My lookalike in the university, Gabriel, and I were very close. We were like man and shadow, for everywhere he went I followed and vice versa. But, there was something quite disturbing about our regular strolls along the long walkways of the school. If a passerby needs to get directions or obtain some other information he/she would always ask Gabriel. In some instances, the passerby will walk right past me and approach him for the help. Each time, I would ask if he had seen them somewhere before but the answer was no, he didn’t know them from Adam.
By the second semester, I couldn’t stomach it any longer so I asked why strangers always sought him out and ignored me. In his pleasant but blunt manner he asked, “Why will anyone ask you for help? You never wear a smile and when you do it is always plastic!” His remarks cut deeply but, after a minute or so of sulking, I decided to put his analysis to the test. I spent the next few days practising a smile in the mirror. The first samples came out as sheepish grins, but as I pressed on they became more real and more comfortable. The next time we were on the walkway I pasted on my best smile and, as providence would have it, the next stranger who came along asked for directions from me. I was very happy inside but, for fear of jinxing it, I didn’t say a word.
After three weeks of decline in Gabriel’s number of direction-seekers and an increase in the number of ‘Please, where is the Department of so-and-so?’ that came my way, I blurted out, “Gabriel, how far? Haven’t you noticed that no one asks you for directions these days?” He didn’t say anything but gave me a been-there-done-that look. Fifteen years later, strangers still ask me for directions and ignore whoever is walking with me. And, it’s not because I’m wearing a T-shirt with an Ask Me sign printed on it but because of my infectious and attractive smile.
Wouldn’t it be great if someone could just take a look at your business and tell you that one thing that you need to tweak so as to get the customers that have been ignoring you in the past to start seeking you out?
A smile projects a positive image that attracts people to you. It makes them perceive you as one who is confident, approachable and knowledgeable; unfortunately they might be wrong on the last one but you would have succeeded in drawing them, nonetheless. The element that confers a favourable perception on one’s business is called branding. It is so powerful that, from a long way off, it can attract customers to you without anyone saying as much as a word to them about your business.
There are three crucial questions to answer before you set out to brand:
- Who are we as a business entity? (refer to your mission statement)
- Who are our customers? (carry out a thorough customer profile)
- What makes our products and services unique from the others?
The answers will form the basis for designing your branding strategy. It is important to note here that branding is not a one-off affair; it’s something to consistently pursue like the Holy Grail else you will not get the perception you crave.
Features of branding to consider:
· Business name
· Letterhead design, font and margins
· Tone of correspondence
· Website domain and design as well as email signature
· Telephone etiquette
· Product packaging
· Office layout, type of furniture etc.
· Kind of advertisements and medium used
· Membership of board
· Brand ambassadors
· Where you hang out for recreation etc.
You must have noticed that the bulk of the above-mentioned are related to what customers/prospects see about you and your business. This is because branding is all about impression. For this reason, you ought to work as hard about the appearance of your business as much as its substance because branding is to a business what a smile is to the face.