How to build a successful brand when you are a small company
Nike, Ryanair, David Beckham, Dunnes Stores and Father Ted – What have they all got in common?
They are all brands and when we think of these names, they each bring different types of messages (also known as “brand values”) into our minds eye. More often than not, these brand values are derived from our experiences of the brand either directly (eg a product or a service we have encountered) or it is influenced by what we hear, read or see (eg TV).
Not surprisingly, our feelings about a brand can be positive or negative, they can mean different things to different people and they can change over time. When you strip away the logo, signage and other marketing materials, the basic objective of any brand is therefore to influence what brand values or “messages” we want customers to think of when they think of your business.
Branding is therefore just as relevant for a small business as it is for a multinational. The following are 6 tips therefore for growing your company brand:
1. Find out what your customers think of you today
Forget for the moment the wonderful things you have said about yourself on your website and sales brochure: This is what is in your head. It’s time to survey your customers about what they think about your business, your products, your service, etc. You may be surprised by what you hear back but if you approach this task objectively, and are willing to take on board the feedback, it will give you the first building block for creating a brand.
2. Find out what people inside your own company think
A company brand is not owned by the CEO or the Marketing Manager. These people may be responsible for the logo and marketing message. Your brand is a living, breathing thing and is influenced by every experience a customer has of your company, from the receptionist to the person in shipping. Ask people from every part of the company what they think your company does well (and not so well). Ultimately, if everyone across the company believes in what you do, you have a better chance of building a successful brand.
3. Decide what it is you want to be remembered for
OK, so you have listened to your customers and staff, now what? Well, you need to decide what you want to be remembered for in the future: i.e what brand values you want customers to associate with your business the next time you ask – eg. the best service, the shortest leadtimes, the lowest price, the most flexible, the highest quality, etc.
4. Actions speak louder than words or money
Brands live and die by the actual experiences of customers. So, why it is a given that you will invest time and money in updating your marketing materials to reflect your new brand, just remember that if you are going to “talk the talk” you better be prepared to “walk the walk” Jan Carlzon (former CEO of SAS Airlines) said that every day SAS had 50,000 “moments of truth” (ie customer employee interactions) or opportunities to influence customer satisfaction. Make a list of your company “moments of truth” and you will be well on the way to delivering on your brand promise.
5. Be consistent
It can take years to establish your desired brand values in your marketplace so if you want people to remember what you stand for you need to remind them of it over and over and over again in both your words and actions. Finally, agree on one version of your logo and stick with it – same colours and dimensions everywhere. Your logo is a symbol of what you represent so using the same one everywhere will increase brand awareness quicker.
6. Measure it
The saying goes “what gets measured gets done”. So, if you want to build a brand identify key performance indicators (KPIs) that will measure how successfully you are achieving this. It is possible for nearly all brand values (eg best service, lowest cost, quickest deliveries, highest quality, etc) to come up with internal metrics to assess your progress. But don’t forget to ask your customers regularly what they think. After all, your brand is what exists in their head and not yours!
Note: A quick search on Amazon.com indicates that there are over 5000 books on the topic of branding. If you find this article interesting and you are interested in some practical assistance in defining, changing or growing your company brand please talk to us at [email protected]