Step 2 - Build Your Business Identity around Your Customers and Your Market
Now that you have identified your reasons for being in business in the first place, let's discuss what business identity means and how to bridge the gap between your perceptions of the market and the actual market. Then we can discuss branding and being clear with your customers by establishing a very clear idea in their mind about what you do, how you do it, and why you do it.
Customers buy the "whys" of your business. Check out this video by Simon Sinek in which he explains the reason great companies are great companies. The why is the most powerful of your business ideas. It inspires your employees to "buy in" to the business, it gives a reason for your suppliers to believe in you, and it gives your customers a reason to buy. The why flows into your business identity and branding. This should be worked from the "ground up" in a way where the principles of the business are integrated into everything you do. From customer service to sales, your company should be wrapped around the core principles of your business through processes and procedures that speak to who you are.
The why automatically begins a certain set of parameters that directly flows to branding. Look at Apple's brand... the simplicity of the design, the feel of "high-tech", and the innovation that can be "felt" just by looking at their logo. How messy is your current look of your logo? Is it a clean design that really tells what your company is all about? How do you communicate where you are going through your logo? When we were thinking about all of this at Ogden Blue, before we rebranded, we wrote down a set of keywords that were used to identify our core strengths of being a multifaceted company, an expression company, and a more streamlined, focused, and innovative company than the one prior. We then began a discussion of what really spoke about our company. We ended up with six different logos that spoke to what we do, but more importantly, had the "feel" of a younger, vibrant, and future-looking company. This step really needs some thought put into it.
Once you have a "feel" or list of keywords that define your company, visit with a graphic designer. This is not a time to be frugal. You really want the business identity to speak about who you are as a company. This is the time to really focus, because once you have this down, the rest of your marketing materials will be much more effective, cheaper to design, and focused to your identity. We have four graphic designers on site at Ogden Blue, and they have a great range of experience to help you define and develop a brand.
Now that you have thought about and talked to your customers about what it is they want from your business and identified a brand around that, developing a message gets much easier. Speak to concerns or excite your customers about possibility. Personally, I don't really focus any marketing around a "fear-based" type of advertising. Sometimes, this is not avoidable, as in the insurance industry, where the motivation to buy stems from people's desires to take care of things should disaster strike. Even here, more positive messages that speak of where people desire to be are more effective than showing them what they do not desire. People desire to be safe, happy, fullfilled (as in expressed), and comfortable. Speak to one of these desires when coming up with your message.
A message should be short and to the point, and the rest of the marketing piece should be focused around the short, simple message. If you have branded well, the message will be a simple elaboration of the brand, and the rest of the marketing piece will elaborate on the message in a "top-down" kind of approach. The identification of your market also drives the message. You will market differently to different demographics. Just think about who you are trying to reach with this message, and talk with someone in that demographic about your message before finalizing design. Ask questions about whether or not this reaches them in how they think about the world. Don't rely on your own perception of that demographic... ask your demographic who they are.
Case in point, I just received a call from a client who used to do a lot of business with us. We haven't seen anything in a while from this particular customer, and the feedback I received was about flexibility and speed. Now, we have really designed a lot of internal processes to deliver just this; however, the feedback points to areas where we could do a better job about quickly turning our product out the door with a greater amount of flexibilty. If I hadn't talked to this client, I wouldn't have been able to see where we were still be inflexible in our processes. Talk to your customer. They will tell you the way to go.
Although it may seem that talking to your customer doesn't really dovetail into your business identity, it absolutely should be the basis for what you are doing. Without customer input, you may be missing the mark completely in what it is you are trying to do.
So, in closing, follow a few simple steps. Identify "why" you are doing what you are doing. Design your business identity around where your customers are pushing you. Design your logos, message, and delivery to clearly communicate that you are in touch with your customers' expectations and goals. When developing your brand, don't be inexpensive... this is your core of your business, and professional designers make a world of difference in how your company is perceived.