The market wants to know: who are you and what does your business stand for? Said differently, what is your brand promise, and how is your business perceived in the marketplace?
Go ahead and think for a minute about your organization. Take a moment, and really ask yourself:
- “Who the heck are we?!”
- “How different is our company than the competition?”
- “What makes working with us unique and compelling?”
All strong brands take a well-defined position; one cemented in a foundation of consistency, sincerity, and defensibility. It is from this position that market alliances are formed, customer relationships are fortified, and market share is defended or expanded.
Does your company “speak” to the market in a clear, consistent manner?
This isn’t just about messaging. This isn’t about a value proposition or pithy mission statement. This is about being real. Proper branding is about having a long-standing, consistent, predictable, and definable presence in the market.
"This Is How We Do Things Here"
I believe that today branding matters more than ever. Your brand identity will exist whether you’re actively participating in its development or not. You’ve got to clearly define what you stand for, or end up standing for nothing at all.
No brand (yours included) will ever hold universal appeal. But that’s the beauty of it. As a successful business selling similar solutions as your competitors, its valuable to be able to say to a customer: “If you want to do business “this way,” then do business with us.” It’s up to you and your brand to define what “this way” means.
A strong brand opens doors to new customers while protecting the customers you already have. There’s an opportunity for brand building each and every time you engage a customer (or potential customer.)
It’s human nature to find comfort in the known. If both your brand and your behavior are consistent and predictable, you’re on to something. If you hire or fire with no process, randomly price products in a vacuum, or acquire new lines or businesses without a clearly defined assimilation strategy, it’s a recipe for brand insignificance. The devil’s in the details of a finely crafted plan.
The Power Online
Today, customers can be more fickle as they have more options, more opinions and more channels from which to arrive at their buying decision. Years ago you took someone’s word as to who was the best source for the products needed. Today, everything can be validated or refuted via an immediate, online search.
Buying a new car? Jump online and you’ll instantly compare makes, models, trim levels, dealerships, reliability reports, reviews, recall notices, and prices. After an hour’s effort, you’ll become a quasi-expert on virtually every aspect of the planned purchase: what you need, where to buy, and what to pay.
When was the last time you talked to an Amazon representative or outside sales person? How about never. Amazon’s face-to-the-customer is devoid of humanity: no names, emails, etc. Amazing when you think about it. Their “brand” is basically a logo, web address, and your online account.
The information superhighway has forced leaders to reassess how they go to market (externally) and how they run their business (internally.) The transparency today leaves little place to hide; employees and customers alike have phones with broadband connections to instantly share their opinions with the planet. Your best defense? A strong brand that’s clearly defined and omnipresent.
Brand Building Isn’t For Sissies
Brand building isn’t like building a house. When building a house, you can delegate some of the work. And as needed, you can make quick executive decisions that cut cost or save time.
Brand building is more like training for a marathon. With true brand building, there are no short-cuts or steps to skip. Either you commit to it fully or you don’t. Everything matters.
Like marathon running, brand building requires relentless and sustainable dedication, focus, vision and patience. Skipping a few runs and eating poorly has a negative impact on your training. Similarly, neglecting your brand via undisciplined communications, mediocre account management, and misaligned strategies produces poor results.
Here’s a five-step exercise to help get you more refined in your branding discipline:
1. Assess your brand situation/status. Take time to understand the current state of your brand. Are you as committed to your organization’s brand as you can be? Remember: you must always behave/operate in accordance with your brand promise. If you’re known for speedy service, you can’t slow-pay vendors.
2. Latch on to a story, and tell it. Every company has a history and a story. This story is the foundation of your brand. Be sure you have that story established, mastered, and shared by every customer-facing associate. Be direct and avoid ambiguity.
3. Think broadly. A brand’s impact and influence is far-reaching. Do not limit your thinking to any existing, narrow-cast set of parameters. Expand your vision beyond the present and explore unchartered markets, pricing models, corporate structures, and product groups.
4. Think digitally. In this era of online everything, at a bare minimum you can’t forget the digital user interface (UI) and the overall digital user experience (UX.) Know that e-mail footers, web sites, invoice templates, etc. all are branding opportunities. Social media has us all interconnected; your brand must tap into this.
- Be consistently present in the marketplace. Attend industry events. Walk tradeshows. Hire new associates with fresh ideas. Blog about your vision for your business or industry. Sponsor community events. Bottom line: make sure you become a master of brand continuity in the minds of your customers.
Branding Is The W-H-Y
Which leads me to my point: why do customers do business with you? Why do folks choose you over your competition? Why do people pay the prices you charge?
It’s because of your brand. It’s having your people, your processes, and your products all strategically wrapped in a compelling, original, authentic package. Proper branding gives an organization its soul. Without a soul, companies tend to behave in awkward and uninspired ways. And this ultimately leads to irrelevance.
Branding requires relentless customer centricity, unwavering internal controls, leadership accountability, laser-focus on corporate metrics, and a steady, positive attitude. Your brand is why you matter to your customers. Therefore your brand matters.
Don’t become irrelevant.
Now with The M. K. Morse Company, Jeff Guritza has successfully lead sales, marketing and product management initiatives within global organizations and markets for more than 20 years. His work involves creative branding strategies tied to product launches, channel development, structured training programs, corporate acquisitions, and executive long-range planning.