• Scott Hornstein

3 Coins in the Fountain: How Small Business Regards Branding and Misses a Golden Opportunity

Three Coins in the Fountain is the title song (sung by Frank Sinatra) from a classic film about 3 American women working and looking for love in Rome. It refers to the Trevi Fountain, where visitors make a wish and toss in a coin, right hand over the left shoulder.

It’s a good analogy for how many small businesses view branding – wishful thinking.

The concept of branding can seem superfluous to many small businesses, with the perception of a high ticket and low value. Why do I need to spend more money? What will it get me that I don’t already have?

The answer is more business. Brand communicates the promise you make to the marketplace – here’s what you will gain if you buy our product, use our service, do business with your company. Your compelling competitive differentiation, short and sweet. It’s the lubricant for the sales process. You don’t have to spend more money, but you do have to work for it.

We want to communicate brand to our prospects, and if we look at it through their eyes, it’s pretty straightforward. When a prospect looks at your website, considers your product, shakes your hand, they ask themselves 3 questions:

  • Who are you?

  • Why should I care?

  • What’s in it for me?

Voila – brand. If you can’t anticipate and communicate the answers quickly, easily and transparently, you’ve lost the opportunity.

In my experience, most businesses are terrible communicators when it comes to their brand. Their communications focus on “I” and “we” and not “you”. They focus on features and not benefits. They use long sentences crammed with vague platitudes that are full of sound and fury, but convey nothing. Many times I will go to a website and leave with no practical idea of what the company does or why I should be interested. Given that the majority of the consideration process takes place before engagement, we’re leaving a lot of money on the table.

What’s a small business to do? Here are 3 ideas:

  1. Talk to your customers. Why did they buy from you the first time and why do they keep coming back (or not)? What are the qualities, the benefits that ring strongly. What problems are you solving? What goals are you helping to achieve?

  2. With that input, put your fingers on the keyboard and answer the 3 questions in one sentence. Better yet, tweet it. The longer and more convoluted your “elevator pitch”, the less believable. The harder a prospect has to work to understand you, the less likely they will embrace your message.

  3. Don’t take your word for it. Go back to your customers and advisors, run it up the flagpole and see who salutes.

This is the essence of your brand, your compass for navigating the consideration and sales process. Grab this hammer and beat your website and communications into shape.

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