So You Want To Talk About Branding?
Does every company have a brand? Does every company need a brand? What do you think of when you hear the name of a company? Does it conjure up positive feelings or negative ones? What is a brand? What makes a good brand? How do I get a good brand name when I don’t have the resources of a Tim Hortons or Bell? Let us explore a few of these areas to demystify the world of branding.
Firstly, let’s define a brand. Brand is what people think about when they hear your name – it is the perception of your company in the market. Brand is more than a logo, it is more than a tag line, it is more than a well crafted advertising campaign. A brand is what you stand for and it is how you are perceived in the marketplace. You do not really own your brand. You own the logos, the copyright etc… Your brand is what the market thinks of you based on your brand and related activities. It is ultimately how you are perceived.
Does every company need a brand? Every company is a brand whether you are an auto body shop or a Twenty-Million dollar enterprise. You may never have focused on your brand; you may have spent your time on building a solid reliable business with excellent service and great clients. But now you have to grow. What do you do to get to the world outside your immediate customer base? How do you differentiate your offering? Of course you need great strategies and solid tactical approach to executing on those objectives, but how do you facilitate that effort? This is where your brand becomes extremely valuable. Still not convinced? Think about these three questions:
1. Did you ever lose an account where you had the better value proposition? Maybe you were beaten by a better brand?
2. Do your sales executives tell you “no one knows who we are”? Maybe they spend a lot of time on ineffective prospecting.
3. You rarely get leads “because the prospect has heard of you”. The brand can sell for you when you have an integrated approach to building your brand. Brand can shorten the sales cycle because your credibility is established early which saves time during the prospecting phase. Your sales people can actually increase their productivity with an investment in your brand. In our view “the Brand” or your brand is affected positively or negatively at every “touch point” you have with your prospects, suppliers, customers, potential recruits – every point you reach outside of your organization. In other words, everything you communicate with the marketplace impacts on your brand.
We believe that in order to “Live your Brand” you need to have an Integrated Thinking approach to your brand strategy. It does not start and stop with Marketing. It involves every employee, supplier, partner (and so on…) with whom your business comes into contact. It can be as simple as ensuring your receptionist communicates your core messages accurately and passionately. So what are some of the branding items you should consider?
1. Make sure your Key Messages are simple and accurately describe what you do.
2. These messages need to be embedded in all your marketing collateral, advertising copy, web site etc..
3. The messages need to be communicated internally so that all staff has a comfort level with what makes you unique. If you don’t know what that is look harder, your clients buy from you for a reason, find out what that is.
4. If you plan to get some media exposure you need to have your spokespeople trained on the basics of Media Relations and interview strategies.
5. Your spokespeople also need to be trained in effective speaking to ensure that they enhance your company brand when public speaking in front of your prospects and clients.
6. Your sales team needs to internalize these messages without improvisation. Your feet on the street communicate with hundreds if not thousands of prospects in a given year; they need to be on message.
These are just a few simple steps every company can do to begin to build their brand. There are of course many others that would likely require the use of PR agencies, but in fact that investment can have a great long term ROI. Generally, the cost of PR can be close to the salary of one mid level employee annually. Clearly, branding is tough to measure as PR is tough to measure, but we always know when we get good PR because our clients and prospects tell us so.
Branding makes the company relevant. When you are known, it facilitates all other sales and related activities. Everyone that “touches” your organization in any way must come away with a good positive feeling. This enhances the essence of your brand. “Live your Brand every day, after all – it is who you are…”