The National NeedleArts Association continually seeks more ways to help
our members succeed. One way is to ensure our members have access to basic
business education covering topics such as business start up, marketing,
accounting and finance, inventory and merchandising, industry standards and
trends, just to name a few.
Kathy Elkins (WEBS – America’s Yarn Store and previous TNNA Board member),
sent me an email last week about Artyarns, a hand-painted yarn
manufacturer who also happens to be a TNNA member. TNNA is perpetually seeking
more ways to help our small business members succeed. One of them is to provide
basic business education. Artyarns was recently part of an American Express
project promoting best marketing practices for small businesses.
It was really a fascinating and fantastic project. Chosen to be part of
Amerian Express’s Project RE:Brand, Artyarns was given the opportunity to go
through a process that was truly transformational.
Matched with a talented NYC based design group (OFFICELAB), Artyarns engaged
in a re-branding project. Ok, so what in the world does that mean?
Branding refers to a company’s identity . . . not just a logo, but the core
principles driving everything the company does.
Ask any marketing consultant (including me), and they’ll tell you that’s
where you begin to build success. Often overlooked, however, for lack of money
. . . or time, or a misunderstanding of the importance of it all, creating a
brand should be one of the initial elements in the development of a
comprehensive marketing plan.
Most small businesses start out with an idea of something to sell, then
simply set off to sell it.
To be very simplistic:
Marketing is about
sellers connecting with buyers. Connection requires communication of some sort,
as well as the building of trust between the parties. Branding is about
creating and communicating an "image” to those buyers. . . not just the outer
visual, not just the product . . . but the feel and essence of the company. . .
a whole identity . . . and it should include a complete guide for your approach
to all your marketing strategies.
This isn’t a simple process. There are some hard questions to answer. You
seek to develop a real understanding of yourself, your product, your vision . .
. and your customer. It takes thought and effort . . . and professionals to
help turn those ideas into visual form with a practical implementation plan. (I
often feel more like a psychologist than a business consultant during these
types of exercises.)
Although I don’t mean for this to be a plug for all the marketing and
branding consultants out there, I would like to stress the professional aspect
here. You don’t necessarily need to go to NYC to find great professionals,
either . . . but Uncle Joe who just got a laptop isn’t going to cut it.
The easiest way to explain it all is to simply take a look at the 3 videos
documenting their experience at: http://www.openforum.com/idea-hub/topics/marketing/video/understanding-the-brand
They really tell a great story. American Express has a long tradition of
supporting small businesses. This is just one example.
I had a quick conversation with Iris Schreier one of the founders of the
company . . . and personally involved in the whole process. (She’s been
amazingly busy since this project and says she isn’t done implementing all the
changes.) I had so many questions for her (like, "How were they chosen?”), and
hope we can have an on-going dialogue about the importance of this experience
I’ll follow up with more of our conversation later. In the meantime, if you
have any questions for Iris, please feel free to submit them here.