As a small business owner you’ve probably spent years working to create, refine and establish your brand. It’s the thing that makes you unique and allows your customers to instantly recognise you. The world’s most successful brands not only help to set them apart from the crowd but can build loyalty, generate revenue and inspire the people who work for them. These brands also have teams of people across the globe dedicated to ensuring they stay this way.
However, if you are the owner of an SME you’ve probably got payroll, budgets, supplies and staffing all to consider, as well as a thousand other things. So when do you have time to look after your brand? And in today’s increasingly globalised society how do you protect that brand when you’re looking to expand internationally? Here are a few guidelines I’ve used to help maintain a strong worldwide brand identity.
Successful brands are built on consistency. People know instantly what they’re going to get from their favourite brands and therefore stay loyal to them. For example, McDonalds has been selling the same burgers for years, Rolls Royce has been making the same cars and John Lobb has been making the same shoes, for the same families, for generations. Wherever in the world their customers engage with that brand, they trust them and therefore continue to contribute revenue for the business.
So you’re probably thinking these brands have each been around for more than 100 years and of course people are familiar with them. Well that is true but the same rules apply. Even for the newest of business, it’s important to concentrate on being consistent in all elements of your brand and company. This means across everything from your product aesthetic and website, to your social media and newsletters, you should have a clear message and image that your customers are instantly familiar with, no matter where they are.
After you’ve established your brand and got up to speed with ensuring consistency across all your messages, it’s important to ask yourself a number of questions. Where is your brand appearing on the internet? Which brands is it being mentioned alongside? Who is talking about it on social media? If you’re positioning your brand towards Millennials in the USA but you’re getting most of your online traffic from people in the 50+ age bracket in China, where are things going wrong?
There are many great tools out there to help you monitor your brand’s awareness, from free services such as Google Alerts and Tweet Deck to more advanced paid tools including Hootsuite Pro and Talkwalker Enterprise, it’s crucial to gather as much information as possible on your brand. Many of these tools will also enable you to break down the results by country and by city, so for a brand that’s quickly expanding into new markets this is a great way to see which campaigns are most effective in which places. Monitoring therefore enables you to make informed decisions going forward and ensures you really maximise your spending on any campaign work.
For most SMEs your staff is your most important asset, so it’s important they fully embrace the brand they represent. Before hiring anyone, I would recommend thinking about whether you think they can fully do your brand justice. If they’re not able to demonstrate any prior interest in your sector and product, then are they really the right people to represent your brand? This is true of all staff, even those who are not client facing. If someone is not passionate about your brand, then are they going to give the 100 per cent you require of them.
Education is also key when engaging with other businesses. If you’re partnering with another retailer overseas to help increase your international reach, you need to think carefully about how they are perceived. Do your research on how that brand is perceived and where possible, experience the brand yourself. For example, we partner with Net-A-Porter in London and Nordstrom in the USA as they appeal to the same younger fashion-conscious demographic and represent a similar clean and minimalist aesthetic. Many SMEs are often attracted to larger retailers that promise to generate huge numbers of sales across the globe without considering the impact on their brand. Make sure you’re confident that your brand will benefit from any international partnership you engage with, not just your bottom line.
This may seem like a lot to take in but crack these three simple steps and you’ll ensure your brand is clear, consistent and working as hard for your business as you are. Neglect your brand and you’ll soon notice the impact in maintaining a healthy sales pipeline.
By Andrew Jennings, founder and CEO of Larsson & Jennings.