Entrepreneurs are encouraged to develop a brand, but many new home business owners are confused about how it’s built. Part of the difficulty is that while branding starts with your vision and goals for the business, its reputation relies on the experiences of your customers. For example, Disneyland’s brand is that it’s “The Happiest Place on Earth.” It’s a great vision and goal, but it’s only a reality if that is the experience of its visitors. Ultimately, your brand is your promise of an experience to a customer or client. Here’s how to build your home business brand.
1. What Image do You Want to Portray?
Disneyland wants to be viewed as place for magic, family values and fun. Allstate wants to project a sense of security - “You’re in Good Hands with Allstate.” In deciding the image you want to portray, consider the market you’re trying to reach and the needs it has. For example, I write a lot about working from home, but not everyone who wants to work at home has the same needs. A mom usually wants to be home with the children, whereas a baby boomer wants to afford her retirement.
2. Create Materials that Convey the Image You Want to Portray
This is where branding often gets confused with creating logos and slogans. While these items are a part of branding, they aren’t in and of themselves the brand. Instead, they are symbols designed to convey your brand message. The Allstate logo isn’t its brand. Instead, it’s a symbol to illustrate its brand concept that you’ll be well-cared for if you use its services. All your promotional materials and efforts (i.e., blogging and social media) should support your brand message.
3. Deliver on Your Promise
Remember, Disneyland achieves its branding goal only if it delivers on the promise that it’s the happiest place on Earth. To that end, it has designed the parks, trained the staff and developed customer service policies to make sure people have a happy experience. A brand is built by delivering your promise to clients and customers. If you fail, your brand becomes something other than what you intended.
4. Build Customer Service Systems to Support Your Brand
Anticipate that things will occasionally go wrong and customers will complain. Bad things happen even at Disneyland, but the company does a great deal to avoid it and fix it. I was on a ride that was stopped because of unsafe riders. Disney staff escorted them off and the rest of us were put on the very next ride. No waiting. This immediate response supports Disney’s goal to be known as the happiest place on earth.
5. Monitor Your Brand
One of the challenges of branding is that everyone has a different experience with companies and, unfortunately, people are more likely to talk about bad experiences than good ones. In 2008, Motrin released a video targeted at moms who carry their children in packs. Motrin was successful in its goal to get moms talking about Motrin; unfortunately, the moms weren’t saying nice things. Further complicating matters was that the video went live on a Friday, but no one at Motrin realized what a stink moms were making until Monday. For three days, Motrin’s brand was taking a hit online. Bad news travels fast, particularly online. To avoid hurting your brand, monitor what is being said about you and your business. Tools such as Google Alerts can let you know if a site has mentioned you or your business’ name. Checking your mentions and hash tags on social media is another way. If you find negative comments, don’t lash out or get defensive. Responding with anger or threats will only make the situation worse. If it’s a problem you can fix, fix it. The key is to always be professional.