In my previous blog post, I helped clear up several misconceptions that a lot of people have about marketing their business. So, now you’re convinced? Well, if you’re going to market, then it’s important to understand just what that involves. Certainly, part of that is advertising, and part of it is sales. A major portion of marketing, though – the part that must come before and underlie all other aspects – is branding.
Okay, so what all comprises branding, and what makes it so important? Everyone’s heard the word “brand,” but there’s a lot more to it than you might realize. Quite simply, your company’s brand is made up of the public’s thoughts and feelings about the company, good or bad, along with everything – and I mean everything – that contributes to those impressions. After all, perception is in some ways more important than reality, especially when it comes to buying decisions. There are very few products or services for which there are no alternatives, and most consumers will gladly opt to patronize a business they like over one for which they have distaste. History has even shown us countless examples of good products that have gotten buried due to negative public opinion, as well as inferior or even downright senseless products that have sold millions because of an inexplicable but pervasive fondness. If people believe that your business is the right choice, they’ll flock to your door; if they don’t like you, they’ll never let their money come anywhere near you.
As I said, there is a practically indefinite range of factors that contribute to public perception of your company. After all, who could possibly define every single consideration that influences a person’s opinions and decisions? Those influences might be actively-presented material. They might be the obvious things that most people think of as branding, such as logos, slogans, packaging, and the like. They might be more subtle things, like the way a soda bottle pictured on the side of a vending machine is covered in condensation to imply its coldness subconsciously.
However, branding goes even farther than that, way beyond just what you can point to as physical examples; remember, it incorporates everything that affects people’s perception of your company. Every interaction that potential or existing clients and business partners have with any aspect of your business is going to shape your company’s image in their minds. Consider a few of these things that you might not have considered before; put yourself in the customer’s shoes and think about how your perceptions would be affected if it were you experiencing them at a business you were patronizing:
- the store’s cleanliness and general upkeep
- quality of service, including attitude, timeliness, and attention
- measures taken to watch out for clients’ well-being
- location of business
- personality portrayed by staff, both on-duty and off
- appearance of staff
- treatment offered to visitors, beyond business-essential service
- quality of signage and landscaping
- website ease-of-use
- grammar and spelling in marketing or other informational material
- model of vehicles in company fleet, if applicable
Basically, each and every decision you make for your business, major or minor, obvious or not, should involve the question, “how will this affect my customers, both consciously and subconsciously?” Follow that up by asking, “does this support the image I want people to have of my company?” Do the business’s facilities imply the same passion for quality and detail that you claim to put into your deliverables? Do the colors and layout on your website invoke subconsciously the same mindset or attitude that it presents though its verbiage and images? Don’t write anything off as too insignificant to take into account.
It’s a new way of thinking about things, but when you take a little bit of extra time – or perhaps better yet, let one of our experts help you – to evaluate the whole branding pie instead of just part of it, you might be surprised how many cheap or even free ways there are to boost your company’s image and influence the question, “is this a company with which I want to do business?”