At its very basic, branding is the personality of your company. It’s that feeling you want your customers to have when they work with you, and the image you want prospective customers to have when they encounter your company.
If you haven’t thought about your brand at all, here are some questions to assist you:
• What is your company’s mission?
• What do your clients already think about your company?
• What qualities do you want them to associate with your company?
• What are the benefits of your products or services?
Once you have determined what your company’s personality is, create some key messages that you want to communicate and make sure everyone in your office knows that they are. By creating a voice, you are making sure that every customer shares the same experience with your company.
When you write it down, you ensure consistency, which is the most important aspect of a brand. Everything you do, say, wear and drive should all reinforce that brand message. That’s why branding is often confused with marketing. Marketing refers to the various ways in which you’re reinforcing your brand.
A great quote about branding is from Scott Cook, who works for Intuit: “A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is—it is what consumers tell each other it is.” If you have a voice, and it’s written down and consistent, you’re actually arming the consumer to become your brand’s ambassador.
Reinforcing your brand
How you present your company in print and in person will help you tell your brand story. Your logo should visually represent your personality. In addition, make sure all your materials have the same look and feel so that no matter where people come across you—your home show booth, a brochure, your Website—they know it’s the same company. You diminish your company when there is a lack of connection.
So often, companies overlook places to reinforce their brand—such as business cards, marketing materials, shirts, trucks and job site signage. Imagine you have three projects going on in a neighborhood where your truck is parked outside each project every day—bearing your company’s logo and contact info. Your jobsite signage looks the same and is at each job day and night. Your employees, dressed in your logo’ed shirts have introduced themselves personally to the neighbors, explained what was going on and left behind business cards so if the neighbors have concerns they can contact your company. Each contact and reinforced message of professionalism, cleanliness and concern is multiplied. Don’t miss those opportunities.
The more visible your brand is, the more top of mind you will be when someone is ready to remodel.
Pitfalls to avoid
At the same time you’re reinforcing your brand, you also need to be on alert to avoid negative brand associations and ensure that your employees understand that, too. For instance, if you have branded company vehicles, do you have guidelines for what employees can do to the car? Can they smoke in the car? Can they put bumper stickers on the car? If so, what kind?
When you sponsor an event, are you ensuring that the event aligns with the brand you’re creating? How about images you might be sharing on your company’s social media channels? Do you have guidelines in place for how employees act when they’re representing your brand? When anyone is speaking as your brand, they need to focus on what that represents.
The same should apply to online postings to discussion groups. There are a lot of people who feel they get behind a computer, and become anonymous, but search engines track everything. You don’t want a consumer—who’s doing research on your company before they hire you—to see an incomprehensive rant on another Website from one of your employees.
Public relations is getting the word out about your brand using free channels, such as press releases. Advertising is paying for those efforts, whether it is for print or online ads or sponsoring events that put you in front of the correct audience.
There is a misconception in the remodeling industry that you shouldn’t advertise unless you’re in need of business—and that one ad will automatically bring in business. Advertising is one spoke in your branding. You want your brand to be visible—always—so when someone is ready to remodel, they think of you.
If you had a location on a busy street, you wouldn’t only turn on your signage when you needed business, you’d leave it on year-round. That’s how you should think of advertising.
Remodeling your home is not an immediate need, so to understand the conversion rates of any of your marketing efforts, you really need to look at the data over a long period of time, say six months to a year. Choosing a remodeler isn’t like buying a dress. You don’t decide to redo your kitchen and sign a contract the next day.
The average conversion rate of the remodeling industry is around 6 percent, according to studies. If you’re not asking about how a prospect heard about you at some point in the sales process, you’re not going to have the data available to really make a decision on where to better focus your efforts. —Nikki Golden
To find out more about branding—and what an inconsistent brand looks like—download this PowerPoint presentation.