In my consulting work, I take customers through a branding exercise lasting for a few hours. I leave them with a mindset which focuses on what they want the end user customer to think about when their company's name comes to mind. Unfortunately, most small business do not spend any time whatsoever on this particular component of a marketing strategy; they do it is as an afterthought rather than thinking it out with marketing fundamentals as the basis.
Here are some steps taken from high level corporate strategy development which you can use today to shape the direction of your small or home business so that you stand for something in the mind of the customer.
- Survey the competition: You will need to make a survey of the market which you are entering into, looking at the related market categories and determining if a category exists which will readily accommodate your product or service. Always bear in mind that if your product is narrowly defined, a category may not exist! This may mean that a part of your branding strategy will entail creating a new category.
- Determine what it is that you wish to be known for: When we think of the word "virgin," what does it mean? We can think of a record store, an airline, a credit card company and so the list can go on when in fact, a virgin is a person who has not experienced sexual intercourse. "Virgin" stands for something in the mind of the customer and so this is the 1st thing the business owner needs to do -- determine what you wish the customer to think of when your company is mentioned.
- Consider the name of the company: You may choose a name which relates directly to the product or service which you produce however, this may limit your branding strategy if you decide to add some other service or product which is not in line with the name. A name like "Virgin" gives a company the ability to provide differing services under the same name.
- Decide where in the market your product sits: Do you wish your product or service to sit down near the commodity level or high up at the premium level? Products down at the commodity level (like bread and milk) are used interchangeably; people buy brown bread and not necessarily a brand of bread. However, when individuals go to buy beer or cigarettes, in nine cases out of ten, they will make a brand purchase - this comes from loyal customers and leads to long-term revenue generation.
- Set your pricing strategy: After determining where in the market you wish to be positioned, you will need to set your pricing accordingly. Always remember that pricing must be made from the viewpoint of the customer. Often we price cheaply, thinking we will attract more customers when in many cases, this only serves to promote the idea of low price low quality!
Start your branding campaign from the outset following the process steps above to put your business on a more solid foundation for future growth and establishment in the marketplace and the minds of the end user customers.