Think branding is only for large corporations? Think again. Your brand is more than your logo, name or slogan — it’s the entire experience your prospects and customers have with your company, product or service. Your brand strategy defines what your company stands for, a promise your company makes, and the messaging conveyed. And while it includes your logo, color palette and slogan, those are only creative elements that convey your brand. Instead, your brand lives in the every day-to-day interaction your company has with your market:
- The images conveyed
- The messages delivered on your company website, through social media channels, in press releases, proposals and campaigns
- The way your employees interact with customers
- A customer’s opinion of you versus your competition
Branding is crucial for products and services sold in consumer markets. It’s also important in B2B because it helps you stand out from your competition. Your brand strategy brings your competitive positioning to life and works to position you in the mind of your prospects and customers.
Here are a few tips you can use to grow your brand with your customers.
- Make sure your logo looks professional and is easily identifiable. It’s also key to include your logo on every piece of internal and external communication –all social media pages, email signatures, business cards, corporate stationary (electronic and print), invoices, promotional materials, online and print ads, building signage, newsletters (electronic and print), etc. It is also key to make sure your colors and fonts used throughout these materials are consistent and following your set style guide.
- Have a professional website that reflects your brand image. Everyone uses the web today to check references, see samples and more. If someone recommends your product or service, you can almost guarantee that they will go online to look for your company. Your website design should be updated at least every two years to stay current.
- Blog weekly. Blogs help your business on multiple levels. First off, valuable content on a consistent basis will make your company look like a leader and expert. The software that powers blogs has multiple advantages. It’s very easy to publish and it’s a database driven environment where style is separate from content (so you will not need to go back to your web design agency for every little change). And use of tags and sitemaps make basic search engine optimization easy. But the real reason blogs are great is that they enable conversation. Two-way dialog is much more valuable than a company that just dumps messaging and collateral on their customers.
- Implement a comprehensive multi-touch marketing plan to get your value proposition in front of your target audience. This can take many forms. You can launch an email or public relations campaign, host a webinar, sponsor a local event, attend a trade show, attend networking events, go after speaking and industry awards, etc. There are a thousand different ways for you to be noticed. You have to find the best combination of methods for your strategic goals. Data shows that people need to be exposed to a brand at least seven times before they buy. If you simply do one touch and stop, you’re wasting valuable budget dollars and probably wondering why your efforts are not successful.
- Prepare a one page corporate overview that can be placed on your website and used for prospects and media looking for more information on your company. Use short sentences in short paragraphs – people like to read quickly. Also make it very conversational. Your one page overview should include a paragraph about your company, target audience benefits (of your product or service), key executives, key dates, products or services offered and contact information.
- Participate in local business events and volunteer. Groups are looking for volunteer help and it’s a great way to elevate your status and visibility among the entire organization.
- Do what you say you’re going to do. One of the primary drivers of brand loyalty is a consistent experience. If you say you’re going to deliver something on a set day, be sure it is ready. Nothing can hurt your business like missed expectations. Positive experiences lead to good feelings which lead to customers telling their others about your product or service. But bad experiences spread much faster and are harder to overcome – if you get a chance at all.
- Stand for something. Customers latch on to something they can understand and appreciate. There is power in being seen as an expert. Experts are awesome at one thing. This allows you to better position yourself and charge more for your services. People seek out experts.
- Realize that you’re not in control of your brand – you only set the direction for your brand. Your actual brand image is determined by your audience. You can use these tips to ensure alignment between your desired brand image and your actual brand image in the minds of your customers. Branding isn’t a one shot deal, it’s an on-going juggling act of marketing, research and conversation. If you’re not tapping into those conversations with your audience, how do you know what their real impression of you is? How will you know how to address it? Brand growth comes from alignment. You have to ensure that your actions, logo, corporate image, website and marketing efforts put out the right image. But you cannot stop there. You also have to ensure that all actions and engagements during the sale and post-sale are positive and in line with your desired brand image. If your audience has a different view of you than you’d like, then you need help. And it’s probably best to bring in an outside perspective.
- Branding is as much about your people as anything else. Never forget that the best interactions come from one-on-one conversations between executives, employees, suppliers, and customers. Employees that want to help and do the best job possible go a long way.
Proper, consistent branding is critical to your long term success. It is managing the thoughts and feelings of your customers to ensure that you are what they desire. If your desired brand image isn’t what’s in the minds of your target audience, you’ve got to figure out where the gaps are and how to address them. And fixing those issues is hard work because the old adage still rings true – the customer is always right. Still not sure about how your brand image is being perceived? Give us a call or leave us a comment below.