So, you know what a brand is. You know what makes up a brand and which parts of your company you might be able to exploit - I mean use, to define and manipulate your brand and the way you are perceived by the public. But, well, how?
The combination of a successfully developed brand and the implementation of a great marketing campaign will do wonders for your business. Think of the TV advertisements that stick in your mind - what makes it so? What have they done differently? If you make a list, you'll notice that each and every one of them has taken advantage of creative and innovative ideas. It is not enough to only have a great logo, or great radio ads. The entire marketing package, when done properly, is your key to building your business into a wonderful success.
There are a great number of business tools that are widely accepted as forms of advertising. The key here is to put your brand on everything. That might not even mean to put your logo on everything (although in most cases it is advisable), but just to make sure that all of your business material fits in with the business image that you've already determined. For instance, if you have a particular corporate colour that's fairly unique (that is, it's not black), you can use that to your advantage by putting all of your correspondence in colour coded envelopes. If your brand is a particular scent or perfume, make sure you're always wearing it when you meet with your potential suppliers or customers. Brand everything.
You should have two main ports of call, depending on your industry: your business card and your website. These are the first places your customers will look for your information. If your brand isn't apparent through these two mediums, you're probably in a bit of marketing trouble. Stop reading, find a brand developer (I know one you could use! ho ho) and have them redone. Right now. No excuses.
You should use your logo, or some manifestation of it, on your business card. Your business card is your little personal identity that people can carry about with them. A piece of you is written in to your business card. Work on it and work on it until it's exactly right, or you'll regret it as soon as it comes back from the printers. You should be proud to hand your business card over - it's even better if people go “oooh" when they see it. Aim for “oooh".
With regards to your website, above all else it should be nice looking and easy to navigate. It really need not be flashy, but chances are that people will be keener to take an interest in it if it's not ugly. So if you have an ugly website, you'll want to fix that too. It doesn’t need to be beautiful, but it needs to be inoffensive. If you want to do it yourself, there are tens of thousands of tutorials out there on web design that you might find useful. Otherwise, employing a web designer or developer to create an effective site for you is your best bet. Just make sure you check out their previous work, to make sure they can actually provide what you need. Web designers seem to be a dime a dozen these days, and it can make it difficult to choose one that is actually skilled!
Now go away and come back when you've got your business cards and web site sorted out. I'll wait here.
Once you have your initial points of contact sorted out, you can look at everything else. There are so many options for marketing your product or service, I couldn't possibly cover them all, even if I wrote a book about it. So let's talk options and examples. I'll use myself as an example, then I can disguise brainstorming as writing an article, and feel accomplished afterwards.
The most obvious form of marketing seems to be print advertising. Print advertising is available through different mediums: magazines, newspapers, letterbox drops, flyers, brochures, annoying bits of paper under people's windscreen wipers.
There are benefits to all of these, depending on who your target audience is and how much you want to spend. For instance, a quarter page colour ad in a magazine might cost you $1500, but it might also give you more opportunity to target your specific audience (if, for example, you were a brand developer, you could advertise in a start-up company magazine). Obviously the benefit here versus in a newspaper is the specific audience reading the magazine. But the newspaper might only cost you a couple of hundred dollars, so there is benefit in that.
Letterbox drops are fairly inexpensive to develop (especially if you do the photocopying and dropping yourself), but you might find that the majority of people just throw your flyer out. And then the people who do actually read your flyer might not be interested, which can make it a big waste of time. On the other hand, if you have a low-sales, high-profit sort of business with big mark-ups, even a few sales from your drop may make it profitable, so it could well be worth the time and money you put into it.
Brochures allow you to display your full range of products, but they're expensive to produce and like letterbox drops, a lot of people just throw them in the bin - at $4 a pop, that's nothing to laugh at. If you stick your flyer up at your local supermarket, it will probably only cost you 20 cents for the photocopy, but it may be detrimental to your professionalism. Annoying bits of paper under the windscreen wipers are, well, annoying, and should probably be reserved for door to door salesmen.
It's not just about advertising though, of course. As I've discussed previously, your brand is made up of so many more components than just advertising material. Get creative with your marketing - when you sell a product, add your own personal flair to it. Make sure your packaging material has your logo on it. When you're out and about, wear a t-shirt or earrings in the colour of your company. If you do these sorts of things often enough, people will start to take notice. Every minute of the day is an opportunity to have your brand recognised.
Do you feel more positively about companies that are active in the community, or with charities? How would involvement in a campaign such as donating a percentage of your profits to a non-profit organisation reflect on your brand? Consider that if you sell children's clothing, for example, donating part of each sale to SIDS & Kids may well encourage parents to think of your business as being concerned about children and involved in the community. And of course, you get a good feeling from it, and SIDS & Kids will benefit as well. Everyone wins.
Take advantage of free marketing opportunities. I recently purchased a book called Marketing Without Money (it's not a bad book, worth a read!), and for irony's sake put my business stickers on the front and back of it, with a little blurb about what I do. When people on the bus take an interest in what I am reading, they'll also see an advertisement for my firm. Take your business cards everywhere and give them out at every opportunity, even if you don't give them out during necessarily business-related conversations.
Make sure you're well presented as often as you can be. I know we all have those days when our nose is a bit stuffy and we just want to roll out of bed and to the supermarket in our trackies to buy chocolate, but if you can give an air of sophistication and “I took the time to be presentable, because I care about my business image", that will have a profound effect on anyone you happen to speak to. You can never be certain of when a business opportunity might arise - give yourself the best chance of making a good impression when it does.
Consider sign writing for your car, which is fairly inexpensive and can be very effective. People might not pull you over to talk about your company, but if you do a fair bit of driving in your local community and you have a well-developed logo, you will generate a sense of familiarity. Then complement your car campaign with a well designed logo in the Yellow Pages or in your local community directory. When your potential clients go in search of a provider, you will be able to trigger their memories and invoke that same sense of familiarity in them - they will choose you, not someone they're completely in the dark about.
The key marketing features you should be conscious of, then, are:
- Consistency: consistency is absolutely the most important feature of well developed brand marketing. You want your customers to be able to recognise your brand in everything you put out there.
- Uniqueness: developing a campaign that brings something new will encourage people to investigate your company and find out what you do that makes you different. Obviously this isn't always possible, but think outside the box whenever you can. Humour is great too.
- Overkill: definitely use overkill with your brand! The chances are that you will affect different groups of people with your different mediums, so use as many as you like. Make people become familiar with your company.
- Make it memorable: you want repeat consumers, and you want them to develop a relationship with your brand. Make sure your logo and other branding material has been well developed, with a key theme in mind, and can be reproduced easily. Some of the world's most recognisable brands are also the most simple (like Nike).
- Think creatively: don't limit yourself to the “usual suspects” when it comes to marketing your company. There is no reason why you can't screen print a t-shirt with your logo on it and just wear it everywhere. Have some temporary tattoos made of it and plaster them on your children. Even when you're sending very boring, impersonal letters to places like banks, include your logo on the envelope, or use colour-coded envelopes. You never know when the mail clerks might need to use your product.
- Marketing your brand need not be incredibly expensive or difficult. If you can understand that your brand is in everything you put forth to the public, you'll become more and more in tune with the ways you can alter their perception of your business, or at least let them become aware that it exists.
Anna Spargo-Ryan is the Principal of Australian brand development agency Anna Clements. They specialise in brand consultancy, identity design, web development and copywriting. Visit their website at http://www.annaclements.com.au/