What do brands and people have in common? To make a mark on this world, they both have to carve out a unique identity that represents their goals and beliefs. For a business, this identity is comprised of many things, including a well-defined visual brand, a compelling voice, and a strong brand experience.
Today, we’re going to discuss how you can optimize your brand experience to create a small business identity that’s both powerful and consistent. If you’re ready to squash the competition, cultivate loyal followers, and build a brand that lasts, read on.
Optimizing Your Brand Experience
Whether it’s your brick and mortar shop or your social media profiles, your brand experience includes many customer touchpoints. And while your brand experience will never be perfect, focusing on a few key areas of your identity can help you get pretty darn close.
A brand’s customer service defines its character. When people have a question or need help, your ability to answer promptly and professionally can keep them happy and satisfied.
This sounds like a simple feat, but it does get complicated. What if someone calls you when you’re not in the office? What happens if a social media message goes unanswered accidentally? What if there’s only two people on your team, and ten customers call to complain in one day? Luckily, there are many safeguards in place to make it easier for small businesses to provide a great customer service experience, regardless of their resources.
One way is to install a virtual voicemail service, which provides your customers with a professional greeting when you’re unable to answer the phone. You can also break up your greetings into different departments, which assures your customer that their question or comment is going to the right place. This also keeps voicemails organized as you listen and respond to them from anywhere in the world.
Ratings and Reviews
If you’ve ever browsed a poorly-rated Yelp page, you know how much the customer experience matters to your brand image. But when your customer service fails customers (it inevitably will – for reasons beyond your control) you need to have a backup plan.
First, set aside daily time where you moderate all social profiles and review pages. This will ensure that no question or unhappy comment goes unnoticed; plus, it’ll keep you in tune with positive reviews so that you know what’s going right.
Next, find ways to go above and beyond when a customer is dissatisfied. See where you can afford to provide a complimentary service or discount, and offer this apology publicly. Staying abreast of reviews and ratings is an easy, yet effective way to maintain a positive identity that feels personal.
Your brand’s ability to be found in search results – also known as discoverability – is inextricably tied to the overall brand experience. If potential customers can’t find your website, or there are three Facebook pages associated with your business, that ultimately translates into a poor brand experience.
Alternatively, when a brand’s information is easy to find, customers feel more confident doing business there. Tactical Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the first place to start for boosting discoverability. Cleaning up your digital profiles and streamlining your language is also key, and we’ll discuss that later in our conversation about brand consistency.
Craft a Brand Narrative
The last and perhaps most important step in crafting a powerful identity is to build a brand narrative. As the leader of your small business, you’re the face and mind that people associate with the brand. And, chances are, you probably know your stuff.
So why not share that advice and expertise with the world? Linkedin isn’t a bad place to start, and you’ll likely garner praise from colleagues and connections right off the bat. You could also look for industry publications and blogs where you can lend an insightful ear to the people who admire you.
From a customer perspective, seeing accomplishments and news is an exciting way to interact with a brand. It’s not by any means salesy, and it helps reassure them that there are great things going on behind the scenes. Most of all, this makes your brand more personal and transparent, which ties into feelings of accessibility that people associate with your brand.
Build a Consistent Brand
Curating a powerful brand can help you stand out amongst competitors – but only if that identity remains consistent. With a consistent image, voice and tone across every customer touchpoint, you’ll be able to strengthen your brand’s recognizability and help your customers feel assured.
Whether they’re searching for your phone number or your latest blog post, a consistent identity tells customers they’re in the right place. Making customers feel assured is the most important way to build a sense of confidence around your brand. In turn, this boosts purchase intent establishes brand loyalty over time.
Pay attention to the following three areas to create a consistent identity:
1. Brand Name and Tagline
One area that should always be consistent is your brand name – that’s a pretty obvious fact. But what about the tagline that a brand name is associated with? This is an area where many small businesses falter. Since small brands tend to adapt and change at a fast rate, they may forget to update all of their digital profiles each time this happens. The problem here is that it can cause confusion for customers. Your Google business page says that you’re a catering company specializing in large celebrations, but your Yelp page says that you’re a baker of wedding cakes. Do your customers a favor: create a consistent identity that’s reassuring, not confusing.
2. Social Media Identity
Similarly to your brand name and tagline, your social media profiles should always accompany the same description.
While apps like Facebook may allow more room in the “about” section than an app like twitter, there are still ways to maintain consistent language. This can be easily achieved by writing a short, quippy tagline that fits on all profiles. Then, where room allows, you can elaborate with more details. Another way to ensure consistency is through social media imagery. Most social media sites also provide the option to add a banner image, which should tie into the profile image and your overall brand goals.
This isn’t a call to create a social media profile on every platform that exists. Instead, it’s simply a suggestion to maintain a clean look across the profiles that do exist. Plus, if you have a profile on a site that you haven’t used in the last three months, you should probably delete it. Empty social media profiles with low engagement rates can hamper your image, too.
3. Contact Information
Once your business is discoverable, it’s important to streamline your contact information across search engines and social media pages. At a basic level, you need a website, phone number and email address.
Ordinary brands will keep this information impersonal, forcing customers to use a contact page even when their need is urgent. However, this is a great opportunity to bridge the gap between a detached brand experience and a personal one. For example, your contact page might outline different customer service members and their specific email addresses. Another idea is to make sure that your contact information is listed clearly and legibly within search results and across social media.
How do your favorite brands maintain a powerful and consistent small business identity? Taking a hint from your idols can continue to inspire and motivate your efforts.