It’s appropriate that Courtney Rhodes’ new book is about branding.
She has spent the last eight years as owner of Urbanity Communications, an Atlanta-based brand marketing consulting firm. Her clients include Smyrna, Georgia-based Wade Ford Inc., (No. 3 on the 2016 BE 100s Auto Dealer list with revenues of $553.5 million). The business was the Black Enterprise 2016 Auto Dealer of the Year.
Another client is Anthony Liggins, an internationally acclaimed contemporary artist. Rhodes was brand manager of Liggins’ book Art Is Love, Love Is Art, which won the 2014 GD USA American Graphic Design Award, a top honor for graphic design.
One of Rhodes’ biggest accomplishments is helping brand the Wade Ford Concert Series. The long-running event in Atlanta attracts top performers like drummer Sheila E and singer Chrisette Michele.
Rhodes swears each concert helps the dealership create the opportunity to do business with some 1,200 customers through an e-mail blast campaign. “People go to Wade Ford not just to buy a car, but because the company brings value to the community.”
Rhodes is no rookie to entrepreneurship. She also owns TheBrandistaGuide.com, a blog that offers young women of color personal branding, career, and lifestyle tips to develop their brand. Her background includes working in media sales and brand marketing for eight years at some of the nation’s largest media companies, including CBS Television, Uptown and Clear Channel, now iHeart Media.
This year, Rhodes wrote MAKE YOUR MARK: Personal Branding Through “On-Purpose” Living. The self-help guide teaches everyone from professionals to entrepreneurs how to use branding, marketing, and social media concepts to leverage their online and in-person brand to achieve career or business success. The book was published this month and costs about $20.
You are a seasoned branding strategist. Why is it important for black entrepreneurs to have a branding strategy before opening a business?
Because we’re in business to make money. When you have a branding strategy that tells you where your customers are, it helps you determine how to speak to them and what approach to use to pull to them in. For instance, a small business might consider using the internet to promote a free event to give back to the community. That type of branding can help you build value and create a buzz with potential customers before the doors even open.
What are some strategic factors that might compel a small business to consider using a branding program?
Helping businesses launch a product or service and target new customers are the top reasons clients hire me. A strong strategy helps a small business create brand awareness, inform people about what it does, and creates a buzz about your company. It allows you to tell your story about what makes your business different from rivals, something critical in today’s competitive world.
What are some branding pitfalls small business owners could face and how to avoid them?
One of the biggest is a lack of recognition with new businesses popping up around them every day. Other drawbacks could be not actively pursuing or inviting new clientele with a social media strategy. Using social media keeps your brand in the mind of potential clients so that when they are in the market to make a purchase, your brand has top of mind awareness.
In addition to your book, what other advice would you offer to a small business trying to build its brand?
I consult clients based on the strategies trending with leading corporate brands and help them to scale their branding strategies and marketing plans to mirror those trajectories. AdAge.com is good for small businesses wanting to stay abreast of best practices of branding and advertising. LinkedIn.com has a social media marketing group that allows access to cutting edge strategies to enhance your brand.
Jeffrey McKinney is a long-time freelance business writer and reporter, contributing to Black Enterprise magazine for several years on a broad range of business and financial topics.