There are countless ways to market your business. From traditional radio, TV, and print advertising to social media marketing, pay-per-click, and targeted ads across websites and digital apps. Communication with your customers has become more public, with the world able to see reviews from your fans (and critics) and the conversations you have with those same people online.
Your brand extends beyond customer conversations and advertising. Consider how you present yourself at a conference, the words you use in a speech, or even how you edit your website copy. It’s crucial that the way you present your brand remains consistent in all your conversations, adverts, and communications.
Why is a Consistent Brand Important?
A growing business with a small group of employees can often overlook the importance of a consistent voice, believing it’s only essential for larger companies with money to spend on expensive brand discovery and research. This can’t be further from the truth.
Without a consistent brand, your customers, prospects, and investors can all perceive you in ways you never intended. Generating new leads while sending out the wrong signals will set you up to fail. By not explicitly instructing your marketing team on your brand messaging, voice, and tone, you leave it open to interpretation from every individual within your team. Every member of your team will have a personal twist on the brand. While their experience and skills are crucial to their role, they must portray the business within the guidelines you define to deliver a seamless customer experience.
Consider global brands like Ritz-Carlton, Rolex, and Gucci. What words come to mind as you think of these brands? Some think of luxury, indulgence, and value. These adjectives describe their brands, and their marketing teams have well-defined plans to help them reinforce these emotions.
The price of their products doesn’t just define this reinforcement. It’s also supported through their levels of customer service, visual branding, and the language their teams use when interacting with customers, prospects, critics, and investors.
How Can You Maintain a Consistent Brand?
The more your business grows, the harder it is to maintain a consistent brand. Even as an individual business owner, ensuring a consistent experience every single day can be challenging. Some of the principles I follow to help me maintain my brand are listed below.
Produce Your Brand Guidelines
Brand guidelines are elements you and your teams must abide by in all communications internally and externally. When writing your guidelines, consider including the following:
- A history of your company, your vision, and your goals.
- Your Tone of voice rules (both written and spoken). Do you wish to sound professional or fun? Safe or critical? Consider how you want to sound and then document it within your guidelines.
- Logo rules – How much space should exist between your logo and the edge of a screen or page? Should the logo always remain in full color or can it be grayscale?
- Imagery – Should images contain people? Should product images be taken on a specific background color?
- Brand Colors – What colors can be used within your communications? When we think of large international brands, we often associate a color with them. This is because of well-defined brand guidelines that have kept this color consistent over time.
- Fonts – Consider the fonts you would like to use across all of your communications.
Once you have completed your guidelines, it’s time to tell your team. Walk your team through the document face-to-face. They must understand the importance, and they will likely have questions that will trigger the need to add additional information to your guidelines.
Most businesses find that implementing brand guidelines is relatively straight forward, but maintaining their use in the future is more difficult. I recommend hiring (or appointing) a “Brand Guardian.” This is somebody who understands your brand well and can look at all internal and external communications to ensure they are “on brand.” Where they’re not, they work with the relevant teams to adjust accordingly.
Customer Profiling and Scenario Planning
Do you know who your customers are? I’m not referring to their names, but the common elements that make up most of your customers. Are the majority of them male or female? What is their age group? Where do they live? How much do they spend? Do they purchase online or in-store? Do they have children? Are they wealthy?
All of these questions help you to build a customer profile, and in turn, help you understand what particular type of brand, language, and tone of voice might appeal to them.
Once you know who your customers are, consider how they purchase your products by building a customer profile. This will help you understand the steps your customers take to discover your brand, research your product or service, and make a purchase.
Once you know your customers, you can start defining the values and beliefs you want your business to emulate. Remember also to determine the values you don’t wish to be associated with, so it’s clear what is and isn’t a part of your brand.
When you gather these insights, you can start planning for various scenarios. Instead of waiting for a customer to file a complaint, you can prepare for grievances ahead of time and plan your response. Anticipating these conversations will relieve pressure if a customer isn’t happy because you are ready.
For instance, when you submit a complaint to a luxury brand, the answer is never “No.” Their staff are trained to say ‘Yes’ and to find a way to help you address your concerns. By planning for all scenarios, you can be confident your responses are on-brand, in the correct tone of voice, and most importantly, the best possible response you can provide.
Communicate with Your Marketing and Customer Service Teams
Your marketing team is adept at building a marketing plan. They’ll know when to market your business on Facebook, create landing pages to coincide with their latest pay-per-click adverts, and how to generate new leads. But are all these efforts sound like they’re coming from one voice? If they’re not, it’s time to communicate your brand and voice style guide to them. Teach them the scenarios you planned earlier and walk them through the differences in their style and how you want your business to sound.
It’s crucial your customer service team also understands the importance of your brand guidelines. Repeat customers spend more per purchase than new customers, so ensuring a consistent message, voice, and level of service to them is crucial.
Measure Your Success
Last but not least, you should measure the success of your efforts. When we think of Gucci, we picture luxury. When we think of Motel 6, we associate it with no-frills.
But how do you know what your customers associate with your brand? To find out, ask them. A survey via email to your mailing list would be a good start or ask customers as they enter your store. Whichever way you do it, understanding how your customers feel about your brand and what words they associate with it will help you decide how to adjust your brand in the future.