A couple of weeks ago, Vanessa wrote about Vistaprints and their purported ability to build brands for small businesses. She likened their service to a nice Express brand suit. It will cost you $200, you can pick the color and size but don’t expect to be the only one wearing it. On the other hand, working with a branding partner is the equivalent of a custom-tailored suit. It’s going to cost you, but it will be designed exactly for you. You’ll look so good, who knows what great opportunities may come your way!
Express and similar retail outlets are successful because people don’t always need a tailor. For certain people and at certain times, a suit is not really that important. However, if your appearance determines your success and you’re playing a high stakes game, then investing in a tailor not only makes sense, it’s a necessary cost of doing business.
Here are a five clear signs that it’s time to drop the cheap suit and invest in your brand:
1. You’re in a highly competitive industry
If you are in an industry where everyone offers the same services, you must look and feel different. Brand (your customer knows you or has heard of you) and price (you’re not much different but less expensive) are the two most critical factors determining the fate of companies in highly competitive sectors. If you don’t want to have to get into the game of over-discounting your product and cannibalizing your profit, invest in your brand instead.
2. Your future is contingent on customer loyalty
If your business model is one that counts on a repeating relationship with your customer, you must invest in your brand. Each time a consumer/customer buys is an opportunity for them to stray. Cementing your value proposition in their eyes through consistent, targeted and meaningful communications throughout your engagement is the secret to keeping them with you, even when the competition conjures up a sale.
3. You can afford to do it right
You don’t want to enter the branding process if you’re going to short-change the program. It’s like the suit, if you can finally afford the tailor, you’re going to go to the best one and you’re going to get dressed from head to toe. Just tailoring a shirt versus your entire suit, is not worth the effort. Do it when you can ensure your brand is done completely — from the sign the on the door, to the powerpoints you present with, to your employees badges and the signs on your trucks. Any inconsistencies will be a telltale sign you half-a** things.
4. You’ve undergone a transformation
If you just sold or acquired a business unit, underwent a PR crisis or are focusing on a new market for the first time, make sure your brand reflects that. Your brand is the first touch point customers have with your company. It is essential it reflects what your company is today – not what it was 20 years ago.
5. You conduct high value transactions
When the stakes of your game are high, it is essential your brand breathes quality and professionalism. Anything less may draw questions that — coupled with any other slip up or crack — can put your deal at risk. If you’re in the business of transactions upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions, you better exude the value you sell – and that means your brand. After all, what’s a 100K expense in the context of millions of dollars of profits?