I don’t remember exactly when the Buzzword factory churned out the word “brand” and all of its accessory words. Now the word and the concept are firmly entrenched in the American vernacular. Simply put, a brand is anything that the customer sees and/or hears and thereby identifies with your business. It is what your business stands for.
Example: When I think of Starbuck’s, I think of fair traded coffees and Ethos Water. Both of those concepts sit well with me. Both make the world a better place, and I am willing to pay more for my coffee or my bottled water if I know I am supporting things that make the world a better place.
Businesses of all sizes spend a lot of money each year creating and defending their brands. These brand strategies include everything from color schemes and fonts used in marketing materials to handbooks and employee training programs. In this competitive market these days, successful businesses want to be in complete control of what the customer sees and hears about the business. They also want to use their brand to drive very successful interactions with the customers. These are the things that produce two very important business concepts – the returning customer and the word of mouth recommendations.
Sounds complicated and expensive. It’s neither, and it can be used for businesses of all size and for individuals looking to better themselves. Here’s a few tips on how you can maximize the concept of brand for your small business, or even for yourself personally.
Remember the concept – A brand is anything that a customer or potential customer sees or hears about a person or business and then comes to identify with that person or business. We’ll do the small business side first.
There are simple things that you can do to create visual appeal around your business. Create a logo that says something about your business. Use colors that elicit emotions you want associated with you. For example a massage or spa is a business that is based on the concept of relaxation. Placid colors like blues and grays and violet would help convey that theme. A logo that has no harsh points would also help.
Your brand is much more than just your logo and color scheme. Think about your total customer experience. From the first voice they hear on the phone to the person they deal with when they come into your shop. Returning to the the massage and spa model, a friendly welcoming voice on the phone and soft fabrics that touch the skin when the customer is waiting for their massage. Soft music and nice scents all add to the total customer experience. These are the things that people then associate with you and your business. Put your logo on lots of different things so that it is etched into your customer’s minds. Make sure that the logo is included in each and every marketing piece you put out there.
Another way to build your brand is to be active in your community. Create teams to participate in different community events, and make sure they wear your logo proudly. Sponsor community events that attract the people who you want to be your customers. If we continue with our relaxing massage model, sponsoring a car at the local race track might not be as beneficial as sponsoring a team for the local breast cancer walk or ride.
Always remember your customer’s experience is the most important element of your brand. People want to deal with pleasant people who do what they say they are going to do. If they are told someone will call them back, they want to hear from someone. If you tell them you are going to do something, then make sure you do it. You don’t have to give them every single thing they want. You might find this hard t believe, but sometimes the customer isn’t always right. You do have to work hard to give them a reasonable and cost-effective solution when they have a problem. How you treat your customers is also a part of your brand. I absolutely like dealing with businesses that offer great customer service and I always go back, I always tell my friends about them, and I don’t mind paying more for things in businesses that I like the experience.
How can the concept of brand apply to people? Whether you acknowledge it or not, you develop a brand with or without your help. Do you know someone who never pulls their weight when there is a project going around? Do you know someone someone who is crude and rude? Do you know someone who is very caring and would give anything of themselves to help someone in need? Do you know someone who is always going out and doing community service? The answer to all of those questions is probably yes. We all know people like that. I just gave you the brand, and you filled in the person.
In today’s technological age, we need to control what people see about us. To a certain extent, you can control what is out there people see. There are definitely things beyond our control . Since almost everyone carries a cell phone that has a camera, it is harder to maintain a grip on things. Do you think Michael Phelps took a picture of himself smoking marijuana at that party and then posted it to the internet? No he didn’t, but knowing that he was a celebrity and in a place where there were cameras in almost everyone’s pockets, he should have made a better decision about what he chose to do. For your part, only put appropriate pictures up there for the world to see. Bikini pictures or pictures of drinking at parties are of no benefit to you, and they stay up there forever. Employers often ask to see your social media pages or they Google your name to see what comes up. Make sure only good things show up during that search.
The first and most important step to managing your own personal or small business brand is to recognize that, like it or not, you have a brand. It is developing with every interaction you have. You can control it, or you can let it control you.