Small Business Marketing Mind Meld – RVE #341

Brooks Smothers joins Jim for Small Business Marketing 101, ideal for solopreneurs and content creators. Discover branding beyond logos & strategies for success.

Jim welcomes fellow marketing expert Brooks Smothers in a deep discussion all about marketing for small business. Consider this episode your Marketing 101 course for solopreneurs, content creators, or any small business owner. We’re taking a deep dive into all the different types of marketing, and which strategies work best for creators, service providers, or any online business.

Learn the importance of developing a marketing strategy, and where to begin. Brooks provides a thorough breakdown defining the difference between branding, advertising, marketing and sales. You’ll discover the importance of developing your brand story, and refining your niche, with great examples and tips for getting started. Spoiler alert: Your brand is not your logo.

GUEST BIO: Brooks Smothers grew up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. He has camped in the American West for as long as he can remember, from backpacking trips, car camping, van life (1978 VW Camper Bus traveled through 37 states and 1 US Territory), a tent trailer and now to a travel trailer — he’s experienced it. He has crisscrossed the United States by road seven different times and all via different routes. Plus, he has traveled and seen all 50 states. Professionally, he is a Social Media Director with a background in graphic design and visual journalism. He understands the importance of branding, and using the power of storytelling in content marketing.

brooks smothers

Small Business Marketing Mind Meld for Solopreneurs and Content Creators

With Brooks Smothers of RV Out West

Your Host: Jim Nelson


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The RV Entrepreneur #341 Full Episode Transcript:

Small Business Marketing Mind Meld for Solopreneurs and Content Creators

BROOKS: But here. To me, this is the biggest difference between sales and marketing. Sales is solving a problem. Marketing is helping your target audience identify that they have a problem. This may be a known problem, or it may be a problem that they don’t even know that they had.

RV LIFE: Welcome to the RV Entrepreneur Podcast, the weekly show for nomads, work campers, RVers and entrepreneurs looking to earn a living or build a business while enjoying the RV lifestyle. This week’s host is Jim Nelson. Let’s settle in and enjoy the RV entrepreneur podcast brought to you by RV life.

JIM: That’s right. This is the RV entrepreneur and I’m Jim at RV life back at the wheel here with an important discussion all about marketing. You could even call this episode marketing 101 for the solopreneur or any small business owner. Really? Because we’re taking a deep dive into all the different types of marketing and which strategies work best for content creators, service providers, or any online business. That’s why I’m excited to welcome Brooks Smothers to the show. Brooks is not only host of the RV Out West podcast, he’s also an expert cross-channel marketer. And yeah, we talk about what that means. But together we have, uh, well, many years of combined marketing experience. We’ve both spent career time in marketing communications, and we define that too. But we also get down to the nitty gritty business of where to begin marketing your business. And big surprise that comes down to knowing your why. You may think you have the best widget, but you’ll never sell any if you don’t know how it helps your customer. Brooks has some fantastic thoughts on the subject, especially when it comes to branding. Spoiler alert your brand is much more than just your logo. Your brand tells your story, and we both share some great examples. Brooks helps us understand where to begin when developing your brand story and the importance of refining your niche. And he provides an excellent overview defining the differences between branding, marketing, advertising, and sales. We’ve also got some excellent recommended reading and listening, so check the show notes for those links while we hear from the brand that makes this show possible.

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JIM: Brooks, thanks so much for joining me. I’m glad you’re here.

BROOKS: Yeah, Jim, thank you so much for having me. I’m looking forward to chatting with you.

JIM: No. Me too. I’m really glad we had a chance to connect. And we’ve all seems like both of us have kind of been in marketing forever, so we have a lot to share on that subject. I also want to hear more about RV out West and we’ll get on to all that. But first, since this is technically the RV Life Entrepreneur podcast, I tend to ask all my guests two simple questions to get to know you. When were you first introduced to the RV life and how is that different now?

BROOKS: So funny story. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest for the most part, and uh, my wife grew up in the burbs of Philly and she never was a camper. So it wasn’t until we started dating in the early 2000 that I introduced her to tent camping, and it was on the beaches of Costa Rica was very, you know, it sounds luxurious, but we were just broke and whenever. And so we slept on the beaches in a tent. Fast forward now, and friends of ours had a pop up tent trailer, and they had just done an upgrade to a travel trailer. And so we were at a barbecue and I was like, hey, what are you guys going to do with the tent trailer? And they were like, sell it, why do you want to buy it? And I said, yes. And my wife said no. And I kind of looked at her and we were in our 40s at the time, and I’m like, I want to get off the ground. Like I don’t want to sleep on the ground anymore. And she was telling me that getting a tent trailer means we were getting soft and that it wasn’t really camping, and she subscribed to that camp of it’s not camping unless you’re in a tent. Our friends ultimately let us borrow it for the summer because they were going off on a big trip in their new trailer.

BROOKS: So they said, why don’t you just hang on to the pop up? When we get back from our trip? We’ll figure it out. Whether you’re just giving it back to us or you want to buy it, whatever. It only took all of about one night of sleep, and my wife rolled over and said, yeah, we’re buying this. And so that was our anniversary gift to ourselves that year is we bought Pippa the pop up. We had Pippa for about two years, and then we were bit by going RVing and camping in that situation. And it was actually about a year before Covid, and we were thinking about wanting to go ahead and get something with air conditioning, because the summers were getting hotter and the kids were heat stroking out and popsicles and the whole nine. And then Covid hit and we were like, you know what? Having our own bathroom and not having to go to the bath house, we could still get outside and go camping. And so Covid was what made us go ahead and pull the trigger on our travel trailer. And then we sold Pippa. So that’s kind of how we got into it.

JIM: Awesome. And now you’re traveling primarily throughout the northwest on longer trips. You’re not on the road full time. You kind of go out and do and enjoy those trips with the family, right? Correct.

BROOKS: I would say we are weekenders, but we camp nine months out of the year. So we put in 52 nights, usually a year in our trailer. And it’s only I shut it down because we’re avid skiers and snowboarders. So from December, January and February, I’m up in the mountains every weekend, skiing and snowboarding.

JIM: Fantastic. Let’s talk about the business side for a second. You’ve had the office life and are entrepreneurial. What do you think it means to be an entrepreneur? What’s it take?

BROOKS: I think it takes chutzpah. It takes you know, I think our viewers in general are an adventurous type of folk. And so I think being adventurous, being an entrepreneur is no different. It’s just being adventurous and making decisions, trying things. And, you know, if something doesn’t happen and it fails, you stand up, dust yourself off, rethink it and try again. And it just is an ongoing adventure. So, you know, I still have a desk job. I have a 9 to 5. And so it provides the security and the stability. Our kids are elementary age and I have a sixth grader, so their extracurricular activities are starting to take off more and more. So having that 9 to 5 for this period of life right now seems to kind of make sense for us.

JIM: Stability is a good thing, that’s for sure. So let’s talk about that marketing background for a minute. Like me, you’ve been a marketing manager, a marcom manager, I noticed, which I’ve also been a marketing consultant. Tell me about some of the highlights of the professional marketing career compared to the more entrepreneurial routes you’ve taken.

BROOKS: Sure. You know, my professional career has been a bit of a winding path. I originally, after I graduated from university, I started out as a graphic designer and I worked as a graphic designer for about a decade. And it wasn’t until about 2006 or so that I kind of pivoted my career to be more on the marketing side than just doing the graphic design. The reason was that kind of twofold. One, I wasn’t a fantastic graphic designer. There are much better designers out there. I’m not terrible, but there are much more skilled, better graphic designers than I was. But utilizing that background, I’m really able to talk to a design team in a way that makes sense to them. So it’s almost like I can translate and geek out with them on that way. But what I really like about marketing is it allows me to be creative, and I can still have that creative outlet, but I also get to engage with that more analytical left side of my brain to figure out, hey, how are we going to measure this? What does success look like? How are we going to kind of have these goals? And what is this big creative idea going to do? What’s its impact? And so I get a. Be more strategic. And I find that I actually really, really enjoy that part of what I do.

JIM: You know, I’m finding we have a lot more and more in common. I was a marketing communications manager long ago in the Silicon Valley. I was originally a graphic designer, and I was, you know, designing the software packaging when it used to come in boxes on the shelf. And I was doing the trade show graphics, and my marcom manager of the boss quit, and they offered me the job, and I said, I don’t want that. I want to be a creative guy. And, you know, dot com heyday Silicon Valley software company, saw what they made and said, sure, I can do that job. Next thing you know, I’m doing everything from the advertising and the media relations to the trade shows. Do you have anything memorable that sticks out from your marcom days?

BROOKS: So I worked at Bank of America in their internal advertising agency during the housing bubble market crash, and I was on the line of business at the time that was Bank of America mortgage, and that is when Bank of America purchased and acquired countrywide. And so I was on the team internally who put in the time, and we completely did the entire rebranding to which now and has been now for the last 20 years, Bank of America Home Loans. But it was going through what was at the time, the Bank of America offerings, what were the countrywide offerings? And, you know, others were figuring out what programs were going to be offered. But I was on that design team working on rebranding all of that collateral. And we’re talking 1800 pieces of collateral in under nine months. So a lot of long hours and rebranding and putting that together. So that was, um, one fun project that was pretty intense, too.

JIM: Wow. That is intense. I did a little bit of work in the early freelance days when Wells Fargo was branding stuff at the kiosk level, and so I know how that can go. And when I was first looking for the big graphic design job in the city, I almost went into a financial firm, but then decided no, because it was like spinning a bunch of Excel charts and it wasn’t a true design. But I was mentioned in those Marcom manager days in Silicon Valley. I used to joke that marketing was just sales without the commission, but long. Since then I’ve learned that it’s much more than selling. How do you define marketing for the small business owner, and how do you see it different from the sales tactics?

BROOKS: Great question. So the way I see it, marketing for small business means that, you know, a small business owner really needs to kind of be a jack of all trades, and then you’re really a master of none, as that expression goes. And I think what bogs down small business owners is they get into the weeds of producing content to push out, but they don’t really focus on their why. Right. Creating the content is the fun thing. It’s what we want to do. It’s creating those little TikToks or doing a little design work or whatever it is, but they’re not really thinking about how their services or products are different from others in that same market space. And it’s because I had mentioned again, but like, the content is that fun stuff. And so you’re losing the true intention of why you’re doing it. You’re making yourself be rudderless. So I would suggest that they spend time focusing on the why and then who, who are they trying to reach with that. And I think that’s more an important area to focus their marketing attention on. And I just want to break down kind of, in my opinion, branding, marketing, advertising and sales and how they’re different. So branding is that process of creating a distinct identity for your business in the minds of your target audience and the general population. It’s not exactly about the products or the services, but it’s the tone of your messaging, how you present yourself, your colors, your type choices, how you answer the phone. It’s all of it. That’s all part of your branding. Marketing is thinking about your products and services.

BROOKS: What are those products and services? What are their strengths? How is your product or service different from your competitors? How do you want to position your products or services to your target audience? It’s taken the time to strategically think about these types of things, and really putting a plan together about how you want to message and what that’s going to look like. Advertising. These are your channels. This is how you leverage your marketing strategy. It could be through traditional print digital advertising like Google Ads to social media and email newsletter. Being an exhibitor, you know, at an event or a trade show. So there’s all those different other ways to advertise sales. This is the actual sale of your product and services. But here, to me, this is the biggest difference between sales and marketing. Sales is solving a problem. Marketing is helping your target audience identify that they have a problem. This may be a known problem, or it may be a problem that they don’t even know that they had. I’m not suggesting being tricky, but like, you know, if you’re talking to somebody about sales, you’re saying, hey, we have this product, we have this service, they can help you. Oh, here’s an add on and an upsell and whatever it might be, and you’re working to solve that particular client or person’s problem. But marketing is helping them to identify what that problem is, how your product or service. And make their life easier. And so it’s really kind of identifying that they have that problem is the big difference in my opinion.

JIM: And there you have it folks. That’s our story for today. Brooks. That’s such an excellent overview. You kind of summarized everything I want to talk about. So we’re going to like pick away at some of those nits and picks. But excellent overview. You mentioned the why and the how. And it kind of struck me about how we met. We connected on LinkedIn, where you call yourself a visual storyteller and cross-channel marketer. What does that mean?

BROOKS: So I’m even thinking about rewinding that. I feel like storytelling is getting thrown around a lot these days. And so I don’t know if it’s being watered down, but it’s about telling the story of a brand. It’s about telling the story of a product or your service or whatever it might be. So you can create a connection with your audience. Whether they become a client or a customer, ultimately is the end goal, but it’s really about developing that relationship. And we are such as a human species in my opinion. We are all about stories. And so using stories as your catalyst to do that is, I think what’s so important and cross-channel just means all the various different advertising, you know, whether it’s traditional media or digital marketing or using email newsletters, social media or all of the different ways to reach people, video, etc..

JIM: That is a perfect segue. And what I wanted to talk about next, since there’s, you know, marketing is such a blanket terms, it covers so much. Maybe we could just, you know, toss a few marketing tactics or strategies with some very brief overviews of what they are like. Digital marketing encompasses basically all online marketing, social email, SEO. There’s social media marketing where you’re engaging with your audience, building community, brand awareness, what other types of like marketing segments or tactics or strategies that could you come up with that fall under the marketing blanket?

BROOKS: Well, you have traditional marketing, right? So whether that’s, you know, your print advertising, whether it’s an advertising in a particular magazine or a publication to doing direct mail, and I don’t think traditional print is completely dead. So I wouldn’t necessarily say to rule it out, but for a solopreneur, I’m not sure that traditional print from a cost to ROI might be the best choice in a place to put your dollars, and it works better if you have a larger advertising budget, but it’s still worthy of a mention. I think video is a really big consideration. Content is king, and so doing video and video marketing. The other thing I was just reading an article about SEO and I’m by no means SEO is probably my weakest area, right? That’s not what I traditionally focus on. Sure. Me too. Using audio for search with more and more homes and people using Siri and Alexa, and getting those things where SEO, you’re focusing on keywords for your website or whatever that might be. And now people are saying, Hey Siri or hey, Alexa, and they’re asking a question to them. And those keywords are more long winded when I’m talking to those devices. You know, I’m not using a, hey, tell me, where’s the cheapest hotel near me or whatever it might be. And that is becoming more and more of a way. People are using search, event marketing, things like going to trade shows. I mean, there’s just so many options. Influencer marketing, um, relationship marketing.

JIM: I’m just had a good podcast that dropped recently about relationship marketing. I’ve got one coming up with Liz Wilcox all about email marketing. There’s affiliate marketing, referral marketing, and we can go on and on. But where does the new entrepreneur begin when it comes to, say, marketing strategy development?

BROOKS: So any new entrepreneur who has an idea and they’re looking to market their service or product, absolutely. It’s strategy you can’t run before you put your sneakers on. So you really need to pause and think about your strategy and what you’re going to do. If marketing strategy is new to you, you really want to work on developing your marketing mix, and you can Google that firm marketing mix and get a slew of results. But when a marketing mix is going to do, it’s also known as the four P’s. And it’s kind of like a document if you’ve ever and I’m maybe I’m dating myself. I’ve still do them. But like a Swot analysis it’s very similar like a Swot analysis where you’re looking at your strengths, your weaknesses, your opportunities and your threats within a marketplace. It’s kind of similar, but with a marketing mix, you’re looking at the product. So what are you selling? Your price? What is the price? The place? Where are you going to be selling your product and promotion? Where will you be promoting this product? And so when you’re kind of thinking through your marketing mix, this is a good time to conduct your market research and identify who’s your target audience, you know, determine what are your measurable goals.

BROOKS: What’s that going to look like? You know, is it a PDF that you’re trying to sell? And so what’s a reasonable amount of. Downloads that you can look at, you know, how are you going to craft your messaging? What again, how you’re going to position that, what channels are going to work and what tactics and how, you know, again, we go back to is it going to be through social media? Is it going to be through an email newsletter? Is it going to be a Google ad campaign? You know, it’s going to be whatever it might be, and then you’re going to need to establish your budget and your timelines and be realistic on your budget and realistic on your timelines, and then track and monitor your progress. So those are all the things that I think a lot of people skip over. And again, I go back to, let’s just create the content because that’s the fun stuff and you’re skipping that.

JIM: But it kind of comes back to the why and telling the story because you may have a great product, but unless you know your customer’s pain point and how you’re addressing that, you don’t really know why you’re doing what you’re doing. If you’re just out there to make a product and put a price point on it and try to make money, you’re going to fail. If you don’t know where to market it and how to reach those people by talking about features and benefits. You know, the feature is the one thing, but how does it benefit the customer?

BROOKS: And you might get it wrong, and then you’re going to have to go back and rethink and be like, oh, I thought this is going to be great for a 20 something. And you find out that you’re getting more downloads from a 40 something and you’re like, wow, I was not expecting that. And so, you know, then maybe you need to rework your language because you’re talking to a different audience or whatever it might be, and your analytics are going to tell you that.

JIM: I was going to ask you, like, where does the small business owner start with this sort of thing? But it brings up kind of a sad interaction I had in the RV entrepreneur Facebook group. There was a member who joined and he has a new product, and he wanted to ask about marketing and how he’s wasting money on firms. So I tried to engage with him and say, well, you know, do you know your messaging? Do you know your niche audience? You know, what is the benefit, what are the features? And he kind of disappeared, but it’s like you need to look at that big picture before focusing on the product. Something’s people think so hard about their widget and how so awesome it is without thinking about who needs it. So it’s kind of getting back to the storytelling of how and why you’re doing what you’re doing.

BROOKS: Do you remember executives at Toyota did the five whys, and so you ask five whys. And this is they used it for like operational efficiencies, but you can still do it for just about anything. Right. Why do I want to create this widget. Why is this widget going to fix somebody and make their life easier? Why this? Why that? And you just keep drilling down and ultimately you’ll get to kind of that product positioning point if you ask those five whys.

JIM: In a similar way, I was recently listening to Bill Nye’s old book, and he talks about, you know, the upside down design triangle where the customer is at the top and the broad audience is at the top, and you narrow it down to manufacturing all the way down to the pinpoint of design, where you start by, you know, thinking about the audience. In the end, you need to, you know, focus on this one great thing, but you got to make sure the people need it or you’re never going to sell any. What do you think are the bare necessities for marketing and online business these days?

BROOKS: So we had just talked about strategy. I want to reiterate that again, because I think that is really important. And I think without a good strategy, you’re not going to be able to put together a plan. And so you’re going to be shooting from your hip and you’re going to be rudderless. Maybe you get this boom in sales, but you don’t know why you got that boom in sales. Was it because of what you did or was it just lucky? So I just want to hit that home. But the other thing I think a lot of solopreneurs can do is create a content calendar. So for my show every year, I try to go on a solo camping trip in my RV, and I use that opportunity to be like a writer’s workshop. And so I will pause for my weekly production schedule of my podcast, and I’ll look kind of at what did I do the previous year, what worked, what didn’t work, what do I think was successful? What can I do more of? What do I want to add? What do I want to subtract? And this could be from a content like, hey, I want to try this new segment adding to my show. It could be identifying some prospective brands that maybe I want to try to work and collaborate with. And it’s just thinking of new ways to get my show to grow.

BROOKS: So a content calendar is a great roadmap for your content. It’ll help keep you focused, but also relevant, whether it’s from seasonality topics. Hey, you know, you don’t want to be talking about winterizing your RV in July doesn’t make sense, right? So it’s seasonality topics that’s important to make sure you’re producing your content when your audience is looking for that information. But I really want to warn people to keep in mind that a content calendar is never written in ink. It’s a living document, and you need to be able to remain flexible for when things come up so you can bump and move things around. But a content calendar is an easy to do practice that will keep you relevant in the world with so much noise and clutter. And again, you just don’t know when an opportunity is going to pop up and you meet somebody and you’re like, hey, this is cool, I’d love to have you come on my show. And so now I’ve got to move some things around because it’s timely and relevant. And I want to add. That guest to my show. So you can’t be like, oh no, on this date we’re doing this, you got to be flexible. But at least it will also help keep you moving forward and focused.

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JIM: That’s an excellent tip. And it applies to kind of the big picture when you step back. And your content calendar really applies, whether you have a blog or a podcast or you’re only on a social media presence or you’re a content creator doing videos, if you have the big picture of what your messaging is and when it hits and when your products per se drop throughout the year, you got to have those things on the calendar. But they’re definitely in pencil because things do change.

BROOKS: Right? Couldn’t agree more. And I think collectively we spend so much time on social media because it has this presumed low cost barrier because it’s free to sign up, but your time has a cost associated with it. So this doesn’t mean social media isn’t important, but it really just depends on what is your preferred action that you want your audience to do. I mean, I’m a social media director professionally, but yet on my podcast I focus more on my content of my show than I do on my social media. I don’t have a content calendar for my social media, and I’m often shooting from my hip on social media because I’m wanting to focus on my show. So it’s this catch 22. Do I want to get social media followers or do I want to get downloads? Both require time and effort, and I only have so much time, and I have to make decisions on how I want to focus my efforts.

JIM: You know, one of the best pieces of advice I ever received about social media, with all the different platforms out there Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, X threads, Pinterest, YouTube. A coach once told me, focus on where your audience is. You know, if they’re not on Twitter, which we decided to get off of because for various reasons, we just don’t engage there. We have apps in place that auto feed certain content there, but we focus where our audience is. So, you know, be where your people are, don’t feel like you have to spread yourself so thin.

BROOKS: And the calmer end to that too, is don’t just join a social media platform to like, park your brand. So that way if you’re like, oh, I don’t want somebody else to take it. So I’m just going to go in and register my brand so I at least have it. I think that’s worse than not being on that platform. So if you’re not going to engage in that platform for whatever reason, whether you’re like, my audience isn’t there or I just don’t like the platform or whatever it might be, don’t register an account and be on that platform if you are not going to engage in it. That is more detrimental, in my opinion, than to just be on the platform and not do anything.

JIM: I would agree 100% and it can definitely be detrimental to look stale or like, oh, you have an account there, but it hasn’t done anything ever. The one hat I wear is tripods or a three legged dog and cat community. And when we decided to leave Twitter we had a decent following. So we have a pinned post that basically explains you will continue to see our content here that we’re sharing. But for true engagement and the help that you need, come over here, which I have a love hate relationship with social media because I’ve built our own social network with the tripods platform. I’ve got forums and blogs and live chat and private messaging. So it’s one of those love hate things. You got to be where the people are. Our people tend to be on Facebook and Instagram, so we engage there and in other places. We let it be known clearly that, yeah, you can catch our content here, but if you want help and engagement, come over here.

BROOKS: Right. I got to also shout out I had a tripod cat.

JIM: Oh small world.

BROOKS: His name was cornflakes. He was the coolest cat I ever had. He was awesome. And my dad was a veterinarian, so my dad was the one who amputated the rear leg. But yes. And then he brought him home. But yeah, the the cat was hit by a car in. The owners were like, we can’t afford to fix him, so we’ll just put him to sleep. And my dad was like, never mind, I’ll just take him home. And so we rescued cornflakes and I had a three legged cat.

JIM: That’s great. More and more connections going on here. And listeners can find out about my story and the Tripods network and the 2003 legged dog and cat blogs we host and our non-profit foundation in a previous episode. We’ll get the show notes in there, and.

BROOKS: He was so quick he could get up the stairs so fast I was blown away with it. And because he had two front and one rear, so he was a quick little guy too.

JIM: They adapt and they’re very resilient, as many of us entrepreneurs are if we focus. So we were going to talk about branding. I’d love to talk about branding. And I was going to mention a favorite quote I have by David Bowie. He basically said product plus personality equals brand. And he attributed it to some guy in advertising. So it wasn’t his quote, but that’s the way he phrased it. How do you think a brand differs from a logo? A lot of people think, oh, my brand is my logo. It’s not.

BROOKS: I am so excited you asked this question, and I’m really looking forward to answering it because I have some pretty strong opinions about this as well. So first off, let’s define the purpose of a logo as I think a lot of content creators think of a logo. More as. Would it make a cool sticker? Sagi Haviv is a well renowned graphic designer and he has given the best explanation ever. Here’s what he said A logo’s job is not to tell a story. A logo’s job is just a means of identification, which gains value over time as more and more people recognize it. Here’s the kicker. A logo is the period at the end of a sentence, not the sentence itself. And I want to say that again, a logo is the period at the end of the sentence, not the sentence itself. So if you think about that, a logos job is not to tell the story. So that means in my case, if I’m a podcaster and an rvere, my logo doesn’t need to have a microphone and an RV in it. So stop thinking about your logo as a form of would this make a great sticker? I think people try to cram too much iconography into a logo, as they believe someone needs to be able to see that logo and identify with what that business does.

BROOKS: And that’s not the case. Again, a logo is the period at the end of a sentence, and when you think of it that way, it is so powerful. Now, branding is all encompassing, as branding is the process of creating a strong positive perception of your company and your products. Successful branding. And if I just say the word Intel, those of us in our late 30s or older can hear the doo doo doo doo of their jingle, right? So that’s that successful brand. And here in the RV space, if we think of Josh winters, he’s really Josh, the RV nerd. And if I were to ask any RV who was the RV nerd, they would know his name is Josh. That’s what successful branding looks like. The line is blurred between the two and we all know one means the other. It’s the type of thing that we should be working towards. Branding is incorporated in everything we should do as a company, and as a small business, or a content creator. The key to being successful in branding is being consistent. Consistent in your messaging, your color choices, your type, the content you publish, and how you say it. That is what’s incredibly important for branding.

JIM: You know, I really love what you mentioned there, especially the logo being the period at the sentence. A lot of people tend to focus on the design and they go to Fiverr and they get these logos that have, for instance, the microphone and the RV and the road and the mountains and the paraglider, because they also do that and the rainbow and the fish and it’s just too much. It’s trying to cram too much into the period where you really got to tell the story through consistency and typography and such. And you gave one good example. Think about any other good examples in a minute while I explain one I came across, I think it was our first year on the road. I’m talking about like great branding examples. As a graphic designer, I’m always on the lookout for type of things. And we were at Bucky’s, another great brand down south, but I noticed a display for Rufus Teague barbecue sauce. I love barbecue sauce. I’d never heard of it before, so I go up there and pick up a bottle. There’s no logo per se, but right on the label where the logo usually is, it says Rufus Teague made some sauce. And on the back there was a story about how Rufus Teague made some sauce, and it was so good. He had his friends would come around and then more friends would come around and ask for some. And that story engaged me, hooked me, and I’m still a fan today. Do you have any other kind of smart branding examples that come to mind?

BROOKS: You know, from a brand story. Dave’s bread. Dave’s Killer bread is a cool story. It’s a great story. And I like the bread, even though Dave is no longer involved in the company. And he sold it. And it’s now, you know, been owned by a conglomerate, but as a brand, it was a very cool story. One of a great podcast that I really, really enjoy is how I Built This by Guy raz, where he interviews entrepreneurs and asks incredible questions. And it’s not like, oh, tell me about why Q3 you had this big sale. It’s people come and they just give of themselves and they tell very personal stories about how they started. And it’s just a really powerful like Yvon Chouinard. I’m a big fan of Patagonia. And so Yvon Chouinard, how he started it and he wasn’t setting out to be a businessman, he just needed to find a new way to create the opinions so he could do less damage on rock faces when he was climbing. So I think there’s a lot of those great brand stories. If you just look out and you pay attention to them. One of the things about a logo, I just want to circle back really quick is that when I was in design school, my design professor always said that a logo needs to also be as successful on a billboard as it is as the size of a dime. So back to those. If you’re creating a sticker or you got the paraglider, the RV, the microphone, the mountain in the ocean and the river, when you shrink that down to the size of a dime, if you can’t read it or it doesn’t look like that, then that’s not a successful logo. So that’s one other little tidbit I wanted to just kind of add back to that.

JIM: I totally agree there, because a lot of people will come up with these intricate logos for their show. And then if you try to find it in the podcast app at dime size, you can barely read it. And that makes it difficult. And it all kind of, you know, I don’t want to brag here, but it kind of creates a good example for when I rebranded tripods. We originally kicked off and it wasn’t even going to be anything. So we had a picture, you know, a silhouette of our dog and the word tripods. But when I rebranded it, I made a simple merit badge. It was just a circle with a couple different colored lines around it, and three paws with our consistent color and then our typography. And it is a merit badge for all of the tripods out there that go through what they go. And it’s a badge of honor for the people that take care of them and or vice versa. But we’ll put more notes in the show notes for there for people who care more about that. You know, this is all sounds great, but where does the new solopreneur you know, we’re often doing everything. We’re wearing all the hats. Where do we begin to develop a brand? They think they want a logo. They want to go to Fiverr. But where do they go when they want a cohesive branding campaign or branding identity?

BROOKS: So this we’re going back to storytelling a little bit now. So, you know, storytelling is the world and branding, it’s just a way to communicate what your brand or business is about. So it’s through that messaging and your choice and everything that touches your brand, from the music selection in a video to the colors you choose to the typeface, anything and everything is all tied into your brand. Again, it’s even how you answer your phone. The simple way you sign off on an email. It’s all different ways that your audience is going to identify with you, your business, and you want to make it feel more personal. The goal is to really create brand champions, who then will go out and shout from the rooftops on your behalf. I’m not necessarily a huge fan of word of mouth. I think that so many people like, oh, we’re doing grassroots, we’re just word of mouth, and that’s fine, but you need to put some strategy behind it. Just saying your grassroots word of mouth is not necessarily a very strategic way to go about growing your business. You know, as I mentioned, I’m a big fan of Patagonia, and they tell great stories and they have great products and they show that they care.

BROOKS: I follow them on social media. Their retail experiences are top notch, and so everything seems to be in alignment because they are consistent and they’re telling that same story. So to answer your question, this is where brand books become important. And I think every small business should have a brand book and a brand book. You’re sitting down and you’re saying, this is my logo. It will never be used this way or this way, or stretched here or against this color or whatever it might be to. Here’s the typeface. We have two typefaces. This is our headline typeface. This is my copy typeface. This is the tone. So you’re creating that brand book. So before you even engage with the designer on Fiverr, you should be able to kind of hand over can be a one page document and say, hey, here’s kind of about the brand. So you’re giving that creative designer an opportunity to kind of launch off of what you’re thinking and what you want your brand to represent so they can develop something that it works. Lock step in conjunction with your vision.

JIM: It’s a great place to start. The brand book we’re talking about is more than a style guide, because you do want your consistent typography and your primary colors that you’re using all the time. But in this brand book, you want to identify your voice and say, this is. Where we’re speaking from. This is our story and this is how we say certain things, and this is the capitalization we use, and this is how we spell things out. And it’s a good idea to kind of get that down on paper and hold yourself your feet to the fire and do your best practices yourself. Because if you want other people to refer to you a certain way, you got to do the same thing. You had mentioned kind of brand loyalty, brand fans and word of mouth. And I got to mention one of my favorite books. Peter Shankman wrote, Zombie Loyalists. And what he explains in this book is how to create rabid fans. And it’s by having a cohesive story. Yeah, a product with the features and the benefits that fit the person’s needs, but the support, the customer support and the voice and the tone and everything calls into a big package. So the marketing kind of takes care of itself, that word of mouth, whether or not you call it that, you have the zombie loyalists out there. So we’ll throw that in the show notes as well. I’m jumping ahead, but do you have other books that come to mind since we’re talking about the brand book, and I just dropped one about branding and customer service there.

BROOKS: Again, I’m a big fan of Patagonia, so this isn’t about brand as much, but Yvon Chouinard wrote a book called Let My People Go Surfing, and that book is all about kind of his thoughts and the ways of running a business. And so branding and marketing is a part of that equation. But he talks about how he treats his people, he treats his employees. And it was just a really great, powerful story. But again, I’m going to go back to Guy raz, how I built this as a podcast. There’s just a lot of great stories there about how people branded and do marketing and how, you know, their businesses took off. And it’s just they’re always just fascinating stories. You don’t have to listen to that podcast start to finish. One, two, three, four, five. You know, if you’re like, hey, I like Burton Snowboards. I want to hear this story. You can skip around, jump around and, you know, listen to the JetBlue one blew my mind. I had no idea about JetBlue and the guy who started JetBlue. And that’s a fascinating story.

JIM: So there are some great stories in there. I’ve listened to a few of those. I agree, and I’ll just drop one more book out there. One of my favorites from long ago. I might be dating myself, but Guerrilla Marketing by Jay Levinson. It kind of gets down to the nitty gritty for the when you’re just starting up and it’s just you how you can hit the road with a business card, believe it or not. You know, I don’t know if that’s as relevant for some people these days. I think it is. I’m dating myself. But guerrilla Marketing and Guy Kawasaki, definitely another hero of mine. We’ll get all that in the show notes there.

BROOKS: I skipped, by the way, for business cards I recommend dot cards, dot dot cards, 20 bucks. They’re fantastic. And you’re using NFC’s awesome.

JIM: We’ll get that in the show notes as well. So we talked a lot about content creation, and a lot of our listeners are content creators primarily just making videos. The problem I have with a lot of them is they’re all RV content creators without any specific niche. And it’s like, how do they stand out? How can content creators kind of focus and niche down and identify their niche to stand out from the crowd? These days, when there’s so many of them.

BROOKS: They should start with themselves? As a solopreneur, what makes you and your story so special? Don’t focus on what others who are successful in your area or business are doing. I mean, yes, we can monitor and see and whatever, but don’t try to emulate. Focus inward if you are chasing what others are doing because that’s what success looks like to you, then you’re maybe doing it wrong from the get go. It goes back to what is your story? Why should I, as a potential audience, care? So what unique story do you have? What makes what you’re doing different and special? And let me learn about you.

JIM: And I think that all comes back to having purpose and focusing on what your purpose is. And like we originally started out here, why do you do what you do? I tell kind of an anecdote in our book, Income Anywhere. It’s like you may love hummingbirds, so you decide to make hummingbird feeders, but is that your purpose? No, that might be your passion. Your purpose is to save hummingbird lives. So then your story becomes, I make a special hummingbird feeder with special recipes that are good for hummingbirds and don’t use dies and that sort of thing. So if you focus on the purpose, not necessarily just the passion, but you determine your why, you can really nail down that niche. I know, speaking from experience, running a three legged dog and cat community, I’ve got a tiny, tiny little niche, but we own it. So if you niche down, you’re going to stand out from the rest. I would totally agree from that. Speaking of which, I want to know more about RV out West. What are you doing with this show and tell me what’s going on there?

BROOKS: Sure. So RV Out West is a weekly podcast all about aaving around the Pacific Northwest, with some sprinkled in adventures. That radiate out from there. I pull my travel trailer with my family in tow, and we discuss sweet northwest camping spots. Gear and equipment, tips and tricks, all to make camping as enjoyable as possible. I’m passionate about the Pacific Northwest. There’s a lot of great national podcasts out there that talk about RVing around the entire United States. I just want to drill down and talk about Washington, Oregon, British Columbia, Idaho, maybe Montana, maybe Banff and Jasper. And I really just kind of want to focus on this upper left corner of the Pacific Northwest, because I think it’s a really underrated and awesome RV destination. So I want to share about that. You can find RV out west online at RV out and on Instagram and Facebook. You can join in the conversation. You can listen to the podcast wherever you get your pods from Apple, Spotify, Amazon, audible to anywhere the show is in all the directories. Jim. Anybody can find it.

JIM: Brooks, you just answered my last question. I really appreciate that. I encourage everyone to check out RV Out West and check the show notes for some excellent marketing resources. Anything else you think we missed?

BROOKS: Yeah, I want to go back real quick to about the niche and how content creators can refine their niche. Yeah, sure. We already have to some degree touch on this already. And I agree, it’s about important about content creators talking about and developing content about what they love. Right? I love to talk about the Pacific Northwest and our RVing in the Pacific Northwest. But while others maybe, you know, we think imitation is the greatest form of flattery, but let’s speak to our own truths and tell your story. Don’t spend so much time focusing on what you know the industry titans are doing. You matter. Your story matters. So focus your attention on what you can do to share with your audience. Are you regional? Do you just want to do campground reviews? But are you a travel vlogger? And if so, what makes you different than, let’s say, Mark and Trish of Kid? I tune in to Kide every Sunday, and I look forward to when Mark and Trish are dropping a new video. But I don’t necessarily want to be a vlogger on YouTube, so do just what you think and you’d love to do so. If it’s tinkering and DIY projects and working on your RV, hone in where you find joy and create content around that.

JIM: Excellent point. I mean, how many reviews of water filters can you have? But how can you make that review different? Maybe you’re a geek and want to tear it apart and talk about microns and biology, but like you said, I think it’s great tips there for standing out.

BROOKS: You know what? I haven’t seen anybody crack open a water filter. That’s a great idea. I would love to see the inside of it. I mean, that’s a great idea. Somebody make a video on that? I’d like to watch it.

JIM: I would watch that too. So Brook, remind us once again, what are you most proud of and where do people find it?

BROOKS: I am most proud of, you know, starting this podcast out of the pandemic. It was a creative outlet during a completely time of locking down. And so I just want to tell people about come check out RV Out West, because if you have any interest in the Pacific Northwest, whether you live here and you’re RV around here or the Pacific Northwest is on your radar of a potential future destination and you’re in the planning or ideation of what could a trip look like? Come on out. Give us a listen.

JIM: Excellent. And at some point, you got to expand that northwest all the way up to Alaska. It’s incredible up here.

BROOKS: Hey, that is on my bucket list. The Alcan and the Cassiar Highway. Just not going to be this year. We’re going to Banff and Jasper this year. I’ve been talking about that a little bit already on the show channel. But yeah, so we’re doing the Canadian Rockies up in Alberta this year.

JIM: Beautiful area. Happy travels. Thanks again. Brooks.

BROOKS: Yeah, Jim, thank you so much for having me on the show. I really, really appreciate it. It was great talking to you.

JIM: That was fun. I had no idea. Brooks and I shared so much in common marketing, traveling, three legged dogs and cats. But what really sticks out for me is our branding discussion. Coincidentally, in a recent newsletter I read, your organization’s brand identity communicates your purpose, value, and impact on the world. It’s more than just logos and taglines. A customized and well-defined identity can serve as a powerful catalyst, propelling you towards success. There are no coincidences. So what’s your story? How are you communicating that message with your brand? Let us know by engaging with others like you in the RV Entrepreneur Facebook group, and check the archives. Or stay tuned for more deep dives on relationship marketing, email marketing, or social media and let us know what you want to hear us discuss at the RV

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