Currently, the business world appears to be getting more saturated and more competitive. It was reported last year that in the first half of 2016 342,927 companies were started, with one-third of these being born in London.
The majority of these business are going to incorporate an element of tech, have a large digital presence and are likely to be ‘solution-based’ – with their offering providing a solution to a problem that is commonly known or experienced.
The start-up landscape has been coined a ‘double-edged sword’. Many of them have the potential, and do, disrupt the landscape, or inspire others to do so. There’s no denying that start-ups are more agile and adaptable compared to their more established counterparts, but they are also far better at their branding.
There is a number of reasons that established SME’s perhaps aren’t nurturing their brand in the way that it deserves. Whether it comes down to a lack of knowledge or understanding that the weight that comprehensive business branding holds, or the day to day running’s of a business means that branding isn’t a priority, or whether it comes down to budgets – SME’s are falling short.
Perhaps the concept of branding has been lost in the explosion of digital marketing; we are constantly bombarded with new SEO, SEM and content marketing strategies, but are yet to receive the same volume of information and data when it comes to branding a business.
To many, a brand starts and ends with a name and logo, and to be honest; there is rarely enough thought put into those elements when you consider the psychology that is behind some of the best-loved brands around the world. And FYI, a great logo isn’t just slapped together; there are definitive reasons certain shapes, fonts and colours are used.
In reality, a brand is the lasting impression you have about a business, service or product, whether you recently purchased from them or not. When you think about one of your favourite company or well-known corporations – take a second to think about what comes to mind; their logo, how their product looks or feels, the colour associated with them, the service they offer?
Branding triggers association, it’s about perception and identity and every time an individual comes into contact with your brand – that perception has the opportunity to be reinforced, or changed.
If you think to why many customer facing businesses provide their staff with a uniform, it’s down to identity and recognition, but if the staff wearing the uniform behave in a way that instigates negative emotions for the customer – the brand reputation is damaged. Your brand encompasses a list of elements that are all within your control as a business owner, the problem that you are faced with as an established business, is re-focusing not only yourself but your team members and continuing to maintain high standards.
Social media is a great platform for building your brand’s voice; while many start-ups are steered by digitally native millennials, their competitors may not be so savvy in the online realm. Businesses should not take on a passive role on social media platforms, while sharing industry news and business updates and articles you have written or contributed to, is great for ‘vanity marketing’, this must all be pinned with engagement.
Get involved in conversations, jump on hashtags or share a meme or two and work on creating a ‘personality’ for your band. What you shouldn’t do, is ignore posts that you are mentioned in. The reality is, that you will receive complaints or negative comments over social media – this doesn’t necessarily impact your brand – but the way that you deal with it does.
Too many businesses become terrified of negativity that comes their way on social media, fearing for brand reputation; but, deleting or ignoring the offending items and pretending they don’t exist will damage the brand far more.
The best starting place when it comes to rebranding – or branding from scratch, is to draw up 3-5 key brand values, or a mission statement that can be lived and breathed. Everything from process, interaction or experience that happens internally or externally should relate to these values; however, it is critical that all of these elements remain consistent and ultimately, create the same perception in the mind of the audience.
That’s why, in a small business, there should be an alignment between marketing and sales. While, I am not telling you that your sales team should look after marketing, but they need to be sending out the same message while undertaking the activities involved in their respective roles; if your employees are confused about the message and mission – imagine how your customers and audience feel.
In order to achieve this harmonious relationship between the two teams, include them in the branding project, or if this will lead to a case of ‘too many cooks’, then choose key members of the team and if you are really serious – seek professional help. There are many cases of branding going very wrong – sorry its best to educate yourself on what should be avoided and learn about how to do it right – are there examples of businesses in your industry or others that have created a great brand for their business?
It may take some time and effort, it may even take some money to get develop a strong brand, but once you get it right, your business will reap the benefits.
Emily Jarvis is a former business consultant, she is currently working as a freelance writer sharing her expert advice and tips within the business industry.