8 Tips to Help You Build a Team Culture and Increase Employee Engagement

If you are running a business, no matter what field you are, it is crucial for you to understand that your team is your company’s biggest asset. It is not your product, your address, or your name that would bring your company success.

It is the people who are working for you that can do that. They can also be the reason why your business could fail.

That is why one of the essential things that you do for your company is to build the right work culture.

This will ensure that your team stays happy, inspired, and engaged. But first, you need to establish what kind of culture you want to build.

What Does Team Culture Mean?

“I hated the culture there that’s why I left,” is one reason often mentioned by employees who resign despite having a huge salary or amazing benefits. There are also several issues where companies have such high turnover rates because of their “toxic culture”.

What is this culture that keeps getting mentioned and why does it have such a huge impact on the desire of an employee to leave or stay with a company?

Culture is the attitudes, values, behaviors, and beliefs that are shared by the people in a company, a department, or a team.

It is essentially how the people there work together in order to reach their shared goal, usually, this is to finish a project, win campaigns, or hit sales quotas. It also has to do with how the people in the company treat each other.

Culture is not something that you normally see in a company manual. It is unwritten and unspoken.

Sometimes a team can show their unique culture, something that is a little different from that of the company’s. However, in most cases, the team culture is influenced by the entire company’s culture.

Is Fostering A Good Team or Company Culture Necessary?

Good company culture is seen when everyone collaborates, shares their knowledge, effectively communicates, and supports each other. When people feel that they have a place in the team, they normally perform better.

When they feel that there is somebody that supports them, they tend to take greater risks and show growth. This is not only good for each employee but ultimately good for the company.

In an organization where the culture is strong, people take initiatives and they trust each other to do the right thing. If the culture is weak, most of the time, the employee would wait to ask each other if they can do something.

It is what is called a “permission seeking” environment. Projects get delayed because of this type of culture. That is why it is important to cultivate this “team culture”. It leads to autonomy. People who do not need to be managed to work faster and more confidently than those who require directions.

Here are 8 things that are practiced by workforces that have been able to build a strong team culture. You can try to apply these in your own situation and see how effective they are in inspiring and engaging your employees.

Set Your Visions and Assign Clear Goals

It would be hard to motivate a team to do something if they have no clear idea of what exactly they are working towards. You cannot just tell them to “do their best” when they do not know how you qualify “best”.

That is why you need to be clear about the team’s direction, vision, and goals. Establish what your “ultimate goal” is for the company. Lay down the values that you want everybody to have in order to achieve that goal.
When orienting a new hire, have your HR personnel highlight what his or her work is going to bring the company. Let the employee know where their contributions lead.

By focusing on the importance of one’s role in achieving the company’s ultimate goal, an employee is made aware of his or her importance. The employee is also made aware that his or her failures and short-comings will affect others. This fosters a culture of accountability.

Start the Change with The Leaders

The kind of culture that your company develops is the kind of culture that your leadership exhibits. If the leaders follow the company rules consistently, the team will do so as well.

The kind of culture that your company develops is the kind of culture that your leadership exhibits.

If they consistently act inappropriately, you can expect your team to start acting inappropriately as well. If leaders and managers let blunders slide without discipline, that will become the norm in the company.

Your company’s leaders should have a clear view of what your culture should be. This way, they can be the models that everybody else will follow. If you have your vision and goals in place, you will have a better idea of what type of culture to cultivate.

For example, if your business has to deal with strict deadlines, your leaders should know that tardiness is not something that should be taken lightly. They, in turn, cannot be allowed to come in late without sanctions because the employees will see this and start ignoring the rules as well.

Hire People That Have the Same Values as Your Company

Even at the very beginning, you want to make sure that you get people that fit right in. This is one reason why you interview an applicant, right? Besides discerning whether that person can do the job, you also want to see if that applicant is a great fit culture-wise.

Job skills are things that you can teach. Attitude, on the other hand, can be pretty difficult to change.

Additionally, when an applicant shows that his or her culture aligns with your company’s, you can be assured that that person will bring that attitude anywhere, even outside the office.

You have heard of employees who act one way at the office and then change completely when outside. Is this somebody that you want to represent your company?

Build Effective and Positive Communication Channels Between Managers and Staff

Effective communication is very important in any relationship. It is known that part of good goal-setting is being able to communicate those goals effectively to your team. Managers should be able to keep their teams updated with what needs to be done.

However, communication must be two-way. The team should also be able to tell the managers what they think about the work. Allowing the employees to be able to express their suggestions and feedback will help the leaders adjust their strategy in order to do the job better.

It is important for the leaders of the company to make themselves available to their employees as often as possible. Additionally, they need to show their staff that they can come in and not be punished for making suggestions and providing criticism for existing policies.

Being able to communicate in a positive manner will validate the importance of each and every employee’s opinion. They will feel that their input is not just necessary but is valued and taken into consideration.

Put in Place A Good System for Recognizing Accomplishments

Engagement is often achieved when your employees feel that what they do is being valued. When a company provides recognition for the hard work that employees put it, then it is making a statement that the contributions of the people working there are appreciated.

This has been proven many times. Employees value recognition rather than getting a higher salary. And the recognition doesn’t have to be grand.

Employees value recognition rather than getting a higher salary.

A small note from a supervisor or a 10-minute program to acknowledge a contribution by the people in a department can go a long way in fostering team culture and employee engagement.

Experts claim that focusing on recognizing milestones rather than profit foster a more positive culture in organizations.

Rather than look at how much your team brought in, managers are encouraged to acknowledge the small contributions that each employee made and highlight how this solved a problem for the team.

Regularly Hold Activities That Allow the Employees to Build Positive Relationships

Most workforces that are highly engaged allow their employees to connect with their coworkers and build positive professional relationships. Successful companies know the value of hosting regular events and gatherings that foster camaraderie and team building.

When coworkers are able to build relationships, they view each other as friends, people to help and ask support from. This creates an atmosphere of cooperation. It also makes coming to work more exciting for employees.

It has been proven that people who are able to make strong friendly ties with their coworkers report sick less often and are more engaged.

Allow Your Employees to Take Part in Activities That Foster Personal Development

Letting your employees know that the company cares for them, their wellbeing, and their future is a vital part of building a team that is highly engaged. How do you do this? Invest in your employees’ future by providing them opportunities for training.

When the employees see that you want them to improve, they will be motivated to engage more. Additionally, any skill that they acquire will bring improvement to the team in some form.

Have the managers take part in mentoring programs that would teach employees transferable skills. This way, they can bring these new learnings wherever they go.

Allow the employees to be part in decision-making activities, especially if the decision will have a direct impact on them. This way, they will feel more in control of what is happening to them in the company. By giving them this responsibility, they see their value and become more engaged.

Show Your Employees That You Trust Them

Micromanaging each and every task assigned to your employees will show them that you do not trust them or their capabilities to do their job.

Again, this leads to having your employees ask for permission every time they need to do something.

Once you have communicated the goal to your team, step back and allow them to do it. People who see that their superiors trust them to do the right thing feels more inspired to do a good job.

They become motivated to prove to their leaders that they can do what has been assigned to them.

Conclusion

Remember that highly-motivated and engaged employees care about the company and want the team to achieve its ultimate goal. They are inspired to do their best because they know that their actions solve problems for everybody.

They take responsibility for their actions and take initiatives. These are the type of people that you want in your company. In order to attract and keep these people, you need to build the right culture.

Follow the steps above and see how it will affect your team’s culture. Do you have other ideas on how to build a better team culture, shoot me an email at jeremy@longitudebranding.com

Real-World Examples of How a Brand Strategy Can Improve Your Business Operations

The power of positioning in an effective brand strategy.

One of the primary misconceptions we fight to overcome is that branding is just about logos and colors. Because of that misconception, some people associate “branding” with the arts and when it comes to making an investment into their business it is seen as a nice-to-have.

What has been interesting over the years of guiding people through our brand development process is the various operational changes that ripple throughout the business. The brand strategy process we take people through literally affects every area of their business.

Before getting into the examples and applications, let’s highlight two of the exercises that are a part of our brand strategy development process.

Understanding Brand Positioning

One of the key exercises in BrandGPS™ is developing the positioning statement. 

What is positioning?

The unique position or point of differentiation that you occupy in the marketplace as understood by your customers.

This should be a clearly articulated set of words that demonstrates who you are and why you are unique. It gives the customer a reason to buy. It should be something that none of your competitors are saying or could say. As you can imagine this can be a challenge.

With an existing business, we are not trying to create something out of thin air. We typically drill down into who they are and what they’re doing and realize that the position has been there for a while. They have just never had the clarity to pull it out and communicate it in a way their customers could recognize.

We have written on this topic more extensively here. Or for a deep dive on the topic, read this book. 

Identifying Position Supporting Actions

You can claim to be the “only” or “best” or “first” in something but if you can’t back it up the damage will be worse than taking no position at all. In guiding our customers through the process we work to develop the list of position supporting actions. Authenticity should be a brand value of every organization. People can sense a phony brand a mile away and will run from organizations that make unkept promises.

If you are building a team, everybody needs to understand your position and exactly what they need to do to support it. This isn’t just tweaking your messaging. Your entire team and operations should be centered around building the right reputation for your business.  

We ask questions like:

  • “What can we do to ensure our audience recognizes our position?”
  • “What operational changes would make our positioning more authentic?”
  • “What are daily, weekly and monthly tasks that will support our position?”

Real-World Examples

See the following examples of positioning statements the drove operational changes: 

“Bringing people together with homestyle recipes.”

This catering company is full of heart and built on the family matriarch affectionately referred to as “Big Mama.” The idea of bringing people together was her mission and the homestyle cooking was usually how it happened. In a sea of cold/sterile corporate catering options, this company stands apart with their warmth and attention to detail. Some of the operational changes that resulted were separating part of their services into a different company.

They had tried to put everything they were doing under one brand and that was causing confusion and muddying the waters for their communication. Another operational change was that they wanted to create a guarantee that when you order with them it will be there on time. If your catering shows up late or incorrect it can cause a lot of unneeded stress at your event whether its a wedding, corporate event, or family gathering. 

“The only partnership-minded experts with a top-down approach to preventing IT problems.”

Through the positioning exercise, this client identified a multi-faceted competitive advantage. Their “secret ingredient” is unmatched by the competition and leads to big wins for their customers—the top-down preventative approach. After identifying the position it became clear that they needed to further develop this system, give it a name, and better communicate it to their customers.

The “partnership-minded experts” position is also driving a more intentional effort to further their IT education. Yearly and quarterly training sessions will help to reinforce the position of experts. Another operational difference that comes from being positioned as “partnership-minded” is the commitment to only proposing the right solutions. Whereas many in the field are taking advantage of their customers’ ignorance by selling unnecessary products to boost profit. 

“We make it easy for you to get the parts you need.”

This client is in a very antiquated industry that is very slow to adapt to the online world we now live in. This company was already ahead of the competition but they wanted to solidify this statement as their battle cry. This drives them to constantly improve how easy they can make it for their customers to get the right parts quickly.

Operational changes that came from that include redesigning the website to be extremely intuitive for looking up parts and improving the checkout process. They also saw that sometimes people don’t know the part number for what they need so they are working on a feature where the customer uploads a picture from their cell phone and the team tracks down what the piece is. 

“Ingredients for sharing life around the table.”

This retailer specializes in spices, herbs, teas, & coffees. Defining the position around sharing life led to several operational moves that help support the position. For instance, the commitment to being family-friendly led them to create a children’s area in the front of the store for kids to learn, color, and enjoy themselves. From a purely business perspective, this could be seen as a waste of valuable and limited retail space. But that is what separates brands you love from brands you forget about. Another operational aspect is creating recipe cards and sample boxes. Whether it’s friends or family, most people love to gather in the kitchen and try new things. The emphasis on “ingredients for sharing life” has enabled multiple brand-enhancing products and ideas. 

Have you defined the positioning statement for your business? Have you developed the supporting actions and operational changes needed to back it up? Is your team equipped with a clear plan and action steps to building the reputation you want?

Talk to a brand strategist at Longitude° to learn more about how you can grow your business by improving your brand.

4 Steps Independent Hoteliers Can Take to Attract More Guests Without Spending More on Marketing

You may have big hopes and dreams for your independent hotel, but don’t forget – you need guests!

Dreams Without a Plan

Have you seen the movie “Field of Dreams?” It’s one of the most iconic movies related to America’s favorite pastime, baseball. The main character played by Kevin Coster builds a baseball field in the middle of a cornfield in Iowa. It’s this film where the famous phrase, “if you build it, they will come” was coined. It makes for a great story, but it’s a terrible strategy for opening a new hotel.

It’s time for a wake-up call, folks. You’re starting a business, not building a baseball field in a movie.

You may have investors, or maybe your a small independently owned and funded hotel. Either way, you will want to see a return on your investment – and preferably sooner rather than later. This hotel needs to start generating revenue quickly in order to make the business profitable.

Guests aren’t going to simply show up because you’re building a shiny new hotel.

Hotel owners, hoteliers, investors, and developers, please remember this – guests aren’t going to simply show up because you’re building a shiny new hotel. They’re not going to book their stay with you because you have a unique lodging concept. These things alone won’t get them through your doors. You need the right strategy and plan in place to attract them.

Tactics Without a Purpose

You may be tempted to start thinking about business and marketing tactics that might give you measurable and trackable results related to improving your RevPAR, Average Occupancy Rate, and ALOS. Or, you could be thinking about hiring the best architect and interior designers to ensure that your hotel creates the best guest experience.

No doubt those things are all important, but before you begin spending too much time and money creating reports and spreadsheets, hiring consultants, paying for hotel booking platforms, hiring digital agencies, and installing expensive signage and infill – here are four things that should be at the top of your priority list when planning your hotel.

Before you do anything else do the following:

  1. Determine Your Perfect Position
  2. Discover Your Ideal Guest
  3. Define Your Powerful Message
  4. Develop Your Game Plan

1. Determine Your Perfect Position

Positioning is vital to independently owned luxury and boutique hotels due to the competition being so fierce. There are likely many, many options to choose from when a guest is planning their trip. What sets yours apart? What makes yours the clear choice?

Without a clear positioning in the market, you won’t have these answers. If you can’t find a clear and compelling reason why someone should stay with you, then it’s very likely that travelers will validate your findings.

If you can’t find a clear and compelling reason why someone should stay with you, then it’s very likely that travelers will validate your findings.

A hotel’s position can be seen in two ways, the perspective of the hotel’s management and that of the guests. The hotel’s management needs to have a firm concept of the position set-forth. Its marketing and advertising efforts must clearly articulate not only what the hotel offers but also how it’s offerings are unique from the competition.

For example, a hotel may offer a luxurious package of services, perks, and amenities in an effort to attract business travelers. However, if the room rate is higher than travelers are willing to pay, that brand is not positioned for properly for the majority of business travelers. Instead, it may attract guests who are price insensitive, or it may attract luxury-minded guests traveling for leisure.

In another example, if a hotel has positioned itself as the best conference hotel in the market, guests will expect meetings to be hosted and executed flawlessly. Should that not occur, the hotel’s position— from the customer’s perspective— will, in reality, be “an average conference hotel” or worse.

To sum it up, if you need to have a truly unique position in your market. But not only that, you need to be able to back it up with the right actions as well.

2. Discover Your Ideal Guest

Around here, we love the saying, “people do business with people.”

No one wants to do business with a boring, lifeless, and dull business. People talk to people. People have fun with people. People enjoy other people. People trust people. And hotels, especially, are people-centered businesses. So even more-so, you need to know who you are talking to.

Who is your ideal guest? What do they look like? What car do they drive? Are they blue-collar? White-collar? Traveling for business or leisure? What motivates them? What are they looking for when booking their stay? What fears do they have associated with their travel arrangements? What are their underlying reasons for making purchasing decisions?

Seek to intimately understand your guests on a human level, not a transactional level. They aren’t just a number on a page. These are real people you’re talking to. Find out what resonates with them, and how you can best serve them.

3. Define Your Powerful Message

After you’ve discovered more about who your ideal guest is, you can craft a brand message focused on them. Keep in mind, your message should be focused on your guests, not on you. This simply means that you should talk less about how great your hotel is, and more about how your hotel can make your guest feel great. And to be honest, no one wants to hear about how great you think you are.

No one wants to hear about how great you think you are.

Your messaging must be simple and concise. Focus on the problems your guests are facing and present your hotel’s services, prices, amenities, and accommodations as a solution to their problem. People buy things that are easily understood. The reality is, your hotel may be better than a competitor, but if you’re unable to communicate that in a way that resonates with your guest’s needs, you’ll lose almost every time.

4. Develop Your Game Plan

You can have the most unique position and compelling messaging, but if you don’t deliver, your hotel will never be healthy. A healthy brand centers around the idea of “promises made, promises kept.” As a final ingredient to building a healthy brand for your hotel, you need to be consistent in your brand’s execution. Your positioning and messaging are extremely important, but what you do will always hold the most weight as you build your reputation.

This should be common sense, but I’ll say it again – don’t try to be something you’re not. If you’re making promises and claims, be sure you can deliver on them. Go to great lengths to ensure that your guests know exactly what they’re getting when they book with you. If you claim to have the most impeccably clean rooms, and you have loads of 1-star reviews saying otherwise, your reputation will be hurt. You can’t earn the trust of people if you’re not keeping promises.

You can’t earn the trust of people if you’re not keeping promises.

Why Many Independent Hotels Will Fail

Experienced independent hoteliers understand that owning and operating a hotel is a business. It’s not a weekend hobby or side project. Hotels are open year-round, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They require expert management, hiring and training, expensive marketing and advertising costs, accounting, and customer service. And with new guests coming through your doors every day, there will always be new challenges you face to ensure you’re providing the best experience you can.

With the sheer complexity and nature of how hotels operate, it’s inevitable that many independent hotels will fail. One of the biggest reasons most hotels will fail is due to a lack of proper planning, positioning, messaging, and identity. For many independent hotels, failure can be avoided if you act fast and with clarity and confidence that comes with a brand strategy. It’s better than seeing your dream slowly die, and simply hoping things will get better.

You need a game plan to get you to where you want, and that is exactly what we can help give you with BrandGPS. Find out more about how we’ve helped many people transform the way they do business.

 


Join our support community for hotel & hospitality professionals

Join our Facebook group: The Effortless Hotelier

 

How Leaders Can Find Work-Life Balance with a Powerful Brand

It’s an all-too-common problem for many solo entrepreneurs, business owners, and bootstrapped startups. It’s harming families and tearing apart marriages. It’s the cause of many sleepless nights and restless thoughts. People write books to help solve this problem and stores can’t keep them on the shelves. This problem isn’t age-specific, gender-specific, or restricted to a certain location or industry.

The problem? Work–life balance.

Finding a balance between your work and your life seems like chasing a carrot on a stick. It feels like an impossible goal, one that will never be reached. We live in a world where the first thing people ask when they meet is, “what do you do?” Our society has put so much emphasis on how “successful” you are or what your job title is. So, it’s no surprise that entrepreneurs are focusing more and more time on their business and less time being with their loved ones or enjoying other activities.

Sadly, a majority of the American workforce are dissatisfied with their work due to a lack of work-life balance.

What exactly is a Work-Life Balance?

Work-life balance is a concept related to how you allocate your time, energy, and mental focus into various parts of your life: work, family, health, personal growth, friendships, etc. Finding a healthy “balance” of all of these aspects to your life is thought to lead to a wholeness of life – meaning you have a better sense of belonging, purpose, and happiness.

For business owners specifically, this balance is extremely hard to find.

You likely wear many hats. As a business owner, you’re not only working one job, but you’re probably working the equivalent of two, three, or even more jobs. So finding this balance can seem nearly impossible.

Are you out of balance?

As business owners, how many times do we catch ourselves sitting at the dinner table with our family thinking of client deadlines, upcoming bills, troubles with employees, or where your next lead will come from?

If you can’t allow yourself to be present with your family or friends, you’re probably out of balance. If you feel too tired or mentally taxed to read a book simply for your enjoyment, you’re probably out of balance. If you’re constantly checking your email because you’re worried that you may have missed something or that an emergency may have occurred while you were away, you’re probably out of balance.

How Can I Find Balance?

There are some ways that we can make the work-life balance feel more manageable. However, don’t expect to be perfect in your efforts. Here are some ideas you can start trying:

  1. Prioritize Social Time with No Agenda. Spend time with your family and friends for no reason other than just enjoying time with them. Do your best not to talk about your business. Talk about life, hobbies, dreams, interests, sports, politics – anything but your work.
  2. Be Flexible with Your Schedule. Create your own definition of balance. Maybe balance for you is enjoying time in the morning alone while you read a book. Maybe it’s leaving your office early every Thursday afternoon to spend time with your kids. You own your business, you make the rules. Create your own schedule.
  3. Unplug and Relax. Be present with yourself and others. Turn off your phone. Leave your laptop at work. When you’re with others, or alone with yourself – be present. There’s a never-ending stream of emails, calendar invites, meetings, missed calls. Don’t worry, they’ll be waiting for you and you’ll have time to take care of everything later. As much as possible, keep those moments away from your business sacred.
  4. Work smart. In this day in age, there’s a buzzword floating around the world of business and entrepreneurship – hustle. Typically this word means to work hard all hours of the day and night with a relentless and never-ceasing drive to grind away in an effort to grow your business. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a time for “hustle.” However, what’s better than working hard and working a lot? Working smart and being extremely effective.

This idea of working smart vs. working hard isn’t a new one and is extremely important as you are seeking a work-life balance that is sustainable. However, most business owners don’t feel like they have the tools or know-how to work smart. This is why a strategic foundation for your business is so important. A brand strategy will bring alignment throughout your business, and allow you to run your business in a smarter way.

5 Ways That a Brand Strategy Leads to Balance

1. Clearer Focus Will Require Less Mental Energy

A strategic foundation will narrow your focus so that you aren’t wasting time on things that don’t matter. You’ll have a better idea of why you do what you do, how you will accomplish it, and where you should be spending your time and energy. By doing this, you’ll free up your thoughts allowing you to be more present with your family and friends outside of your workplace. You’ll be more deliberate in your efforts, and begin to see how you can spend your time more wisely on a daily basis.

2. Spend Less Time & Energy Worrying About Decisions

When you have a clearly defined vision and values for your business, decision-making is simplified. Many decisions, big and small, become easier because you have defined guidelines in place. These guard-rails provided by a brand strategy will continually bring you back to your roots and ensure that you’re always aligned with your core values and always consistent. When decisions are easier, you aren’t as drained with the day-to-day of your business – giving you more mental energy to spend on things you enjoy outside of work.

When decisions are easier, you aren’t as drained with the day-to-day of your business

3. Empowered and Engaged Team

One of the best ways that a brand strategy will help you find a work-life balance is how it can help empower and engage your employees. Studies show that employees who are more engaged perform better, are more committed, and more loyal.

Although your brand is at the forefront of all your marketing efforts, it is also displayed throughout your team – from the receptionist answering phones to the service technician out in the field. Smart branding means that your team members will have a complete understanding and ability to confidently deliver on your brand promise. When your team members are engaged and empowered, this means they will often take on more responsibilities and be brand ambassadors for you.

This allows you to delegate with more confidence, freeing up more of your time to do other things you love.

4. Better Results from Marketing Agencies You Hire

The beauty of a properly built brand strategy is that it enhances everything that you’re currently doing. It’s likely that you’re doing some marketing; whether you’re doing it on your own or you’ve hired a marketing agency to do it for you. For most business owners, the reality is that they feel like their marketing efforts aren’t as effective as they could be. In fact, we recently did a survey and found that 100% of business owners feel that their marketing efforts aren’t effective.

A brand strategy will give you the confidence to know that you’re sending the right message, with the right look, and talking to the right people. You don’t get a second chance at a first impression. When your marketing efforts are performing well and you’re seeing great results – it puts less stress on you outside of your work.

5. Customers Working for You, Brand Evangelists

What’s better than getting a new customer? Getting a new customer from a past customer referral.

When you are doing great work and have a great brand, people take notice. When you are relating to people on a human level, people will listen. Knowing your customers intimately is a vital step in the brand strategy process. When you truly know your customers, their desires, their fears, and their goals – then you’ll be better equipped to turn them into brand evangelists.

When you are relating to people on a human level, people will listen

Having a free workforce of past customers who gladly refer their friends, family, and colleagues to is a great feeling. This is one other way to make your business run stress-free and create a brand that you’re proud of.

It may seem impossible to find a work-life balance, but it’s worth the effort. However, I can assure you that not having a strategic brand will greatly hinder your efforts and set you back tremendously.

The only thing stopping you from building a more strategic brand is you. At Longitude°, we have developed a streamlined process that will help accelerate your growth and help you reach your vision for your business. Smart business leaders everywhere are loving BrandGPS, and you will too. Want to talk with a Brand Guide? Request a meeting today.

5 Ways to Build an Influential Brand that Every Leader Needs to Know

The bottom line – as a business owner you want your business to grow. If you don’t, then you should probably question whether or not you should be a business owner. What’s the most common indicator that your business is growing? You’re making more money.

This is true for every business, non-profit, and individual. People don’t like to talk about making money, but the truth is we need money to operate. But what’s the best way to earn more money? It may be tempting to start throwing out tactics, buzzwords, and strategies like: “You need to innovate”, “You must diversify”, “You need to penetrate the market”, “You need to build a sales funnel”, “You need more Instagram followers”….  yadda, yadda, yadda.

Don’t get me wrong, these are all valid methods to consider and could play a large part in how you operate your business. But, for a business owner who’s growth has flat-lined and is struggling to keep up, “penetrating the market” means nothing. If you’re tired of just surviving as a business and ready to start thriving, I’ve got good news for you – it may be more simple than you think. Humor me if you will, and allow me to give you a more simplified answer to the question, “How can I grow my business?”

For your business to grow and make more money you need…

  1. More people to buy more of your stuff.
  2. More people to tell more of their friends to buy more your stuff.
  3. To invest more in methods that will get more people to do both of the above.

It may sound simple, but for most businesses who are struggling to gain traction – these three things seem like an unreachable goal. The reality is that for most small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) achieving these three things is easier than you may think. This brings up an important question that I’m sure you’re asking yourself: “Yeah, that sounds great and all, but what’s the best way to accomplish those three things?” It’s a simple answer, influence.

Building an influential brand for your business could be the best decision you have yet to make.

Understanding Influence

We’ve worked with many SMB’s over the years, and we’ve found a common trait shared among the ones who are struggling – a brand strategy is either underutilized or completely absent. That’s unfortunate because a strategic brand plays a vital role in virtually every aspect of your business. It can have a huge impact on your reputation, customer experiences, employee onboarding and engagement, important decision-making, gaining support for your vision…  and yes – influencing people to buy your stuff.

Let me make something clear – when I say influence, I do not mean “manipulate.”

Influence vs. Manipulation

Influence – the process of getting someone else to want to believe, do, think, or react the way you want them to. This approach encourages your audience to feel inspired, excited, and harbor warm feelings about you. It makes your audience feel like you care about their needs, and genuinely want to help them.

Manipulation – exerting devious influence over a person for your own advantage. This method creates anxiety, stress, or discomfort for your audience with the goal of getting them to take an action. This makes your audience feel guarded, and like you don’t care about their needs.

Both methods work in their own way. However, there are key differences in the outcomes.

Influencers…

Manipulators…

  • Seek to understand not to convince.
  • Communicate clearly.
  • Listens to their audience.
  • Relates to the emotions of their audience.
  • Care about the relationship.
  • Ask plenty of questions.
  • Focus on gaining a loyal customer.
  • Seeks to convince not understand
  • Communicate ambiguously.
  • Talks to their audience.
  • Control the emotions of their audience.
  • Care about the transaction.
  • Don’t ask questions.
  • Focus on landing another customer.

It’s easy to see how being an influential brand will help your business grow. Now let’s begin to dissect how you can begin to build an influential brand for yourself.


 

The Building Blocks of an Influential Brand

1. Tell Your Story

Your story is the most human element of your business, yet it’s typically the last thing people bring up when they approach customers. Your story will begin a natural conversation with your customers. It’s this story that will show them that you care about more than just landing a sale.

Start with “Why?” Next time you are making a sales pitch start with answering the question “why?” Tell them why you do what you do, and why it excites you. This will give people something to relate to. It will also show them that you are passionate about what you do, and believe in its value – instilling confidence in them. Sharing your “why” is only one aspect of your story. Another aspect is the story of your brand.

The Story of Your Brand. Every good story has a beginning, middle, and end. This 3-part approach is the natural progression of your brand story as well:

  1. Beginning (the Problem): Explain the problem that your audience faces.
  2. Middle (the Solution): Clearly explain how you solve this problem.
  3. End (the Success): Show the results and success your customers can experience.

Create a compelling story. You want your audience to feel like you’ve read their journal, and you understand their deepest thoughts. Really knowing the people that you’re talking to will all your message to stir up their intrinsic motivations. This will help you to influence people not because of what you do, but because of how what you do can help them. Telling your brand story can be one of the easiest entry points for building an influential brand.

2. Know What Makes You Different

Understand your position in the market. It’s hard to be an influential brand if you can’t clearly explain and defend what makes you different, and why someone should choose you over the competition. Many business owners mistake the quality of their product or service as their positioning. Simply stating, “we have the best quality products,” or “we have the best customer service” isn’t enough to communicate how your business is different.

“we have the best quality products,” or “we have the best customer service” usually isn’t enough to communicate how your business is different.

Instead, try and pinpoint 1 or 2 specific and relevant aspects of your business that are completely unique in your industry or region – lean into those. Maybe it’s not the fact that you have quality products, but the process you use to ensure that every product manufactured meets your quality standards. Maybe it’s not the fact that you have the “best customer service”, but the fact that you guarantee a quality experience or you’ll give your customer a full refund.

Check out your competition. It’s important to do some competitive review, to see how your competition is positioning themselves. However, be sure to find something that is different than your competition. If you simply try to copy what’s working for them, you’ll find yourself getting lost in the market, and that’s a sure-fire way to not build an influential brand.

3. Make it Personal

Get personal with it. Know who you are talking to. Remember, “People do business with people.” Ask yourself, “What motivates them? What discourages them? What gets them up in the morning? What keeps them up at night?” Seek to truly understand your audience, and how you can best serve them.

This also involves getting face-to-face with your audience. Go where they are. Attend the same conferences, seminars, networking groups, or workshops that they attend. Doing this will not only help you make in-person connections but will also give you valuable insight into the industry or demographic that you’re targeting. It could help uncover areas that your business could improve to provide a better value to your customers.

Your brand messaging should be focused on your customer, not on you.

Your message. Your brand messaging should be focused on your customer, not on you. What I mean by this is that you should talk less about “I” (you the business owner), and more about “you.” (the customer). This will help you in your effort to make a connection with your customers, not just talking to them. Let’s face it, no one wants to hear about how great you are all the time.

4. Be Consistent and Clear

The value of consistency. Brand consistency is another simple approach that pays huge dividends. We’ve written about the importance of consistency in the past, but it’s worth mentioning over and over. Be consistent.

Put brand message and identity guidelines in place. This is why all BrandGPS clients receive a Brand Guidelines Handbook. It’s a vital piece to maintaining brand consistency across all customer touchpoints, as well as maintaining internal clarity around your brand values, message, and story.

Consistency earns visibility, visibility earns credibility, credibility earns trust, trust earns loyalty.

5. Be Authentic

These days, “being authentic” is one of the most common buzz-words to describe a business attempting to relate to millennials, or be relevant to modern culture. Despite the negative connotation that “being authentic” has recently earned, there is a real purpose in being an authentic brand. Building an authentic brand requires time and effort spent on keeping your promises, and ensuring that your messaging aligns with what you do.

The 3 pillars that play the part in building a healthy and influential brand are:

  1. How you look
  2. What you say
  3. What you do

If any of these three aren’t aligned, you risk being seen as an inauthentic brand, which can be extremely harmful to your business. A good example of this is when United Airlines responded to a passenger being pulled off a plane with two different messages – the messages contradicted each other, and caused public confusion. The mixed signals created a sense of distrust among the public and did further harm to the brand of United Airlines.

Actions speak louder than words. It should go without saying, but don’t claim to be something you’re not. Don’t make promises or claims you can’t deliver on, and be sure that what you say to your audience is exactly what they’re getting. If you claim to have the best customer service experience, and you have heaps of 1-star reviews saying otherwise, no one will take your brand seriously. You’ll never gain the trust of people if you’re not keeping promises, and you can kiss the idea of customer loyalty good-bye.

Building an authentic brand gives people a reason to care.

A Final Word

These five things play an important role in building a brand that is influential. I can’t stress enough the importance of a brand strategy for your business. If your business is struggling to get to the next level, gaining traction in your market, earning customer trust and loyalty, or simply getting beat by your competition – then you need a brand strategy.

An influential brand, like the ones we help our customers build through BrandGPS, is an investment you won’t regret.

 

[Survey] How Strategic is Your Brand?

In a recent survey of small business owners, we aimed to find out how many businesses truly have a strategic brand. Some of the responses were troubling.

  • Lack of brand values. Almost 40% of businesses didn’t have clearly defined brand values or were unsure about what that even was.
  • Confusion. Over 30% of businesses thought that people were confused about what their brand represented.
  • Better than your competition? 1/3 of businesses couldn’t clearly define what made them any better than the competition.
  • Internal brand guidelines. Almost 70% of businesses had no internal document for their brand guidelines, to help them maintain consistent visuals and messaging.
  • A brand that attracts a buyer. Over 60% of businesses weren’t confident that their business’ brand was powerful enough to attract a buyer for their company.
  • Brand audit. 70% of business owners say they’ve never done an internal audit of their brand.
  • Customer surveys. 70% of businesses said they had never surveyed their customers in an effort to better understand and connect with them.

And the most alarming stat we found…

  • Ineffective marketing efforts. 100% of businesses said that they felt like their marketing efforts aren’t as effective as they could be…. 100%. 10 out of 10 small business owners. Crazy, right?

(Want to see how your brand ranks? Try the Brand Evaluator tool)

Weak Foundations Will Crumble

Our findings seem to fall in line with our own anecdotal evidence we’ve seen first hand over the years. Business owners are struggling. Many of them don’t have defined values, leaving them in a constant state of confusion–with no identity to align with. They’re causing confusion in the market and don’t know how to relate with their audience.

The reason it’s so troubling is that the very struggles that many business owners have can be easily traced back to a lack of a brand strategy. When you inject a strategic framework into your business, which gives you tools to make more informed and thoughtful decisions regarding building your brand – many problems that you once had, seem to fade away.

Having a strong and strategic foundation simplifies everything.

In fact, this has been echoed by a number of our BrandGPS customers. After guiding them through our process, our customers can’t believe the improvements they see to their business. Often times, almost immediately. Having a strong and strategic foundation simplifies everything. Decisions that once seemed difficult, now have an obvious answer. The feeling that you’re wasting money on marketing efforts starts to fade.

Garbage In, Garbage Out

You’ve probably heard this said before – garbage in, garbage out. The time, effort, focus, and money that you put into something will be directly tied to the results that you get out of it. This principle manifests in our personal lives, as well as the business world.

If I told you that I wanted to have a six-pack, and a chiseled beach body in 3 months, but then proceed to tell you that my diet would consist of pizza and chocolate shakes, and my exercise would be doing 1 push-up each day – you’d probably laugh at me, wouldn’t you? It would be absurd to expect such great results while putting in such minimal and pitiful effort.

It would be absurd to expect such great results while putting in such minimal and pitiful effort.

How often do our actions not align with our expected results?

  1. You’ll pay your buddy from college $100 to design your logo, and then expect to reap the benefits of a world-class brand strategy.
  2. You won’t spend 30 minutes to create a basic survey to send to your customers to better understand them, and then wonder why your messaging and communication isn’t connecting with your audience.
  3. You’ll wonder why you don’t seem to be attracting as many customers as you thought when you slap your $100 logo on a $10,000 sign.

Whether it’s a priority to you, or not… whether you are intentional about it, or not… whether you think it’s important, or not… you will have a brand. That brand is your reputation. If your reputation is causing confusion, and sending the wrong message to customers, there’s no amount of clever marketing tactics or catchy advertising campaigns that will save you. And as you frantically try and figure out a solution to why your business is slowly slipping out of your control, you’ll waste a lot of time and money along the way.

Branding on a Budget of $0

We hear this a lot. “Your BrandGPS process sounds awesome, and I can really see the value and how it could help my business… but…”

  • “We just can’t afford it.”
  • “We have other priorities right now.”
  • “Maybe it’s something we can implement later on.”
  • “We really just need a logo right now.”

These are not good reasons to give up on branding for your business. Even if you can’t afford to hire a professional branding agency like Longitude°, you can still be strategic in your branding. We’ve written a number of articles that could help get you started on the right path, as well as published a free guide called “The Business of Branding.” These types of resources should be utilized and implemented in your business.

There’s plenty that you can do to grow your business into a powerful and profitable brand. Don’t give up on building the brand you want, simply because you don’t believe you can afford it.

Here’s Why You’re Getting Beat by the Competition

The most profitable companies in the world make huge investments toward improving their brand and reputation; often spending millions to get it just right. Yet for many small businesses owners, branding is an afterthought. Why is this?

In this article, I’ll dispel some common misconceptions you may have about branding that could be harming your business. You’ll also learn about how a brand strategy (like the ones we develop through our BrandGPS™ process) could be one of the best investments you could make for your business.

Your Competition Is Winning, Here’s Why…

There’s a disease of misinformation spreading throughout the world of business. It’s plaguing small businesses and startups from every industry. If not caught early, then it could do great harm to your business.

Your competition thrives on your ignorance and they want you to stay misinformed.

Your competitors would prefer that you continue doing business as usual – fighting the uphill battle and constantly spinning your wheels. They don’t want you to be privy to certain best business practices, tricks of the trade, innovative ideas, or powerful marketing tactics. As brand guides, we see the results of this common complacency on a daily basis. Yet, more often than not, this disease can be cured through some education and awareness. With knowledge comes power.

Could You Be Misinformed?

The following statements shine a light on the fact that many people have a flawed understanding of what a brand is and how a brand strategy can benefit virtually every business. If you’ve found yourself saying any of the following statements, there’s a very high chance that you could be misinformed – and quite possibly doing great harm to your business without knowing.

MYTH #1: “There’s no clear ROI to branding.”

TRUTH: The fact is, there is plenty of examples of how proper branding, guided by a professional branding agency, can have a great return on investment. We’ll mention a few below.

MYTH #2: “It’s a nice-to-have, but not that important.”

TRUTH: There’s ample evidence to show that a brand strategy is not just a “nice-to-have” for your business, but a necessary step. If you view branding as just a decoration, or an “optional add-on” it’s time to step into the 21st century and stop running your business like you live in the 1950s.

The climate of the marketplace has changed, and consumers have changed with it. It’s not enough anymore to just say that you have the best prices or best quality stuff. Consumers are smarter and more engaged than ever. They will judge you based on how you look, what you say, and what you do. If any of those three pieces aren’t aligned, then you’ll be ignored.

You need to connect with consumers, not just talk about how awesome you are. They need to know who you are, what you do, what you stand for, and believe it. Developing a strategic brand should be one of the first steps in almost every business.

MYTH #3: “We just can’t afford it.”

TRUTH: In reality, you can’t afford to not have a brand strategy. But if you are an existing business, and truly don’t have any funds to invest in growing your business – then that could be a huge indicator that you need a brand strategy. A brand strategy can be one of the most important investments you make into your business. Implementing these principles, standards, and guidelines for your business can make you more profitable; making the initial investment of hiring a professional brand agency seem small.

MYTH #4: “We can hire ACME Agency to design a logo for half the price.”

TRUTH: This could be one of the most common, and most troubling misconceptions that surround branding. This antiquated idea is plaguing the world of startups and small businesses. Many people believe that spending a few hundred dollars to hire a logo designer will provide the same benefits as a going through an in-depth, comprehensive brand strategy process like BrandGPS™ – This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Investing in a brand strategy and professional brand identity is one of the most important decisions you can make.

Benefits of Branding

Your brand is the public’s response to how you look, what you say, and what you do. Without a brand strategy and professional brand identity, you’re probably missing 2 out of 3 vital pieces that make for a great brand. Implementing a brand strategy and brand identity (like the ones we provide with BrandGPS™) provides a ton of incredible benefits, uses, and tools to help your business grow – like crazy. The list below is not complete by any means, but will give you just a taste of some of the benefits you can expect after improving your approach to branding.

1. A Customer Magnet

People really want an easy connection to the brands they love. A great brand is a great reputation. It lets someone know they can trust your business to deliver the best services or products, all the time. You brand bridges the gap between your business and your customers; strengthening their resolve to do business with you. Often times this can increase metrics for your business such as conversion rates, or average order value.

2. Customer Loyalty Sky-rockets

Great and intentional branding is one of the most effective ways to increase customer loyalty. When people have a memorable experience with your brand, they will remember your brand, not only your product or service. People put their trust in brands, not products. So if your brand can connect with your customers emotionally, and build trust, chances are you’ll have a customer for life.

3. Your Message Connects

If created well, a brand strategy and identity can provide an incredible channel of communication with your audience. Your brand can inform people about your company’s value, your defining message, and unique characteristics. Things like these will help consumers connect to your business, and easily be able to identify your products vs. your competition’s. It’s important to know your customer intimately. What drives them? What motivates them? Once you find this out, design your brand strategy and identity accordingly – and growing your business is almost inevitable.

4. You Look Like a Better Choice

Do consumers know what sets you apart from your competition? Believe it or not, most people won’t just pay you money because you say that you do the best work, you provide the best quality, you’re the most affordable, and you’re just plain awesome. A real brand strategy will give you the right messaging to clearly communicate the value of your offering. Without this positioning statement, your business will just fall into the sea of a thousand competitors. A well-thought-out brand strategy will set your brand apart from the crowd, and even if the competition tries to copy you – it will just further establish and solidify your value in the consumer’s mind.

5. Who Doesn’t Like More Money?

If I offered to give you an additional 23% revenue this year but asked you to give me a small fraction of that amount in return, what would you say? You’d say yes; it’d be a no-brainer. It’d be absurd to say no.

Yet this is exactly what many businesses are doing every single year by not investing in a brand strategy, and getting consistent with their approach. Brand consistency is extremely important, and a pillar of any solid brand strategy.

There have been studies that show brands who are consistent can experience a 23% increase in their revenue, on average. That’s a pretty crazy stat, isn’t it? How would it make you feel to see your revenue increased by 23%? It’d probably feel pretty good, right?

Think about this for your own business. Ask yourself the following:

  1. What do I estimate my revenue to be over the next 12 months?
  2. Multiply that number by 0.23.
  3. That’s how much money you’re throwing away each year by not implementing a brand strategy and maintaining a consistent brand.

So for example, a business making $100,000 annually will lose $23,000 per year by not having an effective and consistent brand strategy in place.

There’s a Better Option

The news is in. You need a brand strategy for your business. If your business doesn’t have one or the one you have is ineffective, get in touch with us.

We’ve worked with many very sharp, forward-thinking owners and entrepreneurs from a variety of industries; guiding them through our 4-step brand development process called, BrandGPS™.

Over the course of 4-6 weeks, we help you establish a solid brand strategy for your business; helping bring alignment to your business goals and marketing efforts. It gives you the right look to attract more ideal customers and ensures that your brand is sending the right message.

What this provides for a company like yours is a clear and consistent connection with people, and quite frankly this often means an increase in your profits. It comes as no surprise to us that many of the business owners we’ve partnered with have expressed that BrandGPS™ is the best investment they’ve made for their business.

5 Steps to Building An Elite Brand

1. Understand that your “brand” is not your logo

Your brand is not your logo. This misconception leads to much confusion and missed opportunities. Every time you hear “brand” think “reputation.” Your brand is how you’re perceived in the marketplace. And you will have a brand whether or not you invest effort to cultivate it.

Your brand is made up of the sum of your customer interactions. Contributors to your brand include your products, how you treat your customers, the environmental design, your logo and signage, your online presence, and more.

The average person is exposed to 6,000 advertisements each day. That sounds overwhelming, right? The point is that you have to keep it simple and consistent. Your brand has to rise above the noise and make an emotional connection with the consumer.

This can’t happen without understanding the pitfalls and hacks that will affect the future of your brand. Elite brands require investment and hard work, but the process is fairly simple once you know the steps.

2. Decide what type of brand you’re going to be

There are two types of brands, weak brands, and elite brands. Weak or poor brands suffer from what I call the cloud of confusion.

This is the default place to be. As you can see in the illustration, you have all of these elements floating around. None of them are focused on a clear message. There is no synergy. Each time you want to run a promotion, you feel like you’re reinventing the wheel. Your social media posts lack clarity and cohesiveness.

If you have a weak brand, you will experience some or all of these issues:

  • Your customers aren’t telling their friends about you.
  • Your messaging is all over the place and you keep trying things hoping something will stick.
  • Your advertising efforts fall flat and don’t get the results you need.
  • You are not really known in the community for anything.
  • You never know if you’re going to have a good week or a bad week.
  • You can’t clearly articulate why you’re better than the competition. No one knows the deeper reason behind why you do what you do.

This is the status quo. This is where most small businesses are at.

Weak brands don’t just struggle with the day-to-day. Think about the larger implications:

  • Do you dream of one day selling your business for a profit? Business owners don’t want to buy a weak brand.
  • Do you want the freedom to get away and trust that your employees would run things correctly? Employees don’t take pride and ownership in working for a weak brand.
  • Do you want to feel good about your brand knowing that you’re making your competitors jealous?

Weak brands are diluted at best, and repulsive at worst.

There is a better way. There are principles that the successful companies understand and you can put those to practice in your business.

Now, look at the diagram of an elite brand. There are two components that make all of the difference. Brand Strategy and Brand Identity Design.

This is a well-defined, cohesive system that looks nothing like the cloud of confusion. You have the right strategy at the core, then you have the identity design that embodies the strategy. Then all of your touch points are rooted in a cohesive, strategic way. There’s a ripple effect that gains momentum with every execution.

All of your touch points are flowing from the core of your strategy and design. It takes the guesswork out of every new thing you do. This is how you need to start viewing everything you do.

3. Develop the right strategy

The strategy is the first and all-important component of your brand. Strategic brand positioning is the key. Without a well-defined strategy, you’re doomed to the cloud of confusion.

Elite brands stand for something larger than what they sell.

If you’re going to make the emotional connection and create a solid core, you need to spend time defining your “why” statement. At the end of the day, people buy from people. Your strategy should be authentic. You need to figure out why you do what you do and communicate that to your customers.

An effective brand strategy should clearly explain: 

  • Brand Personality and Characteristics
  • How you want to be perceived in the marketplace
  • Target Audience Needs and Desires
  • What makes you completely unique
  • Why you do what you do and how that benefits the customer
  • The action steps you can take to support your position.
  • How you will communicate all of this internally and externally.

Defining a clear strategy is the first step in keeping you out of the cloud of confusion.

4. Use design as a tool to communicate your strategy

Without a strategy, design is merely decoration. A new logo will not change your brand. Wait, so design isn’t important? That’s not true either.

Design is how you can differentiate yourself. Design is how you can communicate your value. 

Design is the easiest way to communicate that you are committed to quality and somewhere people can trust. Design is how you become recognizable and memorable. Design is how you can capture the interest of your target audience. There are so many subtle cues in design that can communicate on a subconscious, emotional level. We live in a visual culture. People scroll social media for hours each day. Much of our perceptions are based on how things appear.

Good design plays a vital role in an elite brand. 

Design is a tool that should communicate:

  • What values are important to you as a brand.
  • What type of experience your customer should expect.
  • Why you’re different than the competition.
  • That you care about quality.
  • That you care about the customer’s needs.

Design isn’t a necessary evil and it shouldn’t be mere decoration. If done strategically, it will be a tool to carry out business objectives and increase your bottom line.

5. Execute with consistency

Now that you’ve got the first two layers down, you can begin to see the results. There is an inevitable snowball effect.

  • Advertising ROI will increase because you’re now investing in the right message and getting it to the right person.
  • Customer loyalty will grow because now they have something to believe in and identify with.
  • Employee morale will improve because you are all in agreement on why you do what you do.
  • Your reputation in the marketplace will begin to become stronger because it’s being clearly communicated.

5 Tips for Developing A Winning Brand Strategy

When you think of your brand, think about your reputation. Your brand — who you are as a chef or restaurant — is how you’re perceived in the marketplace. You can be sure that there will be a perception of you, even if you don’t focus attention on it. Brand strategy is really just the game plan for guiding those perceptions. Whether you are a brand new establishment or one that has been around for decades, developing a strategy to guide your brand’s reputation will be invaluable.

People buy from brands they love and trust. Just as in personal relationships, we are drawn to people who are authentic, who share similar values, and who can improve our lives in some way.

Strong brands represent something larger than the products they sell.

In developing a strong brand, “what” you do as a business matters less than the “why” and the “who.” This is how you build authentic relationships and loyalty.

Why do you do what you do? Could everyone on your team articulate this? Do your customers know this? This is exactly what an effective brand strategy can help you achieve.

Now let’s look at five tips for developing an effective brand strategy. There may be many different ways to go about this, but concentrated workshops over a few days can be a very effective format.

1. Set the expectations.

You need to assess your current situation. How are you perceived now? What areas need to be improved on? What areas are going well and which ones need fine-tuning? Startups have the advantage of not having to overcome wrong perceptions. However, if you’ve been in business for a while, you have a much better grasp on the reality and you can be more accurate in your assessment. Before starting out, define the desired outcomes of your strategy work. Note the areas that need improvement so that you can have benchmarks to judge by later.

2. Assemble the right team.

The branding team should include a variety of positions. The owner will have different perceptions and insights from those in lower and middle positions. When dealing with perceptions, all are valid and will contribute towards the success of the effort. By having a diverse team it will also help to bring everyone on board with the mission and goals.

3. Define areas of opportunity.

Do you have well-defined brand values? You need to identify the characteristics and personality traits that guide you as a business. Being able to articulate those clearly will allow the entire business to work together toward the same goal. Do you know what sets you apart from your competitors? What is the one thing that you can offer that no one else can?

The strength of a brand is in its ability to differentiate.

Do you have a clear understanding of your target customer? Creating detailed customer personas will be extremely valuable to inform marketing decisions for placement, copywriting, and design.

4. Validate what you find.

You need to make sure you’re heading down the right path. Customer surveys can be a very effective method to align your goals with reality. Check your desired brand values against current perceptions.

Continue Reading on Foodable

 


 

Dustin Myers is a brand strategist and designer who has owned and operated Longitude° since 2010. He has had the privilege of consulting with brands all over the world, helping their businesses grow through clear communication. He lives in Springfield, MO with his wife Lauren and their three children.

Schedule A Free Strategy Call

What Is Brand Identity And Why Does It Matter?

What is brand identity?

You may hear the term “brand identity” and have a vague idea, but not a clear understanding of what that means. You’re not alone. Most people couldn’t give an explanation of what a brand identity is. It involves the logo, so why not just say logo design? There is a big difference. My goal is to help you understand the difference and how it impacts your bottom line.

When you think of Coca-Cola, do you picture their logo? Probably, but you also think of red and white, script lettering, brown, fizzy liquid, bubbles, a brown bottle, happy faces, refreshment, and joy.

We could go on and on with examples — brands such as McDonalds, Nike, Target, Starbucks and others that have invested in developing a complete brand identity and reaped the reward of recognition, association, and loyalty.

A brand identity is the combination of the visual elements including the name, logo, tagline, voice, color palette, image style, typography, textures & patterns, iconography, packaging and collateral.

All of these elements work together to form a visual system. An effective brand identity must be implemented creatively and consistently over a period of time to make an impact on people’s minds.

Mollaga-Branding-Elements-by-Longitude

Some of the elements designed for the Mollaga brand.

What makes a brand identity effective?

1. Accuracy. Does your branding communicate the right message about who you are and what you offer?

2. Creativity. Does your branding pique interest or is it just a bland, cliche and forgettable?

3. Consistency. Does your branding look the same everywhere it’s applied? Does it form a cohesive, intentional look that people can come to recognize and appreciate?

Whether or not you’ve ever thought about this or put any focus on it, your restaurant has a brand identity. It may not be truly representative of your values and it may not be consistent, but it’s there. You broadcast it to your potential customers every day. Logo, website, business cards, stationery, collateral, signage, social media posts, etc. Whatever is out there, be it accidental or intentional, is how your brand is represented to potential customers.

For more on this, read 3 Ingredients of an Effective Restaurant Brand Identity.

Can brand identity affect the bottom line?

Many times a potential customer will see your logo and branding before they set foot in your location, taste your food or talk to your staff. It is the first touchpoint in converting the general public into a loyal customer. Whether or not they give you the chance will be greatly affected by your branding.

The average person is bombarded with around 3,000 brands every day. That seems like an overwhelming number to compete with. The good news is that there is a very small percentage of restaurants that are actually designed well. When you see a restaurant with an interesting brand, it stands out.

If your competitors are doing well here, then you can’t afford not to invest here. If your competitors aren’t doing well here, then you have that much more to gain from your investment. In either case, you have an opportunity to connect with potential customers and build trust and loyalty by developing an accurate, creative and consistent brand identity.

Think of it this way

Imagine someone sets two plates of food in front of you. On the right, you have a clean bright white plate with beautifully arranged food that is full of color.  On the left, you have a dirty old plate with the same food piled together haphazardly. I’m not a psychologist, but I’ll bet 10 out of 10 people will pick the one with the better presentation. (Even though they may taste the exact same.)

The presentation is huge. If a potential customer doesn’t perceive you to be interesting and trustworthy, they won’t give you a chance.

Next Step

Take some time to evaluate your current logo and brand identity elements. Does it accurately communicate who you are? Is it creative and memorable? Is there consistency in all of your brand touchpoints?

 

See Examples of Brand Identities Developed by Longitude

 

Ready to Talk? Send a Message

Or just email us at info@longitudebranding.com