Do you dream of being the biggest name in your industry? Let’s be honest, don’t we all? But creating a successful brand takes time and hard dollar investment and you have to be able to back it up with a great product or service. When you look at successful brands like Apple, how excited do you get about buying the latest iPad or iPhone? How sure are you that the next time you drink Coca-Cola it will taste exactly the same as it did before? Are you certain, every single time you shop at John Lewis that you’re “Never Knowingly Undersold”? Most of us are pretty sure about how we feel about these brands and the experience we receive when engaging with them. What do you think would happen if you took the key ingredients these giant brands use to create their success and apply them to your business? This article looks at three of the activities these companies focus on; apply them to your business and watch it eclipse the competition.
1. It’s time to get personal
As consumers of products and services we tend to have an emotional response to the brands we like. Although there is no formula for edging your way into the warm embrace of your customer, people connect to the brands with human characteristics. Ever noticed how often Richard Branson appears in Virgin’s TV adverts? I’d suggest it might have more to do with the fact that he’s seen as the peoples’ champion rather than the figure head of a global business and like all knights in shining armour you want to see them as much as possible. Connecting with your customers is vital in creating a successful brand. Face-to-face meetings are the best way to cultivate lasting relationships as it helps to build trust and forge strong partnerships. However, if this is not a viable option then you need to make sure you connect with your customers in other ways on a regular basis. Amazon is a great example of a company that remains on the whole faceless to the outside world but provides a service that builds strong and loyal relationships with their customers. For example, they help their customers to make decisions through book recommendations eg people who brought this book also brought this one. Amazon allows people to write reviews about the books they’ve read and rate them, they send out feedback forms asking you to tell them about the Amazon experience you received. The bottom line is you need to get up close and personal with your customers and connect with them on a regular basis. The more you connect the stronger the relationship will become because it tells your customer that you are interested in them and that they matter.
2. Making your message as clear as water
The one thing the giant brands do really well is they are very clear about what they are offering and what they want to be known for. You don’t have to be a conglomerate to apply this to your business. The biggest brands recognise that mass appeal is no longer a viable strategy today; everything is about having a niche. Laser focusing and targeting your efforts means your energy and hard dollar expenditure is concentrated on a group of people that will hopefully overtime become loyal followers and customers. Apple is one of the most successful brands that do this well. Apple’s products are smart, sleek and they have the added benefit of having the cool factor; they are also one of the largest music retailers in the world. The word that springs to mind when thinking about their products is ‘Revolutionary’. Other firms make similar (if not better) products but look at the Apple devotees queuing round the block to buy the latest gadget and hi-fiving each-other on the way out. Why? Because they know what they’re getting from Apple; they’ve already bought in to the brand. Small business can apply the same strategy. Create some time and sit down with one or two of your trusted business friends and get clear on what your business is about. Get them to ask you the difficult and challenging questions you may not ask yourself. A tool to help with your thinking is a messaging map/grid. The map focuses on one single key message for a single product with supporting attributes. The grid takes it a bit further and looks at the different target audiences for your products/services and identifies how the message differs for different groups.
The most important element is defining your “sweet-spot”. This is the factor that makes your brand memorable. Like John Lewis it might be customer service? Could it be like Ikea and the flatpack revolution? Your sweet-spot might be something that only applies to you and your business but like those of other brands it will be the thing that makes you stand out and makes sure that when they are looking for a service, they call you rather than your competitor.
3. Living up to your promise
FedEx is one of the world’s largest express transportation companies, they recognise that their business is more than just about delivering something from A to B. Reliability is a key element of their brand promise, however, they understand and appreciate that it’s about delivering items that matter to people; like their customers’ treasures, livelihoods, an important business document. As a result they have been able to elevate their brand in the eyes of their customers. So what can small businesses learn from a global organisation such as FedEx.
- Make a promise your customers aren’t expecting. Speed and delivery are probably a given for all express transportation companies. FedEx focuses on the ‘We understand’ campaign and as a result they’ve been able to give their brand more prominence in the market place.
- Make your benefits clear. Why should your customers work with you rather than someone else? When you are clear about them wrap your brand promise around these key benefits.
- Make your brand promises short, simple and direct; Volvo ‘Safety’, Apple ‘Revolutionary’, Facebook ‘Staying connected’. They are simple statements that are embedded in everything they do.
- Make your brand consistent. From products and services, strategy and execution, consistency needs to reach all corners of the business. If you are not consistent you will lose credibility, you will look confused and vague to your clients and the impression you will leave them with is that you haven’t been in business very long.
The fact that you’re small is no bad thing but if you want to be big, then you have to start thinking big. Big brands and big companies can teach the small start-ups a lot. Yes, they might have more money and resources to play with. Yes, they might have offices all over the globe and the numbers of the world’s most important people in the mobiles. But even Steve Jobs started out of his garage. Brands have to start somewhere and sometimes it’s worth pointing our gaze in the direction we want to travel and if we want to be bigger, than that’s up. The brand principles the biggest firms stick to can be adapted whatever the business. If you want to stay small then stay on the side-lines. If you want to grow then you have to get into the game and start playing; it’s the only way to succeed.