In the business world, your brand is everything. Its meaning stretches far beyond showcasing your company name and logo. The brand that you create allows the public to know what you stand for and provide, and in order for it to be effective, it almost needs to exude its own personality. After all, the more dynamic and relatable you develop your brand to be, the more return you should see on your efforts.
Because it’s such a key player in your company’s growth, it’s crucial that you maintain as much control of your brand’s image as possible. In the world of the internet, however, this sentiment is much easier said than done, and it can be quite daunting when you think about how easy it is for anyone to publicly say anything on the vast landscape of the web.
Similar to any area of life, total control doesn’t exist in the business world, but the good news is that there are steps you can take to better manage your brand.
Keep Your Message Consistent
The message that your brand sends to the public needs to be strategically thought out, and it also needs to be consistent. That’s not to say that you can’t experiment with different marketing tactics–you absolutely should, but your message needs to clearly represent who you are as a business no matter what tactics you implement. Flip-flopping between personalities doesn’t give the public anything solid to identify your brand with, so it’s important to be clear about who you are.
Take a look at State Farm and Geico, two of the most well-branded insurance companies out there. They are both highly-successful at being easily-identifiable, but their brands’ personalities couldn’t be more different.
State Farm represents itself in a more formal, heartfelt way. It compares itself to being a friendly neighbor who is there to look out for you if an unfortunate accident were to happen. Geico’s tone has always been humorous and loose; its mascot is a talking gecko telling you how easy it is to sign up for a policy. Either way, both brands have remained faithful to their branding strategy, and it’s paid off.
The point being made is that you need to solidify your brand’s messaging across all channels. When it comes to your advertisements, blog entries, social media campaigns, etc., you’ll have tighter control of your brand’s image if you take the steps necessary to carefully define how you want to be perceived in the first place. In other words, don’t wait for the public to decide who you are; you need to be the one who tells them.
To help you effectively create an impactful brand message, ask yourself these questions:
- Who is the target customer that I want my message to make an impact on? Have I done enough market research to know what type of consumers to market to? Have I developed a solid buyer persona?
- What elements of my message will get the attention of my target audience?
- How can I promote my products/services and establish trust with my audience while saying something different than my competitors?
- Is my message timely or timeless? Could someone resonate with it five years from now?
- Does my message promote a sense of urgency? Would someone feel compelled to choose my brand?
Monitor Your Online Presence Closely
One of the most important, and the most difficult, parts of maintaining control over your brand is monitoring your online presence. It can be hard to keep up with the mentions of your business on the web, but involving yourself with online discussions about your business is an essential way to prevent public perception from getting skewed. To help you out, here are a few tips to help you better monitor your brand online:
- Use Google Alerts to keep track of where your company is being listed and discussed online. Instead of Googling yourself every day, you can set up Google Alerts (here are the steps to do so) to send you a confirmation of any time a specific term you want to follow is mentioned online. In this case, you’d want to set up your alerts so that you get notifications of when your brand/company name is referenced.
- Respond to all reviews, good or bad. Recent studies have shown that the majority of online users read reviews on websites such as Yelp and Google+ before making their investments. This is why it’s crucial that you stay up-to-date on what reviews are coming through in regards to your business. Tactfully responding to the gripes can help smooth over any brewing conflicts, and engaging with the positive feedback simply lets online users know you acknowledge and appreciate their time.
- Create specific social media guidelines. Running a business takes such a monumental amount of time, and many business owners simply don’t have enough hours in their days to keep their social media profiles up-to-date. Hiring someone to assist with these needs is common practice, but doing so can leave your brand’s image in someone else’s hands. To make sure your social media postings positively reflect on your company, develop social media style guidelines for others to follow. Clearly state what you find acceptable along with what you don’t want to see; detailing this information should help keep cringe-worthy surprises from popping up on your accounts.
Manage Your Marketing Materials From a Centralized Location
When you can manage the production of your marketing materials from one internal location instead of from an external source, you’ll keep greater oversight on the entire operation of your business. Investing in a marketing materials management program helps you stay in control of your brand because the type of company collateral that is being produced can be supervised internally and online 24/7.
Most programs also allow you to grant specific individuals editing privileges, meaning that the creation of these materials will be completed by a select group of people that you hand-pick. By having complete and final say over what printed material, company apparel, and/or digital assets are being made on behalf of your company, along with who is responsible for designing them, you can work to unify and perfect the brand message being distributed.
While you will never be able to fully control what others say about your company, you do have the power to create a strong, advantageous branding message, choose how you interact in discussions pertaining to your business, decide what social media etiquette you want to endorse, and manage the promotional items you want your company to produce.
If you do all of this to the best of your abilities, you should have no problem successfully creating your brand to be both credible and profitable.