How to: Branding Your Business
July 13, 2021 •Oak Street Funding
Business owners have to be well-versed in many areas, from accounting to human resources. One often neglected but critically important aspect is branding. While you may not need to become branding experts, it’s good to have a solid understanding of the basics of branding.
One mark of a successful business is strong retention and client referrals. But that can mean your company is wholly dependent upon relationships for growth. Prospecting and marketing activities are also critical for achieving meaningful growth and overcoming normal attrition. Creating and promoting a strong brand will help differentiate your business from others in the crowded, competitive marketplace.
What is your brand?
You might think the best way to create an effective brand is to come up with an idea of how you want to be seen and declare that to be your “brand.” That’s a bad idea for several reasons. First, company owners often make inaccurate assumptions of what they do well. You may believe your opinion, but you may be the only believer. Second, the brand must represent your entire business, and what characterizes your team may be very different from what you offer. Most important, your brand needs to be seen through the eyes of your clients and prospects, not through your viewpoint.
Start by asking questions
A more effective approach begins by asking questions, and experts suggest you ask them from two distinct perspectives:
Your employees. Some owners assume they know what their employees think about them and their business. That’s dangerous. Your employees probably have a different view of your company and what it does because they’re the ones who handle the day-to-day tasks. If you intend to create and use a brand, be sure your employees buy into it and support it. Involving them in the development process is the best way to do that. Questions you might ask include:
Your clients. Identify a diverse mix of clients, including those who represent the majority of your business and those who represent segments of your business you’d like to grow. A dozen or so should be sufficient. You can talk to them one-on-one or in a group setting. You need to listen rather than speak because you’re likely to discover valuable information.
Save what you learn
Record all the answers from both groups in written form, rather than trying to trust your memory. Once you’ve gathered the input, organize it into categories, and you should begin to see a picture of how your company is viewed. If that viewpoint is positive, it contains the foundation for your brand. If it’s negative, you may want to focus more on answering questions about where your business falls short to identify and remedy essential issues.
Create a statement
Now that you know how your company is seen, it’s time to develop a statement summarizing your brand. It doesn’t have to be lengthy. Anywhere from a sentence to a short paragraph is ideal. Your brand summary should be a written document that includes your vision, values, targeting, and the essence of what makes your business unique. Keep it simple because simplicity is more believable, easier to understand, and much easier to remember.
Strengthening your brand
Your brand must become central to your business and guide the actions of everyone on your team. If you and your employees genuinely believe your brand is authentic, your clients and prospects will think so, too.
It’s vital to transform your brand into an identity, including items such as a logo. When developing a logo, don’t make the mistake of digging through the art files on your computer or the internet. If you don’t have an internal marketing team, it’s well worth the investment to bring in a professional graphic designer who can take your brand summary and turn it into something visually appealing and effective.
Critical: keep it consistent
Once you've defined a brand, make sure that everything your company does -- from its marketing materials to customer interactions, to billing, to websites, to sales calls -- remains consistent with your brand. That will strengthen the brand and reduce the potential for confusion. As the company's leader, you are responsible for clearly communicating the brand and expectations to all employees. It’s crucial that owners also practice what they preach when it comes to branding. If everyone works to create the same impression, it won’t be long before clients associate your business with the brand you created.
Avoid the temptation of thinking of your branding and marketing efforts purely as expenses. Successful companies tend to view these areas as investments in the growth of their business.
If you’re concerned that investing in branding will put a temporary drain on finances, consider how you might be able to leverage working capital. If you’re like most company owners, most of what you have is already invested in your business, so you may need to seek some outside funding. A growing number of business owners in your industry are turning to specialty lenders like Oak Street Funding, who are accustomed to working with businesses like yours.
Disclaimer: Please note, Oak Street Funding does not provide legal or tax advice. This blog is for informational purposes only. It is not a statement of fact or recommendation, does not constitute an offer for a loan, professional or legal or tax advice or legal opinion and should not be used as a substitute for obtaining valuation services or professional, legal or tax advice.
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