Top tips for branding your business

OPINION: 

Your brand is the public face of your business, but when's the last time you gave it a makeover?

Branding is one of the most important aspects of your business, regardless of your size or sector. A brand is a set of perceptions that represent a business, product or service in a customer's mind - the essence of what will be delivered or experienced if they choose to spend their dollars with you. Brands help consumers navigate choices in the market. A well-defined and well-managed brand will generate awareness of your business and, ultimately, sales.

1.  Who are you?

Are you the innovator in your sector? Or the reliable, experienced operator? Is value for money your strength or are you better known for quality products? Quite often a brand is derived from a point of difference. This can be a point of difference inherent in your product or service - for example you could be the only organic producer in a food category - or it may be a point of difference that becomes closely linked to your product or service. For example, Air New Zealand is no different to other airlines in its basic service (providing flights) but its point of difference is its warm and engaging customer service.

To identify your point of difference you need to understand why or where you are better than your competitors. Ask your customers why they choose you - their answers may be different to your own. Once you've settled on your unique selling point you need to build that into your brand. Skincare company Trilogy saw a gap in the market for natural and simple but also clinically proven skincare products. They developed a brand that was "eco-ethical" but also credible and contemporary, clearly differentiating themselves from home-made style products and the big-name synthetic cosmetics.

2.  Not just a logo

Branding is not just your logo and the visual side of your business. It is every part of the customer interaction, from when they come into your store or call you on the phone, to when the service is delivered or the product pulled from its packaging. Every point of the experience is an opportunity to build and affirm your brand.

 Trilogy creates a consistent brand experience through (among other things) the use of simple and recyclable packaging, clear and accurate wording to describe their products, and a clean, uncluttered website. They reinforce the eco-ethical aspect of their brand through their actions – taking a stance against animal testing and supporting not-for-profit organisations around the world.

3.  ...but logos are important

Logos are a symbol of your business and a well-designed logo that is consistently and regularly displayed will help build your brand. Consistency conveys reliability - your order and professionalism gives your customers security in their decision to do business with you.

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A logo should look the same every time it appears, with the same colours, wording, proportions etc. Build it into the experience wherever you can - on websites, packaging, invoices etc. If you're designing your logo from scratch, make sure your design partner really understands your business, your brand (and your budget!).

Once your brand is in place you need to regularly gauge how it is being perceived and how it could be improved.

4.  Talk is cheap – but effective

Talk regularly to your customers about their experience with your business.  What do they like about it? Do their answers "match" your brand or could they be used to further develop your brand? What do they dislike and how could that impact your brand?  How you go about talking (and listening) to your customers will be dictated by the kind of business you have. Online businesses may opt for a basic online survey or to converse with customers through social media, but for a small farming supplies firm a more informal chat over the phone may be more appropriate.

5.  Now for some role-play

Business owners are often so busy doing their trade - making the pie or delivering the flowers - that they rarely stop to step into their customers' shoes. Hop onto your website, or be a secret shopper in your own store. Did your experience match the position your brand is taking? Sample your competition and compare the experiences. Is your brand well-differentiated from theirs?  Take a break from the daily grind once a week or once a month to work on your big- picture goals for your business and brand. How could the experience be improved?

Lucy Dobbs has more than two decades of experience working at a senior level in brand and marketing communication, advertising and PR. Prior to establishing Lucy Dobbs Marketing + Communications, she worked for large multi-national agencies in NZ and Britain.

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