If you wait until yours needs a makeover, it’s too late
You’ve got plenty of clients. Or perhaps your product is flying off the shelves. So if business is this good now, why spend precious dollars investing further in your brand?
Because this is exactly the time you should do it.
First, let’s define our terms. A brand is a collective perception. It’s the feeling people get and the personality they associate with your service or product. A good brand is distinctive, relevant and consistent. It can elevate your visibility, likeability and authority — though it can also be damaged by missteps or even cranks with a Yelp account. You can’t control what people think, but there are ways you can influence it.
If you’re in professional services, for example, a good brand starts with personal likeability. It’s reinforced with marketing communications, tempered by affiliations and cemented (or overthrown) by client experience. Marketing communications is the sum of all the things you really do have control over. They include:
- Logo and graphic standards
- Business cards and stationery
- Website and social media
- Collateral, signage and environmental elements
- Messaging content and style
- Public relations, sponsorships and events
- Of course, these things cost money — at least if you want them done well, which is rather the point. Here are reasons to support that investment when business is good.
1. Make more hay while the sun shines. A strong marketing program is your 24/7 ambassador and salesperson. It reinforces your credibility when you aren’t around, so you can spend less time conducting outreach (e.g., making sales calls, attending networking events) and focus on doing business.
2. Grease your sales funnel. There are people out there looking for the kind of product or service you offer, and they’re looking for a reason to prefer one provider over another. All things being equal, a strong marketing program lends you legitimacy. If your branding suite appears disjointed or amateurish, you may have to work harder to overcome negative perceptions, not even realizing how much easier it could be.
3. Goose your margin. If your brand presents itself as polished and professional, it’s easier to demand and defend premium pricing. Goods and services are not sold on price alone. Consider that Target and Walmart offer a lot of the same products, but Target’s brand is more upscale, so it doesn’t have to be the low-cost leader to win. Its customers would rather spend more than go to Walmart.
4. Maintain momentum when the economy tanks. When your market is shrinking and everyone in your industry is scrambling for their share, a strong brand will make it easier to hold onto yours and possibly snap up others’ when their customers are ready to reemerge — and all without engaging in a price war. When your business is struggling, you’ll be reluctant to part with scarce funds for branding, and it might be too late to have maximum effect anyway.
5. Speak to your tribe. Are you a Mac or a PC? Are you an Old Soul or Temple person? Loyalty is the reflection of a strong brand. Car commercials on TV are primarily intended for people who are already proud owners, to solidify allegiance and word-of-mouth referrals. Once you’ve gained those kinds of followers, it takes a lot for a competitor to peel them away.
OK, now what?
You may now be squinting at your logo, website or advertising with a more critical eye. Before you decide to go in for a makeover, it’s important to take a broad view and scrutinize all the touchpoints between you and your target audience. Do they all look like they came from the same place, or are they a series of unmatched “one-offs?” Are they all singing from the same songbook? This is a good time to reflect on customer motivations. Reexamine what messages will move them. Once you’ve sharpened your focus and needs, it will be easier for you to direct branding efforts, sign off on a strategy and prioritize tactics.
The economic forecast looks bright for the next few years. Big changes in the Sacramento landscape and skyline are buoying outlooks. When people are feeling this positive and optimistic, it’s a good time to make sure your brand is looking its absolute best.