(By Sonia Brown MBE)
“With a recession that seems never ending, today’s customers are shopping on their own terms, which makes competition for their wallet that more intense. They are price conscious, have high expectations and want to make an informed decision before they purchase. This puts more demand on the brand considerations of any company, because the demise of the high street puts more pressure on how businesses communicate, attract and retain their most valuable customers.“
BUSINESS EXPERTS are predicting that entrepreneurs can no longer depend on their skills and vision to take them to the next level.
The businesses that will survive are those which can make their product or service differentiator to stand out and dominate in a complex and challenging marketplace. Branding or rebranding is a critical component (amongst others) for greater business success and market dominance.
With a recession that seems never ending, today’s customers are shopping on their own terms, which makes competition for their wallet that more intense. They are price conscious, have high expectations and want to make an informed decision before they purchase. This puts more demand on the brand considerations of any company, because the demise of the high street puts more pressure on how businesses communicate, attract and retain their most valuable customers.
“What I do is related to image and my visual presence must be positive as well as strong,” explains Marie Bernard, owner of www.mariebernarddesigns.com, a high end interior design consultancy. “Too many business owners are focusing on how to raise money and not creating a strong, consistent brand for themselves and their business because they think it is a very expensive exercise and therefore avoid this activity.”
London still remains a favourite destination for those who have an appetite for luxurious homes and since 2012, the majority of properties located in London’s prime locations are owned by overseas clients. Of this group, 65 percent of international owners come from Asia, Middle East, or Europe and this is where Bernard gains her clients.
“I am dealing with high net worth individuals and the most basic but important element of my business is that my clients have to trust me to even let me in their home. It’s about credibility,” says Bernard. “My brand requires that I present a proactive personal image because I am a small business owner who depends on partnership working and joint ventures. I have to positively leverage my outer image to reflect a positive style, poise and presence with my inner traits to showcase my personality, values, attitudes and abilities.”
Although it sounds clichéd, Bernard believes that entrepreneurs are letting themselves down by not presenting a strong first impression with their clients and stakeholders. She feels by not taking control of their image, entrepreneurs will struggle to build the kind of relationships that not only clinch the deal, but are able to create multiple sales and ongoing referrals.
STRATEGY: Marie Bernard says too many business owners ignore the importance of creating a strong brand
“The business that will survive is the one that pays attention to detail which is why branding is so important because it is about detail,” Bernard says. “People buy from people, so you must communicate the story you want your clients and stakeholders to understand about your business. You may have the best products and services on the market, but people will not emotionally connect to you without a well thought out branding strategy. You have to turn a satisfied customer into a loyal advocate and evangelist for your business or you will continually lose sales.”
Bernard recommends that businesses need to start taking control of their brand. “Make sure your company ethos is reflected in the logo, communication, values and actions of all members of the company to attract and retain your most valuable customers,” she concludes.
With competition so high and the economic climate so bleak, Janice B. Gordon founder of www.theproblem-solver.co.uk, and one of the UK’s leading business advisors and mentors, has this advice for entrepreneurs: “You need to put your personality in your business because you are your business and you are the first representative in your company.”
Marks and Spencer, Coca Cola, Facebook, Google and Rolex are companies that are able to reflect a strong personality in their brands over and above what they are selling. As small business owners with limited resources, Gordon believes businesses have to ensure that customers and clients are comfortable, otherwise marketing activities will be a waste of time.
“The world has changed so you don’t need to be afraid to use your cultural personality,” she says. “Look at Levi Roots and even Cobra Beer; they ensure that their personality is reflected throughout their business brand and it doesn’t take away their authenticity or professionalism.”
The entrepreneur works with a number of micro, medium and corporate clients to grow their business by clearly focussing on their authentic path to accomplish their vision of business success.
AUTHENTIC: Janice Gordon says entrepreneurs must allow their personalities to be reflected in their brand image
“It’s who you think you should be that takes away your authenticity,” she says. “It’s great to want to aspire to greater levels and lift yourself up but you may not be seeing what people see in you and therefore, because of your brand they are not judging you (or your business) in the right light.”
Gordon believes that human beings like to do business with people that reflect the positive traits of their personality, aspirations, values and image. If you turn up at an event or meeting with a negative image (tonality, body language etc) it will cost your business because the client will question if you can deliver (to their standard). She says your brand has to make people feel comfortable about doing business with you.
“If you want to stand out, it’s important that your personality is reflected in your brand identity across all areas of your business,” Gordon advises. “Failure to have a brand message that is authentic, consistent and dynamic across all mediums will mean you fail to convince your customers and stakeholders that you are credible and this will hit your bottom line. Make sure your logo, your website, your social media and your personal image is aligned so you can make a great impact in whatever environment you find yourself in.”
So if you are looking to thrive and not just survive, the focus should not be solely on creating a great product but ensuring that there is a balance in giving customers a product they care about, want to use and more importantly, want to buy. This means business owners must gain a wide and diverse understanding about branding and the power of creating competitive differentiation in the market place. If you don’t align your image and activities to what your target audience likes your brand is destined to end up in the business graveyard.
“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”