I am fortunate to meet thousands of entrepreneurs and small business owners every year.
If your business’s brand identity is confusing, inconsistent, generic, or otherwise sub-par, you can easily undermine your business’s credibility and ruin your chance for success.
Let’s look at five branding mistakes that will cripple your business and ways you can avoid those mistakes in your business.
Mistake 1: Bad company name
When you’re starting a new business, you don’t yet have a recognizable brand. This is the perfect time to start thinking about ways you can grow recognition and build a strong brand identity for your business. Investors will appreciate it if the go-to-market section of your business plan addresses how you’ll build brand recognition.
Recognition starts with a memorable business name.
The brand name will appear on your business cards, letterhead, website, marketing materials, social networks, products, and everywhere else – in print and online – to identify your company and your company’s products and services.
Naming your company can be challenging and time-consuming. Getting an available URL for your company’s name can present an even more significant challenge because even when you find a great name, the URL might not be available.
Your company’s name should be simple, easy to pronounce, spell and write, and memorable. If you want helpful tips on naming your business, read ten tips for startups and small businesses on naming your company.
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Mistake 2: Poor visual design
It’s not enough to have a good, recognizable company name.
People also associate brands with a logo.
As you think about logo design, keep your audience and products/services in mind because you want your company logo to reflect the products and services your company sells.
A good logo builds trust, and a strong logo will help to pull your branding together.
Think about the logos of some of the world’s most admired brands (Apple, Google, Amazon). How do you feel (emotionally) when you see their logos?
Now, look at your own company’s logo. Have you ever asked your customers how they feel when they see your company’s logo?
Great design doesn’t stop with the logo.
It should not surprise you to learn that consumers prefer better-looking websites. Take a look at your company’s website. Does it look professional? Is it regularly updated? Does it have the relevant information your customers need? How do customers feel when they visit the site?
If you want good best practices and tips on successful small business website design, read Small Business Marketing: Web Design Best Practices and Tips. And if your visual design is holding your business back, this might be the perfect time to rebrand.
Mistake 3: Inconsistent brand voice
A brand is the total of the experiences your customers and potential customers have with your company.
A strong brand communicates what your company does, how it does it and establishes trust and credibility.
Your brand is your story.
Your company’s brand lives in everyday interactions with your customers and potential customers, the images you share, the messages you post on your website, the videos you create, the content of your marketing materials, and your posts on social networks.
What you say is important, but don’t overlook how you say it.
Your company’s “voice” is the language and personality you and your employees will use to deliver your branding message and reach your customers.
Successful brands speak with a unique voice.
Think about the brands you admire – what makes them unique? How do they communicate with you and other customers? What do you like about their voice?
Why should you care about brand consistency?
It would be best to care because brand consistency leads to familiarity, and familiarity leads to trust.
Customers buy from brands they trust.
Mistake 4: Not keeping your promises
Businesses succeed or die by the promises they make.
When you tell your customers you offer outstanding customer support – they will expect you to deliver on that promise.
If you consistently deliver (and over-deliver) on your promises, you will create more loyal customers who will become zealous advocates for your business.
Although this is common sense, you’d be surprised by how many small businesses tarnish their customers’ relationships by failing to keep their promises.
Happy customers who feel good about your business are your best source of referrals.
For example, Zappos built great trust and credibility with customers by promising quick delivery (2-5 business days), but Zappos goes even further and upgrades most customers to free overnight shipping. As a result, Zappos has loyal and zealous customers.
Mistake 5: No vision
Do you have a vision for your business? How do you want customers to remember you?
Think about the brands you love. Those brands commonly stand for something (or against something) and connect with their customers emotionally.
After all, marketing is about values.
One of my favorite companies, Basecamp, develops software to help people collaborate. Basecamp believes that most software is bloated and difficult to use. They don’t compete on features – they compete on usability. They have developed a reputation as a company that stands for easy-to-use software.
What’s your vision for your business?
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