What makes a successful business? Is it a strong emphasis on creating true quality? Maybe it’s an added touch of customer service at each critical turn? Or maybe it’s always being mindful of a customer’s needs, even before he/she has to ask?
In fact, a truly successful business delivers on all these questions. It’s what comes to form half of what’s known as the brand promise. Service and products worth writing home about are what every great business aims to deliver; however, an unfortunate reality is that their branding is a misrepresentation of that promise.
A small business owner faces a great many obstacles. First there’s money (it’s limited), time (never enough), and resolve (consistently tested). The big guys have the manpower, the bankroll, and the pick of the litter when it comes to talent. They can create a presence almost overnight.
The smart small business owner needs to be resourceful; he or she needs to use the tools at hand, to the best of his or her ability. The absolute, most cost-effective way to take advantage of this fact is with appropriate branding.
Imagine being able to create the picture-perfect employee, who doesn’t eat, sleep, or take a day off. At every turn, this employee speaks about the work you do with more enthusiasm, zeal, and pizzazz than words can describe. And to top it all off, the employee is always working hard.
Now, stop imagining. This is exactly what a great brand does, and smart business owners know this. They recognize that the brand itself is their greatest asset, enabling them to raise prices, gain credibility, and stick in the minds of their desired clientele—all at the same time.
The question then becomes: how do I leverage my greatest asset to the best of my ability?
To do that requires a great deal of expertise, dedication and self-knowledge. You don’t want to portray that you’re something you are not. Moreover, you don’t want to speak to the wrong audience. An explicit description and understanding of the true value your business provides others is fundamental. If you can’t say it in one sentence, you’re overthinking it.
Once this short statement can be agreed upon, it’s important to evaluate the desired look and feel you want to have resonate with your brand. Think of Google, Coca-Cola, IBM, or even the New York Yankees. Each of these super brands conjures an immediate experience as soon as the name is mentioned. That’s some serious marketing power. From colorful imagery to robust credibility, these brands are so well orchestrated that straying from the promise they have created over the years would be a surefire ticket to front-page news.
The typical small business is branded for failure. Oftentimes, it sells itself short or—even worse—not at all. The hard work and sweat equity small business owners put into their business is forced to fall on deaf ears. It’s a dead-on-arrival approach, which nearly 80% of small businesses experience in their average lifespan (only 3 years.)
What most good businesses don’t understand is that they’re almost there! They just need the proper branding to conjure up the proper brand promise. Even those experiencing sales and safe harbors are setting themselves up for future failure without a powerful brand.
A great business bent on success needs to get serious about its branding.
That means making sure every touch point is up to par, clean cut, and fully representative of the business in question. Integrating your branding across the entire media mix, from billboards and websites to hats and t-shirts, is a must. Having a logo and tagline tailored to the value you provide is a must. Even deciding upon every single detail of your logo is a must if you hope to capitalize on the full opportunity your market segment provides.
There can be no room for error when it comes to gaining the trust of your customers; trying to fight your way back into their good graces is a battle you will never again be able to win. Wouldn’t it be nice if instead they were fans from the very beginning? That’s the goal of well-executed branding campaigns: to make the very first impression into an upbeat, memorable, one-on-one experience. Winning here is the first step toward customer advocacy.
Having a customer base that’s so strongly advocating for your cause, buying your products and services simply because it has your brand’s name on it, is a true sign of positive brand image success.
At its core, success is a loaded term; it means something different for everyone. Small business owners must first identify what that is to them. Does it mean a surefire path toward growth and development? Or does it instead mean remaining a trusted mainstay of the local community? Whatever the case may be, every business would do well to make this mission transparent and public.
Then, with the same tenacity as they put into their business, they must pursue it.
About the Author
Dan Antonelli is the CEO and creative director of New Jersey advertising agency Graphic D-Signs, Inc., The Small Business Advertising Agency, and the author of Building A Big Small Business, available at www.amazon.com. For more information, visit www.graphicd-signs.com