3 Key Points in this Episode:
- When people see and think about your business they are seeing and thinking about your brand and vice versa.
- What people look at and think about affects their emotions.
- People make emotional buying decisions and require rational justification afterward.
Like a beautiful home, a business needs to have curb appeal. Your brand provides the business with consistent visuals but also articulates your brand promise which attracts customers and gives them confidence in your business’ ability to deliver a consistent result.
Imagine that I am a real estate agent and you are in the market for a home.
We have discussed at length what you are looking for in your next home and I have selected two properties to show you. I pick you up and have treated you to a nice meal. I’ve described in detail what you can expect to see when I show you the two homes that I have selected for you that best meet your needs and wants.
As we drive to the first home you anxiously fidget in your seat. You are brimming with excitement and your mind is full of images of you in your new home. Before you even realize it, we are pulling up to the first home. It is gorgeous, the yard is manicured and beautiful. The house is the epitome of perfection. It is just so pretty you can’t believe it. You’re filled with anticipation because if this is what the outside looks like you can hardly wait to see the inside.
As we open the front door and we step inside of this gorgeous house you are hit with something totally unexpected. First you gag a little at the smell, second you are totally disgusted at the condition of the inside of the home, and third, you are concerned about your safety because the floor seems a little soft.
You spin on your heels and storm back to the car.
At this point, you just want to leave but since we have come this far you think, “the next place had better be amazing or I’m getting a new real estate agent!”
I apologize profusely and promise the next place is immaculate, clean, and completely safe and sound. You are disappointed but as we drive to the next place you start to feel better because of the promise I made about how different the next place will be.
Then we make a sharp turn down a street that you know takes us to a crime-ridden part of the city. As we pull up to the next home you can’t believe the condition of the yard. Brown grass, a broken gate, and part of the fence has fallen over. The paint on the house is peeling and a shutter is hanging off one window by a single screw.
You demand to be taken back to your car without even looking at the house. As I protest and explain that once inside you will be amazed at the craftsmanship and quality of the fully renovated interior, you respond with, “Jamie, you’re fired, take me back to my car right now!”
This happens in business all the time.
The marketing and curb appeal of the business is professional, compelling, and promises to fulfill the customer’s desires in some amazing way; only to let down the customer and make them regret “coming inside” because the business lacks substance.
Or conversely, the business is amazing but because of a lack of knowledge and appropriate resources, the business lacks any appeal and few customers ever dare try them out.
In either case, it is a disaster.
Your brand, what people see, the curb appeal of your business, must be appealing, must make people want to come inside. But once you have attracted that potential customer you must deliver on what the curb appeal promises, or you will never convert that potential customer into a paying customer.
Remember in our illustration how the potential customer was filled with emotion seeing the first home and how that emotion went from very positive to very negative when the home failed to live up to expectations. Remember how the potential customer was filled with fear at the sight of the second home and was unwilling to even check it out.
Emotion is how people buy. Period. End of sentence. No, if’s, and’s, or buts.
We buy emotionally and then we justify rationally.
This is how every buying decision is made, every time, all the time, by every person, globally. It doesn’t matter if that buying decision is for a $0.05 candy or a $500,000.00 home. As humans, we are emotional creatures and even the most rational, level-headed, analytical person in the world still is ruled by this law of emotional buying.
Emotional decision, rational justification.
Let’s consider another example.
When my family was young I sold my three motorcycles, my sports car, and my pickup truck and I bought a mini-van. I told myself I was being rational and was basing my decision on a well-thought-out plan to put my needs aside on behalf of my family.
Oh, that is the story I told everyone, that was the rational justification that I used but that wasn’t why I did it. The emotional reason for why I made those choices was because my love for my family far surpassed my love for my toys. But, in addition to that, I secretly wanted to be praised for making this very mature decision because I was kind of tired of everyone looking at me like a kid.
Emotional reasons, rational justification.
Why is this so important?
You must build your great business with curb appeal that does not disappoint.
Your brand must not only communicate your vision, your story, and what your business stands for, it must also make a solemn promise to your customers that everyone else in your business, your employees, your suppliers, and your lenders, and investors, understand and know their role in delivering on that promise to your customer.
Don’t create emotional reasons to make a buying decision for your customer only to fail to provide them with the rational justification to make them feel great about their decision. They will either leave before buying or only ever buy once, never to return, and worse, they may discourage others from buying from you.
Fail to provide enough emotional reasons to make a buying decision by focusing on only the rational justification and you will never find enough customers to become a great business.
This is a simple enough concept but can prove to be much more difficult to achieve if you are unclear on how to go about creating this balance in your business. The rest of this chapter will focus on the step-by-step process of developing a brand for your business that achieves the balance necessary to build a great business.
Developing an ideal customer profile
How do you create a brand that both provides the emotional conditions that will encourage a person to make a buying decision and the rational justification afterward to keep the customer happy and proud to refer your business to others?
It always starts and ends with the customer.
If you don’t know who you are building your brand for, how can you ever build an effective brand?
Your ideal customer is the critical centerpiece in what will become your brand.
By understanding who your customer is, what they care about, what motivates them, where they work, play, and live and a hundred other factors, you can start to design a brand and a brand promise that will resonate with your ideal customer.
Many entrepreneurs are using the “cast a wide net” approach which is not effective. By becoming very detailed in your description of your ideal customer you can then become very detailed in tailoring your brand and your brand promise to that ideal customer.
It is incumbent on you to get to know your ideal customer better than they know themselves.
To illustrate I will use the profile we developed for our residential customers when we were running our contracting business.
This was our ideal customer:
- They were between the ages of 30 – 60
- They were married with a detached home built after 1995
- They were a dual income family
- Income between $80,000 and $150,000
- They were professionals or entrepreneurs
- They owned two or more vehicles
- They were not handy or do-it-yourself types
- They were afraid of heights
- They cared about maintaining the value of their home through regular maintenance programs
- They demanded a stringent safety program
- Their home was between two and four levels and did not exceed 3000 sqft
- The roof was asphalt with a pitch that was between 6×12 and 10×12
- The exterior of their home was vinyl siding
- They preferred to communicate via email
- They were busy and were rarely home during the day
- They trusted us to go to their home, do the work, leave a bill, and they would pay the bill quickly via check or e-transfer
That was who our residential customer was. It was easy to spot our customer.
When our employees were working in a neighborhood and they handed out business cards they didn’t approach the house with the 50-year-old man on a 32-foot ladder painting his own fascia boards or the old one-level rancher with a flat roof, owned by a single 22-year-old male, with a broken-down car in the driveway (or front yard).
They would give the business card to the mother with three kids rushing out the door to take her kids to soccer practice before she headed back to the office for a meeting with a supplier and whose husband was traveling internationally.
They would leave our card in the door of the 5-year-old three level executive home with manicured lawns that landscapers just finished working on and a luxury SUV and power boat in the driveway and not a sound coming from inside the home because everyone who lived there was at work.
The point is, we knew exactly who our customer was and because we knew who they were and what they cared about, we knew how to talk to them and what promises we needed to make that would become our brand.
Who is your ideal customer and what do they care about?
Developing an ideal market profile
I’ve described in detail the kind of information you need to have about your ideal customer. That is only half the battle, you also need to know where to find your customers, and how your customers want to find you.
In our contracting business, we knew which neighborhoods our customers lived in. We knew which postal codes they lived in. We also knew which neighborhoods they did not live in.
Beyond understanding our ideal customer’s physical location, we knew when and where our ideal customers were looking for our services. For example, at that time we knew that our ideal customers were not using social media to find companies that offered our services. They were using Google searches and they responded very well to Google AdWords campaigns. Obviously, in 2018 that has changed, but back in 2009 when we were just getting started, Google was the best place to advertise.
To develop a brand and a brand promise that resonates with your ideal customers it is essential to know who to build the brand for, what promises to make, and where to advertise your brand.
It is a very simple concept; who are they and where do they spend their time?
Once you know this information you can start to build your brand.
You can design a brand that resonates with your ideal customer, that specifically targets your ideal customer, and finally a brand that your ideal customers are proud to be a part of and share with other like-minded people.
Building a brand is not about trying to imitate large corporations, rather it is understanding how to craft a distinctive brand that your customers identify with.
Your unique selling proposition
In a world filled with commodities and endless options for consumers, how do you differentiate your great business from all the other businesses?
Your brand represents your business’ uniqueness in the marketplace.
It says to your ideal customers, “this is why we do what we do, this is who we are, what we do, and how we do it.”
At the end of the day, your customer can most likely buy what you sell somewhere else so all you have that makes you unique is how you deliver on your promise.
This is a concept that even some large corporations struggle to truly understand.
Before I started my contracting business I worked in the heavy-duty parts industry and a typical parts business faces this problem every day. They are literally selling the exact same products manufactured by the exact same people as their competitors.
If an end-user customer wants to buy a 4” taillight they often have a choice to buy it from three or more local distributors. The 4” taillight is manufactured by one company. The three distributors all buy it for roughly the same cost. Inevitably it comes down to a price battle.
In the beginning, everyone is selling it for 30% above cost. Then someone lowers their price to 25% above cost, then the next distributor goes 20% above cost, then 15%, then 10%, then 5%, and finally a desperate distributor sells the product below cost as a loss leader.
In the end, no one makes any money, and when businesses fail to make an adequate profit they quickly go out of business.
What is the solution?
Let me ask you something.
How did McDonald’s become such a global sensation?
It’s not like they invented the hamburger. There were many successful competing restaurants that sold hamburgers.
What made McDonald’s different?
The genesis of McDonald’s becoming the great business it is today was the “Speedee System”. It wasn’t so much that they made a great hamburger, it was that they made a great hamburger every time, in 30 seconds instead of 30 minutes.
It was not what they did but how they did it that was so radically different.
Airbnb is another fitting example of a business that took an old idea, the bed, and breakfast and did it in a radically unique way.
People get hung up on technology and think that because their product or service is not technology-based they can’t innovate and radically change how they do business. They also believe that they must do something big for customers to take notice.
This is just not true.
With our contracting business, we did three things differently and this made our business stand out to our ideal customers.
- We did estimates in writing in 24 hours or less.
- We used a written safety plan, safety ropes, harnesses, and helmets.
- We created some custom tools. (One of them involved wooden spoons and a painting pole for gutter cleaning, about as low tech as you can get.)
Three things that made us different.
Three things that every competitor could copy.
Three things that no competitor consistently did as well as we did.
When building a great company, it is not what you do, but rather how you do it that differentiates you and provides your business with a unique selling proposition.
Therefore, any business can become great.
Once you know who your ideal customer is, where they are, and how they want you to deliver on your promise, you have everything you need to build a high-quality brand. When you combine that with a unique selling proposition based on HOW you deliver on that promise, you have everything you need to craft a distinctive brand that will be very difficult for your competitors to copy.
Then, even if your competitors resort to price slashing, your services or products will not be viewed by your ideal customer as a commodity. Instead of the customer thinking in terms of “apple to apple” comparison, they will see it more as an “apple to oranges” comparison, your brand which includes your unique selling proposition will be the differentiation that will make your business stand out as different and better, and this justifies higher prices and greater profitability.
Your branding systems create consistency in your business
Again, building a brand is about creating a way of doing business that is distinctive and unique to your business.
When a customer thinks about your business, they are thinking about your brand. When they are thinking about your brand, they are thinking about your business.
Your brand tells the story of your business, it explains why you do what you do, it makes a promise to your customer that compels the customer to make an emotional buying decision and then supplies that customer with the rational justification to make the customer feel good about their decision.
At this point, I hope that you can see that your leadership foundation and management framework are intertwined with your brand to the point where it is all but impossible to know where one ends, and the other begins. The reality is this; your vision, your strategic plan, your standards, and your culture are all building blocks for your business and its brand.
Your management framework establishes the structure that your business is built with and therefore is the very structure that you wrap your brand around, and your brand is the thing that gives your business curb appeal.
All the systems that you use to create your brand and your brand promise must be consistent with the components of a great business, your leadership foundation, and your management framework. The initial brand system is nothing more than a checklist that asks important questions to help keep everything consistent.
Important questions to ask are:
Is the brand consistent with the four components of a great business?
- Produces predictable results
- Operates independently of the owner
- Scales up or down as needed
- Sold for a great profit
Is the brand consistent with the leadership foundation?
Is the brand consistent with the management framework?
Now we get to the part where we go to work creating your brand.
The brand of a business encompasses all that we spoke about thus far and infuses that into the visual components of the business itself.
Your brand, therefore, includes every visual component of your business. What a person sees impacts their emotions, and therefore impacts their buying decisions.
The visual components of your brand include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Color Scheme
- Business Cards
- Brochures (Traditional Print or Digital)
- Catalogs (Traditional Print or Digital)
- Email Signatures
- Website Design
- Social Media Cover and Profile Photos
Your brand must be consistent across every visual in your business. All too often I have seen businesses with very inconsistent branding. The colors in the offline world do not match the online world. The logos on the clothing are different from the vehicles. The slogans on the signage are different from the letterhead. You get the idea.
Why does this happen?
It is my experience that there are two common reasons for this:
#1 – The business owner hastily makes decisions without factoring the cost of rebranding.
This has been a mistake I have made many times. When starting out I would hastily make a branding decision and then in a brief time I would not be happy with it and want to make a change. In the beginning, you may be able to get away with it but as your business grows it becomes much more expensive to make changes.
# 2 – Over time the business changes and the owner doesn’t realize the gradual effect these changes are having on their business.
They add a new vehicle or move locations, have an update done to the website or add a new social media channel, they need new business cards printed or have a template go missing when a computer crashes. The result is that the visuals of the business slowly change and become very inconsistent.
In either scenario, the result is the same; the brand of the business is diminished because it is inconsistent.
If your business is going to produce a consistent result then the visuals of your business, your brand, must be consistent.
The next system that I recommend that you create is a Brand Audit.
A brand audit is a checklist of every visual component of your business. As you go through your business and its visuals you give each component a “pass” or “fail” on one question:
Is this visual component consistent with the brand of this business?
Once you have completed the audit you will have a list of visuals that need to be adjusted to be consistent with your brand. Then you must systematically make changes to those items that “failed” and bring them into line with the rest of the visuals that “passed” the audit.
There is a great deal of research that has been done by thousands of companies about the impact the visuals of your company have on consumer behavior. I’m not going to go into the science behind it, but I will emphasize this idea.
Every color you use, the font you use, the condition of your vehicles and buildings, the clothing that your employees wear, your letterhead, your business cards, your marketing materials both in traditional print and in digital format.
Everything matters, so you must develop a set of simple brand systems that start with your vision and guide you through the thousands of little decisions that you will make when making your great business a reality.
By understanding how the visuals of your business, your brand, is affecting your ideal customers, you are light years ahead of your competition. When it comes time to make decisions about which marketing channels to use, your in-depth knowledge of your business, your customers, and your market will make this much easier and I can guarantee will impact results in a way that the average business owner can only dream about.
I will conclude this chapter with everything you need to know about creating a brand for your business by repeating these three sentences:
- When people see and think about your business, they see and are thinking about your brand.
- What people look at and think about impacts how people feel.
- People make emotional buying decisions.
This episode sponsored by:
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