This article from Kathy Hanbury lays out a 5-step checklist for developing content that will drive customers to your Website, enhance your brand, and increase your visibility within your industry. She suggests that you should evaluate your stories, collateral, and other content offerings based on: Industry Expertise; Brand Focus; Audience Goals; Audience Interests; and Available Resources.

For medium to large enterprises, Ms. Hanbury's precepts and planning exercises are right on the money. However, many small businesses haven't fully developed a brand, nor do they have a clear, 30-second summary of their company's value propositions. We - and HBC falls into the Small Business Category - tend to focus on filling today's orders rather than developing a strategic plan that can help guide us to a new level of business success.

This doesn't mean that small businesses can't compete with the big boys. Even though small businesses have fewer resources and dollars to spend on marketing and messaging, the big difference between a small and medium enterprise is that the large business believes in the value of a brand, supported by a sales and marketing strategy. For small businesses, fear of change is often the biggest hurdle to overcome.

Don't fall victim to the unknown. Take the time to think about your business, your unique position within your industry, and how you can enhance your brand by taking the time to think about "big picture" strategies. Then, drive those strategies throughout your workforce by developing processes and procedures that easily integrate with existing sales practices to improve your marketing, which will in turn, improve your sales as customers learn more about your expertise and gain trust in your operation. This is what Branding is all about.

Concrete examples of this might include a adding a "comment" section to your customer database so salespeople can record key customer concerns, or recent customer successes based on interaction with your company. You can then use this information to further promote your operation and your brand. Make these notes and application wins a part of criteria you use for annual reviews. Sales may balk initially at the additional "work," but when they how customers respond to a salesperson remembering a recent success or calling with a unique solution to problem, they'll come around.