Building Your Brand
Despite what many entrepreneurs believe, building a company brand is much broader than developing a logo, tagline, web site or a brochure. Building a brand also involves the employees, customers, the media and even the general public.
Strong brands bring together many elements of marketing, all of which are important. These elements include customer interactions, corporate culture and values, employee communications and marketing. If these elements do not work in unison and work consistently to reinforce your brand, customers can become confused and dissatisfied. A negative perception can dramatically affect the business revenue, current employees, potential customers and media relationships.
We have all heard about customers who share a negative experience much more frequently than a positive one. Therefore, branding must be consistent throughout all levels of the organization to help drive organizational growth and prosperity.
Strong brands can:
o Drive and increase sales.
o Attract more profitable customers.
o Attract and retain the best employees.
o Demonstrate value to vendors who may want to increase business.
o Establish and/or grow collaborations and partnerships with other firms.
Brand building is just as important to businesses that provide goods and services to other businesses (B2B) as it is to business to consumer (B2C) activities; however, it is often overlooked by business owners.
Use Company Culture to Build a Brand
Develop your company culture by reviewing your mission, vision and values. The culture is driven from the top down, by C-level management, particularly the CEO, who is often also the founder. This requires more than a poster in the break room or a page on your web site. Only through CEO leadership and sharing of a clear vision can a company culture be adopted by each member of your team. This commitment to the company culture must be demonstrated and reinforced continuously and passionately by the leader.
Below are a few examples of company values that feed the company culture. Identify which company values apply to your business, and incorporate other values as you develop your message:
· Clearly defined mission.
· Family friendly work environment.
· Empowered employees.
· High level of integrity.
· Strong leadership.
· Effective operational systems and processes.
· Performance-based compensation.
· Customer focus throughout the entire organization.
· Commitment to professional development for all employees.
· Accountability at all levels of the organization.
· Commitment to innovation and continual improvement.
Align the characteristics of your company culture with an action plan that has been developed with input from team members impacted by that plan. This will ensure buy-in from the team and commitment to superior customer service and a stronger brand.
The person who answers the phone, sales associates and customer service representatives are integral in communicating the message and the value of your brand. Any of these team members may be the first and only contact with your customers. Do you feel comfortable with that contact? If not, invest in professional development for all of your team members, particularly those who have daily contact with your clients.
Your company logo should be, first and foremost, immediately recognizable and unique to avoid confusion with another brand. Yet, the logo should have elements that inspire familiarity and reflect your company culture. Seek professional help from marketing experts to develop or update your logo.
If you have an outside sales force and/or delivery drivers, you may use company-branded apparel or uniforms and delivery vehicles. It is important that all apparel is worn consistently, is in good, clean condition and fits properly. Your staff should be able to provide input on any required apparel, since the team has to wear the apparel and most likely wants to take pride in their appearance. That pride will show if you pay attention to this important branding tool. Vehicle appearance, both outside and inside, should be immaculate. Maintain company logos and decals on the vehicles.
Note: Impress upon your team that when wearing or displaying your brand, they should be diligent about proper behavior. After all, anyone wearing the company-branded apparel or driving the company van reflects your brand and your reputation.
Your Web Site
Due to the increase in online research and purchasing, internet marketing is crucial to all businesses. While web design can be done inexpensively, your brand will be represented to the entire world on the internet. This is not an area to look for the least expensive option, as this will affect the impression of your brand. As mentioned above, seek professional help in developing your web site.
Your domain name should be the same as your company name. If that is not possible, then the domain name should identify your key product or service. Also, the domain name should be as short as possible so that your customer can remember it easily. When considering your domain name, get input from professionals who can provide insight into the impact of your choices.
You do not have to offer a complicated, multi-page web site in order to create a positive brand image. A home page with your mission statement, values, a description of products or services and contact information is a good start. Your web site can be developed more fully as you increase your marketing budget.
Your Printed Marketing Material
Printed marketing material should consistently reflect your brand. If you are creating a brand, get a second and third opinion as mentioned above. Speak to a printer about how your logo will look on printed material. Some business owners find that after choosing a design, they have limited themselves with a brand that is too ornate to be used consistently in smaller or larger forms. Will your logo look equally well on promotional items, stationary and apparel?
Printed marketing material includes placing your logo on letterhead, envelopes, return address labels, flyers, brochures, direct mail, signage, apparel, etc. The paper, card stock and any other product on which you print your brand should be chosen carefully. People notice the quality of the materials. However, you do not have to always go with the highest priced products to reflect quality. A good strategy is to collect other business material to review options. Use the samples you chose in discussions with your designer and/or printer.
There is a difference between advertising and marketing; all advertising is marketing but not all marketing is advertising. It is common for small businesses to cut the budget, particularly in tough times, but without marketing, how will people see your brand?
In order to choose the right advertising for your business, conduct market research and ask these questions: Who are your customers? How do they choose the products and services they purchase? What do they read? What is their age? Where do they spend money on products and services? How can you effectively reach your customers?
The answers to these and other questions will help you identify where you DO NOT want to advertise, which is as important as where you do want to advertise.
Contrary to a popular belief from the Dot-Com era, the print medium is not dead. Depending on your research, print may be the best resource for presenting your brand to your customers. But do not eliminate web-based marketing opportunities, which can be more effective and less expensive in reaching a large audience.
Note: Marketing is subjective. What you might find amusing or intelligent may backfire when presented to your customers. When it comes to communication, impact – not intent, is what your audience remembers. This is particularly true with web sites, marketing materials and advertising.
Protecting Your Brand
Creating and building your brand is vital to your business. Protecting your brand and the time and resources spent in building your brand is also important. How do you accomplish this?
Establishing a trademark for your brand is an integral part of protecting it. If applicable, trademark your logos, names, tag lines and packaging. Search the internet to see if a logo, tag line, etc., which is very similar to that which you use, is being used by another organization. Great resources for this process include www.USPTO.gov, the Secretary of State web site or the Yellow Pages web site. Intellectual property attorneys can help you with this process, and those same attorneys can ensure that no one is infringing upon your brand.
A brand includes your logo, web site, company culture, your team, marketing activities and more. Building a brand is a long process and will require an investment of your time and money. Because your brand may be your most valuable business asset, find professionals who can help you build your brand properly, and then continually monitor your brand and protect it.