When a contractor begins any project, a foundation is constructed.  Whether it be a house, a patio, a skyscraper or a deck, the success of the project depends solely on the beginning: a solid foundation.

What is your foundation?  What is the basis upon how you operate each and every day?  How do you set your business apart from your competitors?

Your Business’s Foundation = Your Brand!

What Not To Do…

With every example that I give, there is always a purpose behind it.  I have made the mistakes numerous times in anything that I have done, and my goal is to provide you with those examples of what NOT to do, so that you don’t stroll down the same dead ends that I did.

That being said…

Don’t Copy The Big Guys

You must look at yourself as unique and innovative.  Copying the big guys in your niche is not going to help your cause at all!

Why?

These guys have the budget and tenure, first off.  They can throw around any motto, brand profile, etc. and not even think twice.  Not only that, but these big brands have had years of practice at their art… THEIR BRAND!

Second, you don’t want to be like “Corporate America”, do you?  Isn’t there a specific reason as to why you started your small business?

I know there were multiple reasons for me!  The specific one was that the corporation I worked for simply could not follow their brand that they were trying to portray to shareholders.

When thinking of your brand, you must treat it like you have created a baby.  Innocent, cute, and beautiful.  But a new baby has no personality, individuality, or strength.

Your brand is the identity of your business.  It is the main way of defining your business to yourself, your team, and your customers.  Ultimately, your business should have values, beliefs, and purposes that drive the every day operation.

This leads me to the next point…

You Cannot Fool Your Team or Your Customers

This is something that I learned the hard way, unfortunately.  I will repeat this time and time again:  If you are doing what you are doing simply for the money, then you are going to either be miserable, fail at the venture, or both.

Your team and consumer can see right through the crap!  You cannot pull the wool over their eyes.  And trust me… they will take to Yelp!, Google, and other forms of social media to make sure others know about their issue with your brand.

As the old saying goes: “10 people will share their bad experience with their friends, whereas only 1 person will share a good experience.”

So how do we combat this, and turn our customers into raving fans?

A strategically defined brand can and will produce the same feeling and emotion of love by your customers.

Don’t believe me?  Look at Apple!  The majority who own an iPhone have completely bought in to the brand with other forms of technology.  I started with an iPhone… then purchased a MacBook, then an iPad, then AppleTV, then another MacBook, and I’m sure this trend will continue.

Their brand of ease-of-access and developing tried-and-true innovation is superior to their competitors.  Why?  Think of this… what does Apple do before their competitors do?  The Zune was introduced before the iPod.  The camera phone was introduced before the iPhone.  Touchscreen devices were designed before the iPod Touch.  Tablets were on the market before the iPad.

Apple uses its competitors as their own “test kitchen”, works out the mistakes they see their competitors make, and markets toward that.  Remember the PC vs. Mac commercials?

Want another example?  Check out Chick-fil-A.  Remember when their CEO announced their position on a touchy subject?  He quoted their purpose statement, and followed their values and mission to a tee with each word he said.  Whether it was right, wrong or indifferent, the brand spoke in unity and acted as an individual with their actions and beliefs.

The result?  A social battle that raged, and sales increased by their raving fans.  Now, the CEO has changed course and stated he will “shut up and just make chicken” due to the alienation of certain markets, but this is a clear example of how and why branding is so powerful.

The key to defining your brand is to understand your niche, know how you can differentiate yourself from your competitors, and know your target audience to the core.  Ultimately, your business is just another person, so think about the personality and belief structure.  Go ahead, write it down now!  It’s step one!

Your Logo Means Nothing

Okay, okay… Your logo does mean something.  But… without a brand behind it, it doesn’t mean a thing.

Think about it!  Just because you have a logo doesn’t mean that you will be an instant success.  With each logo comes reasoning, values, and purpose behind it.  Yes, it is the cover of the book… but you don’t just read a book cover to cover and it becomes a best-seller because the cover is pretty, do you?

Here are some examples of popular logos, but very powerful slogans behind them:

McDonalds: I’m Lovin’ It!

Nike: Just Do It

Ebay: Buy it. Sell it. Love it.

Disney: The Happiest Place On Earth.

Jaguar: The Art of Performance

M&Ms: Melts in your mouth, not in your hands.

Just so we are clear… I’m not telling you to run out and create a catchy slogan (remember the first point).  There is a clear reason why these slogans are so powerful, and it’s because these companies have built and lived their brand and solidified their individuality into this.

You cannot simply slap your logo on anything and everything and think to gain overnight success.  There must be buy in and value behind it.

Want another reason to establish your brand?

Strong values and beliefs will equal dedicated customers.  This is the only truth in business.  Establishing your brand will create loyalty, advocacy, and raving fans.

It also provides price protection, even when your competitors are providing discounts.  Your customers will think, “Yeah… I can get a similar product cheaper over at Joe’s place, but Jane’s is like a friend!  I’ve never received bad service, products or had a negative experience there!”

Time to Act

Here’s the deal:  Get a pen and paper out now.

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Here’s what I want you to do now:

Keys to defining your brand:

1.) Who are you? Values? Beliefs?

2.) What do you do that is different from your competitor?

3.) Why do you believe these things?

4.) How will you achieve this purpose?

This is your basic framework.  Your why to existence.  Your brand character.  This should promote your business, connect with your customers, and differentiate you from the pack.

Remember:

Your Business’s Foundation = Your Brand!

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