By Lynn Manternach/Guest Column
Is this the year you really get serious about building your company’s brand?
Brand development is easier than it’s ever been before with an amazing array of technological tools and communications channels at your disposal. The financial investment necessary to get your messages in front of consumers has declined significantly.
Ironically, brand development is also harder than it’s ever been before because of the array of technological tools, communications channels and low cost of entry.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed and move onto something that’s simpler to accomplish. But a strong brand boosts your bottom line and makes many other business objectives easier to achieve, so it’s worth the effort. A strong brand can help you attract new business with less effort, land key accounts/clients/customers, avoid competing on price and launch new products or move into new markets more easily.
Regardless of the state of your current brand, this needs to be the year you really get serious about building it. So where do you begin? Whether you’ve consciously developed it or not, your company already has a brand.
Your brand is the core identity of your company. That core identity comes from a lot of different sources, including your staff, expertise, customer service, product, facility, name, logo and marketing.
To articulate your brand, you need to first understand what makes you special. Why do your customers choose your product or service over other options? What brings them back? What is it about the experience that your customers like? What are the emotional connections to your brand?
If you’re serious about building your brand, start with research. Your brand isn’t what you say it is — it’s what consumers say it is. So ask them. Find out how your company is perceived, what consumers see as your strengths and weaknesses and how they describe the brand experience. Ask them what they like best about interacting with your product or service, and how the experience could be improved.
You need to talk to your employees as well. They’re a critical part of the brand and customer experience. Do they understand the expectations for a good customer experience? Do they clearly understand their role in delivering that brand experience? Do they have access to the information they need from across the organization to exceed expectations?
Once you have a clear view of how the brand is experienced and perceived both inside and outside the company, you need to build a plan. Brand development takes strategy, focus and perseverance. And it has to start internally. Aligning employees around a common set of expectations for the consumer experience takes time, but customers will ultimately feel the difference.
Once you really understand what’s special about your company’s brand, use that information to your advantage. Communicate your brand – clearly and consistently – every time a customer has an opportunity to interact with your company. You want each encounter to be part of a harmonious story that forms an emotional bond with your customers. That means you have to have consistency in your brand’s look, tone, personality and messaging.
Your brand is bigger than any advertising, public relations or direct mail campaign you will ever do. It is the one thing that remains consistent.
You may think you don’t have time to focus on your brand. The truth is, if you take the time to understand and focus on building it, there are a lot of other business decisions that become a lot easier.
Lynn Manternach is brand arsonist and president at MindFire Communications Inc. (MindFireComm.com) in Cedar Rapids and Le Claire. Contact Lynn at firstname.lastname@example.org