Do a search for “branding” at Google and you’ll get back just under 30 million page hits. A similar search at Amazon returns more than 4,300 results. There is so much written about branding that it’s almost impossible to know where to start. And once you start, it won’t take long before you discover that difference sources give different advice—sometimes completely contradicting each other. Someone once said that…
Marketing is doing, and branding is being.
I like that definition a lot. Marketing is what you do to draw attention to yourself (and, when you do it right, it reflects your brand), while branding is being who you are. Your brand is made up of all the perceptions a customer has about your business. It starts with your logo, or the look of your website, or the sign on your store. But then goes much, much further:
- The way you answer your phone.
- Your prices.
- The quality of your service.
- The look of your invoice.
- Presentations you may give.
- Interactions with your customers.
- The way your employees dress.
- The design of your products.
- The look, feel, and messages communicated in your advertising or PR.
- Your return policy.
- Your service guarantee.
And so on… It all adds up to make your brand. So how do you get the most bang for your branding buck? Here are a few tips that will help you as you build and strengthen your brand as you grow your business.
1. Be Consistent.
Since everything you do adds to your brand, it is critical to be consistent so your customers get what they expect every time. Imagine visiting your favorite pizza shop, only to discover that the pizza isn’t as good as you remember. The owner has changed a few ingredients and the result is a pizza you enjoy less. You might go back, but you’re also more likely to try new places where you’ll get exactly what you expect every time you go back. This principle applies not just to the product but also to how you treat your customers, the designs you use in your marketing materials, how you answer the phones—and every other interaction you have with your customers. Consistency is critical if you want to bring your customers back again and again.
2. Be Professional.
When it comes to the design of your brand, it’s usually best to hire a professional. However, we live in a do-it-yourself world and many small businesses simply don’t have the budget to pay for professional help. If that’s the case, make sure whatever you do looks and feels like a professional is behind it all. Don’t use Word Art to design your logo. When it comes to your website or brochure, choose designs and artwork that help communicate your brand story. Use design and space to draw attention to what matters most. And always make sure that whatever you do is appealing to your customers (not just to you or your significant other).
3. Stay Current but Don’t be Trendy
As a business owner, you’ll want to stay current on the latest marketing trends—but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should jump in and do them all. For the past couple years there’s been a lot of talk about social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and how businesses need to “be social” to succeed. That may be true for some businesses, but it isn’t the solution for everyone. Take time to learn about and understand what it takes to participate and succeed in these venues. Don’t sign-up until you understand all the risks, costs, and rewards. They may be great way for you to communicate with and gain new customers—on the other hand, they may be a waste of time and resources that could be better spent elsewhere. Just because people are talking about them, doesn’t mean they’ll work for your business. Do your homework then jump in where appropriate.
4. Be Remarkable.
The very best thing you can do to build your brand is to offer a product or service that gets people talking about you. Do something so much better or so differently that it gets noticed. Deliver your service in a unique and noticeable way. Or solve a customer’s problem in a way that is exciting or memorable. And do it consistently so that your customers have lots of reasons to share their stories with their friends. Give them reasons to talk about you and they will. Everything you do to build and grow your business helps develop your brand. Which is the most important? It’s all important. So decide what your brand stands for, and then make that part of everything you do. With enough time and effort, you’ll build a truly valuable brand that will serve your business well.