Without a brand, you have to build a case, every time you get ready to make the sale, as to why you deserve the business. That can be a thankless task. Each time you go through the motions of a sale with a customer, you then get confronted with a series of questions that shows that they don't really trust you.
The big brands had it made. Large budgets and plenty of airtime on the radio and television made it possible for well-known names to remain, well, well-known. However, now the rules have changed. It is no longer the preserve of the big brands to maintain and grow their brands, and as a result push the small enterprises out of the game. Now the small to medium sized companies have just as much opportunity and scope for making themselves famous in a small, local market or a large, global market.
Firstly, we need to be clear about what branding is not. Branding is not about your logo or your corporate colours; neither is it your product nor a promise that you make about your company/service/product.
Your brand is a result. In fact, it is your prospect or customer’s gut feeling about your product, service or company, as a result of your presence on-line - your brochures, videos, podcasts and social media output. It even includes how your staff handle customers on the phone. All these factors contribute towards your brand. For a great short description of what branding is, click on the link for a brief interview between Chris Do of The Futur (www.thefutur.com) and Marty Neumeier -
So now we are clear about what branding is, how do you build your brand? As a starting point here are some key words that can help describe and construct the essence of your business:
Bear in mind, there are no shortcuts or easy fixes to convince your prospective customers to consider you over someone else. It boils downs to basic human responses - how do you make them feel and what substance/content/intelligence/authenticity is behind your company name? In today's multi-consumer-touch Internet age, the best description that sums up what we all must be is authentic.
Demonstrating authenticity in everything we do is a sure-fire way to engage with our existing and prospective customers. Nothing to hide, complete openness, complete honesty and being genuinely helpful and transparent.
But how do we do this if we have limited resources?
In order to build your brand you need to be willing to freely share your knowledge and experience with your prospective customers. At first this seems contradictory; we are in business to make money, not to give away our hard-earned knowledge to someone who may or may not buy from us. However, in this Age of Information, if you want to build trust with prospective buyers, the only way you are going to do this is by giving them the information they are looking for. Your opportunities to present your company face-to-face are limited as most prospects won’t even agree to an appointment until they’ve carried out their own research on-line.
And you can be sure that this research will be extensive including the reading of blogs, watching videos and listening to podcasts. This is where the conversation starts – in fact long before you are even aware that the prospect is looking. If you want your brand, i.e. your company, reputation, knowledge and abilities to become known, then you must be willing to offer this information freely.
When you can really communicate the essence of you and your business to visitors, prospects and even existing customers who don't know you so well, you will see a marked increase in the profitability of the relationships you have.
As an introduction to the science of branding, if you’ve never considered it before, take a look at these books, which will give you a high-level view of branding:
However, to take this further, you need to think about building trust with your potential customers. The way to do this is by producing valuable content, i.e. content that your potential customers are looking for, in the media in which they choose to consume it. Do not assume that one blog posted every month about a customer success story is going to be enough. Nor will one corporate video, that only tells the customer about how great you are, have any lasting impact on prospects.
Your prospects are now looking for answers to questions. For example: -
All these, and others, are questions that your prospects could be asking BEFORE they start to think about WHO they should engage to provide the product and service they might buy.
Because you need to build a ‘trust’ relationship with your prospects; and the way to do this is by writing for them - not to them or for you. You want your ‘brand’ to be synonymous with honest, reliable and trustworthy information. You want to become the ‘trusted advisor’ to your prospects, long before you are aware of their desire to buy.
If 60% of the buying process is carried out before a company, any company, is contacted, then that assumes that buyers are doing their research before they want to engage with you. And that research comes in the form of reading blogs, watching videos and listening to podcasts. If you have very little in the way of valuable content, that you are willing to offer free of charge, then you won’t be part of the buyer’s research. You will not be in on the conversation.
First and foremost, your content must be of value to a prospective customer. It must answer their most pressing questions. However, in order to reach the widest possible audience, you also must consider the media. Content consumers are not all the same so you must offer information in the following formats:
You need to be where your prospective customers are – on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Google. If you are hiding away on your website with limited optimization for the search engines, or only sending out emails to a database, then you are not going to visible to a wider audience of prospects.
You need to demonstrate that you are an authority in your given area of expertise by providing valuable content to your potential customers. And you must provide that content in different media so that you have the greatest possible reach; it is unwise to belief that your prospects will only read blogs. Demand for video and podcast content is unprecedented; if you’re not offering it, you are not part of the conversation.
Given that you now know you must produce large amounts of content in order to promote your brand, the question you may be asking yourself is “how am I going to do this?” If you’ve never produced more than a monthly blog, then this task may seem overwhelming. Our recommendation would be, firstly, to evaluate your current content position and ask yourself the following questions. This list isn’t exhaustive, but it will give you a starting point:
If you are already happy with your content and have the in-house expertise to produce videos and podcasts, then make sure all your content is fully optimized for the search engines. If you’re not sure you’ve done everything then look at our Essential B2B SEO guide for CEOs, which will give you a comprehensive overview of why you should be optimizing and how to do it.
However, if you’re not sure how to approach the task of evaluating your content, then you may want to consider getting in some external help. At salesXchange we offer a 3-day Digital Marketing Technology Workshop for companies who want to start the ball rolling with content. The workshop gives you and your staff the opportunity to look objectively at your existing content and we give you some hands-on experience of using the latest video and podcast equipment.
Typically, content is produced piece-meal, which will produce piece-meal results. That is why we recommend you produce around 90 pieces of content (30 in each medium) in advance of releasing it, which will give you approximately 4-6 weeks’ worth of unique content depending on how often you post it. As a guide you may want to look at our Social 334 Strategy, which is designed to guide you step-by-step through the process of distribution.
This strategy focuses on social media platforms as this is where many prospective customers ‘hang out’. If you start to own your space on social media, you brand and reputation will grow, which will ultimately lead to more business and sustained growth.
As you can see branding is far from just pretty graphics and an interesting logo. It is more about your reputation as a trusted advisor and is developed and grown through your on-line content and willingness to provide information as no cost. If you believe that all your content should be gated, i.e. a prospect can only access it by giving you their email address, then they will almost certainly click away to find ‘free’ information elsewhere. The conversation will stop there.
Build your brand by providing valuable, worthwhile content – in every type of media – and see your business grow and your profits increase.