Raise your hand if you want to rank on Google page one. Ah, if it were only so easy. SEO is one way to get attention for your website, but it can cost a fortune and results tend to happen over months not days. A faster and more natural way for companies to break barriers and get attention from the audience they want is by using the business brand. This is a concept that’s been around for decades and the problem for most businesses is that they are using an old definition of branding in a new digital age. Here’s what companies need to know about becoming a barrier-breaking business brand in the year 2017.
The Shocking Truth about Business Branding Strength
The truth is that strong brands sell themselves and weak brands fail to overcome barriers to growth. At the end of the day, it all comes down to the strength of the brand. Even the best SEO in the world won’t help if the brand isn’t fortified. Most small and midsize business brands fall short in the following three ways.
Sloppy Business Brand Consistency
Small businesses who operate on limited resources are notorious for having what I call sloppy brand consistency. You can’t expect consumers to spend much time, more than a few seconds, really, trying to figure out what your company represents – or figuring our anything about your company, for that matter. Here are some examples of sloppy business branding that I’ve seen.
- Using an old logo. Updating the logo on social media and the website, but neglecting to do so on ancillary websites that may just come up in your search results, such as Glass Door. I also see companies making mistakes with search engines. If the old logo comes up in search results on Yahoo but not Google, it shows the consumer that your company didn’t take the time to update your information with these search engines. If you’re a small business with limited resources, asking a consultant like me to help you with this is a great way to get it done and clean up your business branding.
- Unclear affiliations. If you have subsidiaries, be clear about whether or not they fall under this brand strategy or not. If they do not, then create logical divisions in how you present them. For example, don’t have the website url in your email signature of the parent company if the entity is not a branded affiliate.
- Out of date pictures of company personnel. As I’ll discuss later, the people who work at the company are the largest symbols of its brand, way more than any logo can represent. Ditch the outdated pictures of the company president where it’s obvious he or she was a decade younger. Looking a few years older or more seasoned isn’t a bad thing. Put the ego aside.
Lack of Competitor Business Brand Awareness
Most companies have only a slight idea of what the competition is doing. If they do know, it’s a wishy washy and generic understanding that reflects what you see on their website rather than what the consumer experience is. Or, if they do have that information, they make the mistake of focusing too much on competitors and not enough on differentiating themselves. The true question isn’t what the competition is doing but rather what I call Sara’s Golden Rule of Branding:
How is my company presenting itself as drastically different from its closest competitor? Is this difference obvious to a consumer within only a few seconds?
I call this distinction “truly valuable difference” and it is the reason that you hear companies complaining about losing sales to the lowest price competitor. If this is you, then listen up because I’m going to tell you how to change your whole sales game. The biggest problem I see with online marketing is that everyone seems to be saying the same thing. Focus on how your company’s mission is unique and adjust the messaging to articular that. If there is nothing unique, then you are essentially offering a commodity product and in the absence of truly valuable difference, why wouldn’t a shrewd consumer go with the lowest price tag? See it from the buyer’s eyes. Sometimes building a unique brand means pushing the envelope or taking some risk, but this can done in a careful way that involves trial and error. This will minimize risk.
Having a Mute Business Brand Carrier
That’s right. The definition of mute is lacking a voice. The most common misunderstanding of business branding is that it involves the logo, website, and brochure when in reality the strongest carrier is the people who work at the company. The second strongest carrier of branding are the company’s customers, or better said, what the company’s customers say about the company online. This shows up in places such as written or video testimonials, Yelp reviews, Google reviews, and even the reviews on FaceBook.
What people say about you is what you are. Period. It’s a strange, almost illogical concept but people will trust what they read online before they trust what their friends and family say. Think about the last time you went to a new restaurant you checked out beforehand.
Small and midsize businesses consistently miss the opportunity to market their CEO as the #1 carrier of the brand. Some small and midsize CEO’s are mute when it comes to articulating the company’s mission in a consistent and highly visible manner. The CEO should be touting the tagline in his or her sleep. The CEO should carry around a cardboard picture of the company’s logo and pull it out every time somebody takes a picture of him or her. The CEO should have the company’s logo printed on a shirt that he or she consistently wears. Get the point? To bring voice of the brand alive, the best strategy is to mobilize the people that represent the brand.
Some companies try to have more than one voice for the brand. It should be one person otherwise the audience gets confused unless the two people are scripted to say the same things.
A critical part of social media marketing is actually being social. Most marketing consultants miss this. As a marketing consulting, when I’m charge of managing a company’s social media strategy, I make it a point to respond to each and every meaningful interaction that a follower posts onto a company’s social media page. A retweet, for example, may get a thank you if time allows, but not all the time. What does get acknowledged 100% of the time for my clients is any time somebody makes a comment, posts a review, or asks a question on any of my clients’ social media pages. This happens within 24-48 hours of the interaction. Just having a flat social media page for people to admire is where business branding fails. Bring it alive by giving it a voice that is welcoming and delivering value impacting messaging every single time a consumer touches you.
The Bottom Line on Business Branding
If you want to do it right, business branding requires a time commitment that most small and midsize companies are not suited to naturally take on. Anything less than everything means nothing when you’re talking about establishing truly valuable differences in the marketplace.
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