Your brand is not just a logo, It's your voice, your calling card, and everything about how your customers and the general public perceive you. All too often, businesses neglect their brand and suffer as a result. However, today you can learn to take control of your brand through the limitless possibilities of the online world.
What is a brand?
It's all too easy to think of your brand as something that can simply be invented then forgotten about. You think of a name, get a cool logo, perhaps even a great slogan. Maybe you feel that your funky colour scheme and typeface convey the essential qualities of your products and services.
These things are all certainly important, and it's well worth spending time and effort getting these elements just right. However, your brand is so much more than just these visual elements. At its core, your brand is all about the intangible qualities, feelings and perceptions associated with your business. It's about the promise, expectations and reality of the customer experience you deliver – and it's constantly in flux.
The most important thing to understand is that brands are built by customers – not by companies. That means the only route to defining and updating your brand is to target the thoughts, understanding and feelings of the public. From the very first impression you give to a new customer, through to the way you answer the phone and handle problems, you are constantly affecting your brand – whether you know it or not.
How do I take control?
Taking control of your brand means engaging with your current and future customers on a personal, human level. Building customer retention and loyalty is important, but the first step is to ensure you're making a strong, bold, positive first impression.
In this digital age, the first contact potential customers are likely to have with your business is online, whether through your own website, on social media or via an online directory. Because so many people seek out products and services online, a lack of digital engagement from a company can very easily have a strong negative impact on their brand.
Here are 5 ways to take control of your brand...
1. Find your voice on social media
Social media can be one of the most powerful and cost-effective ways to engage with people and build your brand image. However, it can also prove one of the most difficult and time-consuming approaches to get right. If your business is on Twitter, Facebook or any other social platform, you need to understand that customers will expect a real, human response from you.
Businesses that make the most of social media are those that are constantly alert to what people are saying about their products and services. The best approach is to have staff monitor social media around the clock, ready to respond in helpful, humorous and human ways to whatever gets sent their way.
The very worst approach to social media is to open those accounts and then neglect them. Customers directing comments, questions or concerns at your social media accounts will expect a prompt response. Failing to check your account for several hours – let alone days or even weeks – is tantamount to leaving a customer waiting at the cash register without serving them. They will feel ignored and undervalued, and they'll inevitably look to see what the competition has to offer instead.
2. Build and continually update your website
A business without a website is like a shop without any windows or doors. Most customers will have no idea you exist – and they won't have any easy way of interacting with you. However, it's almost as bad to have a website that looks unprofessional, has out of date information, or clearly hasn't been updated for a long time.
Having a website or blog that was last updated two years ago is a particularly effective and efficient way of associating your brand with poor service, unreliability and other negative traits. Similarly, if your site doesn't display properly on a tablet or smartphone, you're failing to cater to the needs of a large proportion of your customer base.
Effective business websites that support a company's brand are those that are professionally built, updated frequently, and are fully responsive and usable across all devices and screen sizes.
3. Perform customer reviews
What started with Amazon product reviews and TripAdvisor has now spread across virtually all sectors of business, as companies experience the power of customers' personal reviews. Most people value the opinions of other real customers and that's what makes reviews so much more powerful than your own marketing message.
As many businesses, to their cost, have found, trying to ignore or suppress customer reviews is a losing strategy. If customers perceive that you don't care about poor service or you're not interested in solving problems, you've already lost their trust.
The most effective approach to customer reviews – as with social media – is to sign up and get engaged. There are tons of review sites now in existence, but one of the biggest is Trustpilot. Whilst you can certainly ask for offensive or inappropriate reviews to be removed, the best way of engaging with these sites is to personally respond to as many reviews as you can. Thank those who've left positive comments, and respond in a thoughtful and constructive way to anyone who wasn't satisfied. Many business websites even incorporate external review data, such as their current Trustpilot score, into their own website.
Demonstrating a genuine, honest and human response to comments and criticism can be a fantastic way to boost your brand and neutralise negativity.
4. Keep an eye on what's new
Does anyone remember MySpace and Yahoo being the biggest names online? Who knows what will be the Twitter, Facebook or Google of the future? An important part of maintaining your online presence is to keep current and up-to-date with the latest platforms that your customer base is engaging with. That doesn't necessarily mean signing up to every new social platform out there, but it does mean letting your own customers be your guide to the next big thing online.
Your brand should reflect who your business is and how it delivers to your customers. As with your personal brand, it will grow and change organically based on how you communicate and deliver work to anyone who interacts with your business. With the growth of social media and online marketing, you can either let your business be defined by what is put out there by others or get involved and start to guide and change the conversation.
5. Obtain expert help
Sometimes the best approach is to look to the experts. Manufacturing Network UK is a business solution designed to allow you to take control of your brand and communicate with our captive audience of potential customers. Find out more about what Manufacturing Network can offer your business.
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