By: Gordon Conner –Brand Solution #7
Do people recognize your brand? Or maybe the better question is how do they perceive your brand?
Obviously, the look of your business is one of its important features. We all agree that a logo says a thousand words about our brand identity. But, isn’t there more than just looks? You bet! A whole lot more.
Zappos and Apple are great examples of two brands that have huge identities, and customers recognize them as well as invest in them based on brand strategies. Small businesses can replicate much of what these two leaders do and go a long way toward solidifying a consistent brand story, by replicating these steps:
Right From the Beginning.
Logos, websites, signage, etc. are the foundation of your brand. If you get inconsistent with these fundamentals the customers won’t know what to believe and eventually go where they understand the message. Being consistent with logos, colors, fonts and images can easily prevent this. And obviously you need to register your trademark after paying good money to get it done just the way you want it.
The “voice” is another key ingredient in your brand image. For example, if you are a software company that sells to businesses, you want to be perceived as a company with authority and expertise. But if your market is consumers, you’ll want a more conversational tone in all of your marketing.
Project Your Value Proposition
Everything that you do must reflect your value proposition. That means no vague mission statements. The tagline that you implement should summarize what you do for your customers and not who you are.
Keep your message clear and simple to remind your customers of how unique your service is or how you’re going to solve a business problem and make life better for everyone.
Is Your Value Proposition Optimized for Your Target Audience?
If it has been a while since you developed your value proposition, is it possible that either the value you deliver or your target audience has shifted? Start with your definition of your target customer. Is it clearly defined? Have you segmented your market? Have you established personas to help you clearly define and communicate your target across your organization? Once you have a clearly defined set of target customers, you can assess whether your current value proposition communicates the most important benefit and decision criteria for that target audience. If your currently defined value proposition isn’t what compels them to buy from you—and to tell their friends about your product or service—it’s time to work on an update.
Let ‘em see you!
Don’t try to run a business from the wings. People want to know they’re appreciated and who the brains behind the operation are, especially if they do business with your company on a regular basis.
This doesn’t mean you have to shake every hand and know everyone by his or her first name, unless you’re just starting. But every now and then you need to get in the mix and shake it up. Get to know the customers and find out what they need and what they really think about your business from the horse’s mouth.
Small business owners need to be the voice of their brand just as much as any brand ambassadors they hope to recruit. That’s how they maintain the integrity of their brand.
Social Media is Where it’s at
Hey; I’ve got a secret for you…social media is no longer a secret! It’s absolutely necessary for every business today. It doesn’t matter how successful you were before social media came along or what anyone else tells you. Ignore it at your own peril! This is your chance to communicate with your customers in real time.
Give and You Shall Receive
A great way to build trust and a positive image in your community is to get involve with, or sponsor community events like 5K races, farmer’s markets, fairs, etc.
Get Credit for Your Credentials
It’s a whole lot easier to get business when potential customers are already aware of who your are and your expertise in your industry. To get that recognition try hosting workshops and webinars and publishing blogs that provide valuable information and advice without actually selling your own products. This will set you apart and get your name out to new potential customers.
Consistent, Original, Potent
Remember, consistency is the name of the game with all of your brand elements. If you advertise or partner with someone else to use your logo, make sure that everyone involved, including the designer and partner conform to all of your brand guidelines, or your brand could start to lose it’s potency.
Also watch out for trademark thieves. It’s so easy for a competitor to use your materials for their own benefit.
What Are Your Internal Roadblocks?
Sometimes, even the most effective companies can get in their own way. Internal roadblocks or constraints will reduce the effectiveness of a great team. This can happen through a reorganization that results in a fracturing of a communication team. It can come from a growing lack of alignment in a senior leadership team over the defined value proposition for the company. It can come from an agency that believes it knows better than a company’s brand team about what should be communicated. It can come from a company that does not invest the time to develop strong communication strategies or align its message across media channels. When a marketing team gets too busy, communication of a clear value proposition can be a casualty. Don’t let this happen to you. Keep sight of potential roadblocks and work to remove them before they disrupt your effectiveness.
A WOW Experience
The last and probably the most important consideration is the service that your customers receive. Therefore, it’s critical to monitor, coach and train your employees regularly to be sure they uphold your brand values and give your customers that WOW experience they all deserve.
Implementing these steps will provide a great starting point for a unified brand messaging platform. Once that platform has been created, you’ll have a stake in the ground — a point of reference from which all future marketing communications material can be based upon.
About the Author
Gordon Conner is a Branding Consultant/Coach and Copywriter who helps build killer brands for small local businesses. He has been providing advertising, marketing, branding and copywriting services for 39 years and lives in Midlothian, Virginia. He can be reached at Gordon@BranWorks.com, or www.BranWorks.com