BrandingWire has been quiescent for a while. For those of you not familiar with BrandingWire, it’s a joint venture of a number of bloggers, commenting on various branding challenges presented to us by our “studio audience.”

Originally, the BrandingWire posse took on one branding challenge per month, but we found that our readership was not expanding into the realms we hoped for, and that a clear business purpose wasn’t being fulfilled. Nonetheless, the BW concept is a valuable one, and we’ve remained open to taking on the occasional challenge.

And so, now we have one, via a contact of Martin Jelsema (one of the original BrandingWire posse members). Here is the business need; all original BW members are welcome to post their responses and advice, AND any other branding bloggers who wish to post some input on their blogs can also participate (see below for details).


The challenge (and this, btw, is an excellent overview/brief format):

I’m looking for a business name, tagline, and logo.

I will offer bookkeeping services to online retailers.

My niche is online retailers.
I offer relief for the e-tailer by removing the burden of financial anxiety.
I can increase cash flow to the e-tailer by managing their money.

Online retailers/ e-tailers/ ecommerce store owners
Sole proprieters
Running their own independent sites – not on eBay, Amazon, or Squidoo for example
Both startups and established businesses

Startup e-tailers
Established e-tailers
Sole proprietors
“S” Corporations

Fifteen clients at $30 per hour averaging 8 hours per month per client, equals $3,600 gross earnings. First, this will allow me to work from home. Second, this will allow for a 30 hour work week, which will leave me the time I need to get my own online retail store up and running.

I am married for 8 years, no children, and ambitiously desire to leave my current job as a computer drafter at an engineering firm to run my own online retail store. In order to start my store off on the right foot and guarantee (as best one can) success, I am detouring into bookkeeping for other online retailers. My plan is to learn the business from them, inside and out, by managing their finances. Over the next two weeks (June 28-July 9, 2008)  I will be taking a crash course in bookkeeping for small businesses. By August 1st I plan to have three clients, and add one new client per week until I have 15 total clients. So, by Thanksgiving week I will have 15 clients and will be able to leave my job in time for Christmas.

Abundance Bookkeeping
Accounts Doable
Special Ledger
Accounting Assets

*(note: online retailer, e-tailer, and ecommerce store owner may be interchanged)
Accounting for the online retailer
Carrying the online retailer’s accounting burden
Relief from accounting
Relief for the online retailer
Relax, I’m your CFO.
Relax, I’m your bookkeeper
Profit and growth specialist for online retailers
I wear the accounting hat.
Relax. I know what to do.
You make the money. I’ll track it.
I’ll do the “gross” work. (Accounts Doable)
Doing the “gross” work for the online retailer (Accounts Doable)
Making a statement for online retailers
Knowing what to do for the online retailer (Accounts Doable)
Ecommerce profit through bookkeeping
Profit through bookkeeping for online retailers
Anxiety management for online retailers
Helping online retailers plan and manage cash flow (Martin’s idea)
Helping online retailers manage their cash flow so they can survive the first five years (Martin’s idea)
You have more than you know

Pinecone (you have more than you know)
Iceberg, showing above and below waterline (you have more than you know)
Bean or Jelly Bean (I’m a “bean counter”
Hat (as in, I wear the accounting hat)
Coin (not really a coin, but a reference to a coin shape)
Pill (like a two color capsule, for getting rid of anxiety)

Deloitte blue
Green to match that blue


OK, pondering this outline – what are your questions related to this potential brand? Your suggestions and advice? Your creative ideas?

Write up a post on your blog, and leave a comment on this post with the URL (you may want to use tinyurl.com and is.gd or similar in order to shrink the URL before posting). If you are a member of the BrandingWire posse, your post will be pre-approved. If your are a branding/marketing blogger and you’d like to join in the fun (and show your creativity), we’ll give your post a look first to make sure we’re providing value before approving the comment. Self-promotional SPAM will be filtered out, of course, but thoughtful and helpful posts will be featured. See prior BrandingWire challenges on this site to get an idea of how we comment on these challenges.

It’s summer – let’s fire up the Wire again and see what we come up with!


bioblog.jpgMichael Smith of bioblogging.com submits this branding challenge:

I own a niche (literally, the trademark) for a brand (a “bioblog”) that is also a new art form (for resumes). I own the book (Bioblogs: Resumes for the 21st Century, HarperCollins Fall ’06). I own the only blogs on the subject: on WordPress, Typepad, Blogspot. The book is in libraries but the concept is still hidden from the market (lazy publisher). I am trying to promote an idea, a revolutionary reaction to traditional resumes (of which I am an expert).

The recent global branding teleconference spoke of branding this and that, and the session with the ‘branding experts’ discussed resumes and CVs and bios, but only a bioblog is really anywhere near being a “branded resume.” I could only listen while I wanted to shout. Nobody knows. How does one man shout loud enough over the blogosphere to be heard when they don’t recognize the word: BIOBLOG!

This, to me, is a challenge. Mark Hovind (JobBait.com) and George Blomgren have been supportive, but how can I approach viral marketing when I am not trying to sell anything . . . just inform . . . and seed a future market?


OK, this challenge is a bit different from some of those we’ve looked at in the past – it is more conceptual. So, you marketers and branders – what are your comments, questions, critiques, remarks? What advice would you give? The Comments are open!

artists-pallette.jpgThis BrandingWire challenge is from a color consultant. What is a color consultant, you say? Read on, see how Rachel describes her business and her need to gain broader exposure, then give your advice in the comments. All marketers are welcome to pitch in with their ideas and counsel!

With a fine arts background, I painted pet portraits for several years, capturing the personality of each pet by utilizing color psychology. (http://www.rperls.com) This was a natural segue into color consulting. Now, I’m an independent color consultant, specializing in helping small business owners realize the full potential of color in their branding strategy. I also assist in the incorporation of brand colors into work and sales environments.

Current Status:
Having recently completed extensive training and certification through the International Association of Color Consultants, (http://iaccna.org) I’ve got the education, but need to get the word out about my services. I also author a blog about color, but haven’t figured out how to best utilize it as a venue for getting work. (http://hueconsulting.blogspot.com) Additionally, I’ve developed a detailed questionnaire to analyze businesses and determine their appropriate color/color palette, and would like to offer this as an online service. Since I am relocating to another state in less than a year, it seems like a better use of my time to focus my efforts online.

I want to be known as the go-to consultant for small businesses looking to harness the marketing power of color. As a newcomer to the market, gaining credibility and establishing a name for myself is essential to success. The question is, with so many options out there, how do I develop this business to make it a viable endeavor?

OK, you bloggers/marketers. BrandingWire exists so you can show off your expertise in very tangible ways. What questions do you have that you’d ask Rachel? How would you help her, or someone in a position like hers, to grow the business? Get the conversation rolling in the Comments!

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gear-shift.jpgFor those of you who have been following BrandingWire, you know that a group of us decided to conduct an “experiment” of sorts – tackling branding challenges as a group, one per month, pooling our expertise and perspectives. We’ve tackled coffee, a town in Colorado, car sales, and other themes, and its been an enjoyable ride.

But now it’s time to try to expand and morph the BrandingWire model a bit – to include YOU. Instead of a group of 10-12 of us tacking a single challenge once a month, now we’d like to open BW up and invite the entire community to contribute. Here’s how…

Do you have a branding/marketing challenge that you’d like to borrow some expertise on? Great – submit the need in a brief [e-mail to: stevew(at)stickyfigure.com], describing the background, the current state, and the goal (here is a simple version of a backgrounder; here is a very thorough version). We’ll post appropriate challenges on the site. Any or all of the BrandingWire posse – and, in fact, any marketing blogger – will be welcome to post in the Comments with suggestions and ideas.

Do you like wrapping your brain around real-life branding challenges? Great – then be a contributor, pitching in your expertise as new needs are posted.

What we have found here at BrandingWire is that we groove on REAL problems – we like to be presented with a variety of gnarly issues, and now we want to give the entire community of marketing bloggers an opportunity to “show their stuff” by generating creative ideas and asking relevant questions – maybe even having lively discussions and disagreements in the process!

Ready? Here we go – join the shift at BrandingWire, by submitting challenges you (and companies you know) have, and sharing your ideas.

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Here is a prime example of how marketing advice from the BrandingWire team has helped one small company.

If you or your company has been helped by our various writings over the months, why not add a comment or put up a post? We’d love to know what you think!

consulting.jpgFor October, the branding consultants and experts at BrandingWire take on the challenge of helping to brand – well, consultants.

The topic is “How to Brand and Market a B2B Consulting Firm.” Below, we outline the details of the challenge:

The ideal client/customer for the consulting firm looks like:

    Revenues: $1 million to $25 million
    Employees: 150 or fewer
    Verticals: High-tech and health care
    Location: North America

The challenges facing these client/customers: consumers and other businesses have so many choices, that high-tech businesses (as well as their other target audience made up of clinics and hospitals) are experiencing stagnant growth, or even losing market share. Many of these clients don’t know how to differentiate themselves from their competition.

The consulting firm’s challenge: as a small marketing firm, they are losing contracts to lower pricing and to bigger firms. The consultancy after three years has stopped growing and most of its clients buy one project and don’t return for more assistance for several years, if at all. How do they position and brand themselves in order to return to greater marketplace success?

Here are the perspectives of the BrandingWire posse of pundits:

Lewis Green

Drew McLellan

Martin Jelsema

Patrick Schaber

Olivier Blanchard

Steve Woodruff

Becky Carroll

Valeria Maltoni

Kevin Dugan

Gavin Heaton

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This month’s BrandingWire challenge addresses the need of a small IT services group in Canada. This outfit (which remains anonymous in this post, but is very real) approached us at BrandingWire with the following business challenge:

    Would you say branding coffee and shoes and beer and other “lifestyle” products comes easier than branding… say, a small high-tech services company?
    I’ve been working in marketing for this sort of company for a short while, and have found it to be quite a challenge to really get a grasp of our brand. How can providing IT services be cool, let alone sexy? This is my fundamental dilemma when considering marketing campaigns, when writing for the website, when contemplating a blog… etc. etc.I would love to volunteer our company for your next collaborative post. Would you be interested?

Well, in fact, we were interested – and we invite other companies to submit a similar request for consideration. Here is an expansion of the need in a short branding brief:

computer-repair.gifCompany Description:
We are a small company based in Canada. We do just about everything IT: proactive work (such as network maintenance), monitoring of critical systems, emergency work (IT fixes, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week), new user set-ups, procurement of hardware and software (at a discount through our top vendors), consulting work (which can be anything from upgrading all 100 of your Windows computers to Macs, or something simple like what open-source software alternatives we would recommend instead of Photoshop).

We are also offering services in a new area called Green IT. It is all about transforming the way IT is used to help cut down on energy use and waste. Solutions could include datacenters with virtualized servers, remote access of datacenters (to keep the systems in a stable environment), or sending software electronically to eliminate packaging waste. We want to get more into this area!

Target Customers:
Small to medium sized business in our city and the surrounding areas. (Note: we do provide support to branch offices of our customers across Canada.)

We seem to attract a lot of non-profit (environment, research, health) and financial/accounting clients. I believe we aimed more for non-profits when the company was first started, both because of the President’s contacts in that sector and also because they are easier to access than other businesses, and they have formed a tight-knit community in our city. The issue with non-profits is that, because of their tight usually government-controlled budgets, we’re in a constant struggle to get paid for our extensive work.

Our clients are typically not technically-oriented. Companies are both B2B and B2C, ranging in industry from financial and accounting services to commercial real estate, health care services, non-profits, and some retail.

We’d like to aim for businesses with younger staff that understand technology and can appreciate the need for IT, as well as the critical nature of technology services in relation to their business operations. But it has proven to be hard… which leads me to…

Biggest PR/Marketing Challenge:
We charge hourly for consulting, project hours and support time; the hourly price is lower with a contract than without a contract, where we would come out and do things on a case by case basis. It’s difficult to convince SMBs that our services are worth the amount we are charging – however, to draft a legal document, they’re more than willing to a pay a top notch lawyer $500/hour. If your IT services – your computers, your printers, your network, your data – are done incorrectly, you’re out of business. Customers view IT issues as a pain (i.e. my email is down again) instead of as a critical part of their business (i.e. without IT, we can’t function as a company).

Customers just don’t always understand the value of IT services.

Our monthly support contract covers just about everything “IT”. Then on top of that, say you’ve signed up for a 10-hour contract for support – we don’t just send a bill at the end of the month: we send you a full report of every single minute of work that was done for your company and what was accomplished. We log every incident and track all time and documentation within our Helpdesk. And because we’re a small company at heart (growing now; we’ve doubled our size in the past 2 years), we do give great customer service – our clients know us and they know if something goes horribly wrong with their email at 3 in the morning, they can reach us with one phone call.

Main Marketing/PR Goal:
1. Help our current clients understand why our services are worth the price tag. This may be an inherent problem in the industry (it’s known that IT is on average never properly budgeted for), but EDS and other huge IT corporations don’t seem to have a problem. We want them to see us as a partner for their business, not just an “IT repair service”.

2. Bring in clients who understand the importance of IT services already, and get them to pick us above our competitors for our value-added work.

We’re too entrenched in the technology/service provider perspective to understand how our clients and potential clients really see IT. Hopefully BrandingWire can help us see our company from a purely marketing perspective. Our company is great – we just need to get that idea out there to our current clients and to those that have yet to hear about us.


OK, great challenge. Now, here is how the BrandingWire posse of pundits responded!

cat-fix-it-sm.jpgOlivier Blanchard

Becky Carroll

Kevin Dugan

Drew McLellan

Patrick Schaber

Steve Woodruff

Lewis Green

Valeria Maltoni

Gavin Heaton

Martin Jelsema

And, our 3 4 guest bloggers this month:

Cam Beck

Chris Brown

Matt Dickman

Mark Goren (Mark saw his invitation late but jumped in as soon as he could!)

So, what do you think? Feel free to add your thoughts in the Comments!


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