Over 90% of small-business owners believe that having a unique brand that differentiates themselves from the competition is very important.1 Over half of them also report branding as being critical to attracting new business.2 What secrets do strong brands like Apple and Coke hold? And how can small-business owners use them as a source of inspiration? Here are four steps to building a successful brand.
1. Define how you want to be perceived
When your customers have finished using your product or service, how do you want them to describe their experience? If you own a restaurant, for example, what do you want them to say?
- “Wow, this restaurant has the largest portions in town. It’s great!”
- “You really feel as though you’ve been invited for a traditional Italian family dinner. The dishes are simple but so delicious!”
- “The service is quick and the food is OK, but the price is unbeatable!”
See your brand as your promise to your customers – a promise that’s different from your competitors’.
2. Organize your business based on this promise
Keeping the promise that sets you apart from your competitors implies that you’re doing something more than what they’re doing. The restaurant that wants to be recognized for its unbeatable prices, for example, will have to find a way to maximize the number of customers served per table in one evening. The margin per individual customer will be less, but the number of customers will make up for it.
In other words, your brand will greatly influence the winning formula that you’ll base your business on.
3. Communicate your promise
All of your marketing material – from the colours of your logo to your website text – must be developed as a function of this promise. What you say on Facebook or LinkedIn must be aligned with this message, as must the decoration of your premises.
It’s at this stage that your brand becomes central to your advertising campaigns. What’s more, your ads will be even more effective, since you’ll have a clear message to convey.
4. Be consistent
After defining how you want to be perceived, then organizing your business based on this perception and communicating this promise, you must be consistent. Apple, for example, is recognized for making products that are both elegant and innovative: it can’t afford to launch a new phone that’s unattractive, or a new tablet that’s technologically behind, because that would mean breaking the promise it has made to its customers.
The idea here is to develop trust. Your customers must no longer see your brand as a promise but as a reality. Consistency is often the hardest part, but the one with the greatest rewards.
Over time, a well-managed brand stops becoming a company promise and increasingly becomes a customer expectation. There may be 10 Italian restaurants in the neighbourhood, but only one where customers expect to experience a traditional Italian family dinner. That restaurant’s brand is no longer its name or logo – it’s the expectation of its customers.
When applying such a strategy, your business will gradually be able to increase both its prices and its sales (that’s right, both at the same time!). Your brand will become one of your business’s most valuable assets and the one with the most impact on your bottom line.
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