Gary Newborough is an experienced business advisor, who’s helped to support businesses of all shapes and sizes within a plethora of industries and sectors on a range of crucial issues, including marketing, strategy and talent development.

During a storied career, stretching back over 40 years, he’s worked as head of management development for BT, lead the Kent Chamber of Commerce, a successful restaurateur and independent business consultant.

In this guide, Gary offers his tips on branding for small companies and whether or not it’s worth it for SMEs to invest in a dedicated marketing resource.

If you’ve got a question for Gary, don’t forget to give us a tweet @theskillsco - or drop us a line.

Is it ever too early for a company to think about branding?

Never. If you don’t know what you are, you can’t give out a consistent message. You’ve got to be very clear about who you are and this clarity has to permeate the organisation.

Your brand has got to be everything about the company. It’s not just a logo you stick on the side of van - it’s down to things like how clean the van is. For example, if you go into a restaurant and notice a water streak on the glass - it’s clean but not polished. The association you’ll make in your mind is dirty glass / dirty restaurant / dirty kitchen.

It’s the same thing with brand and image with any company. If you’re trying to create an image out there in the marketplace, everything you do - every piece of marketing collateral, everything you say, the way the phones are answered - it’s all got to be congruent and that’s from day one.

You can’t wait until business is going alright and you’ve got a little room to breathe - a business is built around a brand, not vice versa.

How valuable is a dedicated marketing resource to SMEs?

In times of austerity, companies look at how they might make savings. In terms of savings, the obvious areas for cutting are things like training and development and marketing.

In small organisations, marketing is very much under the microscope. It's not always easy to quantify what the marketing person or marketing department delivers. So generally, if you're looking for cost savings, you take out that particular function and the organisation spreads it around line managers or the boss does it themselves and they carry on quite nicely for a few years and they think, ‘well we didn't need a marketing function in the first place’.

That might be true, but that expertise needs to sit somewhere - it's not an excuse for not doing it anymore. If you don't do it, what happens is the organisation suffers. It doesn’t suffer immediately, it's a long-term, slow-burn thing, but it will happen eventually. In times of austerity, that should be a time when an organisation invests in its marketing function, because that's what going to pull them through long-term.

It's so easy to cut marketing resources, because it's not easy for the person in marketing to present a justification. It's the same with training and development. When I worked in BT, a guy came to me and thanked me for some development work for a sales team around doing business in Japan.

Doing business with the Japanese, there's a formality to it, a traditional process that they are comfortable with and we managed to develop some training to enable our team to navigate this process and work effectively with the Japanese. And they won a £30 million deal and I got a nice thank you note from the sales manager for my contribution to this.

Now I couldn't actually say to my boss that the training we did for these guys delivered a £30 million deal, but it was the first, and possibly the only, time in my career that I was able to make a direct link between a training intervention and a return on investment.

It’s the same thing with marketing, if you're looking for a direct link between marketing's contribution and return on investment - you'll look forever and the only time you'll find it is when you take it away.

Your turn

If you’ve got a burning business-related question you’d like to ask Gary, be sure to get in touch via Twitter, LinkedIn or email.

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