Cultivating more consumers who buy more, more often, & tell their friends!
Any company can have a high performing brand that dramatically increases sales and profits. You don’t have to already be Coca-Cola or Apple to have one. In fact, small and mid-sized (SMB) business owners should remember that every multinational giant was once a small business. Whether you want to expand your company globally or just create more wealth for your family, shareholders, and employees - there are some fundamental branding principles that can get you solidly on your way.
First, its important to realize that like adopting a healthier lifestyle, building a strong brand requires more than just one-off, quick fix gimmicks. Effective branding demands a long-term commitment to a strategic consumer marketing approach. It takes discipline to be sure, but the benefits are clear. Outside of continuously ensuring that your core product or service is right, building a high performing brand is the single most productive thing any b2c company can do to maximize long-term sales & profits.
For any company, branding is complex and difficult. The explosion of online advertising, social media, and mobile platforms makes it increasingly so today. Aside from having to get the message right, companies also have to determine what mix of marketing tools to use and how much budget to allocate to each. This is especially challenging for SMBs, most of which don’t have in-house brand management expertise. The flip side to these challenges is that they also bring tremendous opportunity, as the new tools present uniquely fresh and cost-effective ways to connect to consumers. They mean that the right message, to the right people, at the right time can make branding accessible to any company.
Acknowledging the unique branding challenges that SMBs face, here are ‘7 Steps to a High Performing Brand’. These are the things that a company MUST do to quickly get on the path to riches, fame, and fortune! (Note: The bullets obviously aren’t meant to be exhaustive. Feel free to reach out to me for more information. Also, look to this blog for future posts about each point.)
1 - Go for it!
The size of your company has nothing to do with the strength of your brand. In fact, any SMB can have a high performing brand. Think of the brand strategy that drives marketing and branding like the blueprint of a house. Without regard to the size of the house or the plot of land that it will sit on, the house has to be soundly architected. Get yourself a solid marketing plan that intelligently and strategically articulates the path to a strong brand and then stick to it! That’s the surest path to growing your brand and your business!
2 - Get to know your consumers (even) better.
Sure, you know your consumers - but you could always know them even better. The key to building a high performing brand is gaining fundamental consumer insights about what they value and want. And then giving it to them! Today we’re all bombarded by thousands of commercial messages a day. To break through the clutter and actually influence someone to buy requires that you speak directly to them about things that really matter. The only way that you can know that is by observing them in their day-to-day lives and asking them.
3 - Develop a strong brand positioning.
A brand’s positioning is its personality and character. It’s the way your company interfaces with the world - the look and feel; all the things that define the user experience. Develop your positioning and all consumer-facing elements to address the specific things that matter to your consumers. Bottom line, consumers are always going to gravitate to what they want - whether you give it to them or someone else. Why not craft your brand in a way that delivers both features/benefits AND relevant emotional uplift to lock your consumers in for life!
4 - Know your Unique Selling Proposition (USP).
Your USP is the one thing that separates your product/brand from the competition. It’s all about why/how consumers use your product, and what unique solution you provide. Is it price, quality, ingredients, promotional factors, distribution/availability, or more emotional, brand-driven benefits? You’ve got to be clear about this point to be able to create the most targeted, impactful messages that really mean something.
5 - Find the right marketing tools for your company, brand, & budget.
You can know what makes your consumers tick but unless you select the right marketing tools and media to reach them, it will all be for naught. The key is to select the marketing tools and media that generate the biggest bang for the buck; that create the greatest impact at appropriate costs for your company. Where your consumers spend their time, what types of media they consume, and various kinds of demographic and psychographic criteria all come into play. For some companies, their marketing mix will include just a website and social media presence. For others it will include a fully integrated marketing plan topped off with Super Bowl TV spots and national retail promotions. Either way, effective branding is about putting together a mix of marketing and media that connect with your consumers where they are, on their terms, and about things that matter to them.
6 - Realize that everything that touches consumers impacts your brand.
Everything your company does that touches consumers - from your product or service, to customer support, to your retail environment, to your return policies, to advertising, your social media presence, your PR - EVERYTHING that comes from your company either builds your brand or erodes it. Therefore, all of your consumer interactions must be thoughtful, strategic, and intentional - precisely reinforcing your brand positioning and any strategic messages you’re offering. Your brand must be infused into the very DNA of your company. To do it really right, your company culture must be built to support outputs that are brand-building in nature. Sounds complicated, but just create internal incentives that guide your company to produce outputs that give your consumers what they want and need from you.
7 - Get a plan and stick to it!
At the end of the day, it doesn’t take millions of dollars to build a brand, it just takes a great product/service, passionate management, a sound marketing plan and a long-term commitment to executing it. The longer you do it, the greater the results. Sure, you could drop a lot of money around a single promotion and get a sales lift, but the most valuable brands generate the greatest ROI by creating monetizable consumer relationships over the long haul.
Bottom line, while it may sometimes feel next to impossible for an SMB to brand efficiently, with the right plan and an enduring commitment, a strong and profitable brand is available to any company. Just think like a marathoner and commit to the long haul. Great brands surely aren't built over night, but, if done well, they deliver inordinate returns that make the commitment more than worthwhile!
To learn more about marketing plans and how they can put your company on the path to a high-performing brand, click here.