By: Gordon Conner
Your small business doesn’t need to be a world-famous household name in order to have a strong brand.
There’s a lot more to your brand than a logo and tagline. The brand of your company is made up of virtually everything that your business does and every experience your customer has with your company. This all determines whether they become a loyal customer or they walk away, never to be seen again. Here are some things to think about in your quest to position your business at the top of the ladder in your niche. And possibly even become a Category of One company.
Exactly Why You’re in Business?
Being a “Jack Of All Trades” is NOT your objective. On the contrary, you want to specialize. Being a specialist is the easiest way to stand out in the marketplace. It’s tempting to offer a wide array of products so that you’ll think you have an answer for every need. But don’t do it! Instead, become the expert at what you do and do it better than anyone else. That’s how you become known as the number one source, and a potential Category of One company.
Clearly Define Your Brand Promise
Your brand promise is the most powerful statement you can make to your customers. It tells them what they can expect from you every time they do business with you. It’s a real promise that you can prove every day. This promise is drawn from the Brand Audit you conducted for your brand and is based on your culture, analyses of your customers, competitors and employees and how you do business. Plus it shows customers how you can make their problems go away. This statement is all about how you make their lives better, and why they can’t get the same satisfaction anywhere else.
Here are some brand promises that you may be familiar with:
- McDonald’s:fast food with a consistent taste and service, regardless of whether you are in Richmond or Rio.
- Starbucks:good coffee in an inviting atmosphere — your home away from home
- CarMax: You’ll never have to “haggle” for a car
- Zappos.com:you pick the shoe; it’ll be there before you know it.
Everything you do to market your small business, or interface with your customer should reflect your brand promise. This includes things that you may, or may not have realized. It all adds up, the phone conversations, the manner in which the phone is answered, the look of company vehicles, company uniforms, even the color of your hair. Ask this question when developing your brand promise-“What is the one reason my customers buy from me?” The more specific the answer, the better your brand promise.
Describe You Target Customer
You can’t serve everyone. If you are a guitar shop, you serve certain musicians. Day cares serve families. Tennis clubs serve tennis players. So you need to know who your customer is in order to properly provide what they need. And if you don’t know who to target as new customers, use the top 10 percent of your current customer base as a guide.
Be Authentic And Honest About Who You Are
When your brand speaks, it must tell it like it is. No inconsistency or confusion in the marketplace. If you’ve defined your market properly, that shouldn’t pose any problems. In other words, don’t be hip and casual if you are in the funeral business.
Clearly Define Your Dominant Value Point
Your Dominant Value Point is the statement that explains why you are better than your competition, and why. If you’re going to know what you do best and how that stacks up against your competition, you need to know your competition, and know them well. You’ll need to know how to pump up your strong points and play down your weaknesses. Or, to make adjustments so that those weaknesses are no longer weaknesses, and perhaps become strengths. For example, if you are a café in the suburbs, your position may be the neighborhood restaurant with easy parking.
Be Consistent And Look Like A Professional Business
Every piece of communication or sales materials should look like it all came from the same source. Reuse your primary selling points and specifically your Dominant Value point. That goes for websites, brochures, signs or ads. The logo and tagline goes on everything. And don’t overlook colors, fonts, imagery, signage, packaging and all events.
Talk With Your Customers Regularly
You should have an on-going dialog with your customers all the time. It may be when they come in the store, a phone call or an email. But that interaction continues even when they’re not doing business with you. Here are some ways to keep the conversation going:
- Post How-To video of your products or services to your Web site, Facebook page or YouTube.
- Post a poll on Facebook. It doesn’t have to have anything to do with your business. (Ask if they are going to the Easter Parade.)
- Ask for product reviews on your site and on other websites where your products are being offered.
- Respond proactively and professionally to Yelp! or Angie’s List. Don’t ignore them.
- Conduct customer appreciation days so they see you in a different light; people love to know they make a difference.
- Share interesting information, don’t just send ads.
- Send out email newsletters specifically aimed at your customers’ interests or purchase habits.
- Send testimonials of satisfied customers.
- Use customer satisfaction surveys regularly.
Give Customers a Great Consistent Experience at Every TouchPoint
It’s the Internet age and that makes it easier to reach our customers, but also harder in many ways. Even thought they are only a click away, you may never see them face-to-face. To compensate for that you need to make customer service the center of everything you do, and become known as the brand that is always there for the customer and gives the ultimate in service. There’s a tire dealer on the west coast who “runs” to the car when you pull onto his lot. That’s how bad he wants your business. Be constantly on the lookout for ideas of how you can make your customer service better. Consider how you can make an ever better impression, if the customer:
- Sees your ad, mailing, Facebook page, or Web site for the first time.
- Walks into your shop.
- Calls you.
- Places an order by phone or Website.
- Sends you an inquiring email.
- Signs up for your customer mailing list.
- Returns for another purchase.
It may seem like a lot of extra work, but the end result is all worth it. Did you know there was a “Word of Mouth Association”? Me neither, but they claim that 55% of consumers recommend companies because of great customer service.
It Pays Off In The End-Big Time!
When you get started, this will seem like a lot of work. But you’re building your brand, and once you get it all rolling, it will become a lot easier and more routine. There are expert brand consultants and coaches that can make this exercise much easier. It’s important to stay on top of these branding initiatives to be sure that your efforts are consistent and steadily improving your brand. The salvation is going to be what you see on the bottom line in the months and years to come.