Every successful company, large or small, has a strong brand. In fact, the most important and valuable asset of some of the largest companies in the world – Apple, Google and Coca-Cola – is their brand.
But you don’t need a massive marketing budget to build a successful brand. It can be done with just a few simple changes to the way you think about and operate your business.
So, just what is your ‘brand’? Wikipedia defines a brand as the ‘name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s product distinct from those of other sellers’.
Many business owners confuse their brand with their logo, but serious businesses understand that their brand is so much more than a graphic.
Your brand is how people – customers and potential customers – see your company as a whole and includes not just marketing, but things like customer service, pricing and quality of workmanship.
Here are four simple ways to grow a brand with lasting value.
1. Make customer service your point of difference
They say a smile costs nothing, and the same goes for great customer service. If you don’t have the marketing budget of some of your bigger competitors, customer service is one way you can really differentiate yourself – for free.
With a team dedicated to providing great customer service, you can strengthen your relationships with your customers, even when these relationships are at their most fragile. You can show your customers that you, and the brand you represent, care about them because you listen and respond quickly.
Many customers prefer to do business with small to medium-sized businesses even if it costs more, because having a relationship with a person, and putting a face to the business, is meaningful to them.
2. Keep your brand promise simple
Steve Jobs once said, “Simple can be harder than complex; you have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end, because once you get there, you can move mountains.”
Your brand doesn’t need to be multi-layered and complex. Your customers shouldn’t have to think about what you stand for. Apple builds beautiful devices that are easy to use; they never try to be something they’re not.
You should always try to do the same with your brand, no matter how big you are.
When developing a brand promise, think about how you want to be defined. Is it by the speed, price, or quality of your service? Don’t try to be fast, affordable and high quality. Having a simple brand promise is easier to deliver!
Companies that deliver on their promises are more likely to attract loyal customers and build strong brands. The brand must meet customers’ expectations and needs by giving them the differentiated experience it promised.
3. Be consistent
Once you have established your brand promise, you must ensure everybody in your company understands what that promise is.
Your management, field and administration staff should know what the brand they’re working for is all about, because they are your main brand ambassadors.
Amplifying your brand promise by ensuring it’s an integral part of all aspects of the customer experience is one of the easiest ways to build a lasting brand.
Your customers’ understanding of your brand is gained through a series of disconnected encounters with it: observing it on the side of a truck, seeing an ad in the local newspaper, receiving an invoice, dealing with field works on a site, and ringing the office to change an appointment.
Every one of these encounters must deliver a consistent customer experience to avoid a reality gap and a negative brand perception.
4. Add some value
Customers are your best allies when it comes to strengthening your brand, and their experience with your company shouldn’t end once they have paid your invoice.
In a digitally connected, socially aware world, having customers on your side gets you the recommendations, reviews and social proof you need to keep growing.
The rise of digital and social media means staying in touch with your customers is easier than ever.
Sending your past and present customers great content is one way to keep your brand at the front of their minds.
If you continually produce content that interests not only prospective customers but current customers as well, you can keep them coming back to your brand and build loyalty.
Sharing engaging, relevant content on social media is a simple way to delight customers and put them back into the sales funnel for future purchases. Start by learning what social networks your customers are on and the type of content they want to see, then share consistent, tailored content on those channels.
Building a brand with lasting value comes down to distinction – your ability to set your brand apart from your competitors. Focussing on customer service, keeping it simple and consistent and adding some value should be just the beginning.