Customers like to be clear. They nearly always buy from someone they understand.
Once you are sending out a clear and consistent message from the moment a customer first notices you to when you handle a query after a sale, your brand can turn into your most enduring source of growth.
If you can re-assure them that they can take easy decisions with you at no risk, they are happy to pay a premium. At a minimum, you might be able to charge an extra 3% at retail. At the top end, you might reach 15%.
Yet many SME’s can find their messages becoming unwittingly confused. They grow beyond the original vision of their founder. They rely too much on picking up sales through individual contacts. They stray into markets into which they are less strong. They create variations of the brand for different customers. They fail to reflect new capabilities that they have developed. They struggle to bid for larger contracts.
The challenge is to put in place a more professional brand, which clearly expresses what your business stands for and the direction in which it is heading. Instead of relying on inspiration from the top tier, everyone in the company can start using the brand in reaching out to a wider audience.
‘Never confuse marketing with promotions,’ says Martin Haley, lecturer in marketing at the University of Bradford. ‘Marketing starts with a plain piece of paper and a search for what your customers actually expect from you. Once you create a match with an understanding of how you operate, you can avert the danger of straying into areas where you are less strong.’
For those intent on growth, it will generally mean a review of their position in the market. Your emphasis will switch from what skills you have to how the market is evolving. As well as communicating ‘what’ you produce, you will be able to explain ‘why’ you exist at all.
You will gain a better understanding of what your customers expect and why they like dealing with you. You will then find yourself in a stronger position to target other customers and know how to appeal to them.
In particular, you will have a clear sense of the emotional appeal you hold for your customers. It might be reliability. It might be excitement. It is unlikely to be both.
You can then move to the next stage of creating a book of brand rules, setting up a marketing department and creating a set of tools to communicate messages to the market.
So how will you know when you have got it right? Probably, when you can explain the positioning of your brands in less than 30 seconds. Even better, if you can do it with a single word.
SMEforGrowth.co.uk – Editor