I was recently approached by a business owner who asked me to help him improve his lead generation, or branding, processes. Once we began to discuss this function it was clear that he was having a hard time keeping all his different business processes separate in his mind.
This is not uncommon for business owners, especially those who have built an enterprise from the ground up and spent years doing most everything themselves. But, by viewing his business as seven major core functions – or what EMyth calls Seven Centers – he began to “see” his business processes much more clearly.
EMyth refers to these functions as Leadership, Finance, Management, Marketing, Branding, Sales and Delivery.
Let’s take a moment to look at the lead generation, or Branding, function of your business.
Branding or Branded?
Your brand is the way people perceive your business and your products. Your brand is their idea of you.
Now, most non-marketing folks don’t necessarily think of a “brand” in that way. We still tend to think of a brand in terms of a brand name, like Coca-Cola or Toyota. And, in fact, that was the general meaning of the word at one time. But marketers have morphed the meaning over time.
According to Jerry McLaughlin in an article in Forbes,
Beginning in the later part of the 20th century, marketers began to grasp there was more to the perception of distinctive products and services than their names—something David Ogilvy described as “the intangible sum of a product’s attributes.” …They took to calling this perception “the brand.”
Put simply, your “brand” is what your prospect thinks of when he or she hears your brand name. It’s everything the public thinks it knows about your name brand offering… Your brand name exists objectively; people can see it. It’s fixed. But your brand exists only in someone’s mind.
So how does that relate to “Branding” your business?
McLaughlin also noted that, over time, marketers realized that they could create a specific perception in the minds of their customers of the tangible – and intangible – qualities and attributes of any non-generic product or service. In other words, you can influence the brand that exists in their minds.
Branding your products and your business has little to do with what you think and everything to do with what your customers think. Brand is in the eyes of the beholder. Brand is image, reputation, and perception, and it’s only partially under your control.
Your brand is also a valuable resource. It impacts your customers at every step of their purchasing journey and it shapes all their perceptions of your product and business.
Breaking Down Branding
While it is true that you could read entire books on branding and brands (not that you would want to or need to) there are three main concepts you need to embrace regarding your brand:
- Your brand is the most critical part of your sales.
This simply means that, if your brand is perceived by prospects as the best in the market, they will be more inclined to buy from you. A favorable brand will push sales. In other words, when prospects, or leads, have a need for your kind of product or service and have a positive perception of your brand, you’ll be the one they think of first.
This is what marketing professionals call being “top of mind” and it’s the pinnacle of successful branding. Another way to view the relationship with sales is that your brand sets the stage for the first contact and continues to influence the way customers see your company and your products along every step of their purchasing journey.
- Your brand Is a strategic resource.
A brand can be an asset. If it’s a favorable brand, it can be leveraged to enhance all your client-acquisition and customer-retention activities. However, if it’s unfavorable, it can actually hurt your business. This might seem obvious, but too often businesses have no real sense or understanding of how their brand is being perceived. And this can be counter-productive.
Marketers refer to a brand’s “equity” that builds up over time and it can work for you or against you. If your brand is favorable and you keep it that way, or even improve it, it can build goodwill for your business and your products or service.
- Your brand is made up of building blocks.
We’ve noted earlier that your brand is the accumulated set of perceptions your customers and others have of your product and your company. But if we take these perceptions and analyze them, we can identify six primary brand attributes that inform those perceptions. They are:
- Sensory impact
- Unconscious associations
- Conscious mind conclusions
- Price and value
- Access and convenience
Depending on your particular products or services, some of these attributes will have a more significant impact than others. Depending on your particular market and customers, some of these will be more important than others. But they each have an influence on the aggregate perception of your business. In other words, your brand.
The point here is that, in the minds of your customers, your brand is the sum of their perceptions of each of your product and business attributes. So, the primary goal of branding is to communicate to your target market the attributes that are most important to them, with the expectation that it will shape their perceptions.
An interesting and valuable exercise for eliciting the actual perceptions of your brand is to ask your customers. How you do this is up to you, but one approach is to ask them to describe your brand as a boutique hotel.
What would it be like? How would it be decorated? Would it be a cozy, 3-star establishment or a luxury, 5-star hotel? What king of guests would it cater to? And so on. An alternative to the hotel approach is to ask your customers to describe your brand as a magazine.
Ultimately, you should be able to cobble together an approximation of how your business is perceived, a “persona”, if you will. This can be vitally useful in determining your branding decisions.
The brand decisions you make now will determine your brand in the future. Today’s decisions are next year’s brand perceptions. Being clear on how you want your customers and prospects to perceive your brand is vital.
If you’d like assistance with your business, please sign up for a free consultation where we can discuss this or another topic that will move your business forward. And be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel for videos on this and other business success topics.