In Today’s Marketplace, Your Brand is Critical to the Success of Your Business. Here’s How to Build a Strong One
If you’ve spent time reading this column lately, you’ve probably seen the word “brand” in some form at least a dozen times. The reason for that is simple…
Brands are important!
In essence, they are an all-in-one lifeline, a beacon and the vessel on which your laundry business sails (or “sales,” for the pun lovers out there) through the changing waters of our industry. Building your brand correctly will help you avoid any long-term reputation issues, and it will even help you win some of the short-term battles you’re likely facing.
Developing a cohesive and steady brand for your business can aid growth, build a solid image for you within your community and stimulate positive thinking toward your future. More to the point, it can help you sell in the short term as well!
But what does “branding” really mean, on a practical level? Let’s break it down.
What’s a Brand?
A brand is, in the simplest terms, the way people think and feel about a company, person or product. We can use our brands to market and sell ourselves to others. Although not an entirely new concept, the art and science of branding has received a great deal more attention as of late – and for good reason.
People want to do business with people. If you position yourself in such a way as to be inaccessible and above trying to connect, you’re damaging your brand. If issues arise and you shy away from them rather than dealing with them, you’re damaging your brand. If you aren’t purposeful and proactive about trying to improve yourself and your business, you’re damaging your brand. All of the day-to-day elements in your laundry business add up in the branding equation.
Digital branding takes your day-to-day actions and boils them down in the crucibles of connection and consistency. Your goal is to build yourself up to be an accessible expert that’s reliable across every digital platform your business uses. However, like Rome, brands aren’t built in a day – it’s a journey that takes careful attention to detail and daily follow-through from everyone involved in your business. It’s no small task.
Your Personal Branding Journey
Think for a minute about how your business started. I’m willing to bet there’s a story behind how it all got started, because every business has a story. To take that further, every story has a journey attached to it. Chances are you (and your business) aren’t the same as when you started out. You’ve dialed in your methods, adapted to your surroundings and found the balance that makes your business tick. All of those softer elements are unique to you and make up your specific brand.
Branding shouldn’t occur by accident though, which is partly the reason for this article. Far too many companies take a reactive approach to building their reputations. If something good happens, they promote it. If something bad happens, they cover it up. Although these aren’t bad methods, they’re less than optimal as stand-alone strategies.
To start your brand down the right path, you need to first determine and decide upon your company’s ultimate mission is. Don’t simply look at what differentiates you from your competitors. Anyone can do that. Instead, take time to really pin down why you’re doing what you do. When you discover that, make it the centerpiece of your branding.
Once you have your mission in place, start looking at the practical pieces.
Carefully and objectively examine your business’ logo. What do you think? Does it accurately reflect what you want your customers and the community you serve to think of you and your laundry operation? Are you comfortable that it clearly symbolizes everything you want your business to stand for? If so, use it. If not, hit the drawing board.
Next, pin down the key messages you want your audience to hear – and then decide how you want to “voice” yourself. You even can try to develop a tagline if you think it will help hold you to the essence of your brand. Just make certain that every time you communicate online and in person that it reflects your brand in every way possible.
Continuity is Key
With great caution, I want to offer some double-edged knowledge at this point. It’s worth noting that branding ultimately can be steered by the gut decisions of your customers. Your brand is the collective reaction of your customers to what you have to say, which is why you must have continuity across every platform from which you speak, both digitally and physically.
When you lack a cohesive message to your customers, your image will suffer. If you have a poor image, your customers won’t want to do business with you – which means that eventually they’re not going to be your customers anymore. And you know what happens when you start to lose customers. Therefore, all I can say to those who find themselves in this predicament due to inconsistent branding is to find what’s not working, fix the inconsistencies and press on.
If you’ve done everything right up to this point (determined your mission, created an impactful logo, found a “voice,” etc.), you’ve made it further than many do. But don’t stop here!
Take your brand one step further and make it even more effective by enforcing uniformity. Create a standard for every piece of marketing material that gets posted. Use consistent coloring and wording, and make sure your communications reflect your company’s core values. Stay focused on your mission so that customers can see the integrity of what you do. Also, train your staff to reflect the positives you want your customers to see.
Be consistent in every possible way – across social media, on your website, at directory sites like Google Places and Yelp, and even within your own brick-and-mortar store. Otherwise, every attempt you make toward building a positive brand will be all for nothing.
Creating your brand will require serious thought, commitment and time. I know that, for small-business owners, time is a precious commodity. (I certainly wish I had more to spare!) However, hear me out: every minute you spend on your brand is well worth it. After all, your brand is who you are. And this is your laundry business we’re talking about, so take the time to make it the best it can be!