Your brand might have started strong, but even the mightiest brands can get weak over time.
If you're a bodybuilder and you get buff beyond belief, you have to pump iron in the gym daily and consume ridiculous calories. If you stop putting the time and effort into nurturing those biceps, they'll eventually disappear, and you'll end up a shadow of your former self.
It's the same with brands.
Your brand needs consistent attention. It must be nourished, monitored, maintained, and adapted to continue growing and flourishing.
So what makes a strong brand break down and become weak?
There are many reasons, but I will share the top 5 brand killers and what you need to do to avoid them.
1. Letting your work speak for itself
Many business owners think, “If we do great work, people will notice.” Maybe. But you will have a better chance of being noticed if you get your work out there and toot your own horn a bit.
What does “get your work out there” mean? That depends on what you sell and who your audience is. Minimally, you should add visuals of your recent work on your own website – in case studies and in your portfolio. It can also be on LinkedIn, Instagram, and/or Facebook posts. In addition, you can send out project completion emails or postcards to your list.
Sure, a picture of your latest job will help enhance your portfolio, and it’ll help give your prospects an idea of the work you can produce. But photos alone are not going to convince them to choose you over your competitors.
You might think that your work can speak for itself and show your prospects how good your company is. But images can’t talk, and neither can your projects, so what good are they for a prospective client who’s looking for the perfect contractor?
People buy from people, not pretty portfolios.
Also, search engines can catalog images, but you are doing yourself a disservice if you don’t add words along with the image to describe what is in the photo (not to mention it is an ADA compliance issue).
Create credibility and share valuable knowledge instead.
You have to have good content on your website to support your work. Your client doesn't just want to see what the result might look like. They want to see how you're going to deliver. 58% of people say that original written content is more important in their buying journey than visuals alone.
They want to know who you are, what you stand for, and what you're going to be like to work with. Simply slapping some work on a page and telling them to look at it won't convince them to work with you. Because every other firm is doing the exact same thing. Help your prospect make a decision by showing them your brand's personality.
Your work doesn't speak for itself, but you can speak for it by showing your audience what kind of company you are with persuasive, engaging descriptions of what you did, why you did it, and how it benefited your client in the long run.
2. Being a jack of all trades
We unicorns of the world have a hard time with this one. In the beginning, I thought it was a benefit to be good at a lot of things. Then as I matured in business, I realized it is far better to be amazing at a few things. Be one of the go-to companies in something really specific. I know I rarely choose a general practitioner when it is time to go to a doctor. I prefer to jump to the specialist. The same thing applies to your firm, be the specialist.
You can't and shouldn't try to serve everybody. When you try to please as many people as possible, you're only going to disappoint a load of them – and kill your brand because you are nothing special to anyone.
If you try to work with everyone, you're going to stretch yourself so thin that your business will snap under pressure, just like an elastic band.
Stop watering yourself down to appeal to as many people as possible. I see this all the time with firms that have to say ALL THE THINGS on their homepage, hoping that something will stick.
Yep, you guessed it! Focus on a niche and a target audience or ideal client avatar or a combination of service and niche.
This concept can be scary, but trust me it is worth it. The niche can be quite large or very narrow, that depends on your business model. But what I'm talking about here is alignment. You want to align what your firm is amazing at with the type of customer who needs that most.
By niching, you empower your brand. You become known as that company – the only or one of the few companies to go to for *enter your service niche here.*
You will be seen and thought of as the expert, an authority, and the best option to get the job done right. That's a hell of an easier sale for your sales rep. They know where to focus their energy and know what message resonates. Why make this complicated by trying to be everything to everyone?
When you niche, you'll get more high-quality clients. You're no longer competing on price only. People remember you, and your brand gets stronger.
3. Copying your competitors
Ahhh, the ole' copy and paste. It feels like a guaranteed quick recipe for success. Your competitors are doing so well – so you should just do exactly what they're doing, right?
Ummmm, hell no!!!!
Knowing what the category norms are for your industry is also important. Looking to others around us and taking inspiration is important. It's how we start to grow and figure out our place within our niche – but flat-out copying your competitors won't get you very far (and might get you sued in the process). You become a me-too brand. That does not help prospects know you are the right choice for them.
If you copy your competitor, you're just becoming another, weaker version of your competitor's business, which means your company won't stand out when stacked against them.
I'm here to tell you – your business deserves better.
If you have repeat and referral business, trust me, something there worth branding that is uniquely yours. Put in the time to find it and wrap it in words and visuals to create your brand personality.
Find your secret sauce.
Your business is unique, and so are you. Look at what you do best and figure out your special sauce. Then create your brand, message, and content around that to show your audience why you're better than your competitors.
There's nothing worse than trying to find a vendor from 20 companies who all look and sound the same.
If you're not standing out, you're blending in, and with so many people selling online these days, if your brand doesn't stand out, then your business will die.
Blunt, I know, but it's the truth.
Nobody wants to become a commodity, but it happens to the best businesses. Especially those that don't stand out on the shelf! If you look and talk exactly like your competitors, the only thing to make you stand out will be your pricing – and that's a recipe for disaster.
4. Ignoring your brand
Brands need to evolve with their company. If they don't evolve, they wither away and die. It's a hard truth to accept, but if you've been in business for over a decade and you haven't updated your branding at all, then it's probably doing more harm than good.
Please don't set it, forget it, and regret it later on. If you want to keep your brand alive and strong, you have to update it as your company grows.
Develop a Brand Management Strategy by:
- Keeping your website's content up to date
- Giving your brand assets a refresh once in a while
- Updating your social media profiles consistently
- Making sure your website works the way it should
- Reviewing your brand messaging a couple of times a year (not a decade later)
- Maintain a clear message as your grow
- Watch out for confusion when you add new services/products
As you grow, your industry grows too. New techniques, technology, and information are discovered, which should be integrated into your business. You have to stay up to date with the online world around you, or you'll end up falling behind all your competition.
If you ignore your brand, you're only going to kill it over time.
5. Thinking your industry is the exception
Why people get this in their heads is beyond me.
Marketing rules are there for a reason. If you think your industry is the exception to this rule, then you're wrong, and eventually, you're going to kill off your brand.
Marketing rules apply no matter what industry you're in.
So whether you're in construction, retail, gardening, or even hair and makeup, you still have to follow standard marketing rules to ensure that your brand gets noticed in the busy online world.
Here are a few marketing rules to live by:
- Know your brand and know your customer
- Align your message to what your clients give-a-damn about
- Develop a marketing strategy and stick to it
- Provide valuable content
- Be consistent with your message and your brand
- Take your competition seriously
- Don't set it and forget it
- Watch out for trip hazards in your sales cycle
If you're worried that your brand is starting to get weak or you've run into one of these brand killers already, we can help you get everything back into alignment before it's too late.
Here at Branding & Beyond, we'll help you redefine your brand and build a solid foundation to make sales easier and marketing more effective.
Tracy O’Shaughnessy Founder / Lead Brand Strategist of Branding & Beyond
Tracy and her team help firms in and around the B2B building trades look and sound credible online and off.
She has been in the industry since the early '90s and is tired of seeing fantastic firms struggle, blend in, and get bypassed by prospects who judge them solely on the outdated information found online.
Branding & Beyond's mission is to solve real business problems and build the brand foundation clients need to get noticed and hired.
You can find Tracy on Linkedin and here on this blog.