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Developing Your Unique Brand

2006 | Apr 28 in Marketing

By E-Myth Business Coach,

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Developing Your Unique Brand
The Importance of Perception

How is your business perceived by your target market? What unique attributes do customers and prospects associate with your business? Do you know?

A brand typically includes two elements: sensory elements - which include your company name, logo, colors, and other graphic or text elements, and intangible expectations - which are the perceptions associated with a product or service that arise and reside in the minds of everyone who comes in contact with your business. In this article, we will focus on the intangible expectation element of a brand.

Providing Value

You have the ability to define and communicate a brand message that will influence how you and your firm are perceived. Without a clear brand message, your target market will make their own assumptions about who you are, what you offer, and what your business represents.

For your business to grow in a consistent and repeatable pattern, your customers, prospects, employees, and the community must positively associate you and your business in their minds with something that offers a unique value. For owner/producer businesses like financial planners, or real estate and insurance agents, their very livelihood depends on making the time to strategize, communicate, and deliver on a unique brand promise. Even if you work under the umbrella of a large national brand, the key to growing your business in a local, relationship-driven environment is to be perceived as a unique provider of value.

Developing a Branding Strategy

Building your identity as a unique brand takes work, but it is work that any business regardless of size or industry can do, and do well. First you must explore what your unique value is to your customers, then crystallize it to help you focus on the one or two most important attributes, and lastly communicate your brand message to all those who need to hear it. Weíll look at each of these steps in turn:

Explore

In this first step you need to examine your assumptions about what your customers, employees, and community are thinking. What unique value do you provide for your customers? Maybe itís personalized solutions; maybe itís faster or more responsive customer service; maybe itís low prices and no hassle set up. But you need to be sure. You need to find out from your customers directly. Surveys or phone interviews are a great way to gather this information. Try asking three of your customers, or your employees, a few simple questions to identify:

  • The value you provide to customers (hint: it is not a product or service)
  • The number one compliment you hear from customers
  • What you do better then anyone else, especially your closest competitors

Crystallize

After receiving input from a few different sources you need to analyze and define the unique value attributes that were identified. Focus on just one or two key elements of the feedback and use those attributes to develop your unique brand.

For example, a financial advisor determined that his unique value to clients was personal attention and service. How did he know? Simple -- he asked his customers and employees. One client said that she valued the extra time and effort he spent explaining the details of investment options with her, while his office manager told him that clients said that they liked his individualized service and advice, most especially the fact that they can meet face-to-face with him rather than have an impersonal five minute phone call.

Communicate

Now that you have determined your unique value attributes, you need to follow through by actively and consistently communicating them. Your unique brand should be integrated and broadcast in all your marketing communications as a means to guide peopleís decisions to do business with you. It is important to note that, because your brand is based on how you and your business are perceived, the marketing messages that you will create should serve to reinforce these intangible elements of your unique brand. It is also important from time-to-time to evaluate the unique value that you and the business provide to your target market to ensure that it is continuing to positively impact them and, if it isnít, you will need to go back and reevaluate your branding strategy.

Growing the Business

Effectively developing your own unique brand identity is critical for growing your business sustainably and profitably. Further, as your business expands, having a defined brand will allow you to build on the strengths of your businesses and more easily leverage that unique value in new markets.

Clearly, developing a unique brand requires getting information from others, working to understand that information through objective analysis, and then effectively and consistently communicating your message through your marketing channels and other customer touch points.

What branding strategies have YOU employed that either were Ė or were not Ė successful? We encourage you to share them with the Community!

Comments

  1. .Justyn B. says:

    FANTASTIC OVERVIEW. My lady and I are a start up enterprise in NZ. We give thanks for the many tools and educative guidance you and your posts provide. We are working toward securing the capital necessary to afford an Emyth Business Advisor/Coach to walk with us through the prototype design into establishing 32 franchises throughout NZ in five years. We are 'E-Scape' - the total business, study and coffee escape! We look forward to hosting you and your NZ counterparts in the near future. Warm regards Justyn & Kay

    Submitted May 2, 2006 2:54 AM

  2. .Mike W. says:

    It seems to me that a lot of businesses are branding themselves along the personalised service line such as: listens and understands clients cares about clients approachable available How do you brand to be different to what a lot of businesses are saying? Mike

    Submitted May 24, 2006 2:42 PM

  3. .Hasan L. says:

    Hi Mike, Thanks for your comment. How would you answer these three statements or questions: * The value you provide to customers (hint: it is not a product or service) * The number one compliment you hear from customers. * What you do better then anyone else, especially your closest competitors? Spend some time working on them and let us know what you come up with, then we can talk about developing your brand statement.

    Submitted May 24, 2006 5:19 PM

  4. .Richard R. says:

    Very good words, but it seems a litte superficial to me. Everybody wants to be known as caring, easy to do business with, etc. Of course you need to be those things or you simply wont survice. However, branding is much more than that. I am starting a real estate and mortgage business and have used E-Myth strategies to help guide me in many areas of the business, especially marketing and branding. Because, especially in mortgages, our services and products are essentially a commodity, branding is going to be the only way to differentiate ourselves from the pack. We have come up with a few specific areas that we believe set us apart and will focus on those areas to start creating our branding efforts. But I would argue that trying to build a brand around "outstanding service" is not targeting your branding effort enough. At this point we still have more questions than answers, but we are having a great time getting there. Richard R

    Submitted May 24, 2006 11:44 PM

  5. .Leanne S. says:

    Sorry for the cynical comment in advance but- no one believes in the "we care about the customer" brand anymore.  It's kinda like the "I really like working with people" statement on a resume.  These days its about cost savings and saavy business to business relationships.  The companies that care the most about you are the ones who can help you maximize your bottom line, whether you're a retailer or a non profit.

    Submitted Jul 24, 2009 2:14 PM

  6. .Joe C. says:

    I agree with Leanne-terms like "care about clients" etc have been bandied about by businesses for years to the point that it’s like the fable of the boy crying wolf. While it is critical for a business to differentiate itself through its service, how to communicate this and make it believable to potential customers in marketing material is where my problem would lie. And indeed how to communicate this to staff to make sure that have the same passion for customer service

    Submitted Nov 18, 2009 11:20 AM

  7. .Sylvia L. says:

    Take pride in cleaning

    Submitted Aug 4, 2010 5:23 PM

  8. .Debbie S. says:

    I don't have any business training and spent most of my working life on the other side of the counter. I only started my own business after becoming too disabled to do my regular work - but could not stand the lack of a focus and challenge.

    I have a retail craft shop. I chose this because it's something I knew something about, and I like people. I live on a small island off Auckland, New Zealand which has (only ~7,000 people most of the year). It has a large artist community. The island already had another well-established craft shop. So, I felt I needed to establish a point of difference.

    I decided that the other craft shop (which is very strong in artist supplies and needlecrafts) did not have a sufficient array of beads. So, my focus has been on beading related crafts. I am adding a few other lines because people keep looking for it. But, my space and the island is small - so I specifically try to avoid copying what my competitor sells (barring minimal supplies of some items that are commonly requested).

    As a very experienced  shopper, I think that Hasan L's comments (above) hold the clues to successful branding. Branding is not just about a name. More importantly, it is about creating something that the customer perceives as "special" that makes them come to choose one business over another. That's an emotional response from them (not from the seller, though the seller needs to generate that response).

    A name alone is not sufficient. There has to be a difference. Too often (I think), people perceive that some business seems to be popular - so they just copy it; without taking into consideration who would choose them over the competition or whether the locale can sustain 2 of the same type of business.

    I believe that what customers look for (and I'm a very experienced customer) when choosing one store over another when there are multiple options is often the fact that one place appears different to them when compared with the other. For example: cost - eg choosing a $2 shop or a place that advertises (and performs to the promise) that they always have the lowest prices; or that they have the greatest variety; or the best quality; or that they will deliver to your door; or it's the freshest; or it's Greek or Italian etc (in a place that is not already inundated with that particular offering.)

    I think the special point of difference (which is critical for survival) has to be strongly linked to the name and the motto (or whatever business gurus call it) in a catchy way. Also, the business should be known for following through on it's motto.

    Hence, my shop: BB's Beads - Treasure Isle ("We Desire To Inspire")© was born. We have returning customers from all over the world who come to the island to holiday or have holiday homes here. Our chief strengths (based on results from me personally asking people why they decided to come into the shop; or catching them as they start to leave, and asking them what they had been looking for) has been: personal service, and the huge variety of beads and findings we stock.

    Besides another craft shop, we have a $2 shop on the island - and I'm located next door to it. They have taken to selling craft supplies too. But because I specialize in beading, my competitors do not have the range.

    My chief competitors are not the local retail businesses. It is the Internet. Unlike grocery stores, grog shops, restaurants and services, people can now buy things from anywhere over the internet. Internet based businesses have only a fraction of the overhead of a retail business. It is not possible to price to meet the Internet market in a retail shop.

    For all of the businesses on the island this current recession has been devastating. Branding, point of difference etc makes little difference when the customers physically are not there.

    Although I'm gearing up to switch over to an internet base for my business, I would prefer to keep my retail business going because I like the face to face aspect of dealing with customers.

    I have hung in for over 5 years, but I'm having to very substantially financially support my little business' existence; despite glowing comments from customers.  My comments on what makes customers tick should therefore be taken with a grain of salt.

    I feel strongly that things will improve, but, like many other small businesses, I can't hold on much longer unless the tourist trade improves and people feel safe about their jobs and incomes and are willing to spend their money on non-essentials.

    I think governments and television need some training in positive marketing before retailers anywhere will be able to really see a difference 

    Persistent communication (which is effectively scare-mongering) from governments and TV - whether its on terrorism (which in effect rewards terrorists with the attention they crave);  or making breakfast, lunch and supper news out of the negative aspects of life and the economy is dragging down the psyche of nations around the world.

    These factors badly need to be addressed to turn economies around and bring some sense of security and happiness for people. Then people will be more interested in positive things.

    Our nations need to inspire people that: "She'll be right..."; as they say here in New Zealand and stick to the punch line.

    Submitted Aug 25, 2010 1:04 PM


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