No business is too small or too specialized to warrant the time and energy it takes to develop a brand. Brand building is essential for any business. A strong, positive brand is just as important for a 200-person technology company as it is for a 3-person retail shop.
One of my clients, Sean, is a chiropractor. When Sean started his business, he knew he had two branding challenges to overcome:
- Favorably differentiating his business from other chiropractic services
- Strengthening the legitimacy of chiropractic healing itself; branding chiropractic products and services in general so that more people would consider going to a chiropractor (namely him) rather than going to a more traditional medical doctor for treatments
Every business has to be able to attract and satisfy customers predictably and consistently if it is going to thrive. One of the best ways to do this is to build a strong, positive brand in the minds of your target markets.
What do people think of your business?
When people encounter your business, your products or your services they will either think negatively or positively about it depending on your brand. Ultimately, it is your brand that determines if people actually do business with you.
A good branding strategy takes time and attention to develop and implement in your business. You need to have a very good understanding of the purchase decision needs of your target markets and how your business meets or exceeds those customer expectations. You (and everyone else in your business) need a clear idea of what brand you are trying to establish in the marketplace so that you can look for any and all opportunities to reinforce that brand when dealing with customers. Your brand building efforts should also be tracked and quantified over time so that you can keep doing the things that strengthen your brand and identify the innovations that will improve the things that aren't working.
3 steps to begin developing your brand strategy
There are three basic steps you can take that will allow you to start building the right branding strategy for your business:
- Create a clear objective for your branding strategy. This should be a written document (we call it your Brand Objective Statement) that outlines the brand you hope to establish in the minds of your target market. It should be based on what your customers want and expect from your business, your products or your services. Some areas of focus to consider:
Product Branding – This involves keeping your company somewhat anonymous but building the brand of your products or services. A business like the H.J. Heinz Corporation may take this approach to building the brand of, say, Heinz Ketchup without necessarily emphasizing the company itself or the brands of the distributors and retailers who carry the ketchup.
Company Branding – This is something you might focus on if you were a company like the supermarket chain Safeway and are primarily focused on building the Safeway company brand. Interestingly, a company like Safeway carries a lot of “brand name” products and can use those brands to build upon the Safeway company brand to draw customers to their stores.
Dual Branding – This is an approach that, for example, an automobile dealer might employ. Dual branding comes into play when there’s a strong product brand, like Toyota, as well as the company brand, like Donovan Motors. The Toyota brand (product brand) is developed and supported primarily by the Toyota Motor Company with is national and international advertising and public relations strategies. The Donovan Motors brand (company brand) is established locally in the company’s trading area. This is the branding strategy that Sean wanted to focus on for his Chiropractic business, since he wanted to brand his business and chiropractic health treatment in general in a positive light.
- Integrate branding into all customer-focused activity. Make sure that everyone in your business is aware of your desired brand and is taking every opportunity to reinforce that brand at every customer touch point. This is a bigger topic than we’ll go into now, but the better everyone understands the brand direction, the better equipped they are to act on the brand building and communication systems you have in place.
- Establish brand monitoring. This can be accomplished through interviews, surveys or focus groups that allow you to gather data regarding how your business is being perceived in the marketplace, and whether your reputation is growing in accordance with your brand strategy.
Sean worked through the three-step process outlined above and quickly started seeing the difference as his chiropractic business began to grow and gain a reputation. Through his research, he was able to articulate that people in his target market ultimately wanted quality health care and treatment that immediately helped them experience more functionality, a better quality of life, and less pain or side effects. He used that to create and document a Brand Objective Statement using a Dual Branding Strategy approach that pinpointed how his company specifically (and chiropractic medicine in general) would appeal to his target markets.
He then set about integrating his branding strategy into all of his business systems from advertising through sales and client fulfillment. After six months of operating with this new brand awareness he had quantifiable results that his efforts had paid off. He sent out a customer survey which helped confirm positive customer perceptions of his business. His internal meetings with staff helped confirm they were getting consistently positive feedback from customers. He measured a rise in clientele and client retention.
Additionally, he noticed that, since his brand was strong, his customers gave his business the benefit of the doubt when something did go wrong. His customers viewed mistakes and inconsistencies as merely temporary aberrations that the business would recover from quickly.