When I got started in the marketing world there were two camps: marketers that were into brand building and marketers, often direct marketers, that weren’t so hot on the idea of building a brand.
I cut my chops in the world of direct marketing. My mentors and those I studied often dismissed the idea of investing in cultivating a brand.
The goal: To figure out who your ideal clients were, where you could reach them and then to place your enticing offer in front of them so they take your desired action.
In its simplest form this is a great model, it worked then, and it still works now.
Once you figure out how to get this marketing machine running and oil the cogs it can quickly scale up and make you a fortune.
That’s great if your business plan is to build a product, make money and move on. But it doesn’t work well if you’re in the business to stay in business and serve your clients on an on-going basis.
This is where having a brand comes in. Yet most businesses don’t give thought to their brand.
The Brand Myth
The problem with brand is that most people don’t understand what it really is. They see brand as a company’s logo, uniform, and colors.
Those are all pieces of your brand, but collectively they don’t make your brand what it is.
Here’s a great definition of what a brand really is:
“A brand is the sum of all feelings, thoughts and recognitions – positive and negative – that people [in the target audience] have about a company, a product or service.”
If you’re a consultant or independent professional of any kind, your brand is your biggest asset.
“It’s important to remember that on a daily basis your company is either building or reducing its brand in the eyes of clients, prospects, employees, and other shareholders.”
– Scott Spanbauer
This is why it’s so important to work on building your brand, polish it and refine it.
Keep in mind that it can take you 5, 10, even 20 years to establish your brand – and 20 seconds to destroy it. Your brand is your reputation.
Brand Building Examples
Let’s look at a few examples of how businesses are taking steps to build their brand.
TD Bank has the “Penny Arcade” where people can drop in coins they’ve found in their pockets and have been collecting in jars. Not only is this useful, as most people don’t like to carry around heavy coins, its fun for the kids. And this is clearly a strategic move by TD. They are getting you to come into their branches, bring your kids and interact in their environment. This creates an experience and builds your relationship with the bank.
Here’s a marketing experience Asics created to connect with the running community.
Trey Ratcliff, an amazing photographer, runs On Air Google Hangouts. People can jump on and interact with him. That might not seem like brand building, but it is. It’s transparent, honest and real. It’s how people get to know Trey and deepen their feelings towards him. What does that do for his brand? It likely gives him more referrals, word or mouth and awareness, and traffic to his site.
Big Ass Fans is another great example. The company chose a provocative name, got a high profile spokesperson (former NFL star Refrigerator Perry) and has kept true to its identity. It’s not trying to be like every other manufacturer. It knows who it is and it sticks to the game plan. People know what to expect with Big Ass Fans and that’s what they get. Perry Marshall once wrote that the owner of Big Ass Fans heard of people ripping their ads out of trade publications just because they thought they were so crazy.
The Common Thread
Once you can see the value in building your brand, the next step is to figure out how you’re going to go about this.
Let’s start with the basics:
1. Get your online properties setup. The first thing a client will do is go online and do a search for you. That means you need to be visible. Whether that’s your own site, blog, social media properties – or all of them – you want to come up in search results right away.
2. Make it consistent. Your online brand should be consistent with your offline brand. If you want to look corporate then go with that look. If you want to be viewed as fun and approachable then that’s the angle to take. This should be reflected in your design and in your wording.
Now let’s move to the next steps:
3. Play to your strengths. What do you want to be known for? What type of experience do you want to provide? Give thought to how you are going to differentiate yourself in the marketplace and make yourself relevant to your industry.
4. Become an authority. To have a valuable brand that means something you need to be an authority in your space. One of the best ways to do that is to create content to demonstrate your expertise. This might be a book, articles, audios or videos. What’s important is that you’re creating content that demonstrates your knowledge and positions you as an expert in your area.
5. Explore touch points. One of the most effective things I’ve done to build the brand of FreshGigs.ca is to think through all the touch points our users and clients have. We then looked at each one of these and found ways to make the experience better than most people would expect and more memorable. It’s worked extremely well for that business. Consider how you can make each touch point better for your clients and leave them with great memories.
6. Take risks. A brand that doesn’t change gets stale and dies. Consistency is important, but innovation and trying new things is just as critical. If you’ve never held an in-person event for your clients, maybe it’s time you tried it. Invite them to a webinar. Send them a gift. There are numerous approaches you can try and experiment with. You just might find that something you never thought would work, actually works better than anything you’ve done to this point.
7. Be authentic. Transparency and authenticity have become buzzwords these days. But that doesn’t mean they are any less important. People want to connect with other people. The more open you are about yourself and your brand, the more your clients can relate to you, the closer they will feel to you. You are who you are, so you might as well use it to your advantage. Instead of trying to mask your deficiencies, share them and expose your strengths. It will do wonders for your brand.
Where should you start?
Take a break and give some thought to 1) how are people currently seeing your brand? And 2) how do you want your brand to be seen? There is often a gap here, and that’s where you’ll want to begin.