What Does a Brand Do For You?TomChilders
In the marketing world, perhaps no other term gets thrown around more than branding. It is big, it is bold, somewhat nebulous, and it means different things to different people. Some think of a brand as a logo, some think it as advertising, some think it is whatever the customers perceives it to be and the list goes on.
For our purposes, we will use Seth Godin’s definition, “A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another. If the consumer (whether it’s a business, a buyer, a voter or a donor) doesn’t pay a premium, make a selection or spread the word, then no brand value exists for that consumer.”
The primary reason for this definition is the second sentence. Does this sentence not nail three of your critical objectives as a green industry contractor today, getting the job, getting your price, and/or getting a referral? That is what real branding does for you. It means your reputation has told the prospect you are the one to hire even at a premium, and you are one that can be confidently referred to a friend or colleague.
Some may question the validity of a branding initiative and investment in a green industry contracting company [or any small business for that matter]. Very fair questions too! Essentially, think of it as reputation management in the local market(s) you serve. Your brand, and reputation, will emerge and evolve whether you actively and strategically participate or not.
In an industry where referrals and word of mouth are the primary source of leads and jobs, the proper choice is to participate. Imagine a neighborhood get together and Frugal Freddy asks Timmy Tightwad who he should contact for a sprinkler system. “Call XYZ Irrigation, they put my system in for $1,400.” The problem here is that Timmy Tightwad doesn’t mention that he didn’t do one of the side yards. Freddy calls, XYZ comes out and bids $2,100. XYZ can’t get a returned call now. At the next party, Freddy voices his discontent over finding a sprinkler contractor and Sally Chatterbox tells him about a “great local company, Stellar Sprinklers. The owner coaches my son’s baseball team and they are honest and very good. I paid around $2,000.” We can’t control who gets asked and how they respond but we can influence it by our branding.
As to the bottom line question of investment, this is more about strategic thinking, time and sweat equity than it is money. You want to think about and write down what you stand for and what are the qualities, attributes, values and perceptions customers associate with you. Do you have alignment? How does this position you against competitors in market? Are you in a space with little to no competition or one with lots? Are your employees 100% involved and on board with branding efforts? Do they know how and what they should communicate when talking with stakeholders? For example, do they talk about the unique and sustainable practices you employ in the operations of your business or how cheap or expensive you are?
Ultimately, you must integrate your brand in all that you do internally and externally and this means developing some kind of visual and verbal identity system. Your visual identity system will contain elements such as color, form, and shape that represent and convey your brand. This includes logos, offices, truck, uniforms and more. The verbal identity is the part expressed in words and typically reflects things like brand values, promises, characteristics, attributes, and company vision. Many times the two are used in conjunction, a logo for example. The key point behind both of these is alignment and consistency in how your band is portrayed and communicated in all cases.
As you can see, there is lot more to branding than just developing a logo and spending a lot of money on advertising. Branding is a far-reaching topic that ultimately defines your reputation in a market. If you have decided it is time to put more effort into, start with How To Build A Brand from The Marketing Donut and then look through the rest of the branding resources.