A website is an experience for the user. Inevitably, the site is defined in the mind of the user – a personality of sorts, a cumulative effect with the “sum is greater” principle at work. Your company as a whole has a presence for “the user” – clients and prospects in a particular community.
Working to understand your presence, attempting to articulate it, is a powerful experience in self-definition, which directly affects decisions, which determine actions, which create effect. Branding, to me, is all about developing that presence. First it is developed in your mind, developed around a table, then several, then out into the community perception.
A well-defined brand communicates:
- Demographic Served
Please don’t misunderstand. When I say a “brand” I don’t mean a logo or tagline. I mean the entire perception of your company in the mind of the marketplace. When someone says the name of your company, your prospect should know who you are and how you add value. When I see a Wachovia sign, I think the following:
- National (and beyond)
- Personal banking, business banking, loans, etc.
- Claim better customer service than the other big banks
I think these thoughts so naturally that I don’t even realize that I do it. I may realize the customer service focus they have had and wonder to myself if it has changed my opinion of the bank. But the other information listed above is subconscious thought – like Wal-Mart having low prices… it’s in my DNA.
Most businesses aren’t attempting to reach the level of societal infiltration of Wal- Mart, McDonalds, etc. But every business functions with an audience. Most businesses function in a geographical community. You need for prospects to know who you are, but you also need for them to understand if and how you can benefit them.
When I have a sinus infection, I go to my doctor. I take Tylenol when I have a bad headache. I go to Wal-Mart if I need a scattered collection of items, or something random. I go to Wendy’s or Backyard Burger or Chick Filet when I eat fast food. I choose Coke when I buy a soda. When I buy whiskey, I may buy George Dickel, Knob Creek, or Glen Livett. When I run out of Crest, I go buy more. When I want to discover a book about management or marketing, I go to the Books a Millions that is a few miles from my office.
Each of these brands is a specific option in my mind. I know when I need them and why. I don’t hesitate to buy because I clearly understand the benefit I will receive. These are powerful effective brands.
So, What is your one thing loud and clear?
You can only be something by being one thing. This thought came to me years ago, and it frightened me. I was a creative writer (author of a historical novel and a collection of creative works). I was a musician (written dozens of songs, played dozens of shows, completed nearly 10 professional recordings, released 5 or 6 records). I was a teacher (taught ninth grade English for 4 years). I was an entrepreneur (had started my own business). I was a Web marketing consultant (had studied hard and learned the trade quickly). I was a husband, a son, a brother, etc. And here I was supposed to be one thing in order to be successful at any of them. What was I going to do?
Well, I learned that being one thing is about focus, not about being less. For a service business or professional practice to be an option at all it must exist as something specific in the mind of the prospect. For a prospect to engage your services, the person must, to some degree, know what you do and why it is worth (through benefit or necessity) more than specific amounts of money.