This month “Shoe String Launch” – The magazine for small business startups found in all good sydney coffee haunts, http://www.shoestringlaunch.com was launched. It features an article about the importance of branding you and your business.
Everyone knows that effective branding is crucial to business success. But what exactly goes into creating a brand? Contrary to what many people think, branding involves a lot more than simply designing an impressive logo or placing a few advertisements. In essence, it’s about building an image that creates expectations in the minds of your customers – expectations that your business is designed to meet.
Sound too complicated? Actually, it’s a lot easier than you think. Let’s take a look at how you can develop a winning brand for your business.
Brand image – building an emotional connection with customers
Effective branding is all about ensuring that the image your customers have of your business reflects its value propositions.
In other words, it’s about managing what customers think and feel about your business so they believe you can offer them exactly what they need. Craft the right image, and you’ll build a strong emotional connection with your customers that will encourage new sales and a healthy level of repeat business.
How do you create this image? By ensuring that every time a customer encounters your business – through say a website or advertisement – they receive a strong, consistent and memorable brand message. Known as touchpoints, these encounters are key aspects of your branding mission and it’s essential to focus on those that matter the most.
If it all seems too expensive and time-consuming, think again. You don’t have to be a large organisation – with a large marketing staff and budget – to reap the benefits of successful business branding. Here are seven of the most important customer touchpoints for small business owners. Develop your business image around these and you’ll be well on your way to creating a winning brand:
1. YOU – It may seem a strange idea at first, but the fact is your personal image is part of your brand. Because in business, as the old saying goes, first impressions count. It’s a truth that plays out every time we meet a prospective customer at a function, conference or networking event. A quick handshake and a brief conversation is all it takes for most people to decide whether it’s time to do business – or time to move on.
But these customers are actually basing their decision on a whole range of subtle presentation factors – such as grooming, clothing and etiquette – that provide valuable clues as to your credibility, professionalism and potential.
You are your business, so it’s important to pay close attention to what your personal image says about you.
2. LOGO AND BUSINESS NAME – Your logo and business name are the cornerstones of your brand so it’s vital that they capture (in both words and design) exactly what your business is all about.
Make certain to include them on all your business communications such as letterhead, business cards, envelopes, invoices, newsletters, advertisements etc. Stamping your logo and name on building signage and company vehicles is another excellent way of advertising and spreading your brand message.
3. PRINTED MATERIAL – Make sure that all your printed business communication materials such as brochures, letterhead and business cards use the same fonts, graphics and colours. Doing so will help establish your business as a credible and professional organisation.
Printing on the highest quality paper you can afford will also give your business communications more authority and substance.
4. WEBSITE AND SOCIAL MEDIA – Worldwide, companies of all sizes are moving more and more of their marketing efforts online. Your website will often be the first point of contact for prospective customers who are searching online for products and services. As a result, it’s absolutely crucial that the site reflects your brand image.
Keep your website on-message by ensuring it is consistent with all printed materials (i.e. uses the same logo, colours and fonts) and update it every two years to keep it looking fresh, current and competitive.
When promoting your business on social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, keep the mood strictly professional – don’t include pictures of family or weekend activities.
5. OFFICE PREMISES – If clients visit your office or showroom, you should make sure that the décor complements your business brand. For instance, an accountancy firm might choose a sleek, modernist approach to office design, while a web start-up might opt for a funky or retro fit-out. You should also use the same colours and style elements that are found in all your other marketing materials.
6. EMPLOYEES –Your staff are truly the key to your success and should be the best advertisement your business will ever have. Every time they deal with a customer, supplier or partner they are representing your brand and so should always be well-groomed and dressed appropriately for their role. It’s also vital that you provide them with the training and skills they need to appear credible, professional and knowledgeable at all times.
7. INTANGIBLES – You probably think of branding as something you can see. But it also covers aspects of your business that make it easy for customers to find and contact you. For this reason, you should consider getting website and email addresses that use your company’s name instead of the name of your internet service provider.
If you work from home, it’s also essential that you establish a professional image by setting up a dedicated fax and phone line, a post office box address, and an appropriate message on your answering machine.
As a small business there is no reason why you and your business should not be branded to give the right message. Sometimes it is not what you say but how you and your business is seen by others that guarantees success.