In the process of starting your business, you’ve surely considered the idea of what it means to build your brand. Chances are, you’ve contemplated the different directions you could attempt to steer the business toward, and perhaps, to what degree you would be able to influence the way people understand your company. Overall, it’s perplexing, the number of contradictory messages on the internet in blogs and articles about the influence an entrepreneur has on their company’s public perception of their brand.
Some of the top marketing and content industry leaders have discussed tips on how to begin building a brand. They call you to define it, to be consistent with your tone on all touch points, to be bold and go beyond industry norms.
Others posture that it is not within your ability to define your own brand, and that public opinions developed about your business will do this for you over time. You may choose your policies and your marketing messages, but ultimately, your consumer and the market will decide your brand.
This post is an attempt to uncover an answer that is both true for individual companies and objectively the truth…
The Truth: Your Brand is a Person
This is not a new idea, or a revolutionary concept at all. Anyone who’s worked at a successful marketing firm or PR agency has encountered this thought process. The concept stems from the objective truth that you begin with an idea. As an entrepreneur, you turn that idea into a reality-- much like two people have a baby. That reality, in its infancy, becomes your small business. Ideally, eventually that small business grows into a successful and fully functioning being with a lifeforce all its own.
Whether you’re a parent or not, you understand the basics of raising a child. Being a good parent could mean trying to raise your little person to be caring, to be thoughtful, to be successful and to be smart (among a million different other traits). This is also true for your business and your brand.
What is also true of being a parent is that, even though you impart as much wisdom as you can, retelling anecdotal cautionary tales, employing rules and chores and expectations, your little person ends up being influenced by many external factors. This is SO true of your brand and your business.
Why is This Important for Your Business?
It’s important because there ARE aspects of building a brand that are in your control and there ARE external factors that are not within your control. This is not a dichotomy. This is a fluid, gray area conversation that, much like raising a person, takes trial and error, making mistakes, and adjusting accordingly.
A parent trying to raise a respectable human doesn’t say (or shouldn’t say), “Well these outside influences are going to play such a huge role, I might as well give up on raising my kid.” They also don’t say, “The external factors are so bad in this world, I’m going to shelter little Suzy away and not pay attention to any peripheral beliefs or perceptions.”
As the parent of your semi-malleable business and brand, it’s important to dissect the controllable and uncontrollable aspects. Once you’ve identified what you can control, dive deep into those. If any aspect of the controllable factors is not aligned with how you want to raise your baby business, scrap them and start over.
What’s in Your Control
Every single touch point is an opportunity for consumers to interact with and get to know your brand. Often, your website is their first stop; your first impression. The emotions, thoughts or judgements evoked within the first 15 seconds will shape a person’s entire perception of your business.[i]
Take that in. You have only 15 seconds to convince someone who’s landed on your page to buy your product or service. Make sure that your homepage says exactly what you do, why you’re the BEST at what you do, and how it fills a need they currently have. If you don’t accomplish this in 15 seconds, you’re potentially missing out on revenue.
Your Social Media
Unlike your website, your social media accounts are not a one-way mirror. Each account is a chance to engage with your audience, who is often your consumer. How you decide to comment, like and share content expresses your brand personality.
It’s important that this personality is consistent, respectful and interesting. I say again: Your social media content should be INTERESTING. Consumers are wise to traditional sales tactics, and to the fact that marketers are inundating social media. If you are going to leverage an account to increase your reach and your revenue, it cannot be standard sales talk.
Feel free to share personal happenings, employee accomplishments or even what a typical day in your office looks like. This is an opportunity for your brand to take on a persona that brings value to the individuals who’ve decided to follow your business page.
Your Business Model and Client Intake
When designing your client intake format and your standards of communication, remember that this is yet another touch point that your consumers interact with. Unlike your social media accounts, your tactics here should be professional and succinct.
The more convoluted and time-consuming your process, the less likely your clients will be to follow through or repeat the process. Take time outlining and designing your processes with the client in mind. Avoid technical jargon on your online portals, print collateral and when you’re meeting with clients.
Additionally, make your intake process attractive! Filling out forms online or in print is a mundane procedure. Adding pictures, quotes and design elements akin to your brand look will make this tedious, yet necessary process more a bit more enjoyable.
Regarding other aspects of your business model, there are other factors that are within your control to consider:
- Standardize the way employees receive phone calls and answer the phone
- Take notes during every client meeting. Not only does this help you to remember specific requests and agreements, you’ll come off organized and committed.
- Pay consistent and close attention to the processes of your competitors
What's Not in Your Control
This is an abundant world we are living in, and this abundance exists within the market. Once you accept this as truth, then an appreciation can form for your competitor and an opportunity to learn develops. You cannot change the way they operate, the clients they’ve retained and satisfied, or the success they enjoy.
You can choose to watch your competitor from a scarcity mindset, completely closed off to the wealth of information they offer. Or, you can admire the things they do right. Think of your competition as a marketplace you may go to and shop for bits and pieces of all your favorite things.
If your clients are seeing success maintain booths at special events, sending out monthly mailers or hosting client appreciation luncheons, consider those tactics for your business. Rather than trying to change the competition, evolve your individual practices to encompass all of the procures that convert for your competition.
Believe it or not, you are probably not the most important company or person your client interacts with. Much like other external factors that affect your brand image, there are several factors affecting your client, because they’re people, too. If your client is not responding immediately to marketing emails, social media comments, or other touchpoints that are not time sensitive, don’t stress or try to change your client, as this tactic is not usually well-received.
It’s important not to read into the individual writing styles or communication unless it directly pertains to your business. Maintain the consistent demeanor you’ve established in most every situation, swaying only towards improving your tactics.
Other Things You Can’t Control
- The Weather
- Acts of God
- Your In-Laws
Wrap it Up
Ultimately, having a firm grasp on which factors pertaining to your business are in your control, and which are not, will save you time and money long term. Don’t waste time trying to negatively affect your competition. Don’t lose sleep due to failed attempts to alter your client.
Instead, invest your resources into those factors that can have a positive effect on your business. Harness the power of those first 15 seconds on your website. Build meaningful relationships with your clients by engaging them with interesting and thoughtful posts on social media. Design your processes with the client’s perspective in mind.
Do these things, and someday, your business brand will closely resemble a person you’ll be proud to have raised.