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Better Branding

In many cases, hiring an outsider may be the most effective way to get to the meat of your message.

Woodruff helps business owners package their messages more effectively, offering his objective view. "One of my clients gave me bullet points of all their stuff," says Woodruff. "After a very simple suggestion from an outsider , the lights went on."

Just like producing a good vodka, the message has to be distilled to its essence. "You've got to explain in a few words what you are doing and why," Woodruff adds. "You build all your branding and marketing off that core message. If you don't have that, you don't have anything."

If you're still lost, look to the leader of the company, advises William Arruda, president of Reach Communications . A small business should be founded by someone who has a passion and a certain set of values, says Arruda, "so often understanding the brand of the leader is going to get the small business really far as in understanding the brand of the business."

Grab an Audience

Now that the message is clear, you have to make it stand out. As long as you have something of value to offer, says Woodruff, you can make people take notice.

Sometimes that can be as simple as a silly face: For $50, Woodruff hired an artist to draw a caricature of his face for his Web site. "I got more comments on that caricature than anything else I have done from a marketing and branding perspective," he says.

Avoid stock phrases and business-speak like "we care about our people," Woodruff explains. He points a finger of shame at a certain large shipping company whose trucks read "synchronizing the world of commerce," a phrase that Woodruff believes only means something to those in the shipping industry. (The phrase didn't ring any bells for me, but maybe the general public should be given more credit.)

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