Your brand is the personality of your business and just like every person has a story to tell, so does every brand. If you aren’t in control of your story, that means your employees and your customers are. It is imperative that you, the business owner, take the lead in telling your story or hire experienced professionals to first understand your objectives and then take the lead for you.
Often though, new business owners aren’t able to make the investment in fully turning over their branding and marketing efforts to a pro. If that sounds like you, here are five things to keep in mind to ensure your efforts will drive engagement and ultimately revenue, which will eventually enable you to hire a pro and focus on what you do best.
Who are you trying to reach and how do you want them to perceive you? According to the Cambridge Dictionary, brand identity is defined as "a set of ideas and features that a company wants people to connect in their minds with its products or brand." This identity is communicated visually using brand assets such as company name, logo, tone and voice, tagline, typeface, photographs, videos, other designs. Each of these should be created and developed while asking: “Does this fit in with our mission statement?”
You’ll need an official logo to start. A few months down the line, you may realize you could really benefit from a tri-fold brochure... Soon it’s time to have custom business cards instead of that Vistaprint template… Oh, and of course you need a website — but you’re in luck because your nephew builds websites on the side and your best friend's neighbor designs the bulletin for her church and can totally make anything you need... Right? Wrong!
Your assets must be consistent. Piecing out this work to the lowest bidder can be tempting, especially when the budget is limited and cash flow is slow, but entrusting a professional to consistently develop all of your brand assets is an investment you will be glad you made because consistency is key and piecing this work out to individuals who don’t even know one another is a recipe for an inconsistent mess that you will eventually look back on and realize you should have done right the first time around.
If you’re reading this, you’ve joined us in the digital age to some extent. I like to refer to digital marketing as digital word-of-mouth with an exponentially further reach than traditional word-of-mouth. In the same way that you can invest in a billboard on the side of the highway, you can invest in digital ads that will make impressions with your audience. There are approximately 286,942,362 internet users in the United States! That’s 88.5% of the population. This is where that exponential reach comes into play and you can really make a big impact.
This is also where that consistency we talked about in #2 is a game changer. Not only should your assets be consistent, but your tone and voice should be consistent across all channels. Social media is a wonderful place to get started with your digital marketing efforts! But remember: You wouldn’t rent a store front, unlock the door, and leave it with no one there to serve your potential customers; so, don’t do that with social media either. Make a plan and make time to provide valuable content, listen to feedback, and have a real conversation with your audience.
In addition to social media, there are numerous ways you can, in the words of my good friend, Shawn Karol Sandy, Chief Revenue Office of The Selling Agency, “Go promote yourself!” Know your mission, know your promise, and know how to convey your promise in a way that communicates value to your audience. Then, get out there! Go meet people, listen to what they have to say and understand how you can help them. Build relationships and be a resource. If you are selling something tangible, invest in a great e-commerce website and possibly a store front. Consider a networking group. We’re big fans of BNI (Business Networking International). Join a chamber of commerce. Get involved with organizations that will help you connect with potential customers while also giving back. Partner up with similarly-minded local businesses if they can add value to your brand and vice versa. Check out local incubator programs for potential brands to partner with.
Rule of thumb that applies to all of life including promoting yourself: “At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” ― Maya Angelou
Often times my clients expect the phone to begin ringing off the hook and for sales to skyrocket within days or weeks of launching a campaign. Sometimes that happens but more times than not, I’m doing the job of managing expectations and reminding them that just like Rome wasn’t built in a day, it takes time to build a brand, grow an audience, and become an influencer.
The first sign of success is when clients aren’t just buying from you, but they are buying in to your mission and helping to tell your story. They are so satisfied with the experience and product or service you provide, that they can’t wait to tell their friends, family, and the world! So, just because the phone isn’t ringing off the hook and your sales haven’t doubled from this time last year, it doesn’t mean you aren’t making valuable progress. It’s a long game where you deliver valuable bite-sized pieces to your audience and cultivate a relationship with them. Then, when they’re ready to buy, you are their trusted resource.
There was a time when Starbucks only had one location and all you could buy from Amazon was books. Now these brands are global giants, but it took time and a plan to build those brands. Know your strengths and capitalize on them. Follow the plan, adjust when needed, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. You got this.