Why Brands Are Vital to Business Success
If you peek under the hood of most successful companies, you'll find a small business that grew a brand over time. While there are many definitions of "brand" -- and many components that make up a brand -- we'll define it here simply as the impression you create in your customers' minds when they think about your company, product, or service. Here are five reasons why building a strong brand is vital to the success of your business.
1. A Brand Helps You Control How Customers Think of You
People have a tendency to categorize everyday experiences in terms of what they understand. We know that milk tastes different than orange juice. When we encounter something like pineapple juice, we tend to lump it in with orange juice as a "sweet beverage." However, if we are constantly reminded that pineapple juice is "the exotic juice," we start to think of it that way. Creating a brand can help your customers think about your product as the only one that "owns" a certain category in their minds. For example, Volvo = safety, BMW = "ultimate driving machine," GMC = "professional grade trucks." And once a particular category has been filled, it's almost impossible for some other company to come along and claim it. Deliberately crafting which category you want customers to associate with your business is one of the most important ways you can influence how they will think of you.
2. A Brand Aligns Your Team Behind a Common Effort
By declaring a brand promise and putting your internal efforts behind delivering it, you and your employees stop trying to be everything to everyone and can start doing what you do best. One of our clients decided to be the company that owns "service" in their industry. Their marketing materials and sales team started promising "Superior Service." The support staff started answering calls with, "How may I provide you with superior service today?" That year, they received a service ranking 40% higher than any other company in their industry and had their best sales year to date. Everyone in the company knows that even if they don't stand out in any other way, it's their duty to provide superior service. The brand unites and focuses company efforts.
3. A Brand Is an Investment that Grows Over Time
When you start building a brand, every communication you create should support it -- from sales messages to marketing materials, from logo and tagline to the tone of your copy. All these work together to build a personality for your company. Since you tell the same story with everything you do, you can often reuse the same copy in multiple places to reinforce your message. The longer you promote your brand consistently, the stronger it becomes in customers' minds. Of course, when you get ready to sell your company, a strong brand makes it worth even more.
4. A Brand Helps You Attract the Right Customers
By focusing on what you do best, you'll tend to avoid your worst customers, attract your best customers, and build a higher percentage of positive interactions -- the kind that build customer loyalty. Let's say your company offers "speedy service," but your service costs more than a slower competitor. You'll attract customers who are willing to pay more for speedy service. Those who care most about price will go elsewhere. But those who care about speedy service will probably have a good experience with you and are likely to return. It's difficult for small Internet businesses to compete on price alone. A strong brand allows you to compete on more than price and avoid becoming a commodity.
5. A Brand Builds Customer Loyalty
People are likely to stick to choices they know -- especially if the brand is memorable. If I had to choose between a Hershey bar and a plain-wrapped chocolate bar, I would choose the Hershey bar every time. Why? Because it has a familiar chocolate-brown wrapper and I know ahead of time that I'll enjoy it. I can almost taste it before I open it. I'd even be willing to pay more for it. Creating a memorable experience helps you stand out your customer's mind.
A strong brand will unify your efforts, be memorable, add value to your goods and services, build loyalty, and attract your best customers. In future articles, we'll explore just how a small business can go about building a brand.
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