Introductions can be awkward
You say hello; you introduce yourself; you struggle to find a commonality with your newfound patron. If done poorly, you may find yourself at the crossroads of "Help! Somebody give me a way out of this conversation!" and "Blah Blah Blah, insert foot in mouth." Cue awkward silence.
Navigating conversations as a business owner can be a tricky business, but completely necessary. You rely on conversations with your clientele to convey ideas, goals, converting them into loyal customers. What if you could begin that conversation without saying a word? How would you do that?
I have worked with many small businesses who have struggled to develop their conversational skills, not in the verbal sense, but rather through design and marketing strategies. Think of design as a customer’s introduction to your brand. It is one of the first features people notice about your business. Are the colors earthy or corporate? Is the logo sleek or organic? What does this tell your customers about your company? Marketing is how you have that conversation. Is it awkward, or fluent and natural?
Help! Somebody give me a way out of this conversation!
But More Importantly Do You C.A.R.E. About Your Brand
C.A.R.E. is the goal for every piece of marketing material I create for clients. It stands for Consistency, Awareness, Recognition, and Engagement. It's the road map that I follow in delivering the best work possible - a road map, while although simple, utilizes your materials to their greatest potential.
We've all heard the phrase, "Consistency is Key," but how much of your brand is consistent? Consistency builds trust and establishes that your brand is a credible source of knowledge or provider of services or goods. Consistency means delivering the expected product at the expected time with the expected quality. It is the beginning point of your brand's conversation with the world. With design, establishing consistency is as simple as defining how you use fonts, images, colors, and logos.
There are many great tools out there for non-designers that include GoogleFonts, which offers a load of mostly-free fonts that are also commonly available for web use with font pairing options. Adobe Color helps you choose color palettes, while blogs like Color Matters explain how color psychology and implementation affect your brand. There are even free mobile apps by Adobe which help you edit, design and animate images for social media, but these have limitations.
Consistency means delivering the expected product at the expected time with the expected quality.
If no one is aware of your business, does it even exist?
One of the biggest challenges in today's market is getting noticed, so breaking through the noise with a distinct style and message is a must. Awareness is built alongside Consistency to show customers your overall message and culture.
Knowing your clientele will inform how you reach those people to share your value. Perhaps focusing on social media is the prime way to reach them. Free services like Later by Instagram is perfect for scheduling your social media posts ahead of time. Maybe the best way to reach them is through printed mailers, postcards, or even email blasts. MailChimp and Constant Contact offer some free resources for building your email lists.
What shows when you Google your business? The likelihood of you becoming the customer's first choice is very low if you aren't on the first page. Registering with Google My Business lets you register your business for free, increasing your standing in the search engine giant.
Making sure people are aware of your new or growing business should be your top priority. Using some of these tools will help improve your total customer reach.
So you have made the world aware of your business and you've been consistent in fulfilling your brand promise, but still, no one knows who you are. What could be wrong!? Recognition.
"What's the difference between Recognition and Awareness?" *someone asks from the back of the room.
Thank you for asking.
Awareness focuses mainly on how you reach and what you say to potential customers, Recognition involves the tools you possess such your logo, color palettes, icons, and slogans/taglines. How well do people relate these individual pieces to your brand?
The longevity of brand elements is directly tied to its recognizability. Take the Shell gas company logo. The logo has been around since the late 1800s and is still use today. Or the Stella Artois design can be dated back to 1366! Both brands have established some of the most recognizable brand collateral in the world over the years.
I recently posted on my LinkedIn about the Mozilla Firefox re-brand. They have done a great job working out solutions to an entire line of products and services that are all still recognizably “Mozilla”. Your materials do not have to be old to be recognizable, so do not be scared that rebranding will destroy your brand recognition. If done correctly, it will elevate and breathe new life into your business as in this case.
All is well and done: you are consistent in the delivery of goods, services, and marketing materials. You have devoted time to reaching out to the void building your brand awareness. You have established a strong brand identity system with logos, fonts, colors, and collateral.
But how engaged are your customers to your business? What do they say about their experiences with you? Do they actively promote your business when you are not around? Word-of-mouth marketing is extremely important for every business and is essentially the most effective method of advertising. It's FREE!“
Design is a customer’s introduction to your brand . . . Marketing is how you have that conversation.
Another form of free marketing is found by utilizing social media. Engagement is not only how people talk about your company but how you collectively interact. You've probably spent a lot of time building your business's social media profiles, but how do you engage with them? How do they engage with you? Something as simple as social media contest, or asking a question actively entices your customer base to interact with you.
Ex. Free branded apparel giveaway to the person who answers this trivia question first! - not only have you engaged an entire social group, but you've also given away a walking-talking billboard with your logo and contact information. It's a win-win!
Remember, your brand is your conversation with the world. How you articulate that message and story is up to you. When in doubt C.A.R.E. about your brand. If you treat it right, your message will go far, and your business will go further.