Work-life balance. It seems to be the holy grail of today’s workforce.
Some say it’s attainable, while others claim it’s impossible. We love the dichotomy, but hate the effort required to actually create this balance. Such is the case with marketing.
Great marketing doesn’t happen overnight, and it’s not something you can check off as accomplished. It’s more organic, something that requires a process of cyclical messaging, feedback and innovation. And it all starts with a strong brand identity, the foundation for all your marketing initiatives.
If You Build It, They Will Come
An identifiable brand is instrumental in helping reach your business goals. Every major company has had to take that critical step at some point in its lifetime — going from good to great.
What makes a brand identifiable? First, there must be authenticity. This comes from within and may lie in your approach, operation and overall mentality. How do your products or services not only satisfy a given need, but outmatch the competition? Focusing on the details is what will set your business apart in this arena.
Second comes the message. What do you have to say and why should potential customers listen? A concerted effort at creating compelling visuals along with powerful wording is what will drive reception of your message. If it’s powerful enough, people will take it up as their own and do the heavy lifting for you. Word-of-mouth buzz, positive reviews and social sharing are ways you can gauge your effectiveness.
Taking the generic route is a great way to underutilize this aspect of branding. Template-based web sites and $99 logo designs are not going to work. Your customers want something new and legitimate. With so many scams and security concerns, the fight for credibility is even greater. Deliver your message in a way that’s appropriate for the sector you’re in, creative and integrated across every channel.
It’s only after crafting an authentic message that you can hope to truly build equity in your customer interactions.
Mean What You Say
Building a strong brand is only half of the business battle. It sets the stage for something known as the brand promise, a commitment made through the message your visuals present.
If your branding tells the story of a professional, straight-shooting, top-caliber organization with time-honored values, then customers are going to expect as much. However, if you stray from the brand promise and underperform, your company will be projecting the kind of notoriety that disgruntled customers aim to punish.
Previous customers will warn against your services or products, creating a negative ripple amongst the consumer community. Given how quickly word can travel nowadays, a slippery slope could soon be initiated. Unfavorable reviews will pop up. Search engine rankings will start to drop. And worst of all, the competition will have a huge opportunity to drive the nail deeper.
Another road to misinterpretation comes from not integrating your efforts across every channel. For example, if your business cards project one message and your web site projects another, you are inadvertently opening the door to skepticism. Make sure to tell the same story at every touch point of your marketing mix.
Skip the under-promise/over-deliver mentality and focus instead on integrity. Mean what you say, deliver the quality you project, and watch customers give you their respect.
From “Like” To Love
Once you get recognition, how do you excel? What’s the next critical step for further distancing yourself from all the other brands in your industry? The details.
Don’t try to trick or deceive your customer base. Instead, focus on trying to surprise them (in a good way) in small moments. Button down your process and protocols, and interject a bit of your brand’s flavor wherever possible. This is the mint on the pillow as soon as you walk into the hotel room. This is the complimentary oil change because you’ve been a year-long customer. These are the things that will make a huge difference, but only if you’re perceptive enough to insert them into the brand experience.
Phenomenal service and rewarding loyalty are just a few ways to show you value your customers. Moreover, it doesn’t require all the bells and whistles in the world. Something simple and sincere can work wonders.
Not A Trend, But An Evolution
Whether it’s online or the silver screen, businesses are taking pains to humanize their brands and knock down the barriers between customer and company. Features like 24/7 assistance, customer service through social media, and larger-than-life customer experiences are mainstays. Brand awareness is now a prerequisite. Brand impact must now become the goal.
There’s no better way to have true impact in your industry than through a comprehensive customer experience. A well-branded company will be able to capitalize on that experience by assuring the customer at every turn through compelling visuals. Since a big piece of the buyer decision-making process is shifting to digital-based platforms — web sites, search engines, reviews and social media — your brand needs to be at the ready.
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 Brand, available at www.amazon.com. For more information, visit www.graphicd-signs.com.