As a marketing consultant to many businesses, one of the key aspects (or in fact the key aspect) of success I always put to a client is I am here to help you build a brand. Clients that take this on board become obsessive in their desire to build their brand and reputation inevitably experiencing high growth or significant interest in what they have to offer, and those that don’t quite simply miss out on the potential success branding can bring to their businesses.
Small to medium size businesses sometimes see a brand as something they obtain in the mass consumer world, this is most definitely not the case and in fact having a brand is incredibly relevant in local business and across the B2B environment. The digital world, somewhere we engage every single day, has demonstrated perfectly and so succinctly why it is vital for businesses of all sizes to build a brand.
So why is it more important now than ever before?
Because of the way we carry out transactions in the digital age, we (as human beings) need to seek assurances and build trust with goods and service providers in an entirely different way (think of buying from the online auction site eBay, where positive seller feedback = trusted eBay trader). Millennials are starting creating their own independence and disposable income, or even starting their own businesses so the need to seek assurances and build trust of others in this new way before making purchasing decisions is only going to continue to grow. To give an example…
I am a keen cyclist, and of course I don the Lycra at the weekends (it’s not pretty) and take to the roads on my finely tuned carbon machine. That machine was a fairly significant monetary purchase. Now, step back 20 years I would have visited the local cycle shop and sought advice from the keen sales person about the best road bicycle for me and to fit my budget. I would have learnt a little about the numerous brands of bicycles they stock, and of course the sales person would have been giving me his or hers learned opinion on what bike to purchase. Now step forward 20 years, to the purchase of my newest bike. Rather than visit a shop, I spent hours on the tablet learning about the best cycle brands, what type of bike is better on hills than another, what kind of saddle doesn’t leave you walking like you have just returned from your first horse riding experience, what are the best gears, chain set, carbon wheels etc., etc., etc. However, I also got opinions from many other cyclists, I was reading reviews on cycling websites and digitally distributed magazines, talking to people on forums, visiting cycling club Facebook pages and groups to ask more experienced roadies what their opinions were. The level of assurance and reassurance I sought to help me make my final decision on what bike I was going to purchase was somewhat obsessive, but I didn’t want to make a mistake. It’s a lot of money and I wanted to know I was making the right purchasing decision for me. All of those elements had a part in forming my final choice, why would I want to step back 20 years to trust just one person’s opinion in the local bicycle shop?
Creating an enviable reputation
Building a brand is about growing a reputation, and empowering others to recommend or share what you have to offer. It is about demonstrating your expertise, and giving impartial (and sometimes free) advice to others. It is also about empowering your customers to say great things about you and share what you have to offer. It is about creating credibility in your offer, but presenting yourself as a professional tried, trusted and tested opportunity.
I made my choice of road bike both consciously and subconsciously. I took the experience of others seriously and recognized that the online cycle shop I finally purchased the road bike from provided excellent information about my new beast. I had chosen the road bike, and the particular chosen website store that provided the best incentives, superb information, and built conscious and subconscious trust in their brand to deliver the chosen bike. Following my purchase, I read they were the most successful online independently owned cycle store based in the UK. That really wasn’t surprising – great website, and superb engagement on their Facebook page!
The bike turned up via a courier, and I thought great, let’s hit the roads. Slight issue, it needed setting up properly, the handlebars were at ninety degrees which meant I wouldn’t have gone too far, the saddle was set too high, pedals weren’t fitted and there were a few other rather intricate items that needed setting up. Back on the tablet, and the very same online store had some brilliant instruction pages and videos demonstrating to me how to set up my new bike, which they had helpfully shared on their Facebook page as well. Free for all to see, and professionally produced strongly branded video content.
The power of social media is certainly there for all to see. We experience an abundance of great content, fluffy animal content and yes some not so nice viral videos too. It actually demonstrates perfectly the good and bad in people and indeed the world. Social media over the past five years is a global phenomenon with platforms like Facebook boasting bigger populations than China and India combined. It is probably the most significant part of the digital revolution to date. Social media is experiencing growth in just about every age group, and each and every person who uses social media has sought that conscious or subconscious reassurance in a purchasing decision by following and engaging in brands. The cycling store I used know this, and they have made themselves known to pretty much every keen cyclist in the UK, and as a brand they have become a market leader because they have chosen to engage, help and advise every person who views their content. They have built that trust which is such an important part of building a brand, and with great presentation – everything carries their logo, and every piece of written content mentions their name.
Getting noticed when building your online brand
This is a question many have asked. In reality, I am preaching to the converted. We all know that the digital world is huge and highly competitive, and we are all bombarded with content continuously. To stand out, but importantly to be noticed as a credible brand is a pretty difficult thing to achieve in most market sectors.
So how do we stand out?
I started in business in my late twenties, and I remember a conversation I had soon after I launched my marketing agency with a very successful businessman who had grown a national franchise organization. He was the epitomy of a successful business person, and gave me one piece of advice I will never forgot. “If you want to make money, don’t chase the cash, seek to build the best business you possibly can, the type of business that is the envy of your competitors, and the one the customer really wants to buy from. The bi-product of this success is making the cash”. He subsequently sold out as the franchisor for a huge sum, and retired at the age of 52.
It took me a little while to realise that his success was down to the fact he was obsessive about building a brand, creating the kind of products that were the natural choice for purchasers. He was obsessive about reputation, and wanted to demonstrate to everyone that his brand was the most desirable of them all, the one everyone could trust. He did things differently from the rest and stood out as the most positive brand in the industry he traded in. He made people think differently about his company, and spoke differently to his audience. One very famous business person we all know extremely well did exactly the same as our franchisor, successfully building a global computer business, in fact the biggest technology company on the planet, and you may be reading this article on one of his products now.
It doesn’t matter who you are, what industry you trade in, how big you are now, it is about adopting a mentality that is different from the rest. Your business might only trade locally, but you will have competitors, and you will most certainly want to be more desirable as a brand than your competitors. My advice is to build that brand, but whilst doing so, become obsessive about being unique or different, create the desire and emotional attachment with your audience, and let everyone know exactly what you stand for, and the reasons why they should buy you, your business, products and services above your competitors.
I will end this article by sharing an inspiring video with you, and demonstrates perfectly what this article is about, and would suggest you watch it two, three or more times to really understand what this very talented marketer and great orator is explaining to his TED Talk audience. Inspiring… View Now, Simon Sinek – The Gold Circle