You’re a small, growing company that offers a superior product or service and you have a motivated, talented and well-trained group of sales, marketing and customer service professionals, yet you can’t seem to get over the hump and to that elusive next level. Or perhaps you’ve just undergone a merger or acquisition.
In either case, you need to take an honest look at your brand.
Why is branding especially important for small businesses? It’s important for medium and large companies as well, but when you’re smaller and growing, you need that extra steam and determination to propel you to that next level. And if you’ve just merged with another company or acquired a new company, you’re no longer the same company you were before!
Let’s look at a few of the main red flags that point to issues with your brand and ways to propel your company down the tracks.
If you ask people what constitutes a brand, many will say it’s the logo. That’s like saying a person’s physical appearance is who they are. Your logo is the immediately recognizable part of your brand, just like a person’s height, hair color and other physical attributes are the immediately recognizable parts that quickly distinguish someone you know from a stranger.
But branding is also your company’s personality, values, beliefs, mission and vision, and how these components work together in your messaging and visuals. It’s the whole package.
We usually trust people we recognize over people we don’t. The same goes for brands.
Medium and large-sized companies have recognizable brands because they put time and money into their branding. Growing brand awareness is key to gaining recognition – and trust – and that trust will help you attract new customers while retaining the ones you have.
Before you turn up the volume on brand awareness, let’s make sure your brand doesn’t need a refresh or complete rebrand.
Perhaps you’re a B2B company with a goal of capturing qualified leads from medium to large companies, but the majority of leads come from small businesses. In fact, you have a large pool of happy, loyal customers that are also smaller businesses.
You have a strong customer base with whom you’ve built trust, and that’s a good thing! You’re just not building that same trust or cache with the right customers.
Let’s assume you have a team of experienced sales people who strategically target appropriate contacts at ideal companies. They have good follow up, but the lasting relationships they’ve built have been with contacts at small companies. You just can’t get traction with those larger clients. In fact, you can barely get in the door.
What components of your brand could inadvertently draw small businesses? Look at your messaging and where in the process prospects are becoming engaged. (If you don’t have this kind of data through a CMS such as HubSpot, make this a top priority!)
Are you writing content with your ideal client in mind, including their particular pain points? Pain points for smaller companies may differ from those at larger or enterprise-grade companies. If you don’t know your ideal customer inside and out, ask yourself why you’re targeting this customer.
What about your tone? Are you more casual and personal? Big and bold? Examine the look, tone and feel of the brands you’re targeting. Like attracts like! Your language, messaging, tone and visuals may appeal to smaller companies, which makes sense if you’re a small company. It’s what you know.
Either re-evaluate your target audience or re-evaluate your brand. If you decide on the latter, knowing your target audience and developing personas to ensure your brand appeals to that audience is key. If you don’t have the in-house expertise to target this audience, consider partnering with a marketing agency that specializes in working with medium to large companies.
You’ve hired and fired and hired again in your marketing, sales and customer service departments, including your leaders, and you’ve invested in fancy training programs, only to find your key performance indicators still aren’t where they should be. It’s not your people. It might very well be your brand.
Your people will always be your greatest assets. Before you blame one of your leaders or an entire team, resulting in downsizing, dig deeper into the reasons for underperformance by looking at the big picture. If you answered no to any of the above questions, your branding is probably well past its ‘best by’ date.
As a general rule, companies should refresh every 5-10 years, but especially when there’s been a change in the types of products or services offered. Consider refreshing your brand or rebranding altogether.
There is nothing more frustrating than having a great product or service, only to see an inferior competitor draw your ideal customers time and time again. There are a variety of reasons, but assuming your teams are well-trained and your competition is doing everything above board, we’ve found a low marketing budget is often the cause, which leads to weak branding.
Perhaps your marketing budget was cut or you’ve only invested in the people you need now versus scaling for growth. If a few people are doing the job that a whole team used to do – or should be doing if you reach your goals – your brand will suffer.
Even if your logo, content and other brand assets align with your mission and vision, if you don’t have the robust workforce required to consistently get your brand in front of prospects, you will lose out to your competition every time.
Companies in this category may have even recently rebranded, but they didn’t invest heavily enough and in the right ways.
When prospects approach us with a poorly-designed or obsolete website or inconsistent brand components, we often discover they worked with many different vendors rather than one, and in many cases offered the jobs to the lowest bidders.
Understanding that you often get what you pay for, they find themselves contacting us for either a brand refresh or a complete brand overhaul.
Consistent marketing and sales efforts with a brand people trust is necessary for growth and customer retention. This takes commitment and investment.
It also takes good decision making. For example, choose one branding solution to establish a cohesive customer and brand experience. If you work with too many vendors, you’ll end up with a Frankenstein version of your brand. And customers will run away metaphorically screaming. (And perhaps come back with metaphorical torches and pitchforks!)
In the movie, Under the Tuscan Sun, Signor Martini explains to his American friend, Frances, that train tracks were built over the Alps before there was a train to use them. Why? Because there was faith that the train would come.
Have faith in your brand! It’s a long game that requires a level of appropriate financial risk. Your brand shouldn’t merely reflect your current mission, but should also express your vision of the ‘train’ to come.
We realize that can be a tall order, especially for smaller businesses in the thick of it. Why not schedule a consultation to get an honest and thorough evaluation of your brand? While we work with many medium and large-scale businesses, we’ve also helped smaller businesses get to that next level. After all, every enterprise-grade player started somewhere.
Let us help you build those tracks you need for the future you want.