I am sure that we have all heard it said that we should never judge a book by it’s cover. I can hear my Mom’s voice right now as I write this post. Although that may be a great principle in general, it does not typically apply in business.
You see, in business, there are contracts involved and risk to be taken and nobody wants to be the guy that didn’t see the warning signs in advance. The truth is, we all make judgment calls on the fly when we meet someone for the first time. Many of our clients come to us ready to invest time and money in a formal process that will better prepare them for those first-time conversations and others come knowing that they need help but just not sure how to assign value to that need. If you are the latter, this post is for you.
Here is the scenario: You meet someone at an event and have a conversation. Let’s say that you have potential interest in their product or service. You close the conversation and exchange business cards with the hope that you may be able to do business in the future. The success of your business relationship with that person may depend upon what happens next.
The second your business card is placed in the hand of a potential customer or business partner, decisions about who you are and how you are categorized in the mind of the recipient are made in an instant. Now, this discussion is not about whether or not you are actually credible. Your current customers and partners already know the answer to that question based on the actual results that you deliver to them. They already know whether or not you return phones calls and keep your promises. This post is more about removing barriers that might prevent a new business relationship from ever happening. Here is a scary thought: How many prospective customers took your home-made business card with a logo designed by your nephew, and just never called? How many first time visitors have looked at your website for the first time and decided that you must be (a) a “one man shop,” (b) just getting started, and/or (c) not quite what they are looking for. The answers to these questions are really hard to think about because there is no way to see your prospect throw away your business card at the end of the day or simply hit the back button to look at other Google search results. The point is, they don’t call and they don’t email you. Or if they do, they may be focused on the lowest cost option and hope that you can meet their unreasonable price expectations. In most situations, this is not a great place to begin a relationship.
A well-designed brand identity accomplishes the critical goal of helping you to appear credible online and offline. At a minimum, the consumer of your brand identity should feel that you are established, experienced and stable. Without those base level requirements being met, the prospect can hardly see any anything else, regardless of how valuable those features should be to them.
So what should you do, you ask? Invest time and money in your brand because it is worth it. A well-executed brand identity will do a lot more than give you a better business card or website. It creates momentum and unity between your team members as they take ownership of the new identity. The branding strategy process itself will help you figure out who you are and then galvanize that new position. Your brand is where you make a stand, raise a flag and fight to hold that patch of dirt. It’s yours. Next, make sure that your brand is expressed well in key places like your business card, email signature, letterhead and website. These strategic touch points are where contracts start. A brand identity has been defined as “your promise to the marketplace.” When you are represented well in the marketplace, the ability to keep a promise is implied and perhaps, the phone rings more often and that appointment is a little easier to set. Now that the phone is ringing, the real work begins. Now you have to live up to the promise you communicated in your brand and that is a completely different conversation. At least now you will have the chance to prove it, right?