branding, n. \brand-ing\
Let’s walk a mile in a customer’s shoes. It’s lunchtime, and you’re hungry for a burger. Choices abound, but if you’re careless in your decision, you could find yourself broke, dissatisfied, or worse—still hungry.
Successful branding helps you differentiate among your choices: McDonald’s, Five Guys, Niman Ranch, or Morningstar Farms. Based on the promise of each company, you can apply your needs and wants (cheap, a quick fix, nearby, high quality, vegetarian, eat in, carry out, etc.) and determine the best lunch for you. You can feel confident that, based on the brand, you’ll know its price point, how long it will take to prepare, whether you’ll prepare it yourself or pick it up, and how it will taste. The company that best meets your needs will win your business, and you’ll walk away with a satisfied belly.
Now let’s apply branding to your small business. Your brand is your promise to your clients or consumers. Branding involves both your strategy in choosing what you promise, and also how you make it possible for people to recognize that promise.
What differentiates your business from your competition? Is it low price? High quality? Superior service? Ease of use? Location? Your differentiating factor(s) is a great place to begin building your promise.
It’s essential that your clients or consumers be able to recognize your service or product whenever needed, which means it’s also essential to represent your company consistently, with your company’s name and professional logo on all of your sales and marketing materials.
Perhaps most importantly, your business has to follow through on your promise. If your brand is built on great customer service, each of your employees should provide superior service. If you promise a quick turnaround, your clients should be able to count on you to deliver. If you promise high quality merchandise, your products should never disappoint.
Branding is a wise investment for any small business, and the resources you designate to a brand strategy will contribute directly to building relationships with your customers. Customer relationships beget loyal customers—a result sure to satisfy everyone.