Most businesses have some sort of corporate brand identity. Sometimes it’s as simple as a name and a logo. For others, a few signature colors or fonts pepper their social media feeds. For others, there are brand guidelines, rules, and/or templates that were put in place with good intentions, and then never (or rarely) used.
Which is a shame, because the businesses who get organized and take their branding seriously? Those are the businesses that rocket to the top of their industry. Those are the businesses that attract customer after customer. And those are the businesses that crush their competition.
Does successful branding really make that big of a difference? Absolutely! That’s why we put together this list of common problems we see time and time again from small businesses struggling to stay afloat. As you’re reading through, take note of those you may want to revisit for your own business.
1. Underestimating the power of your brand
Successful branding is an incredibly powerful tool – if you let it work for you. Once people recognize your brand and connect it to your business personality, culture, and ethics, they’ll become your biggest cheerleaders without having to be asked. And that is something to strive for. Don’t underestimate the power of a consistent, recognizable brand.
2. Inconsistent across platforms
When your loyal customers start to recognize your brand, they want to see it everywhere. Social media accounts, flyers, your website, business cards, packaging… Any inconsistency creates doubt, confusion, and mistrust – three very difficult emotions to overcome. Be aware of how you use your brand across all platforms and above all, strive for consistency.
3. No defined voice
When talking to your best friend, you know what to expect. You know how they’ll react to good news and bad. You know what makes them upset, and how to cheer them up. They have a tone you’ve come to expect. If they changed that tone it would throw you off and make you wonder how to best respond. Business is the same way. Define your voice, use it consistently, and watch as your customers start to be a little more comfortable around you. When they know you, they trust you. Whey they trust you, they buy from you.
4. No defined guidelines around your logo
Your logo is your strongest identifier. Small enough to fit on a postage stamp while speaking volumes about who you are as a business. If you’re not using your logo consistently, you’re sacrificing a great opportunity to build brand awareness and trust among your most loyal customers.
5. Lack of brand ambassadors within your company
Hand in hand with #4 is a lack of brand ambassadors. First, let’s discuss those within your company. If your employees don’t believe in your business or brand identity, then how will your customers ever be able to believe in you? Start from the inside and work outward.
6. Lack of brand evangelists
If your customers see happy employees, they’ll know that your brand personality is what you say it is. Go with your gut when creating your brand. STay true to who you are as a business owner. Those are the morals that your customers want to get behind. And in this day and age of social media, it’s incredibly simple for your customers to promote your brand for you – assuming you’ve given them the tools (logos, colors, & imagery) and motivation (you’re true to the identity you promote.)
7. No defined social message
When you post on social media, you’re telling the world how you want to be portrayed. With every share, every like, and every retweet, you’re telling your brand evangelists (and future brand evangelists) how you want to be portrayed. No defined guidelines around social posting? You’re opening yourself up for others to set the tone for you. And you may not like the tone they chose.
8. Under-developed avatar
If you haven’t determined your ideal customer’s age, sex, income level, hobbies, and family status, you cannot possibly know what they truly want out of your products or services. Define your customer avatar with an insane level of detail, and sell directly to them. Every element of your brand should reflect what that avatar wants and how they want it.
9. Not speaking to your customer
Once you have a defined customer avatar, speak only to them. Make every customer feel like every single ad, blog post, newsletter, and web page was created by you, just for them. Just imagine the special warm fuzzy feelings of belonging and recognition they’ll feel every time they check in.
10. Ignoring what makes you unique
Afraid to put yourself out there because you’re afraid you’ll miss out on prospective customers? When it comes to marketing and branding your business, you’re actually doing more harm than good. Unless you give your prospect a human aspect to connect to, they’ll never become the life-long loyal friends every business hopes for.
11. Trying too hard to be different
Competition is tough. There are a lot of businesses out there that are very similar to your own. Creating some crazy scheme and using it within your brand, however, is not the way to make a statement. Be true to your business, your personality, and your culture. The rest will follow.
That’s how brand and customer loyalty is built.
12. Not sticking with your brand
Branding is often mistaken as a marketing campaign. After a few months or maybe a year of consistently marketing your brand, the entire look and feel seems to fade away. Perhaps you’re bored with the previous branding choices. Maybe it wasn’t a strong enough brand to begin with. It’s possible that after testing the brand for a while, it no longer seemed personal or relevant.
Whatever the reason, your brand is something you need to stick with for years. And when it starts to get old, or tired, then, by all means, evaluate and modify. But don’t let the entire brand fade off into the sunset.
The good news is all of these are fixable issues. Once you identify the problems with your brand, you can begin to make the small tweaks and changes that take you from small business to booming money maker.
Looking for help determining your personal business brand? Download the Small Business Branding Checklist.