Is your business branded? What have you done to publicize and reinforce its brand? Is branding something you should even be thinking about?
Branding has an instinctive appeal that all business owners crave. When your business is strongly branded your company's name is the first thing people think of when needing to find someone in your line of work.
To be clear, if your company is more than four or five years old it is branded among those who have experienced your services. In this case, your brand is really your reputation. You brand (reputation) may be well earned or unfairly earned. Usually, the reputation of a young firm is pretty much in line with the level of service the firm delivers. This is the first impression phenomena that we are all familiar with on a personal level.
A brand is about as flexible as concrete. Once it sets it is very difficult to break.
If your brand's reputation is not what you wish it to be you have got a hard row to hoe if you seek to change it.
You may have to go so far as to completely change your name. This is a common approach in the big business world. Change the name. Change the logo and colors. Suddenly everyone thinks a new player has entered the market.
Under the new name a new brand can be built. This is an extreme approach but one that works more often than not — assuming the business has corrected the errors that legitimately created the negative brand image in the first place.
To be clear, branding is a proven marketing technique for a certain set of contractors. Anyone performing residential service needs to have a strong brand identity to keep a steady flow of leads coming in. The reason is that most home owners are only going to need a given service once every few years. When that is all the more frequent your customers are going to consume your service, and each individual customer represents a fairly small life-time value, you will need to create an influx of leads from new customers.
In that situation you can't afford to build your marketing strategy around high touch to a select group of prospects.
That last condition is what makes branding for commercial contractors a much different story. The buyers in the commercial market are much fewer in number and readily identifiable. Each offers the potential of large lifetime value if you can successfully lock them down as your customer. Once locked down you don't need to invest money advertising to them. They already know and trust you.
So what is your brand? What are you known for? What is in the minds of your customers when you company's name is brought up? What do they tell their network when someone asks for the name of a reliable provider in your line of work?
You need to know the answers. They will help you with your sales and marketing message. They will help you with your business improvement efforts. They will help you identify employee problems that need to be addressed.
You may need to hire a market research firm to contact old clients, current clients and buyers who have never hired you. The calls are not to be used as sales calls.
So what reputation should you hope to find? What should you hope your brand stands for?
- Well managed
- Good quality
- Good value
Note that I didn't list low price. You really don't want the reputation for being the low price provider as that reputation inevitably leads to low margins. You want to be selected for the reasons list above. The last one, good value, covers the price angle.
You want to work with people who understand value. You don't want to work with people who only understand price.
One word on visual image. Construction is a little different than most industries when it comes to image. If you are a residential service contractor then by all means you need your field technicians driving clean trucks with a uniform paint job and wearing a standard uniform that doesn't look like it just walked out of an auto repair shop.
If you provide commercial service work, the truck doesn't matter much but the uniform does. If you perform commercial construction neither the truck nor the uniform matter much. There is nothing wrong with over-doing it; however, it does cost money.
In summary, find out what the market has decided your brand is and be careful in throwing a lot of money towards advertising in an effort to change it. If you consistently deliver a higher level of professionalism than you once did eventually the truth will show up in your branded image. It will just take a heck of a lot longer than you will be happy with.
Of course, the exact opposite is also true. Screw up a handful of times with the wrong customers and your brand can be trashed in six months.