If you are only considering branding as it relates to your company graphics, website, signage, and promotional materials, then you are not allowing the full scope of branding to take your business to its next level of growth. Branding is not just a marketing initiative.
Branding done effectively is a strategic operational initiative. It helps drive your business forward to excel against competition in ways most businesses totally miss. It helps you become the preferred choice.
Branding answers the question, "Why Choose Us?"
Visually standing out with a distinctive logo and consistent graphics is an essential aspect of branding. It is only one aspect of effective branding, and just the surface-level of branding. Effective branding also considers and leverages how you communicate, conduct, and operate within your business. It speaks to your corporate culture and the experience people have with your business, from employees to customers to suppliers. Just as you desire to take your business to its next level, it may be time to take your branding to the next level as well.
Bottom Line Rule #11
Branding is an ongoing operational investment.
Your branding should be distinguishing your business on a visual, verbal, physical and personal experience, and core competency level.
1. Visual Presence: This is what people see including the logo and any other graphic elements, icons, and photographic images used in association with your company along with the colors and fonts chosen.
The visual aspect of your branding makes a first impression. Answer these questions to gauge your effectiveness visually:
Does your company have a distinctive logo graphic, including colors, compared to your competitors and within the overall marketplace?
- Does your company have graphics branding standards that dictate logo usage, colors as well as acceptable and unacceptable variations?
- Do you have usage guidelines for acceptable and unacceptable font styles and colors to use in communications and promotional materials?
- Are there other graphics that are unique to you visually, that can only be associated with your company?
- Are your photographic images distinctive? If using stock images, have you confirmed that competitors aren’t using them too?
2. Verbal Presence: This is what is spoken and written. Words have power, and chosen carefully and strategically, they have influence.
What people read and hear is key to the perceptions of your business beyond the first visual impression. Answer these questions to gauge your effectiveness verbally:
- Have you defined a distinctive mission statement, vision, and positioning tagline for your business?
- Does your logo graphic or company’s history have a special story behind it and are you telling this story?
- Does your logo graphic represent specific aspects of how you do business differently and is this reinforced in your written communications?
- Does your messaging inspire visual graphics that distinguish and set you apart?
- Have you defined critical distinguishing words to be used in communications?
- Do you avoid using industry jargon and speak with your customer in mind?
- Have you distinguished how your business is different from competitors in your writing and promotional copy?
- Does your 30-second introduction (elevator speech), when asked about your business, immediately create a memorable distinction for your business?
3. Physical Presence: This is how your company is reflected in your physical office space/facility, vehicles driven, attire worn, and website impression overall, taking into consideration the visual and verbal messaging as a whole. Physical presence is where details matter and should not be overlooked. Answer these questions to gauge your effectiveness physically:
- Do you carry your visual branding into your place of business through décor, colors, and unique detailed touches?
- Is your mission or philosophy posted for customer viewing in your business?
- Do you wear logo branded apparel to reinforce your brand or accessories that reinforce a branded symbol about your company?
- Does your place of business inspire a certain feeling or emotion when a customer or prospect enters?
- Do you present your business consistently virtually as well as in person?
- Is there value in including branding on your vehicles due to being in a business where site visits or being on the road is an everyday occurrence?
Momentum Building Decision #10
A highly desired corporate culture
drives retention and company worth.
4. Personal Experience: This is where most companies don’t pay attention. This is the experience people have in working with you, for you, or alongside you within your business. It is your attitude, corporate culture, and the perception of the way you conduct your business. Answer these questions to gauge your effectiveness in elevating personal experience:
- How are you operating differently to create a level of differentiation that is at the core of what makes you the best choice to serve your market?
- Have you defined and documented the actual experience you want your customers to have in doing business with you?
- Have you defined the emotions and feelings that you want your customers to experience as a result of using your products or services?
- Do your customers rave about their experience with customer testimonials, success stories, and referrals?
- Is there a buzz occurring about your business because of the unique experience that you offer?
Bottom Line Rule #17
Every business can become commoditized.
Differentiation is key.
5. Core Competencies Drive Innovation & Distinction: Another key aspect of branding is to define the core competencies which truly differentiate your business. Don’t confuse your competencies with what you offer. Dig a bit deeper to get to the true core of what you do better than anyone else. Answer these questions to gauge your effectiveness in highlighting your core competencies:
- Is there a unique process you use to deliver your products or services?
- Have you packaged your offerings in a way that is distinctive according to different market segment needs and uses?
- Do you have a specific expertise or technical ability that is solving a problem no-one else in the industry has been able to solve? Can this same knowledge be adapted to another industry?
- Have you distinguished these processes, systems, programs, or specialized expertise with their own branding?
- Have you sought protection of these distinctions as intellectual property through a trademark or patent?
Branding at its most effective level reinforces your ability
to out-perform, outsmart, and out-think your competition.
CASE EXAMPLE: Beyond the Product: A niche manufacturing company that produced fabrics for clean room garments had reached a plateau in sales as a market leader. Growth through offering additional products or offerings was necessary. The company’s management was stuck on what additional products they could offer in the clean room space.
Strategic guidance helped them identify their true core competency. It wasn’t that they were the best at producing clean room garment fabric. Their core competency was that they were highly skilled at handling unique fabrics requiring special production to effectively exist in unique environments. With this now being the basis of next-level thinking, they partnered with an R&D source specializing in unique fabrics in a variety of industries to identify any emerging or missed opportunities.
The company has evolved from being a manufacturer to a products engineering company. The end result was expansion with their patented fabrics into a variety of markets including healthcare and hospitality bedding, industrial laundry, and transportation comfort products. In the nursing home environment, their engineered fabric is used for bedding with documented evidence of reducing pressure ulcers in patients by 80 percent. In the hospitality industry, the fabric dries 40 percent faster than cotton and does not require bleach to sterilize due to its antimicrobial infrastructure, resulting in cost savings in laundering and labor.
By understanding what they truly were doing better than anyone else, they have exponentially expanded their presence and their business with products no-one else is producing supported with branding that leverages all aspects of what distinguishes the business every step of the way.
Momentum Building Decision #5
Be better than anyone else at something.
Branding done right can be a game-changer for your business --- igniting preference and loyalty from your ideal customers, workforce, vendors and suppliers, marketplace, and industry. Companies that understand this are flourishing, shifting to opportunities that no-one else is effectively addressing in current markets and new markets. When you interweave branding into the way you do business, why you do business, and how you do business, then you have truly embraced the power it possesses to grow your business.
Yours in economic vitality,
Sherré L. DeMao, CGS is author of Dream Wide Awake, 50 Secrets of Growth Companies in Down Economic Times, and Me, Myself & Inc. – a Synergized World, An Energized Business, Living Your Ultimate Life, and the CEO/founder of BizGrowth Inc. an award-winning next-level strategy, training, and intellectual property development firm based in Denver, NC, serving clients across the United States. Her blog seeks to help entrepreneurs build businesses with economic value, worth and preference in their industries and marketplaces.