Congratulations! You’ve made it to the end of this book and you’re ready to join the world of successful business owners. You have a good idea for a business, you’ve taken care of all the paperwork, prepared your business and marketing plans and are ready to open your doors to the world.
As we’ve demonstrated, marketing your business is vital to its success. The business world is filled with stories of seemingly savvy business people who put their heart and soul into opening the business but forget to build a sustainable brand through advertising, marketing and superior customer service.
Developing a strong identity or “brand” for your business is not a haphazard activity. Your identity extends beyond the marketing materials or newspaper ads. How you are perceived extends far beyond your logo. In fact, this is just a small piece of a much larger branding puzzle.
Just think of legendary products and companies such as Coca Cola, Microsoft or McDonalds. How do you feel about them? What images do they conjure up in your mind? How do they create satisfaction or deliver on a promise?
That is their respective brands.
Put simply, a brand is the total experience a customer has with your business, its products and services. Your brand is expressed every day by how you answer the phone, how you deliver on customer expectations, how your employees talk about the company to others and how you rise to resolve problems and meet challenges. In short, your brand is the sum of every contact and communication you have and everything you do.
A strong brand can take a lifetime to build. It can take moments to destroy. But properly executed, it helps build trust and a preference for a specific company. A customer who trusts and likes a certain brand is more likely to buy additional products or services based on loyalty alone.
So, how do you move beyond a logo and establish a brand?
Start with the following five steps:
1. View your company as an outsider. What makes your company unique? What does every part of your business – from the age of your fixtures and equipment to the way you bill clients or conduct transactions – say about you? You can say you have Nordstrom’s legendary level of customer service. But do you really?
2. Now, think about how you want your company to be perceived. Think about the total customer experience from start to finish. Is it pleasant? Does it provide value? What does your customer gain from your relationship with him or her? Don’t rely on your own perceptions. Ask your customers what they think of your business, products, prices and service.
3. Align #1 and #2. If your operation says one thing and your customers (or prospective customers) think something else, you have a conflict in the brand. Put practices into place that align the two and think about other ways that will not only enhance the customer’s experience, but how your business is perceived. Perhaps it’s as easy as getting rid of clutter in your store, getting a contemporary look to your marketing materials, business cards and stationery, training staff in customer service or updating archaic practices.
4. Pay close attention to even the smallest details. Every aspect of your business contributes or detracts from your brand. You can spend thousands on a new image but you’re only as good as your weakest link. Find those links and eradicate them.
Finally, enjoy the process. Remember, you are also part of the branding of your company. You’re the showman, the front guy. Make sure that your efforts are paying off in the end. And, you may just find that your business will boom.