Four questions to help you determine how well you know your brand and the impact that your day to day business behaviors can have upon it.
Branding isn’t just for big businesses. Every business, from Nike to Nick’s Plumbing needs to understand their brand and what it means to the potential customer.
Brand values can be simple: Quality, Innovation, Speed, Trust, Affordability, Uniqueness, Fun, etc.
Brand execution usually isn’t quite as simple… although it can be, with a bit of forethought and some practice.
Although figuring out what your brand is and how well you represent your brand during the businesses’ day to day activities is a bit trickier than you may think, it is well worth the effort.
Here are a few questions to help you determine if you currently understand your company’s brand and the impact that day to day behaviors can have upon it.
QUESTION #1 – Do You Have Brand Standards?
Simple items, such as picking a consistent font and color that you use on all of your communications can go a long way to establishing your brand.
Here’s an exaggerated example: If you were an investment advisor who is responsible for taking care of your client’s financial future, would you want either of these examples to be your font?
If you – as a potential customer – saw these, would they inspire you to trust them with your retirement fund?
The answer should be no. That is not likely to be the correct font, unless you’re really trying to promote yourself as “your funky financial advisor”.
On the flip side, if you are trying to brand yourself as the “low cost alternative” to your competition, having really fancy letterhead with a stodgy or prestigious looking font can actually work against you, such as:
Simple elements such as fonts and colors can inspire (or – if used incorrectly – devalue) your brand. Do you want to be more Corporate? More Fun & Fanciful? Creative or Trustworthy?
Color is also an important factor, and the right color should be used to maintain consistency and build on the brand. You may know that your brand color is “dark red”, but do you know the Pantone or Hex code for that color? If you had to create a presentation on the fly, would you be able to pick the correct “dark red” to match your brand?
Although it is always important to stand out in the crowd, you need to pick a font and color grouping that matches with your overall business type and supports what you want your customers to immediately think about you when they see it.
And make sure that every person in the company – especially anyone who regularly creates materials that are seen by your customers – is well aware (and has access) to the approved font and color codes.
QUESTION #2 – How Do You Address Your Customers (or Clients)?
How you greet your clients, whether it be in person, on the phone, or by electronic means, is a reflection on your brand’s personality.
Is your brand friendly, fun, and approachable – in a jeans and designer T-shirt kind of way, or is your brand respected and trusted – in a suit and tie kind of way?
A very formal brand will ALWAYS refer to their clients by their last name and appropriate salutation, such as “Dear Mr. Smith” or “Dear John Smith”.
A moderately informal brand will OFTEN refer to their clients by their last name, unless directed otherwise by the customer: “Hello Mr. Smith” or “Hello John”
An informal brand will USUALLY refer their clients by their first name: “Hi John”
And a very informal brand… well all bets are off.
Beyond that, there are subtle but important differences in how you greet and refer to your customers.
Greeting: Do you use Hi, Hello, Hey, Dear, Attn, etc? Each of these can convey something slightly different to your customer. If you want your business to be seen as fun, friendly and carefree, you might use “Hi” or “Hey.” However, most businesses would fall safely into the “Hello” camps. More formal relationships would utilize “Dear” or “Attention” as it conveys a less-than-personal connection between them and their customer.
Naming: What do you call these people who buy things from you? Do you refer to them as customers, clients, patrons, etc. A simple wording change can impact how formal the relationship is between you and your “customer.”
Think about how “One of our premier clients” has a completely different feel to it than “One of our favorite customers”. Which is more appropriate for you and your company?
QUESTION #3 – Could You Pick a Pen That Represents Your Brand?
One test I will often throw at business owners to see if they truly understand their brand is to place a collection of different promotional pens on the table and ask them to pick the pen style that best represents their business.
More often than not, the business owner has a challenge picking a pen. And when they do, more often than not… they pick the wrong one.
If you truly know your brand, it’s almost intuitive… you can pick the right pen based on the size, color, weight, quality, etc. that really just “fits” your company.
If your company relies on trust, don’t pick and fun and funky pen or the cheapest pen. If your company appeals to the playful side of a person, don’t pick the most basic and corporate pen you can find. If your company is known for getting things done right, keep it simple but high quality.
To practice this take look at everyday items such as furniture, artwork, even coffee cups and ask yourself “If I had a waiting room, would I want this to be what my potential customers saw?”
As you get better & better at answering that question, you will get better at instinctively knowing your brand.
QUESTION #4 – Do You Live the Brand Every Day?
Although it’s unrealistic to expect some professionals and office spaces to be able to remain as clean as you often see in promotional pictures, keeping a professional image is important if you want to portray a professional brand.
This applies to any part of your business that your customer will encounter: your reception area, boardroom, storefront, logo, company vehicles, employees (when on duty), etc.
Everyone and everything that connects you with your customers needs to match with the image you are trying to convey.
Take just three days and pay attention to everything that your customers can and will see during your interactions with them.
Now play a game of “which of these things are not like the others” to find the points of contact that might not fully support the image you’re trying to create.
Brand value is worth its weight in whatever precious metal makes more sense to your company!
The overall benefit of having a strong brand is that your customers and potential customers will know what to think of you and – more importantly – WHEN to think of you, especially if the WHEN has to do with ordering from your company.
With practice, every small business owner can become their own brand champion. You don’t need to spend millions of dollars on focus groups and logo design to what your brand is, you probably already know most of what makes up your brand – you just need to give yourself time to think about it and then get used to taking it with you every day.