Branding for New Business – it’s way more than fluff and logos

Over the last 20 years I’ve come to notice that conversations about brand with business owners, CEOs and the people tasked with delivering new business go one of two ways.  

I either get a semi-hostile response that talks about “fluff” and “all style and no substance”, or it turns into a lengthy debate about various elements like colours, photographs, the website, the brochures and the logo.

In some ways both outcomes are valid – it is a pretty esoteric subject and, by it’s nature, branding is appealing to each individual on a personal and emotional level.

The problem these views pose for delivering a step up in growth quickly is that it can be both overlooked or over-thought.

You don’t know me but …

If you’re going to win new clients or sell something new to existing clients they need to understand why they should talk to you about it quickly.  

If not, you’re spending valuable sales time educating and explaining.

Your brand exists – consciously or not

It’s absolutely possible to build a successful small business without a conscious effort to “brand”.  Initial customers “find” the business and they get what the business does.  And they probably stay very loyal and recommend it to others.   

In some cases – particularly where relationships are personal – this growth can continue for some time.

But at some point, possibly when  it’s more about the company than one person – it becomes a challenge.  The time comes to try to sell to someone who doesn’t know the business or its products, services or existing customers.  And growth stalls.

Becoming a customer is a state of mind

The customer buys what they think a product or service will do for them.  It’s perception, first impressions and making a commitment to do something (subscribe / hand over money / sign a contract).

If your first impression doesn’t marry up with the view of their world through their eyes – you have a barrier to overcome.

If you’re unknown, if it’s difficult to connect your solution with the problems they worry about.

Getting into their head

Bryony Thomas has written an excellent book called Watertight Marketing.  In it she refers to the “logic sandwich” – where the logical / rational decisions are sandwiched between the emotional reactions to a company, product or service:

  • Awareness / Interest = Emotional attraction
  • Evaluation / Trial = Logic
  • Buy it / Recommend it = Emotional reaction

You might have the best function – but you’ve got to connect with the prospect on a personal and emotional level.

There’s no substitute for substance

One of the most frustrating things I’ve ever heard as a marketer at a trade event was “I really like your branding – what is it you do?”.

The stand, the graphics and the logo looked great, but there was zero connection with my message.

We all like shiny things, but we also know it’s often a trick to fool us into believing something is better than it is.  The reality had better be every bit as good as the promise.  And the promise needs to be clear.

Which is why consistency is so important.  From first impression to long-time relationship the message, the look and the experience has to be consistent.  That’s the brand.

The challenge is bringing it to life – not about “gloss”, not “fluff” and possibly not even too much about colours, fonts and the layout of the website.

It’s what you stand out for.  Get it right and customers connect what you do with what they need.  

Get it wrong and you’ll be forever trying to explain what you do and how it’s better than their first-choice alternative.