Because if you don’t define yourself, someone else will.
In today’s crazy busy world, we are bombarded with information. To create some semblance of control over the information we receive, we need to sort and file the information in our brain in a way that helps us retrieve it. But everyone has a different filing system. Just look at the desks around you. Everyone sorts and stores their information a little differently based on how it makes sense to them. The same thing happens in our brains.
When you meet someone, your brain creates a way to file the information. Their name, what they look like, what they were wearing, where you met them, information they shared with you – hobbies, kids, interests, etc. – and how you felt talking with them. “She was funny.” “He was easy to talk to.” All of this adds up into an impression that your brain stores for future use.
The same thing happens when people interact with a company. Companies with a strong brand make it easy for their prospects and customers to file or slot them under certain attributes. They do that by clearly telling them what they do, who they do it for, and why they offer them the most value.
But, if your company doesn’t clearly articulate what it stands for, the person still needs a way to slot you in their brain. To file away your brand for future recall. So, if you don’t tell them how to remember you, they will make something up based on what they heard, saw, or experienced.
And, that may not be the brand perception you want. It may not be bad, but it may not be the whole picture. Or, it might be wrong. And, you certainly don’t want your competitors to be the ones defining you to your prospects!
Every interaction your company has with a prospect or customer helps to cement an image in their mind of what you stand for, including strengths and weaknesses. Your goal is to clearly articulate your brand, the promise you make to your customers or employees if they work with you, and then deliver on that promise with every interaction. That is strong branding.
Strong Brands Make Life Easier Building a strong brand is a commitment. It’s takes time, consistency, creativity, and some financial investment. So why bother?
Four very important reasons.
1. Focus. I believe that one of the most important gifts a small business owner can give him or herself is the ability to stay focused on your goals. A strong, clearly defined brand helps you capture and maintain that focus by:
• Helping you market to the right people — the ones who value your brand promise, or the unique thing your company can deliver;
• Helping you attract the right employees who fit in with your company culture; and
• Making daily decisions on what opportunities to pursue to grow your business.
A strong brand is like a filter that you can run your strategic decisions through. It sifts out the distractions. For every executive strategic decision you face, ask yourself does this initiative help support or strengthen our brand? If the answer is “No” or “Maybe,” then don’t do it.
2. Differentiation. One of the main jobs your brand needs to perform is to clearly articulate how your company or service or product is different from every other firm clamoring for a customer’s attention. A strong brand cuts through clutter by being relevant to your target audience. When your brand is clear, consistent, targeted, and memorable it helps your marketing message stand out and grab attention online and offline.
Note: Different doesn’t mean better. I have seen some of my clients get paralyzed in the brand strategy process because they try so hard to be better than their competitors. Being better is hard, being different is doable. Differentiate by focusing on a particular niche, infusing a distinct personality into your marketing, adding an experience to your product or service delivery, or distributing your product in an unexpected location that your target market frequents.
3. Confidence. Confidence gives you the power to act. You can propel your business forward by taking action when you know your brand. You don’t doubt yourself. You avoid analysis paralysis. You don’t change your marketing message or elevator pitch every time you talk with someone. Knowing what your company stands for, which type of customer values that, and why your firm delivers more value to that customer more than anyone else gives you the clarity of purpose and confidence to attract a new customer, close the sale, and inspire loyalty.
4. Loyalty. Strong brands have strong relationships. Strong relationships lead to brand loyalty. Loyal customers pay a little extra, are more lenient when you make mistakes, and don’t abandon you for competitive offers. They buy more from you because they trust you. The same thing can be said for employees. When you clearly articulate and live up to your brand internally, your people stay longer, successfully deliver on your brand promise, and are your best cheerleaders.
Building a strong brand for your business offers so many benefits internally and externally. So, spend some time defining it. Create the brand strategy and communicate it consistently to your employees, customers, and prospects.
Have you ever asked your best customers how they would describe your company? Were you surprised by what they said? Did you walk away feeling like they really didn’t know the full extent of what your company could do?
Maybe that is because you didn’t tell or show them clearly enough. So, tell them what your brand is. Then tell them again. Then show them. Show them every time you interact with them. Now you have a strong brand that offers value.
By Sue Kirchner
President of Brand Strong Marketing, Inc. a strategic consulting firm that helps companies identify their unique brand and then tell their story in a way that grabs attention and is irresistible to clients.