So, you've decided it's time to cast your own shadow!
You are an entrepreneur at heart, and you've got the encouragement of family and friends. You've talked to an accountant and corporate lawyer. You signed a lease on a great new office, and it's decorated beautifully. You've joined the appropriate local business clubs and lined up a modest operating line with the bank. You have a cool name, and logo, and you're ready to launch.
Or are you?
Have you considered your brand? You might have thought that your logo is your brand. You'd only be partially correct.
You see, your brand is everything about you. It is what you do. The simplest explanation is to replace the word 'brand' with 'reputation.' Your brand involves every touch point involving all stakeholders who include: owners, management, employees, suppliers, and customers. Paying close attention to your brand from the beginning will save you money AND increase your effectiveness in your category.
Branding and The Bottom Line
The following points will illustrate how poor brand practices can negatively impact your bottom line:
No Discernible Point of Differentiation
Compare what you are selling with your competition. Other than price, what makes you different? Why should a customer care? You should have a positioning strategy that compels your customer to consider building a relationship with you. If you differentiate on price alone, you will lose.
Lack of Image ConsistencyThe logo on your card is different that the logo on your sign. Your stationary is straight text. The shade of blue you use among all your marketing materials is different in each one. This inconsistency of image is confusing to your target customers. If they can't trust your image, they will have trouble contacting you. A consistent image makes you look confident and successful. Customers will believe you have your act together. Confusion will cost you business.
Your Brand Values are Not Real
Customers like to know they can rely on you. If you say that customer service is an important value BUT you leave the potential customer on hold for twenty minutes, then what does that say about your service? If integrity is a value, then trust in you is paramount.
If you were to remove any brand value, your company would cease to exist as we know it. Your values must be that important. Your values are the foundation of your company. Ignore them and your customers will slip away.
Remember the last time you had a problem with a company and they failed to correct it in a timely manner? How did you feel about that company? Do you still use them? This is why brand is so important.
No Focused Offer
This is another take on the fact that you can't be all things to all people. Let us say that you sell pizzas. You are competing with every other pizza joint in your area. This is your best model for efficiency. Now if you change your menu by adding pasta, the number of competing restaurants will double. You will have to dilute your message to tell two stories. Add a third item and you are now competing with all pizza joints, all pasta places and so on. It's not to say you shouldn't offer those items - just pick one on which to base your positioning and be the leader in it.
The more messages, the more expensive it will be to promote. If your position is focused, it will be cheaper and more effective.
Poor Staff Communication
When management fails to adequately inform employees about goings-on within the company, the employees turn to the rumor mill for their information. Rumors are by nature typically negative and incorrect. If the rumors are that the company is in trouble, that will get out into the community and valuable talent will not be attracted to your brand. If your stability is in question, it will be hard to grow if you can't attract quality. This can affect your ability to compete and that costs real money. Any off-brand conversation puts downward stress on your brand. That is money flowing out of your pockets.
Leverage Your Branding
The bottom line is that branding is important, and for anyone considering launching a new business, it’s critical to include branding as part of your startup steps right along with the legal, financial and logistical steps. What is presented above are just a few examples of how neglecting your brand costs you money. By projecting a consistent brand throughout everything you do, though, you can avert such potential losses and instead leverage your branding as a competitive asset.