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Category Archives: Branding

Tips for building brand recognition without spending much money – Part 1 of 4

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Unless your business is backed with millions of dollars in VC funding or has been profitable for several years, chances are you don’t have a marketing budget. When Bearded Brothers launched, we raised $5,000 on Kickstarter to get us going, in addition to some of our own money. From the very start we didn’t have a dime to spend on marketing; and despite not having any funds to promote ourselves we have managed to grow to 400 retail locations across the nation and develop a lot of brand recognition. Here is how you can build brand recognition without spending much money.

Social Media

It should go without saying: If you are a business you MUST have social media accounts. Bearded Brothers has accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

This is FREE marketing. Although, lately Facebook has made it much more difficult to succeed in this arena, by implementing the pay to play strategy to make money off businesses, but I have some helpful tips on that. These platforms allow you to generate creative content for your customers, and potential customers, to engage with. It also helps you spread the word about your brand.

Over time social media has gotten us quite a bit of attention, but that is only because we are active on all platforms (although we can do better). It has essentially had a snowball effect for us. Even though our follower rate may not seem to indicate that, we have received some great media attention in publications such as Trail Runner Magazine, Bloomberg Business Week, and Backpacker Magazine (print only), all because of people finding out about us through social media.

Facebook: As any business owner knows, Facebook has severally limited the number of fans that see your posts. This is solely because they want you to pay to promote your content. I have found, however this is very much worth it, if you do it right. My advice is to not spend money on Facebook Ads. This is because the content shows up in the side panel. Mobile users, and desktop users with ad block won’t see this content. And you are still being charged for impressions of users that have ad block installed.

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 6.59.24 AM

My number one piece of advice is to use, “Promoted Posts.” These pieces of content are seen on all platforms (mobile and desktop) and can expand your reach well beyond Facebook Ads for a smaller amount of money. They key is to target your promoted post. When creating the post select your target demographic age range, and gender if applicable. This will allow you to reach a much larger audience with a smaller dollar amount.

You can even get specific by typing in interests. This will allow you to narrow your target audience down even more. In my past experience I have noticed that way more people see my posts than Facebook tells me. Notice in the screen shot provided here, the reach would be 6,300-17,000. If my post is relevant enough to the audience it’s going out to, it will definitely reach the 17,000 mark, possibly even higher.

The last promoted post I ran was promoting a sale on the Bearded Brothers store. The post was shared upwards of 40 times, had over 700 likes, and was clicked over 275 times, and generated about $2,000 worth of sales on our site. So, the $40 we spent promoting the post was more than worth it. In addition to likes, shares, and sales, we gained a lot of new fans on the page because the content was going out to friends of people that had liked our page.

I will share more about how Twitter can be used to your advantage in a future post that relates to the topic of, “Building an Army.” The next post will be about telling your story: something I believe to be crucial when it comes to developing your brand.

Part 2 of 4 (Tell your story)
Part 3 of  4 (Think like a drug dealer)
Part 4 of 4 (Momentum Builds, building and army on Twitter)

Every business needs a competitor

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The two competing energy bar companies in Austin!

The two competing energy bar companies in Austin!

You have probably heard it said, competition is good for business. Well I completely agree, and I have several reasons for why this is true.

1. Competitors inspire you to greatness. Right when Bearded Brothers was in the middle of the planning stages (an organic, raw, vegan energy bar company) another LOCAL, raw, vegan energy bar popped up in town. My first reaction was, “NOOOOO”. How can this be? I had been working hard for the past couple months nailing down suppliers, looking for kitchen space, and developing the brand. And now there was already a local competitor on the scene.

They weren’t the first either. Prior to Thunderbird Energetica was Baraka Bar. They were closer to the product we were planning to offer, but seemed to be going by the wayside. Sure enough, by the time we launched they were nowhere to be found. But Thunderbird was already growing fast and already had been in negotiations with Whole Foods before we landed our first retail account.

What this did was inspire us to step up our game. The flavors of bars we had been thinking of were mediocre and our branding was pretty lame. The flavors Thunderbird offered sounded appealing, so much so I rushed to their first store just to pick up a bar and try one for myself. Knowing we had another local company to compete with in addition to the already crowded energy bar market prompted us to step up our game, develop better flavors, and think outside the box with our branding.

2. You can also learn from their growth. Having started about the same time as Thunderbird we have been able to watch them grow. Although we don’t know all the intimate details of the growing pangs they experienced we were able to learn a lot through their own blog, Facebook and Twitter accounts.

We had a good idea of what a sustainable growth rate would be by watching them. We also read about the story of Clif Bar in the book Raising the Bar. The growth Clif was able to achieve was truly inspiring, and even more inspiring was the passing up of a $120MM sale of the company. Watching others grow helps combat doubts lingering in the back of the mind. But, be careful not to let your competitor’s growth increase doubts or discourage you because you are growing slower.

Remember every company grows at different rates, and just because one company is growing faster doesn’t mean they are better off. It may be easy to have a grass is greener mentality, but you never know how far in debt a competitor might be, or how much equity they have sold, etc. In my opinion you are better off to grow slower, have little to zero debt, and give away very little, if any equity. Look at Clif Bar, the company is 100% owned by two individuals.

3. Your competition becomes a measuring stick to tell why your product is the best. For example, Thunderbird’s products are raw, vegan, and mostly organic. But we wanted our products to be different. All of our bars are 100% organic (or close to it). We also created a bar larger than most on the market to provide more calories and simple carbs to fuel active individuals. Additionally we sought out to disclose which ingredients were not truly raw (heated above 115 degrees). Both Thunderbird and Bearded Brothers offer compostable wrappers, but our bars offer a resealable pouch (so you can eat half the bar now and save the rest for later), something no other energy bar offers. All of these things essentially become key selling points to the product.

4. Competitors can inspire each other to transform the entire industry. When we first launched Bearded Brothers we had no idea compostable wrappers were an option in the bar category, even though we had seen a few other food companies use compostable packaging. Part of our reasoning behind the resalable pouches was to encourage reuse.

Being a company that is advocating sustainability we couldn’t pass up the possibility of switching to a compostable wrapper, but we also wanted to maintain the resalable pouch that many of our customers liked. After a lot of searching we found a company that was able to produce the compostable package for us with the resalable feature. We became the first consumer packaged good to offer a product that was resealable and compostable. But without companies like Thunderbird and Boulder Valley Chips, we would likely still be using our natural kraft packages that we started with.

Our hope is that other companies will follow in the footsteps of Thunderbird and us.

5. Competition keeps you on your toes. Without competition in the market you aren’t likely to provide great services and products to your customers. Think about cable and phone companies; most towns only have a couple of options, some only have one. The result is horrible service! If you have ever tried to dispute a bill or call about a disruption in services you know what I mean.

Having a competitor means you have to always be on our A game. You have to care about your customers, respond to their emails, engage them in meaningful ways, and provide them with products that are superior to the rest of the market.

So don’t let your competition scare you. Let them inspire you to become better. Also, be yourself! To quote Ben Folds, “There is always someone cooler than you”. If you aren’t being yourself you will never be cool to anybody. It can be tempting to become something you are not just to grow your company, but your customers want you to be genuine – that will win over cool factor any day. If you focus on what you do best as a company the growth will follow naturally (and at a sustainable rate).