20 Aug 10 Cost Effective Ways To Strengthen Your Brand
Where are you at with brand development? We’ve all heard a thousand times how important first impressions are but what if you’re looking to improve your standing with an existing audience? I like to think of branding as your reputation creating expectation, it’s active, evolving and in constant need of review.
Be realistic about the reputation you’re seeking.
Think of your business as a car for a second. It’s no use selling your business as a Porsche if it’s a perfectly good Kombi Van. Both will have an audience and there’s no need to compete unnecessarily with irrelevant brands. Setting a standard too high, too low or with unrealistic parameters will have a negative impact on client reactions. The look, feel, culture and behaviour of your business should all reflect the truth of what your business is.
Find your point of difference and communicate it consistently.
Much like people each business has its own unique identity complete with strengths, weaknesses and quirks. Take an honest look at your business. What makes it different to your competitors? Often it’s something you consider to be a weakness, if that’s the case how can you turn it to your advantage?
Once you’ve discovered your point of difference communicate it consistently through each channel, each tool and each network that you have at your disposal. Check that your messaging is consistent on your website, social media, annual reports, marketing materials and in the way your people sell your business through their networks or when interacting with potential clients.
Look beyond your marketing.
What does every element of your business say about your identity? Take a step back and think from a client point of view. How are they approaching your business in a literal way? Is it via phone, if so how are you answering their call? How many people or automated responses do they have to sift through to get to the person who can help them? By the end of the call have they had their enquiry answer, felt like they’ve been assisted and has their mood been lifted?
If they’re walking through your door, what does your place of business tell them? Does it meet the expectation that your reputation created? At minimum is it clean and tidy? Does it reflect the brand personality of your business? If you have signage is it all up to date? Do current campaigns have a visual presence? Most of all does your place of business reinforce your clients belief that they’re in the right place, that your business is what they were looking for?
If you or your staff are meeting clients what does your dress standard tell them? It’s not about wearing expensive suits or designer labels, again it’s about setting the tone of what your clients should expect. Having worked with many creative agencies one of the interesting comparison points is dress. Generally speaking the dress standard reflects the personality of the business. Are you funky, corporate, executive, green, arty, casual?
There are lots of other non marketing based examples of how your business reflects its identity. Always go back to basics, what are you putting forward visually, culturally and behaviourally?
Edit, edit, edit.
Say everything you need to and nothing more. Boil it down to the truth of who you are and stay on message.
Engage with your audience.
Communication isn’t a one way street. Lots of businesses are busy playing out their strategic communication plans but how many are remembering to listen, to ask and to reply to the communication of others? Are you responding to changes in your marketplace, to world events or to local news?
Get your entire team on board.
Each and every person acting on behalf of the business needs to be aware of, and engaged in what you’re trying to communicate through your brand. That means everyone on the payroll and every volunteer.
Each time you engage with an external business or company they also reflect your business and its brand. Think of the people you sub-contract to, businesses you have sponsorship deals with, supporters who promote you. Do they share the same vision, tone, ethos as your business? Do they compliment it or contradict how you want your own business to be perceived? Your choices matter.
Review, revise and republish your communication tools.
Take a look at your website, social media, signage, marketing materials such as brochures, portfolio presentations, even your business cards – what are they saying? Are they current, on message and reflecting the truth of your business? Is the tone consistent with where the business is now and does each tool serve to further your story? Review, revise and republish where and when needed. Don’t let an over-order of stationary dictate the shelf life of out of date messaging. e.g. ‘We have 3000 brochures left. We’ll just use them even though they have the old logo and don’t reflect the currency of our services…’. As the name ‘Brand Development’, suggests – it’s about constantly developing your ideas and keeping your brand fresh.
Look at your products and services through fresh eyes.
It’s usually one of the first areas people look at in brand development. Is your product or service mix right? Where does each product or service sit in relation to its own life cycle? e.g. ‘Introduction, growth, maturity, decline’. Some measure by the ‘Question marks, stars, cash cows and dogs’ quadrant. For the sake of brand strength more importantly though, does each product or service help to build the overall picture of the business mission? Why do you exist? What expectation is your reputation building? Do each of the products and services you offer assist in building a solid customer / client experience?
Learn from others.
Look towards others to learn the good, the bad and the ugly of how they represent themselves. Take what’s relevant and reinterpret it for your own use. There are no ‘new ideas’, when it comes to brand development, even seemingly original concepts are variations on a theme. The trick is to only gather thoughts, concepts, philosophies and practices that are true to you and your business.
Keep at it.
Your brand is what breathes life through your business. It needs to be an evolving part of the culture and behaviour of everyone involved at all levels.