Big Help for Small Business: Developing Your Brand: Why Bother?
The only thing your competition can’t copy or under-price is your behavior, and how you serve your customers. THIS is what branding is about. And if you’re not doing it, you’re losing business – period!
Branding is one of the most misunderstood concepts in business. The top four misunderstandings about branding include:
1) Brand = logo
2) Good brand = logo that you see a lot
3) Branding = spending a lot of money
4) You can tell people what your brand is
You can’t “tell” people what your brand is. Your brand is a set of values granted to you by your customers based on their experience with you. And “you” means all your employees that touch the outside world. You have a brand whether or not you know it. If you want to find out what it is, ask your customers:
• What is your impression of us?
• What do we always do consistently?
• How does our sales process make you feel? What do you observe when we’re selling?
• How does the way we respond to problems make you feel?
• What do you notice about the way we present ourselves? In our store? On our website?
The answers to these questions will tell you what your brand is. The good news is that you have the opportunity to manage what you are known for – to build your brand on purpose. But it requires behaviors, not words. Here are the steps to building a strong brand.
Stand for Something
The best companies are the ones that are willing to stand for something. What is important to you? How are you and your company different from other people and other companies? What can people expect from you no matter what?
Create a set of brand values that describe what you stand for. This is a process very personal to a company and its leaders. Take real time to do it. You can’t look up the answer. It’s about who you are and what you stand for. Brand values are things like:
• Unstoppable energy
What are your values? Document them and describe what they mean to you.
The Most Important Part
You need to define behaviors that you will DO, that will demonstrate these brand values to the world. Remember you can’t tell people your brand, you need to behave it. Some examples:
• If you have a brand value of being “green”, you’ll want to asses all of your processes and use of energy, paper, water, etc. and put in place specific practices which support this. How you pack, how you ship, etc.
• If you have a brand value of “hip”, you’ll want to tune your website, your lobby, your written communications, your customer service processes, all to have a flair that demonstrate your “hip-ness” – playing elevator music in your store (or on your phone hold) won’t cut it.
There is nothing more damaging to your business than to deliver an inconsistent experience to your customers. This is why you need to define your brand and do it on purpose.
Here is an example. There was a shop I went into, and they made me feel wonderful. They were attentive, complementary, went out of their way to help me find things that would suit me. The second time I went there, I had a similar experience. The third time I went there, I was treated horribly. They were uninterested in me and downright rude.
The first two experiences built up a “promise” in my mind about their brand – “excited about giving their customers a fun and successful experience”. The last visit was a huge let down. It would have been less of a let down if they hadn’t built up a “brand promise” of a good experience in the first visits. I don’t go there anymore.
When you give people a consistent experience, they become comfortable and confident and they will do business with you over and over again, instead of going somewhere else where the experience is unpredictable. In fact, consistency is the most important thing you can do to create this kind of loyalty.
Here’s the point. If you don’t define and manage your brand on purpose, establish “brand-able” behaviors, and train all of your employees on the processes to deliver your brand values, you have no hope at delivering a consistent experience to your customers.
Don’t leave how you are perceived to chance. Manage it.
And finally, back to the first point. Your behaviors are the ONLY thing you competition can’t copy.
Building your brand is your opportunity to create a special, consistent experience for your customers that will keep them coming back and referring you to more customers. Even if your competition lowers prices, or introduces new products and services, consistency is what will keep your customers coming back to you.
Define your brand. Live it. Do it on Purpose.
About the Author
Patty Azzarello is the CEO of Azzarello Group, a unique services organization focused on helping business leaders actually get done what they want to do, and get a bigger payoff from their hard work.
[Photo courtesy of wisebread.]