The short answer is before you spend another dime on marketing. When you are first starting out as a business, there are many things that you need to establish before you’d consider marketing. Most startups are laser-focused on doing a great job serving their first clients and finetuning their service or product offerings. This is a great tactic, as providing an excellent customer experience is key to getting referrals. However, once you hit a plateau and you decide it is time to actively market your business, you better pause for a minute to consider your brand.
Brand leads marketing because branding is focused on identifying who you are and who your market is. Marketing is about how you tell your market who you are. If you go to market before you know your core purpose or before you spend time identifying or understanding your market, you are likely to waste most of your marketing budget. And even if you know those things, without clarity of message and image, will your market really be able to retain what you are trying to tell them? Taking a good hard look at your brand and refining it can help you reap huge rewards.
Not everyone understands what “brand” means. The simplest explanation we have is that your brand is your market’s perception of your business. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos puts it this way: “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.”
With proper attention to your brand, and careful brand positioning, you can exert a certain amount of control over what people think of your brand. Think of it as helping guide brand perception.
Here are 5 things to think through before you go to market:
1. Remember Who the Brand Is For
Think of your ideal customer. What would your business look like if you served more customers like that? You will need to engage in research and discovery in order to build a brand that truly represents you and what your business is all about. By clarifying your message and your image, you can leverage the power of your brand.
2. Know How You Help a Customer Solve a Problem
Prospective customers are interested in your product or service because they have a problem or a need that they want fixed or fulfilled. They want to know what you can do for them. It’s important that your brand identity makes it immediately apparent that you can solve their problem (what’s known as a “pain point”). The problem you solve is the foundation of your brand identity.
If your products and services help people save money, say so, and target the budget conscious consumer. If you sell luxury, make that apparent. And target a wealthier clientele.
3. Define and Utilize Your Brand Strategy
Your brand strategy is the base of your core values, your why, that should drive all business decisions. It is the foundation of your hiring process and your company culture. From this brand strategy or brand foundation, you can establish your company’s unique brand promise. .A brand promise is a short sentence that speaks to the essence of your business in the most concise way. It is a promise to keep, and everything is weighed by it.
4. Map out Your Brand: Consistency is Key
Going to market without making sure your brand is consistent overall can result in a lot of wasted time and money. Consistency ensures market retention and recall. In today’s market, your brand has to be consistent across the spectrum. That includes:
- Your environment (storefront or office)
- Sales & customer service
- Print materials, signage, packaging
- Your website, social media, and online advertising
If your marketing piece is strong enough to trigger a prospect to take the next step, you want to make sure wherever they go, they will see the same messages, same look and feel, so that your brand becomes sticky in their minds.
So how do you check for brand consistency?
Gather all your branded materials in one place. This might include logos, brochures, business cards, letterhead, packaging, vehicle wraps, and advertising. You should also include screenshots of digital images, websites, and social media headers, as well as photos of your larger items such as outdoor signage and displays.
Take a photo of all the materials together in order to see an overview of how your brand is presented. How consistent is your visual brand in the way it reflects your organization’s identity, message, and values?
Make sure your logo appears the same on all items. Check for consistency in messaging and content. Be sure to look for a color palette and consistent use of fonts. You want all of your brand visuals to be consistent and cohesive.
If you see a lot of inconsistency, it’s time to call in the professionals for help.
5. Always Deliver a Great Customer Experience
You want to build a world-class Customer Experience. An exceptional customer experience gives you a competitive advantage and generates customer loyalty. You need to determine every step of your customer’s journey, and how you and your staff can make each step a great one. This could involve executive training, customer experience team workshops, regular reviews, team building exercises, and more.
Everyone should be aligned with your company mission, and exemplify it in every interaction with a customer. Proactive customer service delivers on your brand promise at each and every touch point.
You can create a proactive customer experience by asking 3 questions.
- What is the customer thinking at each stage of the process?
- What is the experience you want them to have?
- What needs to happen behind the scenes to make that experience happen?
Putting real thought into each touch point allows you to create a “wow” moment every step of the way.
You Need a Unified Plan
Your brand identity, your marketing efforts, and the customer experience you provide are all inextricably intertwined. Once you have a clear and consistent brand identity, paired with an amazing customer experience, you are prepared to launch targeted marketing efforts.
Focus on your ideal customer and those who might easily become an ideal customer. Remember who you are. Don’t do scattershot marketing that will bring in tons of unqualified leads.
With a unified plan, you may actually find that you can increase your business, while reducing your marketing costs.