Depending on the type of business you have and how much you spend branding, marketing and promoting your business you may well be aware of all of these points already and be putting them to work for you. For some businesses that may be new or still don’t understand why being online is of any importance to their business, these branding points may help give clarification and a place to begin in developing your brand. Please take a read and then leave me your comments.
1. Be Iconic
Do you have one iconic image that you use consistently on all of your print and visual material that identifies the piece as belonging to or originating from you or your business?
Is your logo quickly and easily identifiable, or does it have details that can only be seen on closer inspection?
You want a logo that works as a split second identifier, ideally. This is why many large companies you’ll know have one image that you can identify them with, without having to read the name or look too closely. Some examples are Pepsi, Toyota, Google, Apple and Target to name a few.
Your logo should look good and clean in black and white as well as colour. When it is printed in black and white you don’t want an ugly logo or one that just doesn’t look right because of a lost gradient or shading, background or glossy look. Images on top of background images can also pose a problem when going black and white. So test this out before you finalize a logo decision.
When it comes to branding, having a cheap or shoddy designed logo will hurt you more than help. Don’t underestimate this.
2. What’s in a Name?
Your name or your business name also brands you. If you are a public speaker and your name appears in credits alone or with other names, as sponsors of, or presenters for, the more your name is recognized, this brands you. Of course you want to be careful of your affiliations because of this, you are putting your name out there and if you want to be branded a certain way, you need to protect some-what, your professional affiliations. Rubbing elbows with, or having your name or
business name as a partner with a business with questionable practices or a less than professional reputation can reflect badly on your business.
3. Branding Behaviour
Beyond your logo as an image, your own image, look and conduct, as well as that of your business, store or portfolio represent your brand. If you were to have a store and not keep it clean or painted or with equipment that works, this reflects on your perceived image to your customers. It also reflects on your personal integrity to a degree because the quality of product and equipment in your business reflects your own value of your business. If customers see that you don’t value your own business that much, this tells them not to value it either.
If you were a financial investment consultant and drove to places to meet your clients, would it work for or against you to drive around in a rusted car or a car kept clean and washed? It may not have to be a Lexus, but it should be kept well to present yourself in the best light.
If you own a business that promotes green living and health for the environment, than a blatant disregard for recycling would not reflect well for your brand.
To some these things are obvious, yet too many businesses I see these days seem to forget these simple fundamentals.
Obviously be yourself, but be professional. To lighten things up, sometimes people like to tell jokes but the ones that come to mind to share can be off-color and distasteful. Even if the ones you tell it to laugh, they may find the joke funny, but still inappropriate given your working relationship. Or it may give them an impression of you that doesn’t bode well.
4. A Picture is Worth …
Everyone has a cell phone and now we have Pinterest and YouTube too! You have control over the pictures you put in your ads and flyers, on your website and other business materials, but you don’t have control over the pictures and images others take of you or your business and share either online or offline.
You know to show your best when in control of your images, hire a professional photographer when the need calls for it, or purchase proper graphics and images to showcase your business well and brand effectively. Pinching pennies will always cost you in the long run, even if you think it won’t, when it comes to building your brand and using pictures, images and graphics. If you don’t have the skill to do it yourself, than have the sense to hire someone who does. You can only benefit from this.
But you have no control over what pictures involving your brand other people share. Be proactive and make sure what you do have control over (ie: the condition of your store or office) portrays the right image.
5. Smile for the Camera
Your videos should also reflect your business in the best light and professionalism.
There is an occasion when a quick cam video demonstration or something shared for your website or YouTube channel is perfectly acceptable, but there are other times when you should pay close attention to sound and video quality.
Get a professional to take the video and do the editing. They have the proper equipment and software for the purpose of showcasing you with quality. Skimping on quality because of pennies (something most small business owners have a problem with) will cost you more in loss of reputation, rather than building up your brand. If you do not have the money enough, don’t do it. Better to not do video production if you can’t afford it, than look cheap and cheesy trying to.
6. Who is Really Branding Your Business?
Branding with Social Media
Social Media is getting bigger and more important every day. As of today the most prominent players in social media for business are Facebook Pages, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google Plus and YouTube.
Does your brand have a presence on all of these media? If not, why not?
It may not be completely necessary for a business to have a presence on every single one of these, but it is important that your brand have a presence on some of these. Many customers or potential customers don’t even make it to a business website, but become customers through one or more of these social channels.
They’re Talking About You
You know how important other people’s opinions are when you’re shopping around because online you look at other people’s reviews and what they have to say before you so much as buy a book on Amazon. Am I right? People read reviews and they carry weight.
Make sure you get reviews from your customers, respond professionally to them and immediately to any negative reviews and show thanks and appreciation for the positive ones.
Put the testimonials on your website. Include a few in your print materials when you can and when it doesn’t overpower the printed piece. Don’t be ‘all about me’, but it’s acceptable to show others that there are those who endorse you or your products and services and have reaped the benefit of it. This helps potential customers make a decision. That’s what you want, for them to make a decision, right?
I mentioned earlier that testimonials are very important because of the social influence. That social influence is even more powerful on these social media. If you don’t use these to help brand your business (because they are all FREE!) you are not doing yourself a favor.
Now, granted, it is a full time job just keeping up with all of the social media in many cases, adding Facebook status’s, answering questions, giving responses, following tweets, and video comments, following others, pinning, repining, commenting and engaging. There’s a lot to do. Measure this with your other, or traditional promotion expenses.
Where newspaper ads may still be effective to some degree, are they as effective as the reach you can get via the social web? What about the return on investment for the word of mouth advertising through shares and ‘Likes’? All of these should be considered when deciding if the time investment for social media is worth it to promote your brand. Keeping in mind where your competition is too. You may be satisfied with an ad in your Saturday paper, but your competition is online engaged in conversation with your potential customers and answering their questions. Who will they really think of turning to when they have made a decision to move ahead with a purchase?
7. Keeping An Ear to the Grapevine
Reputation Management and Brand Protection
Do you monitor your reputation to see what others are saying about you and your business? Given the ease of sharing online with all the social media I just mentioned, and all the other websites that people can leave comments and opinions on, do you have an ear to this grapevine to know what they might be saying about you?
What a tragedy it would be if you’re pouring out time and money to build up your brand and oblivious to you, people are saying negative things about your products, customer service, staff, hours, parking availability, prices or anything else? If you are not aware that they are doing this you can’t respond and either set the record straight if there are misunderstandings, or offer to correct an unfortunate customer experience, etc.
The internet and social media pretty much dictates that a brand be online and protecting their interests. Today there are still many businesses that don’t even have a website. That may be OK for some older businesses that have an established clientele, but for the most part it is a requirement to be online. This is of course more so for businesses that cater directly to the customer. People go online to do their shopping for products and services and they need to find you in order to decide to do their business with you. Maybe they will find your ad, or listing, your website or social media presence, but maybe they will just find a friend who mentioned you.
They could be talking about you whether you’re online or not. Be proactive and protect your brand and branding efforts.