In a crowded market-place you are going to have to stand up and get noticed or be invisible and forgotten. Branding might seem like just another marketing term to you, but it might just be the difference between feast or famine for your business.
A few decades ago someone called Valentino Liberace started playing piano and performing in concerts. Legend has it that he was approached by a critic who said to him, ‘You play piano well son, but you’re not memorable.’ Liberace went away, thought about it and returned wearing a suit made of lights that went on to define his every performance and public persona, shooting him to fame and fortune as the top paid entertainer during the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.
A modern day example would be Lady Gaga; do you think she dresses in those outlandish outfits because she wants to? No, she wants to stand out in a market filled with thousands of pretty blonde girls with averages voices who sing pop songs.
It’s worked for them but will it work for you? How do you make this type of flashy showmanship relevant to your your stationary business or your printing company?
What is Branding?
Let’s start at the beginning: what is branding? Branding isn’t something that happens organically or by itself; it is the result of a conscious effort by a business to create a perception and an experience that leads to differentiation from competitors and loyalty with a preselected audience of potential buyers or users.
When I ask you ‘How is Samsung different from Apple?’ at least five things should flash through your mind from look and feel to how it makes you feel to use it. This is all a by-product of a successful brand strategy. Mediocre branding leads to a mediocre product perception.
Branding is filled with terms like brand equity, brand assets, brand value, brand promise, brand pillars and more so in order to be as productive as possible in this short space let’s avoid terms that smack of jargon and just focus on the key things.
1 – Get a Plan of Attack Together
Why do you think rock stars have managers? People who know what they’re trying to achieve, which types of songs are right or wrong for their image, and someone who manages where they sing and what their public image is.
Sit down with a brand strategist who understands what you’re trying to achieve and figure out the roadmap together. Without a strategy you’re not going to know whether you’re on the right path or not. You need to know where you are at the moment in order to effect change. It should cover the key points below. Remember the goal is to be memorable!
2 – How are you Different?
Every brand needs to find reasons to stand out from competitors. Either it’s your location or know-how or your wide product range. It might be your cool brand or the quality of the product or experience.
Just another country singer singing cowboy songs? Do a Dolly Parton and differentiate yourself using assets other than just your voice.
Remember that using price as a key differentiator is fine when you first launch your service but isn’t a sustainable strategy as could escalate into a pricing war between you and your competitors where nobody wins.
3 – Who are you Competing Against?
Sun Tzu the famous military general said ‘Know Thy Enemy’ and as in war it’s imperative you have an understanding of the competitive landscape in order to find a gap in the market and position yourself therein.
Know who is closest to you in product offering and what they’re offering that might win your customers over to them.
Competitors make you better at what you do, they’re not to be hated or feared but competed against in order to raise your game and make you better at what you do.
This is all about standing out remember, so find that gap and take advantage of it.
4 – What do your Customers Think?
Research is massively powerful and highly underestimated by many businesses.
You need to know what your customers think of your company and service before deciding on your new brand roadmap. Why do they buy from you? Why are they loyal? This might just be the essence of your brand and a reason for differentiating. You might find that your brand is just fine, and nothing needs to change, or you might realise that you’re about to be overtaken by a competitor.
Research will colour in the landscape you operate in and tell you objectively how you are performing against others.
The other day I walked into a shop and asked the sales rep about their prices, only to have another customer start telling me how great they are and why I should use them. Now that was impressive! You know you’re doing something right when your customers start convincing potential customers to buy from you.
5 – Are Your Staff Living the Brand?
Your staff are the most important part of your brand because they are the ones who interact with your customers.
If they don’t have the right values and personality you will find your customers shopping elsewhere.
Now that you know what you stand for the key question is whether your staff have the right personality to match your brand.
It doesn’t help they are administrators who are efficient but want to process orders when they are called to being warm and personable.
Put the right people in the right roles; administrators to deal with tasks and people’s people to deal with humans.
The team at Hirsch’s Home Appliances in Milnerton Cape Town stand out to me time and time again for their exceptional ‘go-the-extra-mile’ service. Nardo, the head of PR has personally hand delivered items to me at my offices when they weren’t in stock. This smacks of staff who live the brand.
Ann, the brand manager at Woolworths Sunset Beach also drove to my house to drop off items that the checkout clerk failed to pack into my bag, with a bunch of flowers. No wonder she’s won top awards year after year.
6 – Barriers to Entry
The trick is to make it very hard for competitors to enter the market. Service, friendly staff, product range, brand, all of these things are ways you can wrap up the market so your customers refuse to shop elsewhere.
7 – Touchpoint Analysis
- Do your staff greet customers when they walk in, or are they heads-down, working?
- Does your cashier thank the shopper for each purchase?
- Do they go the extra mile to satisfy the customer?
- How long does it take to answer the phone, reply to emails or get work down?
8 – Non-Negotiables
Certain elements are non-negotiables. Typing errors, mistakes on invoices, pricing mistakes, wrong deliveries, breakages, poor quality, if you don’t have these ‘hygiene factors’ in place it won’t matter how funky your brand or brand strategy are, and it won’t matter how amazing your service or staff are, your business won’t stand out and might not even succeed.
Those who excel at every point win the war for share of wallet. Good luck!