In my last marketing post for the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, I wrote about the pitfalls to avoid when you decide to rebrand your business.
Based on the feedback I received from Chamber Members, you want to learn more about the ins and outs of branding your business. So, let’s talk today about how to better manage and strengthen your brand.
No matter which industry your business is in, you’re always going to have competition. So, it’s important to constantly think about what makes a prospective customer choose your business over your competition for a product or service, and what keeps your current customers loyal. In most cases, the answer can be tied back to your brand.
Specifically, “your brand” refers to the reputation of your business—and in this new millennium—your brand goes beyond what people say about you offline—what they say ON line can make—or break—you. When your company has a strong brand, you’ll enjoy a wide range of benefits, from being able to recruit the best talent to establishing long-term loyalty among your customers.
While the benefits of a powerful brand are certainly compelling, improving the strength of your brand is often easier said than done. Fortunately, you can work towards boosting your brand’s strength and force, no matter your industry focus, by taking the following guidelines into account.
1. Look at Your Recruiting Efforts
You can only expect the goods and services you offer to be as good as the employees who provide them. Keeping this in mind, recruiting the right talent is key—and one of the top challenges that New Hampshire employers face today.
Unfortunately, when your business has a weak brand, it can be difficult to recruit and retain great talent. These days—given historically low unemployment rates and higher demand for skilled employees, workers can be more discriminating than ever when it comes to where they work. Potential job applicants will extensively research businesses to get a feel for what current and past employees say about their experience working for your company.
Keeping this in mind, it’s important to take a careful look at your recruiting efforts. Look online to find out what past employees have said about working for your company. An interesting in addition to looking at the typical social media channels like Facebook and Twitter, visit Glassdoor to see if any of your employees have submitted information to rate their work experience with you.
Another great way to gather data for your recruiting efforts is to interview your current employees to gain honest input on their job satisfaction and areas where you may be able to improve.
After your interviews, review the feedback seriously and turn it into action. Taking steps to foster a more enjoyable workplace will boost your reputation as an employer and help prospective talent see your company as a great place to work. From there, you should find it easier to recruit for and fill job openings as you expand your workforce while your business grows.
More importantly, happy employees are more productive and successful employees, helping you with the next tip.
2. Build Trust and Credibility with Online Content
With competition popping up everywhere you turn these days, consumers tend to gravitate towards brands they feel a real connection to—brands they can trust. On the other hand, building a sense of trust and credibility in your industry can be a huge challenge, especially when your business is just starting out. Fortunately, there are proven techniques and strategies for building your brand as you gain the trust of your target audience.
One of the most widely accepted strategies to build credibility and trust, while helping strengthen your brand is known as the skyscraper technique. This focuses on using online tools to find the best-performing digital content based on your specific business or industry. Once you’ve identified that content, you can focus on creating something even better.
This will require you to identify weaknesses in the original content (such as a lack of examples or data) and create fresh content on the same topic that builds off of the original. Finally, work on promoting your new content with industry influencers and other relevant sources to boost your overall brand credibility. As your new-and-improved content performs well and is shared across online communities, your brand recognition can become known as an authority in your industry.
3. Boost Brand Recognition
Becoming a “household name” isn’t something that just happens overnight, but that doesn’t mean you should neglect the importance of building a brand that people recognize. After all, recognition is by far one of the best forms of marketing and word-of-mouth advertising.
So, what can you do to improve your brand recognition without spending a fortune on marketing and advertising in the process?
Networking can (and often does) go a long way here, so don’t be shy. After all, that’s likely a good reason why you’re a member of the Chamber. Think about how often you take advantage of the programs your Chamber offers. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of ‘showing up’ to get your name out there and get the ball rolling – and deep down inside, you know this. So, take a look at your Chamber’s upcoming event schedule and show up!
If you don’t have plans to do so already, now is a great time to also start researching local, as well as large industry trade shows and conferences to attend in the coming year. Your presence at these shows helps spread awareness and recognition of your brand in your industry, especially if you put together an impressive trade show booth display.
Don’t worry if you don’t plan to have a booth, there’s still incredible value in participating as an attendee to jumpstart your industry networking activities.
Of course, the digital world is also a great venue to boost brand recognition. Online networking via sites like LinkedIn, along with guest postings on local community and industry blogs (like this one) can all be part of your rollout of a great social media marketing strategy.
The Chamber has a great program for companies interested in building their brand through guest blogging—just like I’m doing right now. The benefits to your brand’s reputation (and the HUGE SEO boost to your website) are incredible. Shameless plug: If you don’t blog today or don’t know where to start—my contact info is below.
All are great ways to increase recognition of your brand and fuel growth.
4. Be Competitive
This is one area where, unfortunately, a lot of businesses fail. You need to recognize that your business does not exist inside a bubble; more than likely, there are at least a dozen other businesses (if not many, many more) out there offering similar services and/or products.
These are your competitors, and if you want to successfully build your brand, you must come to know your top competitors inside and out with an informed and thorough competitive analysis. This means taking the time to not only identify your biggest competitors, but studying their marketing efforts and other actions to figure out not only what they’re doing right, but what they may be doing wrong, as well. From there, you can build on this knowledge to be more competitive and better appeal to your target audience.
After all, think about the last time you needed to make a major purchase of a product or service. For example, when you last needed a major home repair, one of the most important factors in making your decision was likely the reputation of the brand and what others had to say about it.
5. Align Your Pricing to Your Value
One of the biggest mistakes business owners make, especially when first starting out and trying to build a brand for themselves, is selling themselves short. This is a flawed way of thinking that has led to the demise of many promising businesses. You might think, for example, that by undercutting your competition on price, you’ll automatically gain new clients who will become life-long customers. What many business owners don’t realize when taking this approach is that this type of model is not sustainable, nor does it reflect the true value of your brand.
Above all else, it’s important to align the pricing of your goods and services to their true value. And remember, regardless of your industry, it’s all about perceived value. Don’t make the mistake of “giving away” your work. Instead, focus on differentiating your brand from others so that you can communicate your value to your prospective customers. In turn, you’ll eventually be able to take control over your pricing.
6. Build Brand Loyalty
Which brands have your loyalty? You can probably name them instantly with even thinking. While some believe brand loyalty is dead, I don’t believe this to be true. In fact I believe just the opposite.
More than ever, it’s important for your business to take steps that will build loyalty by rewarding customers who return to you for repeat business. One of the most basic steps you can take to encourage brand loyalty is to create some sort of free loyalty “rewards” program.
For a coffee shop, for example, this might mean giving away a customer’s 10th cup of coffee away for free. These types of programs don’t need to cost your company a lot in the way of money and resources, but they can make all the difference in keeping customers coming back (and referring their friends and family to your business, as well).
7. Extend to New Business Areas
While you may be focused on offering just a few different products or services right now – and doing them better than any of your competitors – it’s important to also keep an open mind when it comes to future expansion, especially if you want to build a brand that could eventually become a household name. Thinking of an expansion? A good place to start is to look at the current services and products your customers already need from you.
From there, take some time to brainstorm the types of related services and goods that could go hand in hand. For example, if you run a summer lawn care service that focuses primarily on lawn mowing and fertilizing, your customers may still be turning to another company to help with their autumn leaf-raking and winter snow-blowing needs.
With a strong brand presence, you could confidently begin offering additional services to your existing customers, making your business a client’s one-stop shop for their landscaping needs year-round.
Think about how you can extend your services for your specific business.
8. Build Your Defense
As your brand grows, so will your need for a PR crisis plan so that you can respond swiftly and confidently in the face of a PR disaster. This is especially important for business owners whose names are quite literally attached to their brands, as any personal accusation against you could automatically tarnish your brand without a PR crisis plan in place.
A prime example of this can be seen in the sexual misconduct allegations of Steve Wynn of Wynn Resorts back in February. By building a defense strategy against negative PR ahead of time, you can react promptly if a public crisis strikes. This could be anything from bad-mouthing from a former employee, a negative online review, or even complete lies from a competitor.
It can take years (or even decades) to build a strong brand—but only a moment for your brand’s reputation to be tarnished. With that in mind, it’s important to continuously work to improve the strength of your brand and your overall image within your industry.
So, there are the 8 steps to help you to strengthen your brand. Which one will you start with today? If you’d like to dive deeper into any of these steps or talk about the branding efforts of your business from the viewpoint of a marketing agency, I’d love to help you out! Let’s talk – 603-809-4164.
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