d please carry almond milk. No response. I even asked the baristas in store and they said they just couldn’t do it.

I think that was the final straw. I’m a valuable customer and waiting inordinately long amounts of time on a brand who says its fast and convenient just to get bad service, a burnt tongue and inconsistent latte quality – on top of not being able to get the milk I want – is not something I’m willing to stand for any longer.

So I’m leaving you, Dear Starbucks. I emptied the last cent on my Starbucks card and I now frequent my neighborhood Peet’s as well as an indie coffeehouse I discovered.

Oh sure, I’ll call you for a quick hook up now and then. You do make a great gift card. And when I have no other option, I’ll see  if you’re around. But to be non-committal, I pay cash instead of  reloading my Starbucks card  – so no need to give me any more free drinks on my birthday. We don’t have that kind of relationship anymore.

I wish you the best, Starbucks. I really do. You’ve done a lot of good for a long time. But a brand has to be consistent to be brilliant. (Tweet this!)  If you feel like changing – at least in the Bay Area – and being the brand I fell in love once again, give me a call sometime.



Photo credit (edited): Siti Fatimah on Flickr

Got a brand you’d like to break up with? Jot down your brand Dear John letter in the Comments below and vent away!


7 deadly marketing material sins you don’t want to make

Your marketing materials should reflect your brand but sometimes, we don’t realize we are killing business softly by overlooking some important details. In our rush to just “get the information out there” we can sometimes do more harm than good to the sales process.

Today’s guest post is from my brilliant colleague Nancy Owyang. As the owner of Eye 2 Eye Graphics, LLC, Nancy is an award-winning designer with strong branding experience. She has aided a variety of clients in rebranding their businesses and I personally adore her design sensibilities and her ability to first understand an owner’s mission and brand, and then translate that complex identity into a graphic representation.  Today she offers up Seven Deadly Sins you’ll want to avoid in your marketing materials.

When it comes to marketing your business it is important to make a good first, second, and lasting impression. (Tweet!)Your marketing materials represent you, your business, what you do, and how well you do it. The list of “DON’Ts” for how to create and use your marketing materials is extensive, but to narrow the focus I have gathered 7 deadly sins of marketing materials that you need to avoid like the plague.

  1. Out-dated materials… or no materials. If you don’t have any other marketing collateral you absolutely need to have a business card, and a website—both create an easy entry into your business for new clients. Your business card and website need to have your correct contact information—phone number, e-mail, and mailing address. Make it easy for people to get ahold of you!
  2. Looking cheap. Tattered edges, stains, crossed out information, bad visuals, no visuals, fuzzy pictures, the same business card and brochure template as someone else in the room—and I could go on—are big “No-No’s.” There is a huge difference between creating something that is cost effective and something that looks cheap. Committing this deadly sin will automatically drop the level of professionalism in your marketing piece by a few notches.
  3. Poorly written copy. Having correct spelling and grammar in your materials should be a given, but unfortunately this often gets overlooked. I encourage everyone to find a good proofreader to review all of your materials. The voice, or tone, of your marketing materials is also very important and needs to reflect the mission, vision, and personality of your business. Working with a professional writer to help you find “your voice” is a valuable component to your brand.
  4. Failure to differentiate you and your business from the competition. I want you to imagine your business as a Hollywood star nominated for Best Actress at the Academy Awards. You step out of the limo, onto the Red Carpet and the unthinkable has happened… you are wearing the same dress as your competition! Just like on the Red Carpet, in business you need to avoid this ultimate faux pas! An important part of marketing your business is to know who your competition is, know how you are different, and express that in your marketing materials.
  5. Not focusing on the benefits. Always keep in mind your target. Look through their eyes and ask the question “well, what’s in it for me?” Go through your entire document concentrating on the benefits of your message, not the features. Another alarming, but all-too-common, trend that I’m seeing is too much “real estate” being given to outlining your education and business history.  Although this is an important part of your business, how well does it answer the burning question in your client’s mind, “what can this company do for me?”
  6. Failing to grab the attention and pain of your ideal clients. Give your audience just enough so that they want more. People don’t want to be overloaded with information. Especially if the marketing piece is a brochure or welcome kit, only provide enough information so that your audience gets the basics of what you offer and how you can solve their pain or problem. If you create some intrigue, your prospect will have other questions, giving you an opportunity to continue the conversation and answer their specific questions.
  7. Inconsistency. Your business should have a clearly defined identity with a style that appears on your business cards, stationery, brochures, website—indeed, all your marketing materials. Consistency sends the message that your business is stable and dependable. Your marketing materials need to visibly represent a business that is professional, successful, and at the top of its field.

Having well -designed and strategically planned marketing materials will help you present a professional image and make a great memorable impression. Failing to present the professional image that your ideal client expects can kill the deal and could stop your business dead in its tracks.

PS, to view a sampling of Nancy’s work please visit her online portfolio.

Do you have advice or lessons learned about your marketing materials? What one action will you take on your materials based on what you learned in this post? Would LOVE to hear it in the Comments below.

6 reasons to thank your clients + how to do it

We all need to thank our customers and clients for making us successful. But if you’re not sure when it’s appropriate or how to do it with panache, take a tip from today’s guest columnist, tech geek + website wonder woman Alison Monday of Tiny Blue Orange. Alison is my right-hand web woman and she has mad digital skills and signature style. Today, she shares 6 ideas for when  you can say “thank you” to your tribe members – and a unique way she made her thank you’s stand out. At Red Slice, I like to send chocolate covered cherries because, remember:

A thank you note/gift is yet another customer touchpoint you have at your finger tips to convey your brand. (Tweet this!) Make it count.

Showing Gratitude

One of the easiest + most impactful ways that you can make your clients + contacts feel loved is by showing your gratitude. It only takes a few minutes to put together a hand-written note + mail it via snail mail. And the amount of joy it will bring to the recipient is exponentially greater than the time you invest in sending a card.

One Extra Step

Since hand-written cards are a big part of my weekly task list, I wanted to make something special for my clients + vendors that would add just a little bit more love to an already wonderful gesture.

It didn’t take me long to decide that getting my 101 pound dog + office mascot, Brutus, to “sign” the cards by painting his paw {with non-toxic paint} + stamping them was the perfect idea. He really doesn’t mind the signing process since he gets lots of treats during it + I know that most folks don’t expect a 4″ paw print on a thank you note they received in the mail.

Necessary Supplies

In order to set myself up for being able to easily write out thank you cards, I purchased an assortment of pretty + funny notecards, made a few of my own, bought a pack of stamps from the post office + some new ink for my return address stamper. That way I can spend a little bit of time expressing my gratitude each week + almost no time at all adding the address info and stamp.

Reasons to be Grateful

You can send thank you notes for a number of reasons when working with a client, but below are just a few ideas to get you started –

  • Right away after your initial call/consultation
    {“thank you for reaching out or considering working with me”}
  • Unexpectedly during a project if you haven’t officially thanked them yet
    {“I’m so grateful to be working with you”}
  • With an order they placed for a physical product
    {“thanks for your order, we hope you love…”}
  • When a project is complete/launches/etc.
    {“it was such a pleasure to help you + your biz”}
  • If they referred you to someone that reached out
    {“thank you so much for your kind words + praise”}
  • For sharing your product or service with their followers or fans
    {“you didn’t have to promote my latest program, but it means the world to me that you did”}

And, of course, expressing appreciation isn’t just for business. I made sure to purchase some non-branded cards with my business ones so that I can thank my friends + family throughout the year too.

In what ways do you show gratitude or give thanks to your clients, followers + fans? Leave a comment below with something that you already do to show your appreciation or something you’ll start to do right away. I can’t wait to read what you come up with!

Learn more about Alison Monday and her website wizadry at tiny blue orange


Bring it on: Why you need to ask for criticism

A guest post today from the lovely Betsy and Warren Talbot, writers, dreamers and global nomads of Married With Luggage (a business I proudly helped name). With the launch of their latest book, they shared some great advice on why and how to ask for constructive criticism and how it makes your business, brand and project shine in the long run. More on them at the end. Enjoy!

My husband Warren and I recently published our fourth book, Married with Luggage: What We Learned about Love by Traveling the World. Over the years we’ve learned a lot about what works – and what doesn’t – as both business and romantic partners. And one thing we know for sure:

If you can’t take constructive criticism, you won’t ever grow to your highest potential. (Tweet this!)

If we don’t pay attention to how our audience wants to receive our story, how to make it compelling and relatable to their own relationships, and using words that matter to them, then all of our experience and wisdom aren’t worth a penny of the $15.99 price tag of the book, because no one will buy it.

We asked trusted advisors, our own audience, and random strangers within our demographic to help us get this one right, and with their constructive feedback, I think we nailed it.

How We Solicited Feedback

Before we ever wrote one word, we talked about our idea with mentors and peers we trust. The feedback sent us in a direction we hadn’t considered before (memoir vs. self-help). We also dropped the idea of making this a course first. Smart friends counseled us to use the book’s popularity to create higher-priced courses later. Already, our project was off to a great start and we saved a ton of time.

If you’ve done the work of building a great network, don’t forget to use it. (Tweet this!)

The next component tested was the title. We came up with 20 variations of titles and subtitles, swapping them around until we had 5 good choices. Then we sent it out to three sets of people: casual followers on Facebook, serious followers on our email list, and total strangers in our demographic through a site called Pickfu.

The title we ended up with is not the title we would have chosen ourselves. We also discovered several words we were using that were off-putting to our market. Imagine if we had used those words out of ignorance and then wondered why no one ever bought the book?

For the book cover, we put three very different cover ideas out for a vote via email list, Facebook, and Pickfu. Again, the cover we would have chosen was not the one overwhelmingly picked by others. In fact, our favorite came in dead last.

After writing the first draft, we sent it to a professional editor for restructuring. We were too close to the project to see the gaps and overlaps, so we trusted someone else to show us the way. We then created the second draft based on this feedback.

Then the scariest part: sharing it for review. First I read the book out loud to my husband, awaiting his response to the story we scripted out months ago. Did he like it? Not always, and that was sometimes hard to take as a wife. But his feedback was invaluable in tightening up the storyline and highlighting our message of partnership.

Five people were sent second draft copies to provide detailed feedback. These five people are my trusted sources, the people who will tell me when something is not good. And boy, did they.

Finally, the book went back for professional line editing, a polish that I couldn’t do on my own. Packaging is as important as the message within, because if a reader can’t get past a crappy cover or terrible editing, they’ll never get your message.

How Feedback Helps

When I look at the finished product, I can only marvel. It is so much more than we imagined, a book that shares our experience and wisdom in a way our audience wants to hear it. And we could have never done that without asking for feedback up front and listening to what our audience needed.

We separated our egos from our work product, and the result was was a healthier self-esteem and a better product.

ABOUT BETSY AND WARREN:  Betsy Talbot and her husband Warren are the authors of Married with Luggage: What We Learned about Love by Traveling the World. Through their popular books, engaging weekly podcast, and revealing Sunday emails, they share the unconventional wisdom they’ve learned about living, working, and traveling together since 2010. Find out more about modern love and partnership at Married with Luggage. (Photo credit: Married With Luggage)

Are you asking for constructive criticism in your business? How? Where? From whom? When did such feedback save you from a major fail? Please share in the Comments below!

Beneath the bling: Can you back up your “brand goods?”

We all know bling when we see it, right? It’s shiny, sparkly and distracts the eye from a person’s face, outfit or arrogant scowl (talking to you, Tabloid Divas). Crafters love the Bedazzler because it turns ordinary white t-shirts into dizzying love fests of color and light, temporarily blinding people as they walk past you on the street.

We can also use a little sparkle and fairy dust now and then. Hey, I love diamonds, too.

But sometimes brands get a little crazy with the Bedazzler. Instead of fixing their product or service flaws, they hide behind new bright shiny logos, cool websites, clever packaging or slick ads. Or their sales landing pages scream with neon arrows, BUY NOW! blinking icons and 80-feet of testimony and schmooze.


Maybe they think we’ll just tire out and click Purchase. Maybe they hope to distract us from their horrible customer service or cheaply made goods. Maybe they don’t really know the “10 Secrets to Creating a 6-Figure Business” and feel that with some shouting, sparkle and spitshine, they can fool us.

I don’t know. What I do know is articulating your brand strategy helps you make smarter design, messaging and yes, even packaging choices that promise to the right people what you can authentically deliver. I’m a HUGE fan of clever design and cool concepts. But as Jay Baer states in my upcoming 2nd edition of Branding Basics for Small Business: How to Create an Irresistible Brand on Any Budget (coming Apr 1, by the way – don’t forgot your Launch Week Goodies!) “Polish is the enemy of scale.”

If you have real value to offer and know how it needs to look and who really needs it, you can get away with filming useful and entertaining social media tip videos in your office like Amy Schmittauer (another expert in this new edition). You can publish a neat, well-written Word document turned PDF rather than an overly designed, fancy 90 page interactive worksheet if you can deliver the goods. You can skip the expensive Herman Miller conference room chairs if your tech start-up team is focused on building the best damn product under the sun.

Don’t write a brand check your business can’t cash. (Tweet this!) Instead, focus on continually delivering the right stuff to the right people with the right message and the rest will take care of itself. Bling or no bling.

Photo credit: Brandon Baunach, Flickr

Are you signed up?

My FREE teleseminar 5 Clever Ways to Boost Your Brand Online has limited lines so hurry and snag your spot for Wed, April 2 at 10 am PT/1 pm ET. By attending, you’ll be eligible to win a free signed book, or one of three FREE Brand Bootcamp digitial courses. It’s all part of the Launch Week Frivolity for Branding Basics for Small Business, 2nd Edition, coming next week. And don’t forget all the Digital Swag Bag launch bonuses you can get to boost your business if you purchase the book before April 7. Can’t even tally what it’s all worth!

How to hand-craft your brand experience: Brand at Work case study Taylor Stitch

Here’s a lovely little sneak peek at one of the fresh new case studies from the 2nd edition of Branding Basics for Small Business: How to Create an Irresistible Brand on Any Budget, launching April 1, 2014! Lots of launch week goodies and a free teleseminar so make sure you’re signed up for The Juice so you don’t miss out.

Taylor Stich’s story below shows you how important it is to know what your one unique asset is and parlay that into your brand experience. Hook your brand onto the one special thing that no one else can offer (Tweet this!)

Brand at Work: Taylor Stitch

In 2009, Michael Maher, Barrett Purdum and Michael Armenta started Taylor Stitch  on a funky street in San Francisco’s Mission District. Their dream? To create rugged, refined and practical clothing for men (and now women) by hand. The company aims to modernize staple clothing pieces for men and women by delivering great quality at a reasonable price with impeccable service.

Taylor Stitch’s greatest asset is that their clothes are crafted by hand, with quality and love, and that personal attention guides every brand move. “It’s a human-run business,” says Maher. “Our main goal when we started was to offer a uniquely personal retail experience to make our customers happy.” They empower everyone in the organization to delight the customer. Items are made by hand and sent by hand. When mistakes are made, the human touch prevails. “We understand that in a hand-crafted business, mistakes will be made. A shipment might be sent to the wrong person or a loose thread makes it by quality control. On the rare occasions this happens, we are truthful and up-front with our customers. If we screw up, we’re the first to admit it and fix the problem or discount items to make that customer happy. We look at a mistake as an opportunity to create a human connection and a great customer experience.”

This emphasis on happiness and humanness impacts hiring as well as the in-store environment. “We hire people who represent the ethos of service that we ourselves believe in, so, no matter whom you encounter in the store, you get a consistent experience that lives up to the brand.” Taylor Stitch also pays attention to all five senses when it comes to customer touchpoints: the types of pictures they use, the words they write, the store’s music and scents. “We come at retail from a hospitality perspective, not just a product perspective. We believe people don’t like to shop if they are uncomfortable, so we created something much more approachable,” says Maher.

No matter how large the business grows, Taylor Stitch is committed to maintaining that comfortable “neighborhood shop” feel. Loyal customers love to tell friends and family about how the business takes extra time to care. Taylor Stitch desires regular customers but they also want to be regulars in their neighborhood.

“Our customers send us thank-you and holiday cards,” says Maher. “Sometimes they even send jams and other little gifts. It’s amazing to receive such gifts from people that buy stuff from you. One of my favorite things to do is stop people on the street whom I see wearing our clothes and thank them.”

Obviously taking the time to not just make the clothes by hand but handcraft the customer experience on a very human level pays off for Taylor Stitch. At a pop-up market a few years ago, Maher gave a pair of pants to a fellow vendor. That vendor now orders and sells pants for the store. “It’s often the simple, human things that benefit everyone,” advises Maher. “When you do good things with no expectations and don’t force it, great things are bound to happen.”

Your turn: What is your brand or businesses one special or unique asset? Everyone’s got one…what’s yours? Please share in the Comments below!