Create a Professional Signature for Your Side Hustle

If you’ve started a side hustle or plan to shortly, you can easily separate yourself from the competition by creating a professional signature.

Listen to these two stories about how a company signature made the difference between success and failure.



There was an article on CNBC recently, that stated that about 57 million Americans currently have a side hustle. I can’t attest to the accuracy of that number, but the general consensus indicates that a lot more folks are starting a side business. Some want to generate an additional source of income, and others are hoping their side venture continues to grow into a financial enterprise large enough that allows them to quit their job and become a full-time entrepreneur.

If you’re in this group of newly minted business owners, or you’re planning to be, I’ve got two very important questions you need to ask yourself. And yes, I also have a few suggestions to help you answer them.

Hey, welcome back. This is Roger Reid with another episode of success point 360.

Due to the pandemic, many are not working their usual eight-to-five job, and they find themselves with more time at home- – time they can use to convert their hobby or personal knowledge into a money-making operation. A lot of these folks are starting small, hoping their fledgling enterprise will grow to the point of replacing their day job.

So, whether you’re pursuing a home business because you need the extra income, want to fund an investment or retirement account, or just need to scratch an entrepreneurial itch, you can usually do it without jeopardizing your day job. In fact, I always suggest retaining your traditional job while you’re in the process of starting and growing a home business.

Retaining your main source of income while you navigate the start-up challenges associated with most small businesses will reduce the pressure of needing to be profitable right out of the gate.

In the introduction, I mentioned two important questions that every new business owner and entrepreneur needs to ask themselves. I call them important because they’re the two most frequently asked questions I receive from those who are just starting out:

Here they are:

First, “How do I distinguish myself from the competition?

And second, “How do I make sure I’m the one they remember when it’s time to buy?”

Now, anyone who’s been in business for themselves long enough to establish a degree of identity, will usually assume we’re talking about branding. And I understand that for the majority of new business owners, branding can be confusing –and we’ll talk a bit more about that later in this episode.

But for now, especially for a small business just starting out, it’s way too early in the game to spend time and money to establish brand recognition.

Because first and foremost, your fledgling businesses needs sales. And sales comes from establishing a reason to buy. And not just from anyone, but from you — and from your business.

Reasons to choose one company over another vary from customer to customer. But price, delivery, quality, customer service, and warranty are often cited as the big five purchase criteria.

There is, however, another method to differentiate your product or service from the competition. And the greater the generic similarity between your product and competitive products in the marketplace, the greater its importance.

I call it creating a “professional signature”

Let’s jump right into an example, and the concept will be a lot easier to understand.

One of the most successful car dealers in the nation started his business back in 1951. His name was Tex Earnhardt he sold cars to anyone who would take the time to talk with him. And at that time, that was quite a feat, especially since Tex was only twenty-one years old. He didn’t have decades of experience to fall back on when making a sales pitch, or re-framing a purchase agreement to suit the idiosyncrasies of a diverse and often suspicious buying public.

How did he do it?

He could have tried to establish credibility by wearing a three-piece suit or expensive Italian shoes. Or he might have attempted to “look successful” with an upscale office and expensive furnishings.

But he didn’t. He wore a pair of jeans and a cowboy hat. He walked around in western boots. And when he really wanted to dress up, he added a bolo tie. (For those of you who have never been west of the Mississippi, a bolo tie is two braided strips of leather that slide through a small western-style ornament.)

In short, He became Tex — a good ‘ol boy.

How did he talk to his customers? Just like you would expect him to — he used short, direct sentences and came right to the point.

No Bull” became his motto.

Tex went on television. He straddled a huge, live steer and told everyone to “come on down to his place and he’d treat ’em right.” He promised “a good deal” because that was the only kind he knew how to make.

And while some undoubtedly saw him as unsophisticated, he was also upbeat, positive, and friendly. His image and personality became such a powerful sales phenomenon that many customers chose his dealership because they wanted to buy from Tex.

Would this approach have worked in San Francisco? Or New York?

I don’t know. It worked in Arizona because “Tex” knew the market contained a large group of potential customers who would respond to a no-nonsense, down-to-earth sales approach delivered by a bull-riding cowboy. And that realization made Tex Earnhardt very successful.

Now, let’s jump back to the term, professional signature. What I want you to understand from the Tex Earnhardt story is that a company signature is more than a static logo on a letterhead. It’s the art of establishing company identity by associating your business with a single, positive, easy-to-remember element — and then using that element in all customer communications and marketing messages.

Here’s a few more examples, some of which are still going strong:

A southern gentleman wearing a white suit selling buckets of chicken
A taco-eating Chihuahua
31 flavors of ice cream
Three little nerds named Snap, Crackle, and Pop
Cookie-baking elves living in a hollow tree

Get the idea?

How much more effective could your marketing program be if you designed a “signature” for your business?

It might be employee uniforms (for example, the Hooters restaurant chain dresses their female servers in tight shorts and low-cut tops). It could also be something as simple as the consistent use of color (look at UPS with their brown trucks and uniforms). What about a short motto (You’re in good hands with Allstate”), or how about Home of the biggest, juiciest, freshest, longest, fastest . . .”

When you’re ready to establish your own business signature, think about some of the benefits you currently offer to your customers. Could they be represented effectively with a short motto or jingle? Or how about a bigger-than-life spokesperson?

Evaluate as many different ideas and concepts as you can, then try different combinations. Make absolutely sure your signature piece cannot be misconstrued as being offensive or as having a double meaning.

When you have your list of possible ideas, share them with vendors and trusted customers and ask for feedback. In fact, one of the most reliable tests you can do is verbally disclose your top three concepts to a group of loyal customers, then wait a week, and ask which one they remember — and why.

Now, let’s talk about the differences between a business signature and what’s commonly called branding.

A “signature” connects your product or service with a concept, a person, or an idea — and does it with the specific goal of evoking a response or an emotion from the customer that’s positive, fun, attractive, tasty, and so on.

One of the best ways to illustrate the difference between branding and a business signature is to tell you the story behind the Smart Car.

A lot of people saw a Smart Car as the right choice because of its high gas mileage. Others were drawn to the sticker price. And I’ve seen a few who thought the vehicle was the perfect choice for transportation within a private community or resort, preferring it over the usual golf cart for runs to the clubhouse, or the restaurant, or recreation center.

And yet, the Smart Car was a financial failure. And remember, it had a great, well-respected brand behind it — Mercedes. But it had no signature. Yes, it was cute, inexpensive to drive, and could park in half the usual space. But did it evoke a consistent, emotional, and memorable response from consumers?

I’m sure Mercedes was hoping the market’s response to the smart car would be positive, but the actual reasons behind their customer’s positive perception weren’t consistent. Some saw it as an economical way to run errands. Others saw it as inexpensive transportation for college-aged son or daughter. And while those reasons generated enough motivation to buy the car, they were too specific, too limited in scope.

In many cases, smart car buyers were trying to solve an economic or logistical problem. But that’s not the way to sell a car, at least not in this country. We crave performance, luxury, style, and reliability. And if we have to pay more for those things, that’s okay, because automobiles are a sign of status and prestige, and those who want bragging rights have always been willing to pay for them.

Yes, there was plenty of logic behind owning a Smart Car. The salespeople could recite a list of benefits that went right to the pocketbook. But the company failed to establish a single positive, easy-to-remember element about owning and driving the vehicle that registered with the American marketplace. And as a result, 2019 was the last year the car was distributed in the United States.

In short, the smart car had great branding behind it, but it had no signature.

And that makes the point that a signature can certainly become a part of establishing a successful brand. In fact, it’s often the first step.

Just keep this in mind: while branding usually has more to do with the positive aspects of the relationship between a company and its customers, such as reliability, prompt delivery, extended business hours, and the other objective criteria that creates trust between a buyer and a seller. A signature gives a buyer a reason to pay attention, to be pleasantly distracted, and to consider the company as a source for the products and services they want to buy.

Look at it this way: Branding is about recognition and reputation. A business signature is what makes your product or service, your business, the preferred choice when it’s time to buy.

In many cases, a signature can eventually evolve into being such a significant part of brand recognition, the two become not only interchangeable, but inseparable. The previous example of UPS is an excellent case in point: Say the words, “brown” and “shipping,” and most people think of UPS.

Why? The UPS signature of brown trucks and uniforms is so consistent, and so expected by consumers, that it’s become an integral part of the company’s brand recognition.

I’ll leave you with this:

As a small business owner, you have the opportunity to create a signature that will leave customers impressed, entertained, informed, curious,  and rewarded— and most of all, remembered. Do it consistently, and you’re well on your way to establishing long-term brand recognition.

Be sure and check out my new book now available on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback. It’s titled Better Mondays: The New Rules for Creating Financial Success and Personal Freedom (While Working For the Man)

I’ve lowered the price for the Kindle version, so if you or someone you know is struggling with a job that doesn’t provide anything more than a paycheck, or you’re ready to use your employer as a launching pad to start your own business, you’ll find the tools you need to take control of your professional success and to change your life for the better.

You can find more information on my website, I’ve posted the first chapter on the site as a free read, so I encourage you to take a look.

That’s it for this episode. Thanks for listening and I’ll see you next time.

© 2020, Roger A. Reid, All Rights Reserved

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