The best place to start with marketing is with your brand. I am aware that most of you when reading the word “brand” may feel either a surge of panic, boredom or the need to close the browser. However, before you give in to any of these urges can I please reassure you, this will not be War and Peace but will instead only cover the essential points you need to know! A strong brand is extremely powerful; below is a photo of me with an Aston Martin DB9 (a lovely expensive car) on a driving experience day, I have loved this car for years and one day hope to own one. This has nothing to do with rational thought, it is purely emotional!
Reputation is everything!
Your brand can be split into 3 chunks: Reputation, Values and Design. In business your reputation is everything. Whether that’s online (e.g. social media) or in person (word of mouth). How everyone connected to your business behaves will impact whether a customer decides, firstly to buy and then whether it is worth doing so again. It also, horror of horrors, determines if they give their friends a raving review or a cautionary tale. For a business: the difference between a healthy or poorly bottom line.
What is your business personality?
To maintain your reputation you have to understand and be able to articulate what your business stands for and the benefits it provides your customers with. This leads us nicely onto Values. If you could describe your business in terms of having a personality – what words would you use? Is it friendly, caring, reliable or awkward, boring and confusing?! There are so many to choose from that it really is about finding the right words that fit your business. Of course if the only words you come with have negative connotations then you may want to consider speaking to a professional about improving the way your business is run as this will seriously be affecting your brand! If you would like some advice on this there are a number of business coaches you may like to have a conversation with such as Helen Liddar or or Erin Buyers.
What makes you special?
Now you have identified the personality of your business you need to spend a little bit of time thinking about what it is about your brand that makes you different. Ask your existing customers; either face to face or in a short survey. If you want more comprehensive research then you may want to consider using a reputable third party to conduct this. If asking existing customers isn’t an option then why not speak to potential customers or alternatively put yourself in your target customers’ shoes. A word of warning: avoid using how you compare to your competitors as the only way to identify what is special about you. This doesn’t really have much to do with them and can lead you to think only about the nuts and bolts of what you do. This is the time to focus on your brand not theirs!
Does your business function properly?
Now is the point to double check yourself. Do you have the people, processes and systems in place to ensure you live up to your brand: reputation, business personality and why you’re special? If you don’t exceed, meet or at least manage your customers’ expectations, you’re in danger of losing business from them and potentially anyone they are connected to going forward. For your brand and business, It is essential to fulfil any promises you make to your customer.
Make it look pretty
Finally: Design. This should now be relatively straight forward as you have done all of the hard work upfront. It is always best to work with a graphic designer or brand agency to help you pull together all of your marketing materials: website, logo, leaflets etc. They will help you to turn your brand: reputation, business personality and why you’re special into a professional, visual and written form to engage your existing and target customers. It may be a good idea to source the help of a proficient copywriter to help you craft the words if your graphic designer or agency lacks these skills.
A second word of warning, before you start creating a mountain of marketing material please ask yourself the following questions:
What makes the most sense based on the product or service I am selling?
Does my potential customer need a lot of information before they are persuaded to buy?
How do my customers like to be communicated to?
Is it really worth spending a fortune on marketing materials for the value of the product or service I am selling?
How will I measure the success of the materials I am creating?
How often am I likely to change the look and feel of my marketing material?
The power of thinking strategically
Don’t underestimate the power of taking a bit more time upfront to think about and decide on the 3 brand elements: reputation, values and design. Better to do that than go galloping down a path and then have to do a sharp U turn further down the road. Yes of course your business will evolve and change. But your brand reputation and values should remain consistent – if you want your business to keep its existing customers, grow and ultimately continue to be successful. If after reading this you still feel a bit confused or would like some help with defining your brand then please do just get in touch!
© 2015 strategicmarketingadvice.co.uk