Your brand is the lasting impression that a customer has of your business. You can influence many parts of your brand, but ultimately it lives in the minds of your customers.
Here are some elements that make up how your company is experienced.
Pre-Sales Branding Elements
These factors are what influence people’s “first impression”, the split-second decision a potential customer makes about whether your product or company matches what they are looking for. Some customers are looking for something in particular, and some are just browsing until something catches their interest. Either way, these elements influence whether they stop and linger or move on.
- the quality of your photography
- the style of your photography
- the amount of detail you include about your products
- the tone and style of your writing
- the ease of use of your website
- the story of your company, and how you tell it
- the values you stand for
- the price of your product
- who else knows about or buys your product
- products you are associated with that they already know
- how you answer customer questions
This phase is about fit and trust.
First, you want to come across as exactly the sort of company your target audience likes to buy from. If you’re targeting hipsters, you’d better be eco-friendly, local, and a little edgy. If you want to sell to pre-teen girls, it will probably involve a lot of pink. The closer you can get to targeting a particular demographic and understanding what they like, the easier it will be to sell to them. All the above elements should communicate a unified message that is exactly what your target audience is looking for.
You also need to convey stability and trust, no matter what. That’s what looking “professional” is all about…the perception that “professional” equals “trustworthy”.
The best way to get these elements right (without a focus group) is to paint a mental picture of your target customer, and then step into their shoes. Mentally imagine yourself as that person. Where do you shop? What do you want and need? Get into character. Then look at your own website or products. From inside this character, do you like them? Are they exciting? Go through all the above elements and see if you are turned off at any point along the way.
Sales Process Branding Elements
The customer picks up a piece of jewelry from your table, or clicks “Add to Cart” on your website. What happens next can influence not only whether they buy, but if they come back and whether they tell their friends.
- in person, how talkative / friendly you are, and if it feels fun and enjoyable, or intrusive
- online, how secure your website looks, and how easy it is to figure out shipping costs and check out
- what communications they get from you about their order
- how fast they receive their order
- the packaging of your product
- the quality of the product and if it matches expectations
- any extras you include, like a coupon or free gift
- how you handle returns
In this phase, a customer’s hopes and expectations are either pleasantly met or surpassed, or they are left disappointed, or in some cases, angry.
This phase is about expectation management. You want to always be in the situation of exceeding expectations.
This can be tricky. Let’s say you have beautiful large photograph of a set of gemstone earrings in your Etsy shop. Even though you state the size of the beads in the listing, the picture makes them appear bigger than they really are. The customer buys it, opens the package, and is immediately disappointed. They go back to your listing and realize that they made a mistake in thinking they were bigger…but they are disappointed nonetheless. Even though you did nothing “wrong”, and you got the sale, you likely won’t get any more business from that customer. And if the customer is one of the 10% of customers who are a little emotionally unstable, they may leave you a bad review, even though it’s totally not your fault.
Obviously a lot of businesses go for the philosophy of only needing the initial sale, and who cares if the customer is disappointed. And it’s true that you can sell things that way. But you can’t build a brand that way, or get referral business. And you won’t have that warm fuzzy feeling inside that you get from making people happy. 🙂
The Bigger Picture: Being a Lighthouse
One of my favorite metaphors for branding is a lighthouse. A lighthouse stands at the edge of the ocean, guiding the ships safely to their destination by shining its light for all to see. What it doesn’t do is run up and down the beach trying to please every passing boat. To be a lighthouse means to take a stand and stick to it, rather than jumping on every passing idea or trend or customer demand. Start your business with a purpose, and stay true to that purpose in everything you do, and you will create brand that will be a true asset to your business, and to the world.