Your Brand Tells the World Who You Are
While our previous post focused on the importance of having solid financials in place for your business and some ways to use that to improve your operations (and value), we noted the importance of a brand. We thought it might be helpful to go deeper about what really impacts your brand and the value attached to it.
Your brand is more than what you call your company, product or service. It permeates everything about your business. Your brand tells the world who you are and what you believe.
If you say that your product/service is for "everyone who..." or "anyone wanting..." some broad idea, you are not building a brand. You are selling a commodity. A brand speaks to a specific, often narrow audience (at least at first). And when you build a strong brand that addresses certain needs, wants or desires of that specific audience, you are able to charge a premium for your product or service, which in turn leads to greater value.
Marketing classes teach the 4 Ps: product, price, promotion and place. This is a simplified (and outdated) way to think about how marketing works. More importantly, it is not brand building. These 4 Ps play a role. But they do not get to the heart of a brand.
There are several touchpoints (described below) related to your brand that determine the relative value of the brand itself and your overall business. Greater value translates to higher profitability and a higher valuation when either selling your business or raising capital. We at Fulham Partners have the experience and expertise to guide you through understanding just how strong your brand is.
Product/Service and Its Quality
(For simplicity sake, we will refer to products and services as just products.) Your actual product is at the heart of your brand, regardless of all the touchpoints that follow. What your product is. How it works. The quality that goes into the production, the packaging and the delivery. Its reliability. How well it serves the intended customer. How it compares to the competition. What makes it unique, better, different and worth buying.
If you follow technology companies and startups, you may be aware of their usage of "friction." Here, friction refers to the challenges of doing something, and often those companies seek to reduce or remove friction. For example, it may be the number of steps needed to do something online. This same concept can be applied to the experience your customers have when they are buying your product.
Customers who believe in your brand (notice that phrasing) will endure and likely expect a certain amount of friction, as long as that friction is not due to unnecessary steps. For example, it may be appropriate to show your customers a guide to help them determine which product best suites their needs. On the other hand, taking them to another page to attempt to sell them yet another product before completing their desired purchase likely would serve to frustrate their experience.
Delivery and "Unboxing"
Once they make their purchase, customers want to get their hands on your product as quickly as possible. They are excited! Anxious! They want to share it with their family, friends, colleagues and fans. Receiving your product and actually getting to it matters. It speaks to how your customers, and everyone they tell about the product, think about your brand. Again, there is a balance to strike.
For a physical product, opening a custom box, moving beautiful tissue paper out of the way and revealing the product enhances the experience. Conversely, having to cut through plastic and fight to get to the product creates frustration. Even if it takes the same amount of time, the experience is dramatically different.
After customers buy your product, what opportunities exist for you to connect with them to offer insights, tools, or tips and tricks about using your product? This is an opportunity to be proactive in the relationship (between your brand and your customers) and to reinforce who you are, what you stand for and why they made the right investment in you.
Things go wrong. The item breaks or doesn't work properly. Or maybe there are real questions or confusion about some aspect of the product. Perhaps, after receiving it, your customers realize they bought the wrong thing. Regardless of the reason, how you handle the situation, how you serve your customers, speaks directly to how you think about them and your brand. Take your time with them. Be present. Work to solve their issue not just spit out an answer. Take care of your customers. That is what a strong brand does well. Whenever possible, have a real person working with them and not some pre-determined automation.
What you say, and how you say, speaks directly (pun partially intended) to everyone about your brand and what it stands for. This goes for your employees, your partners, your distributors, your desired customers and your undesired customers (more on that in a moment). The messaging must be consistent with everything we have discussed thus far.
It must be a part of how you recruit your team. They must not only believe the messaging, they must live it. More importantly, they must feel a deep connection with your customers, even if they are not customers themselves.
When messaging to your desired customers, you are speaking directly to them. You are making a connection between your brand and their specific needs, wants and desires. When done correctly, you are, by necessity, saying to everyone else that this product is not for you. And that is OK. In fact, you must do this if your brand is going to mean anything.
Most importantly, though, your messaging must be clear, concise and jargon-free.
It should be obvious, but your pricing has to be reflective of value your brand delivers. It dictates where your product is sold. How it is sold. Who is expected to buy it.
And avoid playing games with your pricing. Don't say something is a $997 value then sell it for $49. Occasional discounting and promotions are fine, even expected. Those should be done as a gift, a thank you, to your customers. Not as an everyday means of selling. Doing so diminishes the value of your brand from something worthy of a premium price point to a cheap knock-off. And then you are attempting to play a volume game (commodity) instead of being meaningful to your customers (branding).
Often, the greatest value in a business comes from the strength of its brand(s). As stated at the beginning, your brand tells the world who you are and what you believe. This is done through all of the touchpoints described in this post. Its effectiveness comes down to the consistency in which you execute on these touchpoints and how well each one is aligned with your central product. Getting this right leads to greater profitability and higher valuations.