2u Creative — Amy Morelli — Illustration — Branding — Graphic Design

Importance of Branding & Advertising Part 3

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Many of you may know in the past, I've written a 2 part series on the Importance of Branding & Advertising.  Well, I had such a wonderful response to the first 2, that I decided to do a 3rd installment to focus on what I think is very important: Following through and delivering the brand you have created and promise. Too many people think that developing it and having a presence (website, printed pieces, etc) is enough.. IT IS NOT!

In Part I, I concentrated on defining a brand. Who are you as a company and how would you like to be perceived in the marketplace are the key factors you want to focus on when building a brand. I continued to go on about the importance of brand recognition and the value that branding can bring to your business with both clients and colleagues alike. 

In Part II, I shed some light on how to get started building your brand. Researching your competitors, evaluating your company and creating a plan on what items you plan to instill. More than anything, you must know what you want your branding to say about you. 

In this segment I want to focus on how to keep your company up to par with the brand you spent so much time and money building. Unfortunately, as consumers we have all been let down from time to time. Whether it was a bad dining experience at a restaurant or an underwhelming experience with a sales clerk at a retail store. I don't know about you but when I'm disappointed in a product or service I am most surprised when that company gave me no warning signs because they had such a well established brand. So my question to you is, how are you working to actually deliver the same caliber of service your brand is promising. 

I have some key points that I really feel are beneficial when taken and put to work: 

1. How am I BACKING UP my brand? 
When you first started branding or re-branding your company I'm sure you had a profile about your company that helped you build your brand. Items including; targeted marketed, how are you set apart from the competition and the services you offer. Saving and referencing this list from time to time will remind you of why you first started. What were your initial goals, and are you still meeting and dare I say it {exceeding} those goals. If not, perhaps you should re-evaluate. Promising the world to a client through a fabulous website and eye-catching marketing pieces means nothing if they can't get a hold of you, and when they do, your customer service and/or quality of work fails to deliver.

2. Never stop LEARNING!
You hear a lot of talk about continued education.......AND you should! Prioritizing and furthering your knowledge is how you establish yourself as a leader in your industry. Knowledge is power and if your competitors have more you will eventually get behind. Now let me clarify, I'm not saying you have to go to every symposium and register for every educational luncheon, my point is to keep yourself in the know. Only you know which learning sessions will benefit you and those are the ones you need to prioritize. And continuing education is all apart of what I mentioned above: keeping the quality and technicality of your work continuing on the upward track.

3. Produce GREAT work!
The bottom line is your work is everything. The finished product to a client says more about you than your brand ever will. However, that doesn't mean that all the other aspects of your business aren't equally as important. How are you conducting business? Are you professional at all times, are you open to compromise on a clients deal-breaker issues, do you have the "diva attitude" when a client is disappointed in your work, do you handle problems by being diplomatic, calm and solving them, or do you join your client in (what I call) "the anxiety frenzy", which not only makes you look bad, but usually renders you useless to deal with the problem at hand with a cool head. Are you direct and down to business when discussing money, contracts, etc. Do you engage your clients? Something as simple as taking too long to respond to a client email or phone call can disappoint the client and tarnish the brand you promise. Believe me, no matter how good the work is, if your customer service and client interactions are not mature, thoughtful and professional- this is just as bad as producing horrible work. Are you too emotional?  Do you take things too personally? Business is just that, you can't make everyone happy, and sometimes you will have a client that no matter what you do you won't make them happy.  Do you have the ability to disconnect from your emotional and personal feelings on the topic to engage them professionally and objectively to finish out the process as painlessly as possible (for both you and the client)? AND, most importantly do you deliver what you sell? I could work with you on developing the most interactive website and print campaign with a cutting edge logo design and business cards but if you are not delivering the level of service your clients are expecting the branding you just paid me to do is completely null and void. And your amazing work is tarnished, as well because the overall experience for the client was unsatifactory. Make sure the image you are portraying is the one you deliver in the end. 

4. The price is right!
Well, Bob Barker said it and now so have I! Make sure you are pricing yourself properly within your industry according to your competitors. Pricing yourself to high could keep you just barely out of reach for someone that could have potentially been a profitable client for you. And pricing yourself too low could put you in a bracket with the wrong clientele. Knowing who you are within your market and re-evaluating that annually will help you keep competitively priced and keep that unanimous with your brand. 

5. Excel at Customer Service & Client Relations
Be the leader in delivering unparalleled customer service. Know what your clients are expecting and set out to give them that and more in the most efficient, cost appropriate and friendly manor possible. One thing I have always done is think beyond what the client initially asked me to do for them. Foreseeing their future needs and presenting those ideas to my clients lets them know I am always thinking about them and how I can best utilize my talents to help them be successful. Sometimes I present things they've never even thought of and in those cases especially it feels great to know I went above and beyond and perhaps that marketing idea was that client's next big thing. This is not only GREAT for your client relations, but good for your bottom line as well, as anticipating their needs is also a good way to upsell and generate more work for your business. 

6. Communication is KEY
How you conduct business with your clients, colleagues and competitors says a lot about you. Be approachable, be reachable and most importantly be relevant. No client wants to be flooded with emails everyday, but they do want to be kept in the loop in regards to their projects. I often find a weekly check-in with my clients is the best way to re-cap the goals of the week and how much of those got accomplished. Staying on the same page with the client and communicating effectively with them is key when delivering the customer service I just spoke about. On the flip-side, their is a such thing as COMMUNICATING TOO MUCH. There is a fine line to how much and what you communicate to your clients. As you gain experience you will better gage and use this boundary. For example, if a behind the scenes crisis happens, that will make you late on delivery- yet you know it's solvable- then there is no reason to get your client all upset by including them in the crisis.. A nice email, letting them know you ran into a snag- and will be a day late, is all that is necessary. Apologize, and restore their confidence by assuring them that you will deliver and you are focused on the solution. Giving them the gory details about the crisis and what you went through to deliver the project is unnecessary.

7. Maximize your expertise
You know your market and your product better than anyone else. Properly utilizing your talents and expertise is how clients will begin to trust you. If you're confident and stand behind all aspects of your company because "You know what you're talking about" people will begin to question you less and look up to you more. Know what you do best and do just that! Be confident in your skills and talent and don't be afraid to (gently and humbling) toot your own horn. You wouldn't hire a painter who's done tile work once or twice to re-do your bathroom. Instead you would seek out someone that specialized in re-doing bathrooms. Remember that when aligning yourself within an industry. Stick to your expertise and make sure that's the angle you are branding from. Don't try to take on tasks you aren't trained in, or strong at. It will dilute your brand and give you a reputation as the "Jake of all trades, Master of none". Everyone is guilty of this from time to time, it's easy to add services to expand the skills your business offers, but make sure you hire an expert in that area, so that you are delivering the high quality for all of your services, instead of being really excellent at a few things and mediocre at a few.  You should excel at everything your business offers.

In conclusion, developing a brand image is one of the most important factors in starting or re-branding any business. Your brand imaging is what makes a client call you but how you deliver your product or service is how they're going to remember your brand and call you again.