Your company has a name, a logo and you may even have a mascot…but how can you build your company brand to obtain recognition within the marketplace?
The reason you know who Nike, Disney and Starbucks are at first glance or first mention, is because they’ve worked long and hard on brand recognition—and it’s paid off! Of course, I realize these are multi-billion-dollar companies with massive marketing budgets that helped them get to where they are today, but even your small to medium-sized business can gain visibility in the marketplace and establish your brand as the one current (and prospective!) clients think of first.
To find out where your company ranks on the recognition scale, start by talking to your current customers. Don’t be shy about asking them where they heard about you, what their first impression of your service/product was, and how it compared with your competitors. Of course, this calls for tact, not pushy, in-your-face interrogation! You can easily (and inexpensively) find out this key information by:
Conducting one-on-one interviews
Organizing focus groups
Recruiting marketing professionals to conduct customer surveys
Now that you’ve discovered how your customers view you, it’s time to take it one step further and submit a survey to your employees. It can be amazing and eye-opening how many different opinions can reside inside one company relative to who you are, who you want to be and what you stand for.
If you really want to get down to the heart of what your brand is/should be, consider conducting a compression planning session with key players within your organization.
Select three to five key issues relative to your company and your brand. For this illustration, we’ll use the example question: What word best describes our brand?
Everyone gets an opportunity to say and write down their opinion of what that descriptive word is, then all submissions are collected on index cards and placed on a main board. (And yes, everyone can, and usually does, submit more than one word.)
All participants then walk up to the main board where all the cards are displayed and proceed to “vote” by placing markers next to their top three choices. I know, you’re probably thinking, “well, everyone will just vote for the words they provided”, but the beautiful thing about this process is that it allows everyone to hear new and different points of view in an open, non-judgmental forum.
After everyone has voted, all the cards are taken down from the board and the facilitator (a non-biased, third-party marketer who knows what questions to ask and how to ask them) will “tally” the top three cards that got the most “votes.”
The process of step 3 is repeated, with everyone voting for their favorite, from the top three words. By process of elimination, the “winning” word is identified by unanimous decision, with everyone having had the chance to have their opinions heard and shared with the group in a “safe” environment.
After the compression planning session is completed and all of the results are in, the marketing firm will compile and present a “results/recommendations” report, identifying areas where your company needs to strengthen and/or clarify your brand.
As I mentioned before, it’s very eye-opening to what individuals will discover about the perceptions others have about the company they all work for, through a compression planning session.
Make sure your brand says what you want it to say to current and potential customers. Is your company positioned to be fun, contemporary and casual? Then convey that through your logo, your messaging and all other aspects of your branding.
Not only is it important to convey your company’s “personality,” but broadcasting what differentiates you—why customers should choose your product or service over the others—is equally important. Is it price point, customer engagement or dependable delivery? Emphasize what it is that makes you different in your branding.
With all the different marketing channels available to raise your company up to the top of people’s minds, make sure each channel is conveying the same thing! It is imperative for your brand to be consistent across the board! Use the same branded color palette on your digital materials as you do in your print advertisements and billboards.
Your employees are your biggest brand ambassadors. Devote time and attention to making sure they know (and understand!) your company’s brand message, so they can then emulate that message to your customers.
A brand is a whole lot more than a name and a logo. It’s the emotion that is felt whenever that brand comes to mind. When I hear Nike—I immediately think “Determined, confident.” Disney? “Happy, free and easy.” Emotions evoked by Starbucks could be “Inspired or comfortable.”
The more your brand affects the emotions and sensibility of your customers, the more memorable it will be.
Take advantage of online and offline communities, based on what kind of people you want to connect with. You don’t need to be on every social network out there but taking the time and energy to develop and grow on the network(s) that best fit your audience can boost your brand exponentially at minimal cost!
Get out and talk to the people in your surrounding community. Whether it’s through a “virtual” online community or your next-door neighbors, good old “word-of-mouth” is still one of the best means to build your company brand and rise above the rest.