No matter how good your product or service is, we live in a world of very short memories. We’ve all heard the phrase/question “what have you done for me lately?” Another version of that is “what have you done for your brand and your customers lately?”
Is what you offer, and the way you describe it, good enough to maintain a long-lasting relationship with your customers? Maybe, maybe not. It’s helpful to use iconic mainstream consumer brands (i.e. – Coke, Nike, GE, Microsoft, etc.) as benchmarks for what you bring to the party.
A sound branding strategy will help ensure your customers remember your business as the one to turn to for their specific needs, particularly in today’s competitive market place. A branding strategy is much more than your company’s name, logo, symbols, web site, etc. It’s about the TOTAL experience your customers have with you and your associates, and your product or service. The most effective branding strategy incorporates online and off-line elements, though the internet provides excellent cost-effective ways to promote your brand, especially through search engine ads or interactive customer-focused features on your Web site.
When developing a branding strategy, think of the aspects of your business that are unique, distinct, ownable and long-lasting. The entry hurdle for any business is quality and service, so avoid those and focus on the areas that truly set you apart. Having trouble coming up with answers? A great place to start is to ask your customers why they work with you and what they need from you the most. They wouldn’t part with their dollars without something of equal or greater value that you provide!
This branding program must be an integral part of the overall marketing strategy, all the pieces need to work together. It should also be simple, easy-to-remember and not include catch phrases, particularly those associated with low price unless you can truly deliver against that claim. It should focus on overall value to the customer in a way that your company, product or service will immediately come to mind whenever the customer needs something you provide (like the B2B Marketing Posse comes to mind when you need help with branding and marketing programs .
There are a number of good references to develop a sound branding strategy, but the one I like is “The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding” by Al Ries and his daughter, Laura. This book also includes a section called “The 11 Immutable Laws of Internet Branding”. If you’re an entrepreneur check out Peter Montoya’s “The Brand Called You” — great advice on how to promote yourself, personally and professionally, as a brand.
For long-term success, it’s critical to optimize your brand in the minds and hearts of your customers, based on those aspects of your business that they and you value the most.