When people ask me what I do and I tell them that I help companies identify and establish their brands, I often get a response along the lines of:
“Oh, I know I should tweet more, but I just have so many other things to do.”
This response is very telling, because it shows that while I’m talking about branding, the person across from me thinks we’re talking about marketing. So what’s the difference between the two?
- Brand is about identity—who you are, what you do, and how you fit into the world.
- Marketing is about communication and money—what you do and the tactics you use to become well known and profitable.
Successful marketing campaigns are possible when a company with a strong identity uses strategic messaging and imagery to communicate what the brand delivers to customers. This allows customers who are seeking out what the brand has to offer to identify the brand and learn more.
WHY BRANDING IS OFTEN OVERLOOKED
There are times, however, when marketing works without establishing a brand first. The "startup factor," in particular, is often one of the reasons business owners don't understand the importance of branding for months, and maybe even years into their business.
What I call the "Honeymoon Arc" is a dynamic that allows a business owner to benefit from false cues when they first start their business. The arc generally goes like this:
- First comes love
- Then comes the marriage/honeymoon
- Then comes reality
FIRST COMES LOVE
Most businesses are born out of either a passion or a competency.
- Maybe you’re a plumber who knows everything there is to know, and is ready to be his own boss
- Maybe you make great wedding cakes and are ready to go solo
- Maybe you love antiques and you open a shop
- Maybe you’re obsessed with fitness and you are ready to become a personal trainer
Whatever your vocation, you’re taking the leap because you’ve received a lot of feedback that it’s a good idea. And even better? All these people who support you are going to be your first customers.
Feeling the momentum, and not wanting to lose any of it, the business owner will slap together all the necessities.
- You need a website—CHECK
- You need a logo—CHECK
- You need a business card—CHECK
- You need to learn how to invoice—CHECK
- You need to find ways to accept payment—CHECK
- You need a business license—CHECK
- You need a business account at the bank—CHECK
- You need a thousand other things that you weren’t aware of—IN PROGRESS
Just like being in love doesn’t mean you’re familiar with the nuts and bolts of a marriage, most people who start a business have never run a business before. They know the love, but the marriage is new, so they’re learning as they go. Now they’re working full time for themselves, PLUS juggling a bunch of new curve balls they didn’t know existed.
THEN COMES THE HONEYMOON
The good news? Friends and family are giving them great feedback on your businesses and services. They’re coming in and supporting and sharing your new venture with everyone they meet.
This is a beautiful honeymoon period. Minimal efforts are met with strong support. You have customers. You have referrals.
For a while.
A few weeks or a few months in to the business, things start to lag. All your friends and family have been in and out, but they only need so much of what you sell. They’ve sent in friends—some of which have returned, some not.
You push along, trying this, trying that. Maybe you do a Groupon...maybe a radio ad...maybe a mailer. Some are kind of effective, some totally not worth a cent. You tweet and no one cares. You post online and feel like a pest, and you’re left wondering what else you can do.
It’s during these months (or years) when a business owner is searching for the reason why people aren’t coming back or responding to ads that they may realize how futile marketing can be when there is no defined brand identity.
They realize that people need to know:
- Who are you?
- Whom do you serve?
- What is your USP (unique selling proposition)?
- What is your brand promise?
- What are your values?
- Why is choosing you the best choice?
If customers don’t know these things, why wouldn’t they choose someone else? And if your marketing team doesn’t know the answers to these questions, how can they broadcast them out into the community?
WHY YOU NEED A BRAND
Your brand IS NOT how many followers you have on Twitter or how much money you spent last year on advertising. Those things fall in your marketing bucket.
Your brand IS your identity, your promises, and your reputation. Your brand is communicated in your marketing, but it is not the actual marketing.
The good news is that it’s never too late to create a stronger brand presence for yourself. It doesn’t matter if you’re launching in a year or if you’ve been in business a decade. It is always a good time to clarify your identity in the market in a way that helps customers choose you.
To learn more, pick up Build Your Brand on Amazon.It walks you through how to build or strengthen your brand, step by step. Develop a strategy to grow your business today by letting people know why your business deserves their loyalty.