Who are you? What can your company offer me? Does your brand answer this important question?

Marketing and branding are important ways to let the consumer know who your company is and what type of product or service they can expect. It is your promise to them.

Flipping through a magazine or the channels on TV, you are bombarded with ads and commercials. “I’m Lovin’ It,” “Eat Fresh” and “Save Money Live Better” – we have all heard and seen these famous taglines. Whether you realize it or not, when it comes down to making a purchase or selecting a service, those ads and commercials are what sticks out in the mind of the consumer. All these messages are delivered through branding and marketing.

A brand and marketing strategy is what can set a company apart from its competitor. Developing a clear brand lets your customers know who you are, what your company is about and the quality of product or service they are going to get. To develop a good brand takes time and direction. Through classes, one-on-one counseling and partnering with experts, entrepreneurs are able to gain the knowledge needed to make their brand successful. Michigan State University Extension and partner Northern Lakes Economic Alliance (NLEA) have been assisting entrepreneurs learn this knowledge for over 30 years.

Using tools offered by NLEA's website, many of which were developed in conjunction with the Michigan State University Gast Business Library, will help you move your brand to the next phase, marketing. Marketing is a way for you to get your name, logo and product or service out to consumers, all key components of your brand. One service offered through the website is assistance in market research. Market research allows you to gather information about specific customer needs and preferences. Once you know who needs what you can offer, you can target those specific people. Expert counselors can guide you from concept to launch; assessing the development phase, identify markets, innovating new products, and helping you make critical decisions.

Michigan State University Extension has had a unique relationship with the regional economic development organization Northern Lakes Economic Alliance (NLEA) for more than 20 years. Recognizing the strength of combining resources, this partnership focuses on economic development, entrepreneurship growth and community infrastructure throughout a four-county region in the northwest Lower Peninsula, specifically Antrim, Charlevoix, Cheboygan and Emmet counties. As a result, the NLEA utilizes resources offered through MSU Extension as it provides leadership to state-wide programs sponsored by MSU Extension.

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