What do you remember about the brands you buy from? Nine times out of 10, it’s the personality of the business. For big-name companies like Old Navy, Coca-Cola, or BMW, this is crucial, but small businesses can also use their personality to attract more customers.
By personality, we’re talking about branding, a word that many small business owners freely admit they don’t understand.
Branding is the image you present to the world: the tone of voice of your copy, the colors you use, the marketing package you present, the style of your logo, graphics, and photos. Essentially, branding is the way you communicate your company to your audience – verbally and graphically.
To keep it simple, I’m calling it personality.
Whose Voice Is Your Audience Hearing?
A question I regularly ask new clients when we begin working together is: If your company were a famous person, who would it be?
This is silly, right? But it gets people thinking about how their businesses are speaking to their audience. If your business’s voice sounds like Henry Kissinger, is it any wonder that your website doesn’t generate many leads? What if it sounded more like Charlie Sheen – disorganized, misguided, and unstable? Still no good.
So pick that person carefully. Tape his or her picture on your desk or wall, and then go through your marketing materials one by one to see how they can be tweaked to find this voice. Your customers will respond!
Personality Differentiates You from Your Competitors
Everyone struggles with how to woo prospects away from the competition, particularly if they have a larger marketing budget and a more established name. If you recognize a powerhouse competitor in your industry, that means their branding is working. They’ve spent time on developing their name and image.
The ultimate goal of branding is to make your business’s name synonymous with the product or service you sell, while defining your business as a distinctive provider of that product or service. Not the only one – just the only one that does it the way you do it, which just happens to be the best way.
Avoid Imitation Like the Plague
While competitive analysis has its place, some business owners forget to put it in perspective. You can never know all the nuances of what it is that makes customers do business with your competitors: product selection, customer service, referrals, marketing, timeliness, longevity, communicativeness, etc. You might get some idea from their ex-customers, but typically only when things go bad.
You probably won’t surpass that powerhouse competitor, and imitation of their branding will only confuse your own. Focus on defining what you do differently and better for your target audience. Find the voice of your own business.
Think about all the Apple imitators. Whether it’s their operating system or the iPad, companies like Microsoft and Samsung have been trying to copy Apple ever since they hit big. With the opposite effect.
Consumers are more savvy than ever and aren’t fooled by the imitation product. The fact that they’re not able to come up with their own creative solutions can be a brand turn-off.
Defining your business’s personality separates you from your competitors. If you spend more time trying to copy what they’re already doing well than trying to find your own voice, you’re actually making your business less of a player in the field.
Sketch Your Target Customer
Your target customer is NOT YOU. I can’t emphasize this enough. It might’ve been you once, but it’s not you anymore.
Too many business owners define their branding by what they “would like to see if it were me.” You have to think about the person at the other end of the sales pitch and production cycle. How can you solve their problem if you don’t speak their language?
Spend some time creating your average customer: Give him or her a name, an appearance, a personality, a median income, a family, hobbies, line of work. Define how much free time that person has and how motivated they are to purchase or become a client. What defines their decision-making: customer service or price? variety of selection or customer reviews? How many companies like yours are they most likely to consider before making a decision?
If that person came to your website, would they feel stimulated by your voice and your imagery? Keeping that customer in mind, look at your statistics for your marketing materials. What is the bounce rate for your website? Which pages are people exiting from? What was the overall response rate for the last printed promotional piece you sent out? How did your last two weeks of social media posts do? Are you hitting that person?
Redefining Your Personality
Sometimes, it’s simply easier to start from scratch in order to redefine your personality, rather than trying to force the existing branding into another branding’s shell. We rebranded a few months ago. We wanted our personality to appeal to our target’s personality: proactive, clever, competent, educated, independent, creative, responsive (this list goes on). We pitched 95% of what we had and started over.
We spent as much time deciding on the message, tone, graphics, and organization of the information – the branding – as we did building the new website. There is a lot of competition in our industry. We must stand out. (Who doesn’t, by the way?)
We received a phone call a few days ago from a prospect who had spent several hours searching the Internet for Connecticut web developers. He called us because he felt, from the style of our branding, that we would do things a bit differently than the other designers he had found – and that’s what he was looking for. We can assume from that first phone call that this will be a quality lead.
Another prospect I spoke with a few weeks ago said that she “just liked our style.” Again, that’s a relationship I want to pursue. It goes beyond, “I need a price quote for…” and makes a connection that I’ll look forward to building upon.
Don’t Be Afraid to Push the Envelope
Depending on your industry, you may be afraid to go too far astray. Don’t be. It’s the businesses that aren’t afraid to be unique and creative that ultimately have the biggest impact. It’s the target audience’s response to your branding that you want, that defines who you are while making a lasting impression.
Interested in a “Personality Review”? Enter your website address in the Comment area below and we’ll give you our honest professional advice for your company’s branding!