Guest Author: Liz Pabon, “The Branding Maven”, www.thebrandingmaven.com

Branding is more than merely a logo, name, tagline or color scheme (these are visual tools you place in your brand toolbox) it is the foundation from which your business is built.

Your market position, compelling message, business systems, alliances,everything supports your brand and the value your brand represents to your target audience. There is however one very crucial point that many small business entrepreneurs often overlook. Simply because you believe something is true about your brand, doesn’t make it true.

What am I talking about you wonder? Perceptions. Small business entrepreneurs are often caught up in their brand identity (external visuals that represent your brand but are not your brand) and loose sight of what their brand is, what it stands for and how their market perceives it. In the world of branding there is a saying, “perception IS reality.”

Before you invest any more time and money in promoting your business follow these steps to ensure that the reality you believe about your brand is true:

1. Focus on one or two benefits only. One of the most common mistakes entrepreneurs make is expressing too many benefits to represent their product or service. As a result, their message becomes chaotic, and their target market get slost in “information overload.”

Choose benefits that your target market cares about and that you are able to deliver on each and every time. Why one or two? Because people generally can’t remember any more than that – this is part of knowing your audience well.You are in control of the perceptions your audience has of you brand. By focusing on a couple of key benefits you are more apt to line up your message to create a desired perception.

2. Avoid being all things. The benefits you choose to focus on must be veryspecific. Being too vague causes your market not to believe you, making youd ifficult to remember. Ambiguity in your message also makes it difficult for youraudience to pay you what you are worth. To say you offer “quality,” (as so many businesses do) is too vague a brand value.

Claiming that you offer “friendly and fast service,” is believable and (should be)easy for you to deliver on consistently. Saying that you offer “fast,” “friendly,””quality,” reliability,” and “competitive price,” is too much for your target market toremember, so they won’t remember you at all. In this case, less is more.

3. Deliver your message consistently. You offer fast and friendly service yet, when your clients and customers phone they are rarely met with a “live” person and can wait a full day, or more, before they receive a return call. When they get you on the line, they are irritable and in turn, you find yourself a little testy too.If you make a claim, you MUST deliver on that claim no matter what! Failing to consistently “match” your brand benefits and values weakens the brand experience your current and future clients and customers have with you and the perception is that you are not to be trusted.

4. Remind them of what you do. As the champion of your brand, you must always remind your clients and customers (existing and prospective) of what you do well and remind them constantly. Assuming that they “already know” is a huge mistake. Why? Because branding, just like marketing, requires a constant message be delivered.

If your current clients and customers don’t believe that you deliver fast and friendly service, perhaps it’s because you haven’t told them. Or, perhaps you’ve told them too much and they can’t remember, and are therefore unable toc onnect your brand position with what you offer. If your customers don’t know how your product or service represent your brand, your brand becomes ineffective.

To maintain an edge in your market, and be perceived as a leader in your field,you may need to revisit or completely overhaul your brand strategy.Starting today, begin to pay attention to other brands in and outside of your market. As you evaluate those brands, consider the perceptions you conjure about that business and its leaders and know that the same process is being initiated each day about you.

© Liz Pabon. All Rights Reserved

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