What You Need to Know to Go From No Name to Top Name
By Stephanie Beck
Branding is a term commonly used as a noun. For example -- how many brands do you carry or what brand do you use? However, it is when you use branding as a verb that you'll see your business grow.
To brand yourself or your company successfully there must be a real or recognizable difference from your competitors that you communicate to your customers and potential customers. Whether you are just starting out or have been in business for over 20 years, you can always increase your status. Together let's walk through some key questions on how you brand your product or service to reach the right market with right message and produce the right response that will help you go from No Name to Top Name.
First question, why are you in business or starting a business? Obviously you created a business plan based on seeing a need within your industry or community that was not being met. Perhaps you offered a special service or product that was missing. For example, you may have positioned yourself as the "innovator" of your industry, always developing new and different products with the latest technological advancements or benefits. Or you might be the "imitator" that offers an exact match at a more affordable price. You might be the "friendly company" that always excels in customer service.
Maybe your specialty is education or networking so that if anyone needs to know "where to go" or "how to" they know to contact you. Perhaps you were once a customer that found a service missing within your community that you are now providing. Whatever the reason, the important item is to know why you are doing what you are doing or going to do. If you do not understand your role in the industry how do you expect customers to understand? Make sure you establish an identity to go from No Name to Top Name.
Second question, what are the needs of your customers? If you are not sure or perhaps feel you are out of touch you can easily implement a process to find out. Start by spending a day or even an hour communicating with your customers or potential customers. Maybe the same reason you started your company is not the same as why you are still in business today. People change, life changes and needs change. Have you adapted or got stuck in a time warp?
Ask open ended questions that will tell you what they like best about product X and why? Also find out what they don't like and why, especially if they are not currently using your product or service. This will give you some insight into your competition as to why they are liked. Then, you can figure out how your product or service best competes. Ask as many people as you can. Include colleagues and be sure to include any staff members such as salespeople or customer service/complaint departments in the task. Another idea would be to post questions on social media networks or group sites to find out more information about customers' needs within your industry. Make it one of your goals at tradeshows to gather data. Some businesses send customer service postcards with orders or ask for feedback after the service. Once you have the information be sure to do the most important thing. Read the material with an open mind. If the information is not positive remember that none of it is personal. View it as a second opportunity to create a positive result. This process will be valuable insight as to how you are perceived or need to be seen to meet the needs of your customers. Now you are gaining momentum and you know what the customer's needs are. This is the second step in the process of No Name to Top Name.
Third question, how are you meeting the needs of your customers and do your customers recognize it? You should see a distinct pattern forming in your research of the main needs of the customers. Develop a top 10 list of needs you currently fill. Even if you have the best product or service on the planet, you won't meet sales goals if you are the best kept secret in your industry. Determine how your product or service best solves the main need of the customers. You may even see where you offer multiple fixes for customers. Don't overload the customer with every single wonderful company fact in your next marketing piece.
In order to be the most effective, narrow your scope. Keep it simple and be consistent with the one item you provide that is unique and different. Develop a year-long marketing campaign especially if you are just starting out or re-inventing your business. If you approach the market with too many ideas all in a short amount of time you can confuse customers and your business could be stagnate instead of growing. If you keep changing your company identity too often (every few months) people will be hesitant to trust your ability.
All marketing components to your business need to convey the same message. Everything from the sign on the building, logo on shirts and even signatures on emails, should reflect this message. Simplicity and consistency should be the main objectives of your plan. If you have staff, employees or contracted labor, be sure to share your message with all of them so that you can maximize results. You made the decision to trust these people when you added them to your company, so it is best to include all of them in the process. Otherwise you will have people going in so many directions there will be confusion in the workplace that will be extended to customers.
Fourth question, how are you going to get the word out? First, you must determine your company's needs as well as how to meet those needs. I am not referring to "word of mouth" although having a great reputation is highly important. You cannot depend solely on others to spread the word of how wonderful you are. If you have a limited advertising budget there are ways to get it done without it costing a fortune. With today's social media outlets, you can spread your message easily and efficiently. Did you know that within the United States alone in the last minute approximately 75 billion text messages and more than 168 million emails have been sent? Other forms of advertising include direct mail, publication ads, tradeshows, webinars, banner ads and many other available avenues. Closely evaluate your circulation with each of these offers and request verification from the advertising companies.
Advertising can be expensive if you over-promise and under-deliver. Be sure to have an easy and effective way to monitor which marketing pieces are working for you. If your leads match your desired customer but your results are not ideal, evaluate your message. Is your message precise? With all the ways to communicate, it is even more important to create a clear and defined message that targets the need that you specifically fill and how you do it better than anyone else. Also remember that customers tend to work with the businesses they like. So it is okay to be personal as to how you are benefiting their needs. Establishing where and how the message is being sent is the fourth step in the process of No Name to Top Name.
As you begin to establish yourself as a Top Name be aware of a few pitfalls. Be wary of well intended advice that distracts or deters you from your plan. Business associates and colleagues may have the best intentions of helping you with advice as they start to see your growth, but remember you need to filter the ideas. Sometimes it is difficult to not fall under the glamour of someone you respect or consider to be successful in business who gives you "their way to make it better." Just because it worked for their business doesn't mean it will work for yours. Again, evaluate who you are, what your customers' needs are and how you best fulfill them. If you are achieving positive results then why make changes?
Have the confidence in yourself and your team to follow the plan. As a part of the plan you should have set measurable goals with timelines. Are those goals reasonably achievable? If so, then patience is a key to success. We are a "now" society. Remember that building a Top Name takes some time. You want this to be long term -- the last thing you want is to rise and fall quickly. Allow enough time for your plan to work before making adjustments.
Another reminder is that trust and respect are earned not demanded or forced. As you become a Top Name your customers will trust your ideas and respect the relationship. If you start making too many changes too often that affect how you are able to provide your service or product to your customers it could seriously damage your results. The last thing you want is to be a flash in the pan or lose any integrity. Creating new customers is the most expensive part of your business. Maintaining a steady growth within each of your current customers is the least expensive way to grow. Developing a lasting reputation as a Top Name takes work and determination. Be sure to be respectful of all the people who help make it happen.
By knowing who you are to your industry, your customers' needs, how you will best fulfill those needs, where you are going to go, follow the plan on how to get there and once you arrive, you will be onto the next level by repeating the same steps. Watch out for some of the common pitfalls and you will be well on your way from No Name to Top Name.
About the Author:
Stephanie Beck has been working for over 10 years in Sales and Marketing as a Massage and Spa Industry Professional for many top name companies including Biotone, Scrip Companies and Bon Vital, Inc. Stephanie has written in-depth protocols and taught several classes for massage and spa products throughout the US. She has served as a published guest columnist for Massage Today and Marketing Matters. She and her husband live in San Diego, CA. If you have any questions about branding or marketing, she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.