Feb 22 2018
Branding is more than just big words and fancy logos. It’s an investment in your company’s future. It is the first step in reassuring your customers that you will fulfill the promises you make. Your brand tells a story and defines how your clients will experience your company. That begins with the very first impression they form when seeing your logo and hearing your name, and it continues with every interaction they have with your company.
Some people think branding is hokey. We get it. Many people underestimate the value of a reputable, authentic brand until they have one for themselves. Your brand is your most valuable asset and remains constant as your company changes – team members come and go, clients come and go, you expand your service line, etc. As such, it is the foundation of your company.
The only constant is change…and your brand.
The best brands understand they can’t be everything to everybody. They define exactly what they’re offering and exactly who it will benefit. With such clarity, their messaging is laser-focused on their target market and they position themselves as leaders. A strong brand is not only authoritative, but also authentic, and this combo draws customers in to learn more. Even though your business may revolve around “handshakes” and relationships, your brand is the glue that makes your customers stick with you.
To establish their authenticity, a brand must separate themselves from the competition by highlighting their “why.” In a market where competitors fight on price, poach talent or build knockoff products, a unique brand is a differentiator that keeps existing clients engaged and attracts future customers.
Your brand tells a story.
Here’s an example of engineering companies telling different stories with their brands:
With Austin’s hot market, local architects and developers are teaming up with engineering firms to knock out projects fast. Let’s say an architect is designing a hotel and needs an engineering firm to help with the parking lot. He runs a Google search and clicks on a few of the organic search results. The first clicked link leads to the site for ABC Engineers.
ABC: The ABC logo is a blocky, black-and-white, “ABC.” Their website isn’t that interesting either, with just one generic picture of a blueprint and an uninspiring promise of, “we provide innovative solutions for your projects.” The About Us page isn’t much better:
ABC was founded in 2001 on the premise of providing excellent engineering and communication with our clients. We are a family-owned business and treat our clients like family. At ABC, we’re engineering the future.
There’s no info on the types of projects ABC does, or where they practice. The architect isn’t wowed by ABC Engineers, so he clicks on another link for a company called Zeus Engineering.
Zeus: The Zeus homepage loads a 3D-cartoon Greek-styled city rising up through shrouds of graphic clouds. An animated lightning flash strikes their logo onto the page and it’s a mythological Greek god wearing a hardhat and raising his fists with a lightning bolt in one palm and a ruler in the other. The architect visiting the site chuckles because the site is creative and original, unlike ABC Engineers.
The architect clicks on a page called, “The Legend of Zeus,” and finds their brand promise and firm story: “We summon our Texas engineering powers to provide a hotel project quote within 3 days, phone call updates every 2 days and check-in emails EVERY day.”
The architect reads on to find their story:
In 2001, two young engineers by the names of Andy and Paul were working late at an ancient Austin engineering firm. Tired and hungry, Andy exclaimed, “Enough! We’ve been here for 10 hours today and we’re still behind. Clients keep calling and no one is happy. I want to build an engineering firm based on pro-active client communication – I’ll call them before they call me. Let’s use customer service to overthrow our competitors because we both know that communication is next to godliness.” And that was how Zeus Engineering was founded. Two nascent engineers determined to rewrite the process for client experience.
Game over. The architect poked around on the Zeus site some more, reading client testimonials and watching aerial videos of their projects, but he was already sold. Their brand was confident and measurable. The focused messaging and unique website design demonstrated the signs of a company who works hard to get it right. Zeus is accountable and yet personable. A branding story well told.
How you can learn from Zeus Engineering
Your brand doesn’t have to be cute to get the job done. But it does need to speak clearly to the prospects you seek to convert into paying clients. To nail down your brand strategy, think about the following things.
People don’t buy things, they buy brands. A strong brand commands premium prices. Think about Harley Davidson and their household name. The company is, perhaps, the most well-known motorcycle manufacturer in the world, and that’s come from years of marketing that positions them as an industry leader for their consumer. They have a recognizable name that lets you know what to expect shelling out top dollar for one of their luxury motorcycles. The Harley Davidson name is more than just a product. It is a culture. It is an icon.
Your story is built into your brand identity. Building your story into your brand is all about producing a cohesive message and identity that speaks volumes about your company. Colors, taglines, and typefaces evoke different feelings and contribute to how customers experience your brand before, during, and after the sale. As such, your brand lowers the hurdles to closing a sale. It keeps your clients bound to you, thereby making future sales easier. It positions you as the best in the industry – or the cheapest, or the oldest, or the most experienced, etc. Whatever your unique value, your brand will convey that message so you don’t have to do it yourself.
Branding minimizes chaotic messaging, thus saving time and money on marketing. A defined brand will lead to marketing campaigns that are relevant to your customers. Instead of trying a mixed-bag approach until something sticks, your brand strategy ensures that all messaging reinforces your unique value proposition, and prevents any contradictory efforts. An example of a company with a strong brand focus is Whole Foods. They’ve narrowed down their target market to focus on customers who care about health, want to buy quality food and don’t mind spending a little more on groceries. Their messaging speaks to this audience and strengthens a brand promise of quality, not necessarily affordability. Whole Foods also uses social media and email marketing, because they know that their audience is more likely to research online, versus reading newspapers or clipping paper coupons.
Brand strategy is an investment that should not be taken lightly or with a haphazard approach. Your brand is your first chance to tell your story and make an impression on future customers. Do it well and you’ll establish your firm as an industry leader. We’ve helped services companies, tech companies and more, and we’ve learned that the most profitable companies, no matter their size, have a single thing in common – a strong brand.
Mar 11 2017
If you own a business or have built a company from the ground up you’ve been told you need a logo and messaging. After that came a color palette, typeface, a slogan, a style guide, and more, and more, and more. It’s dizzying.
You’ve been told that your brand should make an indelible mark in the minds of your customers and speak to them on an intimate level. Your brand is the personality, identity, and voice of your company. It conveys the values and perceived benefits of your products and services. When done correctly your brand will build a bond with a customer that produces long-term loyalty.
Sounds really exciting, right? Maybe not. Unless you have a background in psychology and human behavior, which we do, this probably sounds like psychobabble.
Most business owners are so intensely focused on operations, delivery, and customer service they have no time to dig into the “touchy feely” world of branding. They know they want a logo. They may even have an idea about company values. But for many business owners, brand identity and strategy seems like a difficult task without a clear, immediate ROI.
Frankly, that’s true.
Your Brand Is Everywhere
An investment in branding doesn’t translate to revenue the way that, perhaps, two additional delivery trucks do. It doesn’t bring in new sales opportunities like an outside sales team or automated lead generation. It doesn’t process orders, it doesn’t make widgets, and it doesn’t answer customer service calls.
Instead, branding is the first impression your business makes when a customer discovers your products or services. It’s also the second impression, the third impression, and the fourth, and so on in perpetuity. Every time your customer engages your product your brand makes an impact. Every phone call, every visit to your website, and every packaged good conveys your company’s value to the client.
Branding builds the trust your client feels when they see your product on the shelf versus your competitors’.
Branding is the difference between printed brochures that actually engage the customer versus ones that gets tossed in the trash.
Instead of seeing a mysterious white van outside of a customer’s house, they see a professional service vehicle with your brand on it and suddenly feel at ease.
The customer’s decision-making process begins with your brand. For companies that don’t invest wisely, it’s also your brand that pushes customers away.
Branding Is Insurance
In essence, branding is a tactical method to reach and retain customers. Think of it as a sophisticated net that keeps the customer engaged. Your company’s brand identity, messaging, and underlying strategy have as much of an effect on keeping customers as it does on why, when, and how they buy.
Your brand also affects employees and company stakeholders on a deep emotional level. Your company’s mission and values should permeate throughout the organization as much as it radiates away from it. As executors of the company’s service, your brand must motivate and resonate with your employees. It is the glue that binds them together as well as to your company and to the customer. History is full of legendary companies whose brands lost their soul and in turn lost their employees. Equally, there are companies who changed the world by staying true to their brand.
Our advice is to think beyond the logo and the slogan. Don’t get hung up on the cost. The cost of developing your brand is relative to the magnitude of the losses from getting it wrong. The risk of losing your customers to a swift competitor should be reason alone to invest wisely. If your brand could sink the ship why would you try to cut corners? It’s also your brand that keeps it afloat.
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