A Room with A Bed Isn’t Enough- 8 Ways to Future Proof Your Independent Boutique Hotel

As an independent hotelier, you are always looking for ways to provide the best in service to your guests. You want to give them the best experience so that they come back to you when they require your services again, and the way to build loyalty and a great hotel brand.

Largely, customers are seeking a personalized experience, and they definitely want to remain connected from the booking process all the way to check out. Trends like mobile check-in and checkout are growing in popularity, and Wi-Fi remains a most-wanted amenity for guests of all ages.

Here are eight ways you can make your brand the greatest and get your customers coming back for more great stays.

1. Get Super Connected

In the old days, you would pick up that phone that sat on the little desk in between the beds, and you would call the front desk for help with whatever you needed. Or, you’d call the designated number for concierge, and get the help that way.

However, if your hotel has an app, consider taking a cue from Marriott and Hilton. They have the ability for consumers to complete the check-in process right from their smartphones, get into their room using a mobile key, and send out text messages with queries and requests to hotel staff members.

Connectivity is certainly growing as a standard by which hotels are measured. And of course, be sure that your rooms are equipped to handle the changing needs of today’s device-carrying travelers: some hotels even feature charging ports that are a welcome sight to those who may have left theirs on the plane.

2. Emphasize the Wi-Fi

Business travelers are getting work done. Digital nomads are meeting guidelines. Families with kids need the tablet for entertainment. The faster, the better!

The faster you can make your Wi-Fi, the better. Some customers are willing to pay an upcharge for higher speed, but this may be off-putting to some.

In the same vein, provide plenty of power outlets so that devices can be plugged in and charged with ease. Every member of the family has at least a smartphone-so be sure you are prepared.

3. Put A Focus on Local Fun

One way to really improve hotel guest experience is to help travelers experience the city like a true local. With the advent of Airbnb, this is now more important than ever. One huge example is the Unforgettable Experience packages that the Hilton’s Waldorf Astoria offers.

These include destination-specific activities right in the room rate. One such experience situated in Dubai includes dinner and a camel ride for two people. While you certainly do not have to provide camel rides, consider ways you can appeal to your guests by integrating local activities.

You might offer a rate that includes passes to a local attraction, or a dinner voucher for a favorite local restaurant, for instance. Experiences are now more important than ever to consumers, especially millennials, who currently hold them in higher value than “stuff.”

4. Improve Brand Experience by Making Training an Everyday Occurrence

There is no doubt that your staff already puts in 110% when completing their daily duties, and everyone from the GM to the housekeepers to the landscapers does their best. But there are some great ways that you can combine traditional training methods with technology to ensure that every agent and employee is up to speed.

For instance, suppose you have implemented a new Property Management System. Be sure that you are taking advantage of all methods available to teach and train employees. Have them take part in classroom training exercises, complete e-learning, or use an application that monitors your employees’ actions while they work so you can guide them as they learn the system.

Make a concerted effort to have every employee trained on new procedures, technology, and rules. Customers having to wait in line while an employee fumbles around is unacceptable and leaves everyone frustrated.

A well trained and informed staff will resonate soundly with guests. Your brand becomes synonymous with excellence.

5. Provide Personalized Customer Service

A hallmark of your brand can easily be personalized customer service. In a world where we are becoming more and more connected in the digital sense instead of the personal sense, it has become critical to treat your guests like they are the only ones in the entire hotel.

Not all guests should get the same treatment, and excellence is measured in different ways from guest to guest. Some want a speedy check-in; others like to stop and chat with you. Do your best to learn your customers’ name and greet them as such.

Demonstrate an eagerness to help. Remember the guests’ preferences. And be sure you and your employees are able to offer solid information about the local area such as good places to dine or interesting local activities.

Though your brand may not be as large as national chains, you can still treat guests like VIPs. Be sure your staff is trained to be attentive and treat everybody with the utmost of care, regardless of who they are. Guests leave reviews everywhere now: Google, Yelp and more-so when they feel special and cared for, others will know and book with you.

6. Make Booking Easy

You can do simple things that will hugely improve on your booking process and deliver guests the fast and easy experience they desire. Make the calendar part of your process easy by filling out the check-in and checkout boxes with today’s date, plus one day.

Lots of hotels have blank calendar fields and filling it in helps the user get one step closer to whatever dates they need.

You can include a progress measurement for the booking progress. People like to know how long a task will take before they can move onto the next thing, and a progress bar, steps till completion or other measurement method helps consumers move along and stay encouraged to finish the process.

Be sure your process does not ask consumers to log in or create an account unless they will be rewarded in some way (points, etc.). This just annoys the user with more tasks all for marketing reasons, not a great experience.

Every hotel is different, but at the minimum, just ask for full name, email, and phone number. You might also include special requests and time of arrival fields, too. Be sure that your website also offers security credentials, too-it’s peace of mind for users.

7. Guest Engagement

This ties into making guests feel like they are the only ones present in your hotel at any given moment. Guests that are disengaged are not as likely to return to a property and will more than likely discuss their experience online using any number of popular review sites.

Millennials are less likely to be engaged, says Gallup, but the silver lining is that guests who are engaged are less sensitive to price whether they demand luxury experiences or an economical stay. Therefore, guests that have an emotional attachment to a hotel are more likely to book at that property, regardless of budget.

You can encourage engagement by doing some easy things: Encourage them to provide feedback, and of course, treat them as the unique and varied individuals they are. Even though guests are there for different needs and experiences, they all desire great customer service that is delivered with a strong personal touch. Be sure you go over expectations with your staff to ensure the highest satisfaction among guests.

8. Provide Guests the Amenities They Want

There are amenities that customers really like, and then there are ones they can do without. Providing the right mix of amenities that add value to your guests’ stay is critical in making an impact. Consider changing the following:

  • Room Service-Customers are yearning more for good, strong Wi-Fi or a gym. Combine this with the desire to eat local cuisine and experience what the locals do, room service is desired less and less.
  • Valet-Many travelers, even those who stay at luxury hotels, prefer to park their own car.
  • Slippers and robes-Many guests prefer to just wear their own clothes and would not mind if hotels nixed the bathrobes.
  • Mini-bar-The mini bar is often expensive, and travelers do not want to pay the price. Plus, it is expensive to stock these.

Final Thoughts

Your independent boutique property can speak volumes for itself when you provide customers what they seek, which is a personalized, engaging experience, a connected stay at your hotel, bridges to the local cuisine, activities, and establishments, and of course an easy process from start to finish.

By integrating as much helpful technology as you can, and keeping staff trained to be attentive and friendly to your customers’ needs, you will surely notice more repeat business and your hotel will be established as a modern and beautiful place to stay for business, travel, or anything in between.

The Ultimate Guide: How to Start a Restaurant

How to Start a Restaurant

If you’ve looked around online about how to start a restaurant, it’s likely that you’ve seen an article or two talking about all the reasons you should not even try.

But don’t listen to these naysayers — it’s your dream, so go for it. Even after hearing all of these arguments of these pessimists, if you’re still excited about pursuing your dreams of being a restaurant owner, then we’ve got the perfect step-by-step guide that you’ll need for starting a successful restaurant.

Three Foundations of Opening a Restaurant

Before you get hung up on too many ideas, focus on these three foundations of starting a restaurant:

  1. Pick a Relevant Concept.
  2. Hire the Right Chef.
  3. Location, Location, Location.

There’s nothing that can ever really prepare you for starting a restaurant, no matter what type of background or level experience you came from. No matter how much you read, how many videos you watch, how many seminars you go to, there are some things that can only come from the experience of being a restauranteur. However, with this guide, we will do our best to make sure that you are set up for success, and are fully prepared to make the plunge.

Finding your perfect Niche

In our experience as both restaurant branding experts and passionate foodies, we know that there are many options out there as far as concepts that you could consider. Each one requiring a certain set of skills in order to keep them running effectively.

As you consider starting your restaurant, try to find opportunities that you can take advantage of. What food, service, or convenience have you found missing? Is there a need in your market that is still unfulfilled?

As you consider these questions, if you find that it’s not meeting your options enough, maybe consider looking at the latest restaurant trends for inspiration.
There are plenty of unique, and fun concepts out there – so there’s no need for you to create something from thin air.

Should You Choose a Franchise?

As you are dreaming about one day opening a restaurant, you might be thinking, “I don’t really want to reinvent the wheel, but there is a big need for a fast and casual Indian joint in my city!”

If that sounds like you, then it might be good to start looking for a franchise opportunity.

The great thing about a franchise is that most of the work has already been done for you. Organizing a menu, conceptualizing interior design, and making a marketing plan from scratch, are all things you don’t have to worry about. Plus, the allure of an already recognizable brand will help draw in customers for you.

The brand recognition that comes with franchise restaurants, as well as a lower failure rate than independently owned restaurants, are all part of the reason franchises are so appealing.

However, just like anything, owning a restaurant franchise has both pros and cons. Despite all the benefits that come with launching a recognizable brand with a proven plan for success already in place, there are a few downsides.

First and foremost, franchises aren’t cheap. Often times you’ll need a large sum of personal assets instead of a loan, and buying the rights the franchise are typically non-refundable.

In addition to this, you don’t have flexibility with the business model, so when it comes to getting creative with running your restaurant, your options are pretty limited. For instance, if your franchise headquarters opts to do a complete overhaul of its decor, then you’ll have to put out the money for it, even if you don’t want to. If you’ve chosen the franchise route, then make sure you consider these things and do some more research into your specific franchise before you dive in.

A Better Business Plan: Crafting a Brand Strategy

In all honesty, when all you want to do is get cooking in the kitchen, crafting unique and delicious recipes, and making your customers happy, the last thing you want to do is slow down and begin writing a business plan.

Nothing sounds less fun than researching, creating spreadsheets, graphing charts and analyzing statistics.

But, before your eyes glaze over and you move on to the “fun” steps of opening a restaurant, you should ask yourself the following:

Would you try and create a dish you’ve never made before without ever even looking at a recipe? No.

Just as a recipe gives you the guidelines, roadmap, and action plan to create a stellar dish, a brand strategy will give you the recipe to make sure your restaurant is set up to win, not fail.

This step is often the difference between a restaurant that will fail or one that will succeed. Or a restaurant that is doomed to make just enough to pay bills or one that is very profitable and successful.

A brand strategy gets you thinking deeper

A brand strategy gets you thinking deeper about the future of your restaurant, the market you’re serving, the risks and challenges you’ll face, and the viability of seeing your ultimate dreams become reality.

When your brand strategy is well thought out and refined, you’ll have a better idea of which steps should come next for you as you are opening your restaurant and pursuing your dream.

Here are the 12 biggest questions you should answer as you are planning for the future of your restaurant:

Decide What kind of restaurant do you want?

There are so many types of restaurants in all shapes, and all sizes. From fast-and-casual concepts to food trucks, to cafes, bars, or major franchises. Step number one is narrowing down your ideas to a specific concept.

Write out a long and short answer to this question, and then get familiar with explaining it to family, friends, investors, lenders, and future customers. This will be like your “elevator pitch” in a way. It’s something you’ll need to practice repeating over and over.

Who is your restaurant for?

Before you can begin getting customers into your doors, you need to know who they are. This is also known as your target market. It’s a group of people who your restaurant is meant to serve.

The more specific you can get, the better. When you know your customer deeply, and intimately, you’ll be able to craft a better menu, design, environment and better overall experience for them.

When you understand your customers’ decision making, their fears, their desires, their motivations – your marketing campaigns will be much more effective and you’ll reach your ideal demographic more easily.

When you make these customer profiles, it’s good to be aware of how many households in the area you plan to serve are in your price point. You’ll need to find a location that is close to customers who can support your prices, and that isn’t already flooded with similar restaurant concepts. This decision is hugely important in the long-term success and growth of your restaurant.

Who are your restaurant’s main competitors?

Many business owners might tell you to never worry about your competition and just run your business with your nose to the ground. Only worry about yourself.

This could be good advice in the sense that you don’t want to mindlessly copy your competition, always worrying about what they’re doing, and trying to mimic them, or “one-up” them. However, when you’re first starting a restaurant it’s vital to know who your primary competitors are in the market.

You’ll want to know how they are similar, and how they are different from your restaurant. Do plenty of research to identify your competitors, as this will save you from the frustrations and failure that can come from creating a restaurant concept that is already too saturated or is positioned poorly against the other options.

Where’s the best location?

You’ve heard it before, “location, location, location.” It’s been said millions of times, yet it still rings true to this day. This step is one of the most important steps in the success of your restaurant.

By now you should have already narrowed down potential locations based on defining your target market and looking at your competition. You should be able to make some smart conclusions from these things.

For instance, it would be silly to put a high-end steakhouse in the middle of a low-income neighborhood.

With the same token, a trendy taco truck probably wouldn’t do well near a gated community of retired elderly people. Although, who knows… everyone loves tacos!

What’s your unique value proposition?

Don’t let this word scare you, it’s not complex, and really all that it means is that you should find what makes you different from your competition.

What is it about your food, your storefront, your atmosphere, your location, your pricing, that makes you unique and stand out among your competitors?

Maybe there’s something special about your specific location, or maybe you offer a very unique customer experience, or maybe the ingredients of your food are locally sourced and organic. There are many ways that your restaurant can stand out amongst the competition, so it’s important to discover this for your own restaurant.

One important factor of discovering and defining a unique value proposition is the menu that you offer. It’s important to test it, even on a small scale. Host tasting parties, or pop up events, leading up to the grand opening of a restaurant. This will allow you to gain important feedback, so you can know how to serve your customers best.

Your menu may change over time, but with a well-defined brand strategy, unique value proposition, and understanding your customers, the menu that you launch with should serve your restaurant well.

How will your customers find your restaurant?

How are you answer this question will be the beginning foundation of your restaurant marketing strategy.

Unfortunately for businesses, especially restaurants, the idea of “if you build it, they will come “doesn’t apply. Simply existing, is usually not enough for a restaurant to survive let alone thrive.

Since you now understand your customer, be thinking of ways that you can connect with him. Will you connect through paid advertising, social media campaigns, rely on word-of-mouth? Word-of-mouth referrals are great but aren’t always enough. You need to have a plan of action of what, and who, you’ll need in order to help get your message out.

Some other ideas for spreading the word could be inviting food bloggers to visit your restaurant, hosting a large grand opening event and inviting the community, and of course ensuring your restaurant is listed on Yelp, OpenTable, and has updated listings on Google and other social platforms.

Also, before you open you want to make sure you have a press kit, Nice photography, a video, and an “about” section of your website ready for any local or national news organizations that show interest.

What resources will your restaurant need?

You’ve heard it said before, it takes money to make money. And the same rings true for restaurants.

You’ll need to know what it will take to open and operate your restaurant. What types of resources will you need? Will you be the head chef, or will you hire a head chef? What type of technology will your restaurant use to process payments, or book reservations online? How many employees will you need? Will you hire an agency specializing in restaurant branding to design your logo, or have your nephew design it?

Take time now to list out all of the expenses your business will incur; both one time and recurring expenses. Be diligent, and as precise as possible.

Don’t forget to search for costs related to other mundane and operational things. Utilities, pest control, cleaning services, laundry services, etc.

If there are other needs that are not related to money, list those out as well.

How will your restaurant make money?

You can have the best idea in the world about what food or service you offer that customers will love, but that doesn’t always mean that your restaurant concepts will succeed and be profitable.

The effort that you put into your business model through developing a brand strategy is often what will determine how successful your restaurant will be. Will you generate just enough revenue to get by? Will you be able to make enough to cover all of your expenses? Will you eventually be able to make more money, and be profitable?

This is often where many restaurants fail because they don’t take the time thinking this through. The average restaurant thinks that simply opening their doors, will mean that the restaurant will make money.

That simply is not the case.

You’ll want to think through things related to the pricing structure of your menu, how you will choose your staff, what sort of insurance and licenses you will have and how much they will cost, and many other tax obligations, and red tape you’ll have to jump through.

How long will it take for your restaurant to make a profit?

It’s typical for a new restaurant to start out with a loss when they first open up, the first year is especially difficult. As you continue to invest in the necessary resources and work towards understanding and acquiring new customers, and work out all the kinks that come with operating a restaurant, there is a learning curve.

However, after some time, if you’ve done your due diligence, you’ll be making a good profit on top of your expenses.

Consider using a revenue forecast model to figure out how long it will take your restaurant to recoup your initial investments, to simply breakeven, and eventually run a profitable business.

What values will you never compromise in running a restaurant?

When you are in the thick of operating a restaurant, it important to be making good decisions at every turn and knowing what you stand for is critical to that.

You should define what values are most important to you, in business and personally. What values do you hold closest to you? What’s something that’s non-negotiable?

Write these values down, and limit them to two or three. This doesn’t mean you can’t have more than two or three values, but as the saying goes, “ if everything is important, then nothing is important.”

Creating and documenting these core values at the start will help you in your decision making, your operations, and every decision you make for your restaurant. From choosing the right vendor to how your menu should evolve over time, or critical decisions during pivotal times.

What’s your staffing plan?

Great service makes food taste even better.

It’s important to have skilled, hard-working, and qualified staff. And this begins with finding great candidates.

You can certainly find candidates through the usual means of job boards and website listings, and there’s always the classic sign in the window approach. However, finding the best quality team members is often achieved through personal connections.

Whether it is your head chef, a friend, or family member, reach out and start looking for the most reliable candidates possible. It’s very likely that your chef will want to bring people they have a past working relationship with, so be sure that these people fit into your company‘s culture.

Finding them is just one challenge, next you’ll have to train them.

Solid foundational training related to rules of food service and best practices in customer service will set your company apart, and a lay out a precedent early on with your restaurant.

When your team members are engaged, and you have a staff that supports you and your vision, and delivers exceptional customer service – that is a recipe for success. Your customers will notice, and their loyalty to your brand will strengthen.

What’s the endgame?

Have you considered what your endgame is? Is your plan to build a restaurant that one day you hope to sell, or are you hoping for a long-term sustainable business for you and your family? Do you simply want to start a small restaurant that you can pass down to your children and your grandchildren? Or are you wanting to start a franchise that will revolutionize the industry?

Understanding where you want to end up and how you want to get there, and when you want to get there, will help you make informed and smart decisions along the way.
Before going any further you should take time and outline what that looks like to you and create steps along the way.

If you want to reach your goal in 10 years, what should you be doing on an annual basis? What action should you be taking on a monthly basis to reach your annual target? What thing should you be focusing on a weekly basis to reach your monthly goal? And what should you be doing on a daily basis, to reach your weekly goal?

Make Your Restaurant Official

Now that we have the big picture game plan out of the way, it’s time to get down to business, making it official.

The early stages of starting a restaurant are filled with more paperwork and legal red tape to jump through than at any other point in your business.

This is definitely not the most exciting part of opening a restaurant, but be diligent. Taking time now to ensure that you properly establish your restaurant from the beginning will save you many potential headache and hazards down the road.

Below are some of the primary steps you’ll need to take in order to get your restaurant legally established with all of the proper paperwork for federal, state and local authorities.

Register Your Restaurants Official Business Name

If you’ve chosen a unique name for your business, then you should go and file your “Doing Business As” (DBA) name with your state’s agency.

Even if you have different future plans for the legal structure of your restaurant, filing a DBA at this early stage will protect you from getting your name stolen from you by a fellow restaurateur. It’s really simple and usually only costs a small amount to register it, so don’t wait.

Pick a Legal Structure for Your Restaurant

The next big step for getting your restaurant legally sound is to decide what sort of business entity is right for your restaurant.

Whatever structure you decide now will affect how you file for your state and federal business taxes, will influence how you split duties and roles of your team members, and determine how you will be held liable in the event that legal action is taken against your restaurant.

At this stage, it can be a good idea to consult with a business attorney to help you make the right choice because there are a lot of long-term issues that can arise from choosing the wrong option at this stage.

As you are considering all options, here is a basic overview of the various business structures you can choose from.

Sole Proprietorship

A sole proprietorship is the most basic business structure, and a simple one, but there are upsides and downsides to this structure.

In this structure, you alone own the company and are personally responsible for any liabilities or legal claims associated with it.

The best part of this structure is that you don’t need to take any formal action to start.

If your business is operating under your own name, you can start right away. Or, if you have a clever idea for your business’ name, then filing a DBA will be all you need.

This could be a perfect structure for you if you won’t be taking on any fixed assets or hiring employees: examples would be a food truck, pop-up restaurant, or a very small operation.

Partnership

This structure is meant for a single business that is owned by two or more individuals.

There are a number of partnership structures you can select from, including a general partnership, joint venture, or a limited partnership.

The downside, and why most experienced entrepreneurs don’t recommend the partnership structure, is because there isn’t much protection from liability offered.

As you are considering this, also remember that business partnerships are very much like a marriage. It should be a long-term commitment, and you are legally and financially tied to them.

Because of this, you should do your due diligence in choosing a business partner who is in it for the long haul and shares your same goals and values. Be sure that you are both very clear on the terms and expectations, and put it into detailed writing. Define the roles and responsibilities of each partner.

Be very clear and communicate well upfront with your partner, before anyone “signs the dotted line.” This could save you from potentially catastrophic issues that may arise in the future.

Corporation

The corporation is a very complex business structure typically reserved for larger organizations, or for those that have a particularly high liability — needing some extra reassurance.

Many attorneys will recommend this is the legal structure for your restaurant. And it scales well as you hire more employees.

However, keep in mind that filing as a corporation requires you to have Board of Directors, and has more stringent tax filing requirements.

So be sure to consult an attorney and be prepared from a more complex process.

S-Corporation

These are very similar in structure to a C-Corporation, yet it’s different in that it’s taxed on an individual business owner level, instead of as a corporation.

If you think that the structure of the corporation would be a good fit, but don’t want to have to deal with complicated dividend tax filings, an S-Corp might be a good route for you.

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

An LLC offers a liability structure similar to a corporation, yet flexibility and simplicity of a sole proprietorship or partnership. The Limited Liability Company (LLC) structure has grown in popularity over the years because you are able to get the “best of both worlds.”

Restaurateurs who select an LLC for the business structure can choose between a single officer, a partnership, or a limited liability corporation.

When selecting between various options, always it’s important to consult with an attorney.

This is an important decision that will have a potential long-term impact on your business, so be sure to do your due diligence, research, and consider all the options.

Get a Tax Identification Number

Your tax ID number, also known as your employee identification number (EIN) helps the IRS keep track of your restaurant for tax purposes.

It’s almost like a Social Security number for your business.

If you plan to hire any employees, such as waitstaff, hosts, hostesses, chefs, cooking staff, or even dishwashers, you’re going to need this number to ensure that your restaurant is on the up and up. This is especially important if your restaurant is established as a corporation or partnership.

You can easily obtain an employer identification number by applying online at the Internal Revenue Service website.

Register Your Restaurant for State and Local Taxes

In addition to federal business taxes, almost all US states and territories require you to pay income and employment taxes for your business.

Some states even have additional requirements, such as state-mandated Worker’s Compensation or unemployment insurance.

Be sure to check out your requirements, since filing procedures vary widely from state to state.

Get Secure Permits, Insurance, and Licenses for your Restaurant

Every four years the FDA will update the food code, but the specific details of what is required, strongly encouraged, or just optional can vary depending on which state you live and sometimes even between specific counties.

We recommend starting by finding your states food service code regulation department. Be sure to check your local health department to ensure that all of your bases are covered.

It’s also a very good idea to keep a calendar to remind yourself of renewal, and payment due dates. You don’t want to experience the frustration of walking into your restaurant one day and find that one of your permits or licenses has expired!

Get Food and Health Code Licenses

No matter the size of your operation, it will require some sort of official approval showing that you are safely handling the food and drinks that you serve.

The specific names of these can vary depending on your establishment, but they all certify that you’re safely handling, storing, and serving the food in your restaurant. And if you thought that having a food cart or a simple booth at a festival will get you out of this, think again. They have licenses for those too.

Alcohol has its own special sets of permits and rules. These will not only cover the protocols around safely serving alcohol, but also deal with training on how to handle customers that have had a little too much to drink.

Health Department Permits

Isn’t this the same thing that we just talked about? No, not exactly.

The health department has its own specific standards and guidelines around how you store, prepare, and serve your food. Your restaurant will need to be inspected to comply with operational standards as well as consumption safety.

Things like maximum occupancy, ventilation, fire hazards, sink placement, restroom regulations, or food preparation surface types, and so on.

Make Your Restaurant Compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act

In 1992 the Department of Justice passed the Americans With Disabilities Act to protect consumers and employees with disabilities from being discriminated against, and allowing places in public to provide proper accommodation.

The complete details of the ADA are available, but the Small Business Administration has also created a short guide for small businesses to understand what is expected of them.

Besides all of the specifics of various angles, measurements, and legal jargon, it really just boils down to having proper accommodations in place for people with disabilities. So they can safely park, enter your restaurant, order food and eat at a table.

Find Insurance for Your Restaurant

Despite jumping through all the red tape and every legal hoop with the health department, you still need some added safety nets in place.

There are many, many small business insurance options. There’s one for everything, and some are way more beneficial than others.

Specific requirements vary depending on where you live, and how you were funded, but at a base level you want to consider these:

  • Property Insurance
  • General Insurance
  • Life Insurance
  • Auto Liability
  • Unemployment Insurance
  • Liquor Liability
  • Worker’s Compensation Insurance
  • Fire Insurance
  • Food Contamination
  • Loss of Business

Funding Your Newly Opened Restaurant

To be quite honest, funding a restaurant isn’t easy.

Even if you only hope to open a small café, all of the costs associated with construction, staffing, permits, equipment, marketing, and of course the food, can add up very quickly and can easily be more than what you have in your bank account.

You’ll likely need some funding from somewhere to start your restaurant unless you happen to be independently wealthy.

Restaurateurs choose to finance their restaurants in many different ways. Some reach out to friends and family, others will get a loan, and some work with investors.

Below we are going to review some financing options that can be considered.

Small Business Loans for Starting a Restaurant

The most common way that many small businesses get financing is through borrowing funds through a bank or lender.

The lending industry has grown tremendously over the years, and now has a wide variety of loan products that can meet the needs of any entrepreneur.

If you think this could be a good route for you and help you fund your restaurant, then it would be worth taking a moment to review the most common loan types used.

Term Loans

This is probably the most well-known type of loan. A term loan provides a set timeline and repayment structure, with fixed or variable interest rates.

The terms of this loan will vary depending on your business needs, and your credit rating. Terms can range from one year with daily payments up to a five-year with monthly payments and everything in between.

SBA Loans

Because small business lending is so risky for many commercial lenders, they’ve been slightly hesitant to let the small business owners borrow money, and this is especially true with new restaurant ventures.

Due to this, the Small Business Administration began to guarantee up to 80% of the loan principal for term loans with participating lending institutions. This might be a viable option if you are already experienced in the restaurant and food industry. If you are not, you likely won’t be considered.

The SBA offers many different loan programs, including some for aspiring restaurant owners.

If you plan to go this route, you will certainly need to have all of your ducks in a row. Write a great business plan that highlights the need for your restaurant and the uniqueness of your concept. Also, be prepared to have anywhere from 20% to 30% of the total loan amount in cash — or take out a mortgage on your home.

Keep in mind that while an SBA loan may make lenders more willing to consider your application, the SBA loan process is very lengthy and can take several months.

Equipment Financing

Equipment financing might be a good choice if you are needing cash to make a large purchase such as point of sale technology, furniture, or commercial kitchen appliances.

This type of financing is very similar to the structure of a car loan, with the amount that you can borrow depends on the price and type of equipment that you’re buying.

You likely won’t be asked to put up collateral either, because the equipment itself will serve as the collateral.

The terms of this type of financing typically are a fixed interest rate — often between 8% and 30% — along with a fixed term length which makes your payments the same each month.

Short-Term Loans

For a restaurant with smaller and immediate needs for finances, a short term loan can be a lifesaver. These loans are typically between three and 18 months and are similar to traditional term loans. They are usually in the range of $2500-$250,000.

Short term loans can get you to cash in hand in as little as two days, helping you make rent payments, pay food vendors, cover your payroll, or meet other immediate overhead expenses when cash is tight. Interest rates can be as low as 14% on these types of loans.

Line of Credit

The most flexible form of financing for a business is a business line of credit, which gives you capital to draw upon to meet your business needs.

After being established, you can draw from your line of credit just as you would a personal credit card. Use your line of credit for more working capital, buying inventory, paying off other debts, or getting you through seasonal cash flow issues.

If you are planning to apply for any type of small business loan at any point in the future, be sure that you regularly audit your personal and business credit reports, and do everything you can to improve your score.

Aside from your annual revenue, length of time you’ve been in business and your average bank balance, your personal and business credit scores are often the most important factors that determine if you’re eligible for a small business loan.

Business Funding Alternatives

There are also other ways to finance a restaurant. Here are a few alternatives you may consider to help cover the costs of your new restaurant venture.

Angel Investors

Every single day there are thousands of people who are investing both finances and their expertise into what they believe is the next big thing.

Angel investors have the means and experience — and have often been very successful entrepreneurs themselves — to personally invest in a variety of restaurant ventures, lending their resources and expertise, and furthering their own income as well.

When an angel investor provides funds and expertise, you will also be giving them a certain amount of equity in your business, and often times they will have a certain amount of decision making power.

Just as you think through a partnership, be sure that you think through working with an angel investor. You want to make sure that you both are wanting the same thing for the restaurant.

Venture Capital Firms

Venture-capital firms are similar to Angel investors, but they are more organized and can fund projects on a much larger scale through purchasing percentages of a business in a startup’s “round” of funding.

Most venture-capital firms require a minimum investment to be in the $1 million range, so you should only consider this if your goal is to build a very large scale chain of restaurants, as opposed to only a handful of locations.

Funding a restaurant through a venture capital firm can also be highly competitive most restaurant owners won’t meet the criteria a venture capital firm would seek.

Friends and Family

You’re likely to have the support of your family and friends as you start your restaurant, and some may even be interested and willing to invest funds to help it succeed.

Accepting money from friends and family may often have strings attached, despite everyone’s best intentions. Loss of income and a failing restaurant can ruin relationships.

If you go this route, strive to keep all interactions as professional as possible.

Negotiate as much up front as you can, and communicate expectations as clearly as possible. Be sure to offer a well-thought-out proposal just as you would any other investor, and put the exact terms of the investment in writing.

Restaurants will often offer “dining perks” for these investors. Think of it as a permanent reservation or discount to sweeten the deal.

Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding has grown significantly in popularity over the years. Websites like Kickstarter or IndieGoGo are perfect for small ventures that are simply looking to offer products or goods in exchange for a contribution.

Larger scale startups may consider equity crowdfunding platforms like EquityNet. This type of crowdfunding will sell company equity to capital investors.

You should not underestimate the value of a few hundred pledges, each around $10, $20 or even, $50. And if your campaign goes viral, your possibilities grow even more. It can all add up fast!

A Final Note

At the end of the day, starting a restaurant is not for the faint of heart. There are many challenges ahead, and many questions must be answered.

The restaurant industry is one of the most ruthless, cutthroat, notorious industries. The failure rate of restaurant startup is significantly higher than any other industry.

Although we covered a lot of details surrounding what it takes to start a restaurant, the bottom line is that you won’t fully understand these challenges, until you’ve experienced them.

Before starting your restaurant, take time to make sure you’re ready to jump in – mentally, financially, physically, and relationally.

Make sure you seek out help from mentors and experts in the industry.

Any additional amount of work you can do, before getting too far into the process, can save you a lot of wasted time, energy and frustration down the road.

When the time comes for you to develop a brand and marketing strategy for your restaurant — please reach out to the restaurant branding experts at Longitude. We’d love to chat.

6 Fatal Mistakes That Restaurants Commonly Make – and How to Avoid Them

As restaurant brand experts, it is safe to assume that we genuinely love everything about restaurants and the strong-willed, creative people who run them. If you’re ready to unveil your own brand, then we really want you to prosper.

It’s commonly said that 90% of restaurants will fail within their first year, and although that isn’t entirely true, it is true that new restaurants are much more likely to fall than established restaurants. In fact, 60% will fail within the first 3 years of opening their doors.

60% of restaurants will fail within the first 3 years of opening their doors.

With an ever-increasing world of consumers who are brand-conscious, we see first hand that whether a restaurant sinks or swims is largely dependent on the quality of their brand strategy and identity. However, we also realize that most restauranteurs are very busy, wearing multiple hats, working long hours – and most aren’t branding experts. This means errors are often made, or things overlooked regarding their brand strategy.

Because of this, I have pulled from our team’s experience in helping hundreds of brands over the last decade, and I’ve put together a list of the 6 most common ways restaurants fail at branding – and how to avoid them. I hope you find it insightful, and that this article will help you identify and steer clear of these potentially harmful missteps.

1. Forcing Your Story

At the root of any great brand is your story. This isn’t just a cliché word either; our story gets us through ups and downs. It gets us up every morning and gets us excited about what we do. It makes our brand authentic. However, a problem occurs when a leader tries to push their passions onto their team members, or other partners. People have their own passions, their own pursuits, their own desires – their own story. If you aren’t able to clearly tell your story and relay your vision, then challenges will inevitably come. This is one of the most common ways that restaurants fail – building a culture centered around a single vision.

Avoid this Mistake:

  • Having open and honest talks with everyone on your team
  • Discovering how to encourage and excite your team members
  • Identifying areas where your team’s vision isn’t aligned with yours, and also finding commonality
  • Leveraging the things you learn about your team to shape your brand and your vision so there’s a better chance at energizing and motivating your team

2. Following Restaurant Trends

Trends will come and go – this always been, and always will be, the case. Inevitably, there’s always one shiny new concept that attracts the most attention and stands out among the rest. Restauranteurs will flock to this concept, and before you know it there’s a vegan burger restaurant on every corner.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not always a bad thing to launch a concept based on a trend. You’ll even find restauranteurs attempt to take a new spin on a trend – “vegan burgers with a new twist!” As irresistible as it may be, following trends isn’t always the best decision.

You don’t want to appear second-best.

The real problem lies in the fact that a trend is set by the leaders, and it’s hard for consumers to see any new attempt as anything other than an “imitator.” You don’t want to appear second-best. This is a very difficult position for a restaurant to dwell in because you’re forced to compete on price or availability alone. If you’re not careful you’ll be lucky to survive, let alone thrive.

Avoid this Mistake:

  • Do your research on the market before launching
  • Find a concept that will be unique and viable in your market
  • If you’re trying to start in an existing category pin-point the category leader
  • Figure out what you can offer to your customers that can special and differentiate you from the leader
  • When you discover your unique position, follow through and be consistent. Pretty soon you’ll be the leader in your own industry.

3. A Confusing Restaurant Concept

On the other end of the spectrum, sometimes restaurants try something so unique and out-of-the-box that it causes more confusion and harm than anything. Usually, this approach is thought to differentiate them against the competitors and establish their own completely unique category. The problem is that when your primary goal is simply “be different,” you risk alienating your customers.

People usually pick where they eat based on their own understanding of existing restaurant categories. When your concept doesn’t fit the mold of any common restaurant category, it’s easy to be overlooked by customers. Being unique can be beneficial, but if you can’t communicate it clearly to your audience, your “uniqueness” will fall on deaf ears.

Avoid this Mistake:

  • After you find a good opportunity in your market, think about how you’d want a new customer to explain the experience and the food to their friend.
  • Is it hard to understand? Could people easily explain it?
  • If your unique concept is too confusing for you to explain, it’ll be much more difficult for your customers to explain
  • Spend time to clarify your concept until it’s so simple a child could explain it

4. Naming Your Restaurant

Picking a name for your restaurant is often a huge creative endeavor of its own. Restauranteurs love to see their dream becoming real, but too often that can lead to making rushed decisions. This happens a lot in naming a restaurant.

There are two ways that this problem commonly occurs: first, the name is decided well before any sort of brand story or strategy is in place, which can cause great confusion if there is anything misaligned once the brand strategy is in place. Second, the name isn’t available which leads to picking a name that isn’t future-proof or will cause huge headaches with trademarking down the road.

Avoid this Mistake:

  • Develop your name with the help of a naming or branding agency which has this as a part of their brand development process
  • If you can’t do that, simply use a temporary “working name” until your strategy is defined and ready to go
  • In order to avoid any trademark issues, be sure to have an attorney review your name, and give it the “okay.”

5. Too Focused on a Logo Alone

Your brand isn’t your logo, it is your reputation. It’s how the public perceives you. It’s created by what you say, how you look, and what you do. Simply put, your words, look, and actions need to align, or you’ll be causing harm to your brand.

This is where many restauranteurs fail. Creating a brand for your restaurant is much, much more than creating a pretty logo. In order to create a wonderful experience that will turn your customers into raving fans, you need a brand strategy and identity that will make an impact. A comprehensive and cohesive brand identity system for your restaurant can tell the story much more effectively than if you only had a logo and a handful of colors.

A first impression is everything, and you won’t get a second chance.

A first impression is everything, and you won’t get a second chance. Putting a logo on your doors and saying your restaurant is “branded” won’t draw in more customers – especially those who have a keen sense for good design and aesthetic.

Avoid this Mistake:

  • Hire an experienced brand strategist or agency to design and develop a comprehensive visual identity for your brand
  • Be sure that you have a guideline book created to ensure visual consistency with all future touchpoints
  • Use this new system as a filter to ensure that you’re creating a memorable and consistent experience for your customers

6. Ignoring Your Target Audience

This is one of the most common mistakes that we see restaurants make. Restauranteurs will often spend so much time thinking about their restaurant as they are creating it, that they completely forget to be mindful of who their customer will be and how to attract them.

We’ve posted about this in another article (related to hotel branding), but it goes back to the mentality from the popular movie, “Field of Dreams.” In that movie, a baseball field is built on the simple idea that, “if you build it, they [ghosts of famous baseball players] will come.” It makes for a great movie, but a terrible business strategy.

Your customers aren’t ghosts. If you don’t know your customer, you’re not going to have a clear plan of how to get them excited about your restaurant. This makes it very difficult to create a brand experience that will resonate with anyone, let alone the target audience that exists only in your mind.

You may be building an entire restaurant concept based on a customer that doesn’t exist

Another problem that could arise is that without thinking about a target customer, you may be building an entire restaurant concept based on a customer that doesn’t exist. This will result in the swift death of a restaurant and is a common culprit in many restaurant failures we’ve seen. Your customers will only come if you are providing something they’ll care about, and your brand strategy is focused on them.

Avoid this Mistake:

  • Take time to sit down and understand your customer
  • Create customer personas that are a mixture of demographic information and experienced-based information
  • What do your customers care about? What negative things are they trying to avoid?
  • Ensure that as you are defining your restaurant concept, that these customer personas are at the front of your mind

7. Going it Alone (Bonus!)

The benefit of working with a brand agency, like Longitude, who specializes in restaurants, food, beverage, and hospitality will help you develop a restaurant concept like no other. We help guide you through the difficult journey and tumultuous terrain of building a powerful, influential, and profitable brand for your restaurant. Let the restaurant branding experts at Longitude help you avoid these fatal mistakes and turn the vision for your restaurant a reality.

Don’t attempt to go it alone. We’d love to help.

Avoid this Mistake:

The Importance of Brand Strategy for Restaurants

Restaurant Branding is Important

Decades ago branding was defined as a name, slogan, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of these elements that distinguish one restaurant brand from another. From the public’s perspective, the brand of a restaurant differentiated it from the competition. Today a brand is a bit more complex, and even more important in today’s world of marketing. And branding is not just about getting your target market to select you over the competition.

We can all agree that restaurant branding matters. Everything communicates, whether by design or default. All the little experiences define the whole from every touch-point. Conceptualizing and realizing a top-tier dining experience requires more than putting together a tasty menu. You have to entice customers with a purpose and promise and to deliver on that promise. Wow, guests with your restaurant’s particular panache.

Every executive and agency seems to throw around the phrase “restaurant brand” a lot and champion its importance. But when you ask them to define their restaurant brand – or even better, ask the entire executive team to define it independently and then compare their responses – it’s alarming just how far the stakeholders may be in their understanding of effective restaurant branding strategy and its application.

Homestyle Kitchen Branding Examples

Homestyle Kitchen Branding

What is Restaurant Branding?

So what exactly is restaurant branding? Is it just the standard pretty logo and catchy jingle a traditional agency conjures up in their typical approach? Of course not. Great, powerful, and effective restaurant branding is all about marrying your marketing with your operations. The best restaurants don’t simply copy trends or rely on tricky gimmicks. The best restaurant brands have a clear mission, purpose, and reason for being. These are based on research and innovation, operating on the belief that hospitality can help make the world a better place.

The best brands don’t mindlessly copy trends and espouse gimmicks.

Your brand isn’t your logo, it’s your reputation. When you think of your brand in this way, it helps you to make a more human and authentic connection to your audience and customers. When you look at your brand as your reputation, you’ll understand why it’s important to bring alignment to your look, your message, and your actions. When these three things are in alignment, and functioning optimally, you will have a healthy reputation (brand).

restaurant branding examples

Brand identity for fast-casual Indian restaurant.

Success in Restaurant Branding

To succeed in restaurant branding, you must understand the needs and wants of your customers. You can achieve this by integrating your brand strategies throughout your organization at every point of public contact. Think of branding as though your restaurant were a living, breathing person. How could this person communicate, and engage with another person in a way that builds trust, loyalty, and with clear and direct communication?

But remember, the effectiveness of a brand doesn’t just happen before the purchase—the brand experience has to last to create brand loyalty. A quality brand gives people something to believe in, something to stand behind. Your brand should be an instant “ah-ha” moment—it should require very little thought.

Remember, you can’t escape your brand. Either you make the customer experience, or it gets made without you.

Being seen and heard in the midst of a roaring ocean of competition is a large task in today’s very crowded marketplace. We find this true even more each time we scan through a magazine, watch television, or search the web. Due to this, restaurants are being forced to seek new and more effective ways of increasing their brand power, awareness, and just as important, their brand loyalty.

A strategic brand will help you in the following ways:

  • Clearly deliver a message that resonates with people.
  • Confirm your credibility in the marketplace.
  • Be confident in what makes you unique versus your competition
  • Emotionally connect your target audience with your restaurant, staff, and food.
  • Entice new customers to visit your restaurant.

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Bring Guests Back Again, and Again with a Great Brand

As a boutique or independently owned hotel manager or owner, you want to use your brand strategy to build loyal, returning guests. Getting guests in the hotel and servicing their stay for the first time is just part of the battle. Another major part of your brand strategy should be to get guests excited about the experience they had at your hotel, so they want to come back again and again. This article is all about ways you can enhance the hotel experience and use brand strategy to build guest loyalty.

There are 9 recommendations which can enhance the guest experience at your boutique hotel. These brand recommendations are intentionally built around people and culture.

1. Elegant guest experience

Often times when hoteliers think of elegance, they think of the cost. Just the fact that your hotel is independently owned, and/or a boutique destination already sets the tone for an elegant guest experience. An elegant guest experience is an experience where your brand strategy comes to the surface. The guest has an experience which is pleasing, graceful, stylish, and most importantly consistent. Elegance is perceived differently by nearly every person; however, most often elegance is referred to with only two words, unique and simple. Invest in your brand so the guest experience is unique and simple. Don’t over complicate the experience.

Don’t over complicate the experience.

2. Develop boutique concierge services

Your brand represents your hotel’s culture. As such, the customer experience and service should be a significant part of the strategy. Independently owned hotels overlook the concierge service offering to guests far too often. However, the ones which get concierge service right, stand out and create loyal guests. Good concierge services help guests have an amazing experience outside of your hotel. Concierge services should recommend, arrange, and reserve services for guests from your hotel partners who also represent your brand culture. By doing so, the experience is carried into the local community and outside of your hotel. You’ll find that guests will seek out your fun spot when they come back to town. This is a strong indicator of brand loyalty.

3. Empower and reward hotel employees

People should be central to your brand strategy. Employees are people and should be empowered to make decisions as such, even though there could be an error. When employees are empowered to service guests, the guest experience benefits every time. While errors are possible, rewarding your employees when the right behavior is caught is ideal over calling out the things they did wrong. As a hotelier, this will build up a culture of belonging. You want your employees to feel like they belong with your brand story.

4. Reward loyal guests

Guest loyalty should be recognized and rewarded. One example of how boutique hotels can deliver this experience is to really know their guests. Welcome back Mr. & Mrs. so and so, are you back in town to visit your folks? How are they doing? It is important that your staff is genuine and not reading a computer screen. Hotel customer relationship management tools can help track this type of information. But it is up to your staff to know who is showing up each day. This example is a reward doesn’t cost much. People love to be remembered and recognized much more than just getting some points or a free bottle of water.

People love to be remembered and recognized.

5. Develop personalized marketing strategies

A personalized marketing strategy goes along with rewarding guests. Knowing your guests makes all the difference to creating brand loyalty. When you email them or post promotions on your social media sites, try to make those messages as personal as you possibly can. Sending an email with “Dear {insert name}” can kill everything you have already done in creating the guest experience in person. However, personalization of your messaging should also go beyond the first line of an email.

6. Resolve maintenance issues and reward guests that mention them

One of the best ways to know about issues with your hotel is to invite guests to tell you and rewarding them when they do. For example, you can call the guest once they get to their room to check and make sure they have everything they need and to get quick feedback about their room. If they mention something isn’t right, fix it if you can. If you can’t fix the issue right away, tell them you’ll have maintenance look into the issue. However, in both cases reward them with dinner or a drink for telling you. Again, you are looking to reward behavior that can improve the guest experience.

7. Align staff, vendors, partners on your brand’s core objectives

Brand alignment is not an easy task. However, when your core objectives are clear it becomes easier. You are building a culture. A culture of what your brand, staff, vendors, partners, and guests want to be part of. As this alignment occurs over time you will notice how customers tend to want to join the cause and experience they had again and again.

8. Get guest feedback, every time you can

Knowing everything you can about your guests is important as mentioned above. Why they come to town, what did they do while they were in town, what things do they enjoy, what are their hobbies? Understanding these will help improve your guest experience. Such feedback will help you attract new guests using the language that is the right message. A message they can relate to. Guest feedback is everything to building a great brand strategy.

9. Make booking dead simple

Far too often boutique hotels are booked through outdated technology and made by phone only. Booking your hotel should be dead simple. Guests typically avoid friction. Think about how many times you tried to buy something in a store or online, but then just left the shopping cart. The line was too long, or you had to re-enter data that the merchant should have already had. When it comes to booking a room with your boutique getaway, it must be easy.

Hotel managers or owners can use brand strategy to build loyal, returning guests. These tips will ensure you execute on your mission to get guests excited about the experience they have had at your hotel. This excitement results in guests that tell others about their experience, in fact, many will post about things immediately on social media. Happy customers cost so much less than those who had a poor experience. However, raving, loyal customers help grow your brand in the hotel space and revenue.

 


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The Logic of Our Emotions: The Reason People Buy Your Stuff

“When you’re dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic but with creatures of emotion, creatures motivated by pride and vanity.” – Dale Carnegie

Tale of Two Chickens

A few years ago Professor Raj Raghunathan and Ph.D. student, Szu-Chi Huang from the University of Texas conducted an experiment that went something like this: Two separate test groups were presented with a photo of a large, plump chicken. They were also shown a picture of a chicken that was skinny and sickly looking. The test subjects were told that the plump chicken was “all-natural” while the skinny chicken was “genetically modified.”

  • Group 1 was told the plump chicken doesn’t taste as good, but it’s healthier than the skinny one.
  • Group 2 was told the plump chicken tastes better, but the skinny chicken was more healthy.

The groups were then asked to select which chicken they’d want to eat. Both test groups said they’d choose the plump chicken. Their reasoning for this decision was very interesting.

  • Group 1 explained that health is more important than taste.
  • Group 2 explained that taste is more important than health.

However, both groups were wrong. Without realizing it, both groups made their decision based on an emotional connection with the plump chicken established at the beginning of the experiment. Not only did the plump chicken look tastier, but the test subjects were told it was “all-natural” as well. Their logic for deciding to eat the plump chicken was informed and justified in their mind to fit their initial emotional attraction to it.

The Balance of Logic and Emotion

To truly influence, your message needs to center around emotions, while maintaining harmony between logic and feelings. Logic and emotion are the two components that can create powerful influence. We can be influential by using just logic or just emotion, but the impact will be less ideal, short-term, and lacking balance.

Emotions spur decisions and action. They stir up excitement that inspires potential customers to make a purchase. The difficulty with depending solely on emotion to influence your audience is that after they leave your presence and have time to think, their emotions blur, abandoning them without a firm foundation to fall back on.

Logic must be the cornerstone upon which emotions can rest. This ebb and flow of logic and emotion could be known as the two primary driving forces of influence and persuasion. Leaders with strategic brands realize that every person requires a unique balance of logic and emotion. Analytical people may require more logic and less emotion. Other personalities could require more emotion and less logic. Your message must have both elements present – regardless of who is listening.

In high-pressure and persuasive moments, most people will respond with their emotions, then attempt to justify their decisions with logic or facts. A message that is centered on emotions will regularly set off red flags on the logical side of our brain. While a logical message, with no interest in an emotional side, won’t create a strong connection or the desired response with our audience. A great brand message will find a good balance of logic and emotion with the ultimate goal to create meaningful connections.

We are convinced by reason, however, we are compelled by emotion.

Studies have shown that close to 90 percent of the choices people make are founded on emotion. We then attempt to swap our emotions for logic in order to justify our decisions to ourselves and to other people. Emotions will almost always beat logic and our imagination will always defeat reality. If you don’t believe me, talk to a child about being afraid of the dark, or to someone else about fear of heights – it’s impossible to use logic to convince them that their fear is unfounded. No matter how many facts or stats you share with them, they will still be certain that their fear is completely valid.

The Best Brands Balance Logic and Emotions

As you build an influential brand, you need to know how to find the delicate balance between Logic and Emotions. Understanding these two powerful things will help you build stronger, healthier, and trustworthy relationships with your audience. It will also help you know the important factors that your audience considers when making a purchase. You’ll understand what people are feeling, what negative emotions they’re trying to avoid, and being able to leverage those emotions to persuade and attract them to your brand. By building a powerful brand you’ll understand when and how to use emotion to trigger specific responses, and then how to balance that emotion with facts and logic to back it up. This is all part of building a strong narrative, and clear message that brings your story to life.

 

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.

 

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