It’s tempting to think you can avoid investing time and money into building a brand for your business. Yet your brand is at the heart of everything you do – it reflects your organisation’s product or service offering, quality, pricing, reputation, direction and motivation. And it communicates all of this to your staff (if you have any), your suppliers and your customers.
Establishing a consistent and reliable brand can provide the credibility you need to gain recognition, attract new customers and increase customer loyalty. It can inspire your staff to be the best they can be and give your suppliers and backers confidence in your potential for success.
Many people think a brand is simply a logo but really, your logo is just one element. Your brand extends to the way you and your staff present themselves and communicate with third parties, the appearance of your office, any collateral, signage and online presence you develop, the way you deliver your products and services and the after-sales service you provide.
Where do you start?
We can’t stress enough, the importance of a brand that’s relevant and appropriate to your product / service offering and your target audience.
Consider, for instance, a luxury car mechanic who decides to start a small business on the fringe of the CBD. With little spare cash, he rents a run-down garage, picks up a few mismatched armchairs from the side of the road to create a lounge and hand paints a sign.
Get your luxury car fixed here.
The same mechanic seeks advice. He invests in smarter premises, an elegant lounge away from the noise, and professional signage that includes the logos of the luxury car marks he services. He invests in a social media campaign and conducts a small but sophisticated mail drop in his local area. Luxury cars begin to role in for servicing, he does a great job and word of mouth kicks in. Before long business is booming.
To create the brand that best reflects your business and appeals to your existing and prospective customer base, you’ll need to start with some serious reflection…
1. What business are you really in?
This is a big question and it requires lateral thinking, but once you’ve found your answer, you could unlock the secret to your brand and provide a pipeline of opportunities to grow your business over time by adding to your offering.
Think laterally: if you’re an accountant, you’re not in the business of crunching numbers. Rather, you’re in the business of helping other businesses prosper.
If you’re in sales, you’re not in the business of selling the product or service you handle, you’re in the business of identifying your customer’s need and delivering a specific solution.
2. How can you connect emotionally and rationally with your customers?
Once you’ve defined the business you’re in, you’ll need to work out your brand’s personality, proposition and purpose (the 3 P’s). This is something that you can’t gloss over by deciding, “I’m going to be friendly to people, offer them reliable service and always be on time”. The three P’s of your brand will create your point of difference and set you ahead of your competition.
Start by thinking about the worst experiences you’ve had as a customer within a similar industry, how did you respond emotionally and how, if you had been on the other side of the occasion, would you have made the experience a positive one? Could this become your point of difference? One that will connect emotionally and rationally with your customers?
Whatever you decide is going to be your brand’s value proposition, it needs to be consistently communicated in all that you do – though social media, promotion, correspondence and direct communication. You also need to deliver on it.
3. How do you want your brand to look?
With these key pieces of information firmly addressed, you’re ready to start creating a logo that will become the graphic face of your brand. It will need to reflect the business you’re in, your 3 Ps’, and appeal to your target audience.
4. How do you want your business to sound?
As with the look of your business, your voice needs to reflect your business and your promise to customers. Think about the way you use your voice in all your communications – the way you greet people in person or by phone, letters and correspondence, promotional material and online communications. It should always be consistent.
5. Be true to yourself
Don’t be fooled into thinking you need to look like a big player to gain credibility. Small, independent brands that follow through on their promises are often enormously successful because they can also be more flexible, creative and responsive to customers’ needs. Interestingly, for this reason, these days there are plenty of big brands around trying to make themselves look smaller.
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