By Brandon Moxam, Director of Brand Development at U.S. Lawns
Small business owners often struggle to create an effective brand image that differentiates their company from its competition. This is especially true for brands outside of the traditionally “sexy” industries—technology, fashion, media etc. Regardless of your industry, product, or service, having a compelling brand image is essential.
How can small business owners, who are typically short on time, resources, and cash, develop a brand identity that’s compelling and engaging? Though most business owners don’t have the luxury of hiring branding experts to develop their identities, they can still reach their target audience by understanding what characteristics go into crafting an effective brand image, and defining their own “Brand DNA.”
Crafting An Effective Brand Image.
Brands are complex. Typically when people try to define what a brand is, they often make the mistake of describing details about the brand like the logo or color scheme, rather than the actual definition. In fact, this is where many new business owners go wrong when they’re in the process of creating their brands.
While it’s true that all of these components go into crafting an effective brand image, they’re only considered a few touch points of your brand. A brand is a company’s or individual’s set of values (their identity) that defines them. It is who they are.
An effective brand…
Staying true to yourself is vital to the success of your brand. To ensure that your brand is authentic, list the value propositions that your good or service provides for your customers. You should also think about what makes your business different from your competitors. Completing this exercise is an effective way to not only help you understand your business, but also create messaging that will resonate with your customers.
Another important factor to keep in mind is setting the right tone for your brand. Young entrepreneurs tend to want to emulate brands like Apple, Starbucks, or Google, because that’s the type of brands they interact with. But trying to be something that you aren’t (in all aspects of life) will only lead to confusion and distrust. For instance, if an accounting firm claims that their practice focuses on innovative, creative, and futuristic solutions, they could actually turn off potential clients. On the contrary, if the same firm advertised that their core values are focused on offering reliable, strategic, and customized solutions, they would likely attract the type of clients they are looking for.
The same holds true for an industry like landscaping. Everyone knows that this sector isn’t the most glamorous field, and it’s not supposed to be. Thus, an effective brand image would focus on providing quality customer service and reliability for their clients. Regardless of the industry, focusing on what your brand does best, and why, will help you create a compelling and authentic story people will buy into.
Speaks to the Right Audience.
Too many new business owners don’t take the time to think about whom their core audience is. Who does their product or service relate to the best? Some business owners believe that their good or service will help everyone—which is rarely the case. Identifying a specific target audience will help new business owners create the most targeted messaging for all of their brand’s touch points (logo, marketing collateral, website content, etc.).
If you’re having trouble labeling your target audience, conducting primary research by focusing on a few pieces of demographic criteria will help you uncover the audience that relates to your brand. Characteristics such as age, gender, education, geographic location, and martial status are all factors that can help you pinpoint who would be interested in your good or service offering.
To refine your research even further, business owners should take into consideration the feelings, opinions, and attitudes of those groups of people (all factors that go into prompting an action). If your good or service doesn’t align with one of the three pieces of criteria, the chances of them actually using the product or service is small.
Since universal messaging does not resonate with all demographics, you should segment each audience and identify their specific feelings, opinions and attitudes.
Defining Your “Brand DNA”.
Fleshing out the details about your business—including its history—will help you define your “Brand DNA.” It might seem odd, but interviewing yourself like a news reporter can help you hear how you would explain your business to others. To outline your “Brand DNA” ask yourself about your goals, brand position, brand promise, personality, and the brand message.
Divulging the emotion behind the brand is equally as important. An easy way to do this is by thinking about a brand you love and why you love it. Now think, if someone were to come into contact with your business, how would you want him or her to feel?
The next step is to share your “Brand DNA” with close family members, employees, or friends. If you’re able to articulate the brand’s value propositions, messaging, and service offerings in a simple, relatable, and consistent manner—and they understand it—then you’ve created a successful “Brand DNA.”
Your “Brand DNA” influences how your business communicates and makes decisions on a daily basis. For example, if your company brochure doesn’t align with the brand’s characteristics, then it doesn’t support the brand. The same goes for the employees you choose to hire. If they’re not demonstrating the brand’s culture, it can be detrimental to your customer experience. As companies grow, it is critical that they educate new hires on the company’s core values and principles to sustain a successful business culture.
When is it Time to Rebrand?
Determining the right time to rebrand can be a challenging task for many new business owners. Because rebranding is an expensive investment and is time consuming, owners need to be certain that it’s a healthy decision for the business and its employees.
The most significant indicator that it’s the right time to rebrand is if your business story doesn’t match your brand anymore. For example, if your service offerings or products don’t align with your brand’s messaging any longer—it’s time to rebrand. Other variables that can cause your brand to shift include organization growth, new competition in the marketplace, or leadership/key employee changes.
Brandon Moxam joined U.S. Lawns as Director of Franchise Recruiting in 2007 and is now Director of Brand Development. He has been instrumental in the U.S. Lawns branding development since 2012. He manages the franchise recruiting department at U.S. Lawns and works closely with potential new franchisees to fully educate them on our U.S. Lawns systems and processes that are in place to guide them to build a successful business. In addition, Brandon is a Certified Franchise Executive and is active within the International Franchise Association.