How your not-so-small business can leverage your best asset.
When heading out into the frontier, the true trailblazer must be prepared. For the necessities of life, for the ever-changing elements and for the potential animal attacks, one must plan accordingly and execute efficiently. That means not wasting the budgeted ration, not slacking on quality for mere convenience and not losing the drive to succeed — even when it seems near impossible.
In reality, business is your frontier. Trailblazing should be your forte. There is simply no telling what crazy happenstance or hardship tomorrow might bring. The best you can do is to prepare for anything.
When it comes to marketing, your greatest asset is one that’s oftentimes underutilized. It is your brand — the unique combination of visual elements and strategically created touchpoints that fuel awareness and demand for your services.
The important thing to do is to shrug off the emotion, reflect on what actually happened and plan accordingly for the future.
Remain diligent and your dedication will always pay off. The following four tips can help get you there.
From the inside out
A great brand starts from the hardcore beginnings. What was the true story of how this journey started? What legacy are you fighting to uphold or create? What’s fueling your passion for this business? And most important, why do you deserve the job or project?
People want to buy from brands they can identify with and grow to love. Decipher what your story is, write it down and stand firm to it. It is, after all, uniquely yours.
So how do you do this if your business is in a less-than-glamorous industry? You can start by focusing on your team and company culture. What do you do differently and why? The behind-the-scenes, nuts-and-bolts, inner beauty reveal is a major advantage when it comes to connecting with your ideal customers. Use your discretion, but also don’t be afraid to get creative. That’s usually where the greatest opportunities lie.
Additionally, you must absolutely make the extra effort at being personable, treating your customers like royalty and setting the bar for stellar professional care.
People remember not what you said so much as how they felt during their interactions with your plumbing and mechanical contracting company. So facilitate friendliness and practice personable with your service technicians, customer service representatives and others on your team to help them surpass expectations. You will be surprised at just how happy you can make customers.
And happy customers lead to top-notch referrals, expanded brand awareness and greater demand for your services.
A strong foundation
Once your core business is squared away, it’s time to start with the branding basics. You’re going to need a logo, color palette, imagery and brand voice that intertwine perfectly and are geared toward your target audience.
The ultimate goal of creating the foundation is to best showcase what we like to call the brand promise. Essentially, it is a well-crafted outer perception of your business that matches the real-world quality you and your team can deliver. When these two parts are in sync, exceptional things are bound to happen. Yet, it’s only possible if the brand is structurally sound.
No matter how you build a fantastic business perception on the outside, a poor foundation for your brand will always lead to implosion. Our agency sees this all the time at the onset; a half-hearted attempt at a website or marketing initiative results in more bad than good.
Maybe it misses the mark and ends up being an expense that leaves a bad taste. Maybe it’s a poorly administered truck wrap design that doesn’t best utilize the medium.
Whatever the case may be, if it’s rooted in an amateurish design your nephew created in between classes, it’s simply not going to stand the test of time. Just ask the nephew-art-touting business owner how his sales are. Chances are slim that business is booming.
Every piece of the puzzle
When signing off on designs for your brand, understand that every piece is important to the marketing puzzle. Some pieces might be more of an initial investment. Some might take up more physical space. Some might even seem to be minuscule when compared to the others. However, rest assured that if one piece is out of sync, you won’t be able to clear all doubt and make your plumbing business or mechanical outfit the uncontested favorite.
From website to whitepaper, service brochure to storefront sign, your brand needs to sing greatness. If the marketing isn’t appropriately executed, potential customers might think their project won’t be either. Remove doubts and make sure to dot all the “i’s.” Some important touchpoints you should consider include:
- A responsive website design;
- A business card;
- A print or downloadable brochure;
- A stationery design;
- A fleet branding design if you have service vehicles;
- A storefront design if you have a brick-and-mortar location; and
- A social media channel design.
Expanding your arsenal of marketing channels may seem like a good idea initially, but remember quality always trumps quantity, especially in the digital marketing sector. Maintain a high standard of content creation geared toward what your customers really need and you will see feedback in real-time.
Listening to your actual customers and those posting online with the same thoughtful care is something that’s quickly becoming expected. Make sure to act accordingly and respond in a timely fashion.
The right person for the job
Choosing a design shop is an important relationship you shouldn’t take lightly. This person or agency is going to have a serious impact in how people first encounter your business. The right designers know how to collaborate and have been around the block with brand building. The proof is in the portfolio, so don’t even think about signing someone on before reviewing the quality of work done in the past.
Once you’ve made your selection and are gearing up for the process ahead, embrace the impending learning curve. Depending on your experience, the design world might be a foreign land. Let your design agency be your guide.
Here are some terms that will help you:
- Creative brief. Usually a form submitted by the client to the designer. It serves as the starting point for designing.
- Identity guide or brand identity guide. A playbook for how your brand should be used across all marketing media. A proper guide will cover any and all manifestations of the brand, be it print, digital and beyond.
- Typography. The font or typeface used in your marketing collateral.
- Copy. The written content strategically crafted for a specific business purpose. This spans across media, from website to brochure to billboard, and requires a special approach based on a number of important different factors.
- Palette. The color scheme used for marketing purposes — oftentimes several different color shades used in a special arrangement.
The collaborative efforts of your designer coupled with your willingness to learn is the combination you need to truly get ahead. The best successes we see almost always involve a business owner who is not afraid to admit failure, but is not ready to give up either. A strategic approach to your marketing is a necessity; getting this well-concerted effort right the first time is a must.
It’s not going to happen overnight but, then again, neither did the birth of your business. There will be some serious behind-the-scenes work, some growing pains and maybe even some disheartenment at times.
Nevertheless, a well-executed brand-building strategy is a surefire ticket to expanding your business horizons. And that’s my brand promise!
About the author: Dan Antonelli has more than 20 years of experience in small-business branding and marketing strategy. As the CEO and creative director of New Jersey-based advertising agency Graphic D-Signs, The Small Business Advertising Agency, Antonelli has helped nearly 1,000 small businesses succeed.