Running a business can be hard, in any economic climate but more so in the current one. Your competitors are multiplying and you face deep challenges reaching your customers. Once you reach them, you have an uphill battle on your hands, trying to build trust and convince your potential customers to buy from you. To help you through this battle, your brand is one of the biggest weapons you posses. But few understand the power of this weapon and how to use it effectively.
Like most business owners, I think it would be safe to assume that you are in the same situation. Perhaps you do understand the power of branding. Or perhaps you do not. In fact, you may even be averse to the idea and consider it some superfluous marketing technique that is useless.
But if you think about it, what are the different facets of your business that you can truly control? Can you control the markets? Can you control user behavior and trends? Can you control the economic winds? Can you control your competition?
What can you control?
Just like in life, in business too, the only things you can control are yourself and your business facets. You can control the quality of your product or service. You can control your customer service. You can control your reputation. You can control your brand and and the public perception.
Of all the things you can control, surely branding is the lowest hanging fruit, wouldn’t you agree? Of course this does not just mean your logo and your corporate colors or theme. It means much more and actually includes all the other aspects that you can control about your business driven from one point of view or one gateway, so to speak.
Your brand is made up of all the experiences that your customers get from coming in contact with your business. This includes:
- The visual aspects of your brand: your logo design, marketing materials, website design etc
- Your brand story: with out this, you really have not way of leading your target market on a journey into your world
- Your brand message: with out this, your business would have no clarity of communication. You can not be memorable.
- Your brand core values and mission: with out these, your business is really a boat with out a rudder left out a sea. You are at the mercy of the winds of fate. Over 90% of small businesses are in this boat.
- Your brand purpose and vision: with out this, you can not aspire to transcend the level at which you are operating. There will be no growth and progress.
- Quality of your product/service: if you have nailed some of the above aspects, then you will be forced to ensure you provide quality products and/or services. It is like wearing an elegant suit or dress to dinner – you think and behave more elegantly. The same is true for your brand.
- Your customer service: when you have aligned your brand with your core values and quality, you will undoubtedly start giving better customers service – because customers become important to you.
- Your reputation: when you work hard building your brand assets, your reputation starts to grow and becomes important to your business. You are not just looking for the next sale – which ever way it comes. Instead, you focus on building the tracks for future sales to come naturally and with harmony.
- Your public perception: when all these brand assets align and work together, your brand’s public perception sky rockets and starts to bring rewards. You will be compelled o uphold this reputation and thus begins a positive cycle of growth and market dominance.
So where do you start?
The above list sounds great and exciting, but where do you start? The best place to begin building your brand is with figuring out what your brand’s core values, your brand mission and strong purpose is. What does it stand for? Why are you in business (besides for making a profit)? Why should people buy from your brand?
Ask yourself these questions? Do not just focusing on techniques that are aimed at “tricking” your customers into buying. That is what a lot of popular marketing education is all about. If you look around the internet, you will find tons of websites with marketing strategies aimed at trying to “push” your customers in a certain direction. In fact, you can even call that manipulation. Instead, think differently. Try to “pull” your customers by the sheer magnetism of your brand. Let them come to you. Once that starts happening, it will snowball into huge chunk of the market share.
You may argue that the popular marketing techniques do work and in fact with out manipulation it is nearly impossible to get sales in these times. That may be so but then why are so many businesses struggling or even failing?
Have a unified brand voice and also ensure your internal communication is aligned with your brand values.
If you try and hit most of the items on the list above, then you are on your way to leveraging your brand as your best weapon to ensure your business succeeds.
So how do you leverage your brand as a weapon?
Think about the 80/20 Pareto Principle. 20% of your efforts lead to 80% results. You have to identify what this 20% is. Most businesses spend 80% of their time and effort on things that bring only 20% results. This even applies to your customer segmentation and how 20% of your non-ideal customers may be causing 80% of the customer service problems.
Identify the marketing activities that bring the most return on investment. I know this is easier said than done. But if you are not clear about it, hire a strategist – if your budget permits. Rather than throwing money at bad marketing, seek professional help. Educate yourself enough to know where to seek help.
Bring your brand center and focus of all business activities. Measure any activity you undertake against the benchmark of your brand values and vision. If they do not align, STOP doing that activity!
Invest time, effort and money in understanding who your ideal customers are. Most businesses fail because they do not understand whom to focus on. Do not try to be everything to everyone. That is a recipe for disaster. Focus your brand and marketing messages with laser like precision on your primary target market. Work out the emotional aspects and needs of this target base.
I know that getting your brand right is like navigating the high seas with no maps. It is perilous and you would be tempted to avoid confronting it. It would seem easier to throw good money after bad and keep chugging away at strategies that promise quick results.
But if you are serious about your business, then you have to face the devil and confront the inner demons. You have to start thinking and working from inside out. Get your house in order. Take the right steps to align your brand properly. By doing that the outside will start to automatically aligning with your brand and your will start seeing results. I speak from experience and have had tremendous success doing what I have suggested above. I turned a business from near bankruptcy to million dollar company by focusing on the inner core. You can too!