When I was in college, one of the first marketing concepts I learned was about the power of a brand. “A brand is a promise,” my professor would say. “It’s a promise to your customers to uphold certain values that represent how you want to do business and be seen by the rest of the world.”
These values can range from creating the expectation of excellent customer service to following a code of ethics with each transaction. The important thing is that those values are consistent throughout a business’ life.
When businesses stray from those values, they tend to take a beating. This is especially true for larger organizations. For instance, when United Airlines dragged a passenger off one of its flights, that image was scarred into the minds of countless airline travelers. As a result, United Airlines took a major stock hit, but more importantly, their brand was damaged.
While damage to a brand can be mended over time, some cases can be quite irreparable. For me, a good example of a brand being irreparably damaged is Samsung. When phones start exploding in consumers’ faces to the point that airlines don’t want them in the main cabin, you know that you have a catastrophic problem on your hands.
To make matters worse, there isn’t an extraneous customer-caused circumstance that led to this. The phones were simply manufactured poorly. And any company that displays that type of recklessness doesn’t deserve the customers it has.
However, we specialize in helping small businesses. For many of them, they face a very different issue when it comes to brand: Being able to create one.
As a small business owner, even one with years of experience, you’re oftentimes just beginning the long ascent to creating a brand. For many, this can take decades. But there are basic principles worth upholding to reach that status over time.
A Man of His Word
As I said, one of the key attributes of a brand is consistency. If you make an actual promise to fulfill a customer request, follow through on it. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.
But more importantly, creating an unchanging experience is key for your customers. If you attend a restaurant for the first time, you expect quality service or you’ll never return. That pretty much goes without saying.
But if you return a second time, you expect the same level of service, or even better. If the service does not live up to the memory of the first experience, you will question your original visit. And then you might not return. After all, there are plenty of restaurants out there, so why would you?
But this also extends beyond customers. Everyone who interacts with you and your business has an expectation. This can include your employees who look up to you for leadership, your vendors who depend on a stable business partner, or even your friends and family who know you on the most intimate of levels.
Stick to Your Guns
Starting a business is one of the most overwhelming accomplishments in my life. Once the paperwork was complete, the first thing to pop in my head was, “Okay. So now what?”
In many ways, it’s an amplified version of the first 26 years of my life. Decisions must be made on a dime, and every choice can make or break the future of your company. But whatever you do, stick to the overarching strategy that you’ve laid out.
Just like with values, your long-term strategy needs to be dependable and consistent over time. That’s how you will see the dividends. However, I’m not saying you can’t pivot with the details. While running a business, people are hired and fired, some marketing tactics work while others fail miserably, and financial pitfalls lurk around every corner.
This is why it’s crucial that you identify contingency plans for scenarios A through Z, so that when it rains, you have an umbrella in waiting.
I Know Kung Fu
During the early part of my career, this is the concept that tripped me up more than anything else in the world. Three people would ask something of me, but then a fourth would come over with an assignment that was easily priority number one. Now, what do I say to the first three?
This moral dilemma has caused countless problems early on, so it came to a point where I had to learn to anticipate needs before they came up. This mentality not only scored countless brownie points with everyone around me, it helped me to retain structure throughout my life.
Before, my gofer-like strategy let to hours upon hours of never-ending work, and no one was ever satisfied, regardless of how hard I tried. By retraining my intuition to anticipate needs ahead of time, I’ve obtained the skills required to satisfy everyone from clients to family while simultaneously breaking work down into manageable parts.
Building a brand doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a long journey that will leave even the mightiest wind-scourged. But it’s also worth it. Not only will you find that you’ve created long-lasting relationships with virtually everyone around you, but it’s a surefire way to accomplish your life goals, regardless of where they lie.
To start building your brand, send us a message at RizzoYoungMarketing.com. Happy Thanksgiving!