How to future proof your brand

attachment-555dbac4e4b0a54071299446

 

The fast-changing world affects all aspects of business – from the products in demand to the way they are purchased. Here are six tips to keep your brand up to date.

Know your story

“Be very clear about what you stand for, what you believe in and what your product is and make sure you articulate that very clearly and simply,” says Jim Prior, CEO of brand consultancy The Partners.

“Ask yourself what your vision and values are and make that the framework around which you develop your brand.”

Even if you are offering a product or service similar to that offered by other players in the market, you should be clear about why people should choose you as opposed to somebody else. “Sometimes that will be about finding a rational point of difference – some superior performance, perhaps, or a special service – but sometimes it will be purely emotional,” says Prior. “It will be about the personality of the brand and the way you want it to make people feel.”

Make your brand visible

Technology has smashed down many of the barriers that small companies used to face in building a brand, but making the most of what it can do for your business is no hit-and-miss affair.

“In today’s market, you have got to be pretty good at managing social networks and where you sit in the order of things,” says Simon Knox, emeritus professor of marketing at Cranfield School of Management.

“You need to focus on optimising your profile and you need to be continuously updating that.”

See your business through the lens of your customer

“Shop with your own business and get family and friends to do the same thing, and be open to their input,” advises Prior. He says it’s easy to become defensive when you’ve poured your heart and soul into building your business and you then receive constructive criticism, but it’s important to remain receptive to this kind of feedback. “Put on your customer hat at least one day a week.”

Think about the practicalities

“You need to optimise your digital presence for a multi-device environment, and there are many ways to do that,” Prior continues. “There are some great off-the-shelf packages now that will allow businesses to very cost-effectively develop a solution that works across platforms.”

Harness the power of advocacy and positive word-of-mouth

“Everybody knows that marketing from a neutral source is the most powerful kind of marketing you can have,” says Knox. Once you have a customer base, you should be able to identify your advocates and bloggers – they will usually be among your highest spenders – and try to build relationships with them.

Be consistent

“Don’t deviate from your message,” says Prior. “A lot of brands fall into the trap of trying something and if they don’t see an immediate return on that investment or they don’t get the most positive feedback straight away, they abandon it too quickly. The reality is that most brands are built over the long term and it can take a while to see the efforts that you make translate into rewards. Ultimately, consumers tend to reward consistency in the way that they encounter and experience brands.”

Prior says the brand is one of the areas in business where it’s possible to have a little more fun. “Don’t be too corporate, particularly if you are a small business looking to establish a niche in a market or to disrupt a bigger player. I think some form of human personality and the ability to engage with people in an emotional way is often a very powerful tool.”

 

First published in The Telegraph, 8 September 2014