Your brand is the most essential attribute of your company, but your brand is not organized, quantified, or defined by logos and visual artifacts. They are important parts of your messaging, yes, but branding is everything about your company that helps it stand out to your buyers from your competition. It’s your name, your product, your reputation, your logo, your website, your advertising – the recognizable face of your company. It’s how others “feel” about your business and the players are customers, competitors, employees, experts, and community members.
Your brand is a “promise” that must be perceived by the people you most wish to reach. They, not you, determine how effective your brand is. Ultimately, what’s at stake is how effectively you can communicate, deliver a solution that satisfies, and meet the expectations of your prospects, while being preferred to others in your category. Your brand exists in comparison to other companies that can solve similar problems; so you don’t have to worry about the entire universe of customers and competitors, just those in your category.
The Importance of Brand Awareness
89% of manufacturers reported “brand awareness” as the most important goal of their content marketing efforts, yet 76% of them viewed their content marketing as ineffective. So what exactly is brand awareness?
Think about it this way: if you have a rare cardiac condition, do you settle on a general practitioner, or do you seek out a specialist with deep expertise in understanding your condition, who’s on the forefront of cutting-edge solutions? Now you might think that example is extreme, but consider the risks that your your customers take when they trust you with their investments and their reputations? Brand awareness means that you are “known” by a specific audience for being “good” at something. When you’re good at something, you can attract customers who are the best fit for your products. Effective branding will improve recognition, create trust with your buyers, and help generate new customers. Your business simply cannot thrive without strong, positive brand awareness.
How are You Differentiated from the Competition?
The first step in creating a strong brand is to focus on what sets you apart from your competitors. Many a business has found extraordinary success by articulating their unique capabilities or capitalizing on their highly-specialized niche product.
So, what makes your business special? The more crystal-clear this is, the stronger your branding will be. Do you create a specialized valve joint used in the energy industry, or do you make a wider range of products with unprecedented quality? Is your customer service second to none? Ultimately, though, this is not up to your business — it’s up to your customers. It’s up to you to find out how your business is perceived and help spread the good word. Understanding what makes you you is the most important prerequisite to pumping up your brand awareness.
Tell Your Story
Once you know what sets you apart from your competition, don’t keep it a secret – craft your story. Why did you start your business? Why are you passionate about your niche? Who does your business help? How satisfied are your customers with your products and service?
Conveying this to your audience – why you do what you do and what your customers think of you – in an engaging story serves as both a brand foundation and a brand amplifier. Manufacturing can be a very technical, even somewhat “boring” industry. Humanizing your company by sharing your heart-felt story will help your buyers accept you as a real person behind the product.
Use Consistent Branding
This one seems like a no-brainer, but it’s often overlooked. Your business needs to be represented the same everywhere. Your business name, logo, images, fonts and colors need to match across all marketing materials and all external platforms. Think of your website as “home base,” where every aspect of your brand is represented. Your social media channels, online listings, business cards, email signatures, product guides and catalogs need to all be branded identically. This ensures a consistent brand experience for your buyers and makes everything from your company easily recognizable.
Become a Valuable Resource
Embrace the fundamentals of Inbound Marketing and position your business as a thought leader in your industry by regularly sharing informative, helpful, educational and entertaining material tailor-made to address the problems and questions of your target buyers. Examples of valuable content include:
- Blog – Consistently publishing blog articles is a great way to get new visitors to your site, as well as help keep leads and customers coming back.
- Downloadable Content such as eBooks, product guides and catalogs are great lead generation tools and help to establish your company as experts in your industry.
- Podcasts can be informative and educational, even conversational and entertaining. Speak directly to your target customer by hosting a podcast specifically covering their industry. Invite other specialists, in their industry and yours, to join you in discussing the most relevant topics for that specific segment.
- Publish a Book – This one’s advanced, but certainly doable if you are a natural writer or you have one on your team. Nothing says industry leader like being a published author in your field.
The more resources you create and share, the more your business will become the go-to manufacturer within your niche in the eyes of your buyers and prospects.
Connect Through Social Media
In addition to being an avenue for sharing your content, social media channels are an invaluable resource for actually connecting to and interacting with your current and potential customers. LinkedIn, in particular, hosts the potential to move well beyond the virtual “networking” and connect with your audience on a much more meaningful level. Join a group for your target industry (or better yet, host one), where members can share tips, ask questions, and stay in touch with one another in “real time.”
Ultimately, shaking a bad reputation and negative word-of-mouth is tough to do with any level of marketing, so the performance of your business is still paramount to the strength of your brand. It’s up to you to produce a great product, deliver superb customer service, and exceed customer expectations at every opportunity. Real customer referrals will help establish your brand as the trustworthy, industry leader that you are.
Additionally, branding is just as important internally as it is for external marketing. Without proper branding, your employees might lose sight of the purpose of your product (and, ultimately, your business) and your sales reps will lack the ability to properly articulate the reasons why prospects should buy your product.
Your brand should be the strongest, most reliable thing in your marketing arsenal. To effectively grow your business, you need a clear vision of who you are and what you offer, as well as the strategic plan to properly communicate that message to your buyers.