Branding is so underestimated. For small business owners, its also very misunderstood and, often, confusing. It doesn’t have to be, especially if you know what your “why” is. You may or may not have heard this one before. What is your “why”?
Why are you doing this? What is it about this business that keeps you going every day? So many like to answer that question with “my customers!”, but really, that’s not the truth. Sure, you may have rock star customers, but think beyond that. What is it about those customers that you care about so much. Why do you care about them?
This is how I focus my campaigns for clients. Having answers to these 6 rules sets a clearly defined message and builds the foundation for the rest of your marketing efforts. Without this, you’ll be throwing marketing messages all over the place, confusing potential customers and slowly losing business.
- Define Company Purpose
Finding out what your customers want in a non-biased atmosphere will give you some initial answers (via market research), but you have to be the one to clearly define your why, your purpose. Really delve into your roots for why you started your business and what you hope to achieve on a daily basis.
- Define Objectives of Offering, Target Market, Market Conditions
This is a three part question, but don’t feel overwhelmed if you don’t know where to start. What are the specifics of what you are selling and where can customers find value there? Who are your customers? If you say everyone, give up. Just close your business now. Seriously though, choose 2 or 3 specific markets of people that will purchase from you the most and consider them your target markets. When considering market conditions, read up on your large scale competition, take your local competitor out for coffee and build a positive relationship with them, and simply understand what your industry is doing across the board.
- Acknowledge Competition
If you’re the type of person that gets angry about your competition, get over it. Seriously. Take a que from item 2 on this list and take your competitor out for a coffee (or cocktail!) and talk shop for a while. You might find that you get along well and could help each other succeed. Competition is healthy and you should know what others like you are doing (big and small businesses) so you can stay ahead of the curve as much as possible.
- Customer Service Message/Consistency Plan
Marketing efforts are completely useless if you and your staff aren’t following through with the message you put out there. If you write on an advertisement that you offer personal shopping services for free, why would you want your staff to roll their eyes every time a customer asks a question about something? You wouldn’t, right? Make sure your customer service is solid. Talk to your staff, survey them, find out genuine answers about what they think your business is about, what the image of the company means to them and what they believe is right or wrong when it comes to taking care of your biggest asset: your customers.
- Define Emotional Connection & Impact
These days, social media has created a new culture of an emotionally invested customer. We don’t just buy things anymore, we develop an emotional attachment to things, and more importantly, the brand that creates those things. When you walk into Starbucks for a coffee, you either go in knowing exactly what you want and look forward to taking that first sip, or you’re a loyal Dunkin’ Donuts fan and hate the taste of Starbucks. Either way, its not about the actual product, but how it makes you feel. How are you connecting with your customer base? How do they feel about your company, not just about the items you carry there or the service you provide. Learn and clearly define how you connect emotionally with customers and the impact you are creating in your community.
- Reward Loyalty/Cultivate Trust
Some historians believe loyalty programs have been around since the 1700s, offering copper coins with purchases to be redeemed in for a future purchase. You don’t have to adopt a loyalty program here, but consider ways to thank your customers and create something of added value to them. This doesn’t just show appreciation, but offers a reason for customers to trust you. These days, trust is key to success and when you include a trust building message in your branding plan, you can use marketing tactics to make sure that message is shared to the public.
From here, you can create your brand image and message. These are the logos, color palate, fonts and other aspects of imagery your brand reflects. With the answers you find to the above points, these details will flow into place, and if they don’t, that’s when you can call in someone to help. Even still, the branding work you did will help that someone create something that fits your company and goals perfectly.
The key component: never forget why you’re doing this.