Branding implants the ideas of your business in consumers' heads and lets them understand your business. You then must follow up by targeting high-quality prospects, measuring the value of your customers and constantly using the data you have available to fine-tune your strategy for growth.
PEOPLE TRUST BRANDS
Specialized branding builds people's confidence. They like knowing what to expect, that it will be the same. Customers want to believe in a brand and in the company behind a brand. A brand shows a customer the company has roots, even if those roots are not very deep. Therefore, building brand identity to target your market is crucial no matter what size your business is or how long it has been around.
Humans think visually. A picture is worth a million words. A strong, simple logo or icon can quickly connect you to your customers. Companies like Nike and Apple Computers use a simple icon that is easily recognized and associated with them. When you see a sign with a red circle and a dot you instantly think of Target. Its logo and brand recognition is so strong it doesn't even have to mention the name.
For any of these brands, every time customers see the logo, whether they are thinking about shoes or computers at that moment or not, the business is planted in their minds time and time again. The next time they do consciously think about shoes, they automatically will think Nike also.
You can create branding for your business as well, and you do it with brand communication. Brand communication is using your brand on everything that supports your product or service. You establish brand identity through all aspects of your business: advertising, signage, marketing, a strong logo, consistent colors, point-of-purchase, packaging and overall image—anything that touts your product or service.
You don't have to be a huge chain to become a brand. Yes, it helps if you are known nationwide, but your brand can become well known locally. The owner of a small business may not be able to provide all the services larger competitors can, but he or she can deliver consistent, good service and quality products. Through a brand you can deliver a coherent message in your advertising and marketing that will connect with customers through an emotional bond. The emotions raised will make customers understand and trust your business.
This is especially true of one small retail store that I consulted with. This storeowner was ready to give up and close her doors forever before we started to reevaluate her options and opportunities. She had been in the leather apparel business in Arizona for a number of years. Most years her business never turned a profit but just stood it's own. Then as competition grew her sales began to dive, making it seem impossible to turn her business around.
However, opportunity was waiting just around the corner. Another retail apparel storeowner was moving her Western wear business to another part of the city. This opened up a 1,200-square-foot storefront with a more visible location and a built-in customer base. I urged the leather apparel storeowner to move her location and pick up on the Western apparel lines carried by the previous merchant. She did this, and in just a matter of months started to turn her business around. Customers who had previously shopped at the Western wear store were flocking in and she had a new customer base along with her existing list of customers.
And that was just the start. What has made her business grow three times over was her strong focus on her new customer base, quality service and specialized inventory. When she started to see her apparel business slow down, she focused more on leather belts, bags, shoes and accessories all by the same company. This had branded her business and made it a successful specialty store.
DEVELOPING YOUR BRAND
The key to creating a strong icon or logo is to paint word pictures. Then compare the word or visual pictures with your description of your business and what sets it apart from the rest of the business world. Think unique, think independent, step outside of your marketing mindset and get creative. Ask yourself:
• What is my business?
• What are my products or services?
• How is my business special?
• How is it different from the competition?
• How can I demonstrate that it is the best place to do business?
• How can I build customer loyalty that's better than the competition?
• What symbol, icon or logo visually describes my business?
WORDS WITH PICTURES
In my consulting I have found that many business owners assume that customers know what they are all about. That is a ridiculous way to think. How can a customer know even an ounce of what you know about your business?
It is your job to educate them both visually (with a logo) and verbally—with a short (less than 25 words) message that best describes your business and its benefits. You need to give prospective customers a reason to come into your business. A brief statement such as "We Sell Unique Gifts" or "Pool and Patio Accessories for Your Home" informs but it does not motivate action.
Your catch praise or slogan and visual logo must jump out and grab them by their emotions. A branded slogan such as "Gifts that Transform Your Home into a Palace" or "Elegant Contemporary Fashions that Turn Heads," or "Creating an Environment for Your Outdoor Lifestyle" say more about the uniqueness of your business and why a prospect should go there.
FROM SPECIALTY STORE TO WORLDWIDE SUPERSTORE
What began as a simple 800-square-foot used bookstore in Ann Arbor, MI, in 1971 is now Borders Group, with more than 2,000 book and music superstores, 900 Walden bookstores and an international presence. When Borders opened its first international superstore, it wanted to start out on the right foot in an extremely competitive market by establishing a strong brand identity. It created a new logo, a stylized globe made of swirling lines that suggested both global presence and speed of movement. The logo or brand identity was targeted to the retailer's main audience: active professionals, families, seniors and teens.
Many big corporations started out as one small store. Starbuck's was one small coffee shop in Pike's Market, a popular tourist attraction in Seattle, WA. With a unique concept in marketing it took coffee as we knew it (buying Folgers in the grocery store) to locations nationwide with an abundance of delectable offerings. Its concept was so effective it made coffee as popular as McDonald's hamburgers.
No matter how big or small your company is, brand your uniqueness and you will move far ahead of your competition. Never lose sight of your uniqueness. Build on it and refocus it. It is what will keep your business strong and light years ahead of your competition.
Debbie Allen is an international professional speaker and author of Confessions of Shameless Self Promoters. This article is a sampling from that book. A free chapter from the book may be downloaded at www.confessionsofshamelessselfpromoters.com where visitors also can sign up for a free electronic newsletter. Allen can be contacted directly at (800) 359-4544.