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Tom Marin

Building Brands

By Tom Marin

About Tom

Tom Marin is the managing partner of and provides corporate and brand strategy to organizations of all sizes. He has an extensive background in the graphic arts, printing, publishing and media industries. Marin is an accredited member of the national and international chapters of the Business Marketing Assn., is a (CBC) certified business communicator and a past marketing chair of the Chicago chapter.


Want to be Big? Think Small

Today’s turbulent marketplace places a great deal of strain on most businesses, particularly those competing in a the business-to-business market. Fierce international competition coupled with stringent lending practices work together to create a tough place to successfully market.

Are you feeling the pinch in your business today? Is the current climate placing higher-than-ever demands on your strategic marketing?

If so, perhaps what’s needed are some tips to jumpstart your strategic planning. Well, here you go—two practical market cues (and one additional cue) that you can use to build a successful strategic growth program.

Cue #1 – Think Small

I don’t think there’s a better way to put this. Companies often make a significant strategic error in launching a new product or service with a national focus. This is fine for global brands, but not effective for a local or regional business.

Thinking small allows you to focus all of your resources on your most important asset—your customers. That always pays huge dividends. Obviously, without customers, you don’t have a business. Once you have dominated a small group of customers within your local area, you can branch out to larger geographies and/or markets and continue building market share relative to your resources and capabilities.

This approach may seem obvious, but over 25 years of strategic consultation has led me to see that many businesses do not follow this simple and effective strategy.

Cue #2 – Produce Strong Ideas

Every single successful business started with a compelling core “IDEA” that made customers and clients prefer that brand over the competition. Over time, the company’s products became the preferred choice because they performed at or above customers’ expectations. Differentiation of your brand, product, service and, ultimately, your company, comes from the fuel of being truly unique.

Consider any major leading brand and ask, “What is it about it that makes the product/service stand out?” Disney equals world-class theme parks. FedEx equals overnight delivery. Oracle equals enterprise-ready software integration. All of these companies’ marketing folks work their butts off to keep their brands top of mind, but they do so by sticking to the core benefit their brands bring.

Each benefit has its roots in a small, localized enterprise with a big idea behind it. Today, these companies’ products are based on a very strong idea that is central to the entire company’s DNA. So the question you should be able to answer confidently is, “Is what I am marketing truly different from what every competitor I have offers?” The greater the degree to which the answer to this question is yes, the more successful the company can become. And the reverse is equally as true.

Cue #3 – Fear Nothing

Marketing is not for the timid at heart. If you work for a CEO that doesn’t like taking chances in general, and in strategic marketing in particular, you might want to consider a different position. Or, if you have been hiding behind “safe” marketing ideas to keep your head down with the least amount of accountability to preserve your position, you may also want to consider a career change.

I realize this sounds harsh, but the simple fact is that without risks there are no rewards. And a CEO or marketing director who doesn’t understand this, can easily derail even the most potentially successful strategic marketing program.

Take a company that has products that in times past were real winners but have fallen out of favor. The senior marketing executive determines this and begins to suggest, and then demand, a newer set of products that can regain the market’s interest. But the company is already financially strapped and the CEO doesn’t want to risk further capital investment, preferring to “bunker down until the market goes positive.”

Does it sound like I know of such a company? Well I do. This company ended up going out of business after ignoring its marketing executive’s advice and draining the company’s reserves to zero rather than betting the farm on innovation.

The bottom-line is that three easy steps can lead you to successful strategic planning for growth—think small, produce big ideas, and take some risks. You’re not going to be right every time, but if you prepare extensively and are honest with yourself about your true market position, you can find a way to set your company apart.

This strategic focus is how global brands are built, and you can use them, too! And the fact of the matter is, making no decision is a decision.
Tom Wants To Hear Your Branding Issues:
Tom Marin, Managing Partner of MarketCues, wants to hear from you! Follow MarketCues on Twitter for branding and social media tips - as well as the latest trends. Tom also welcomes emails, new LinkedIn connections, calls to 407.330.7708 or visit How can he help solve your branding issues?

Note: If you are a printing company or product/services company serving the print-media market, and would like to be considered for a feature in this blog, please contact Tom Marin for an interview.

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