First of all, we must define branding. Some think it’s the logo or how you look. Some think it’s your communications or how you talk. Those are both expressions of your brand, but they can only reflect what lies beneath the surface. Your brand is your reputation. Your brand is not what you say it is, but what others say it is. It’s how you’re perceived in the market. How you are perceived will be the byproduct of who you are, how you think, and how you make decisions.
Branding (reputation building) happens whether you like it or not. It takes work and intentionality to develop strong a brand, but the benefits are invaluable.
Here are six areas that may be costing you money.
No. 1 Unclear Positioning
Do you know your positioning in the marketplace? What is the one thing that customers know you do the best? What is the special ingredient or process that makes you completely unique? If you don’t know what this is, you need to figure it out.
The competition is fierce. If you are going to stick in people’s minds, you need a strong, bold position. You cannot be all things to all people. Hone your position in the marketplace and then communicate it clearly and consistently.
No. 2 Lack of Authenticity
What are you promising your customers? A bold positioning statement can be detrimental if it’s not true. Brands are like people. You can sense a fake a mile away and you don’t want anything to do with them. If your selling point isn’t truly organic, all-natural ingredients, don’t pretend it is. Don’t try to make yourself look like something you are not.
Let customers see the real you. Large brands tend to let corporate speak hide their true identity while small brands tend to try to look big. People want to buy from people. Be honest and authentic and allow your best traits to come through.
No. 3 Low Morale
Engaged, excited team members will affect profits. Does your team have a clear understanding of why they do what they do? Being a leader involves casting the vision and empowering others to contribute to its success.
By strengthening your brand values and collectively working to live those out every day, you will increase employee engagement and enthusiasm. Low morale can lead to poor service. Poor service kills your reputation.
Which leads to...
No. 4 Bad Reviews
Entire posts can be (and have been) written on how to combat bad reviews. As most people use the internet to make informed decisions, you have to be vigilant in protecting your reputation online. One bad customer experience could linger with your brand online forever. You must be active in seeking feedback and quickly resolve comments that tarnish your reputation.
With Google Alerts, you can set up a free daily email that will show you each time your company name is mentioned online. This can be a good tool for monitoring how people talk about you.
No. 5 Misunderstood Customers
Do you really understand your customers? Do you know why they choose you over the competition? Periodic customer surveys can be a great tool in realigning yourself with reality. Sometimes you will find that customers are coming for a different reason than you thought. This also may evolve over time.
Understanding your customers’ motivations is vital. Once you understand your real selling points, you can craft messaging and advertisements that communicate the right message.
No. 6 Poor Communication
Once you’ve developed a strong brand strategy, you have to get the message out. A great book is only great if people read it. It is easier and cheaper now to communicate with potential customers than it has ever been. Building authentic relationships is the most powerful way to build loyalty. This takes time — of which most restaurateurs have very little. Find a marketing team that understands your brand and knows how to communicate your story.
The internet has made advertising cheaper, more effective, and easier to measure than ever before. Regardless the medium of communication, make sure you know who you are, who your customers are, and how to connect with them.
It is nearly impossible to have all of these perfect all the time. Just like any living organism, a brand has to adapt and adjust. Don’t stagnate. Keep investing, growing, and building relationships with your customers. Through strategic thinking and consistency, your brand can rise above the noise.