Normally when you meet people for this first time it is in a public place, but the first time I met Heather Astleford it was at a randomly assigned social gathering through the Junior League of Kansas City, Missouri's Dinner Club. She was a new member and I was a transfer. Before the night was over, we were fast friends. It quickly became evident she wasn't just a pretty face - she was humble, kind and a WAY BIGGER DEAL than she gives herself credit for. Heather is no joke and has worked with big brands, such as Coca-Cola, Dunkin' Brands and Walmart, as well as small local businesses, she knows a thing or two about branding. Today, she shares her five common sense brand strategies. And as her personal style and confident nature suggests, she lives her own brand everyday. Today we welcome Heather to the blog!
Many business owners are experts in their fields, but rarely do they think about their brand. Whether you think about it or not, your brand is out there. Have no fear. I am here to give you five common sense ways to activate your brand that cost little to no money.
1. Be One With Your Brand
The fact is, you and your brand are one in the same. And it’s not enough to say you have a mission statement… it’s how that mission is coming to life and how it speaks to your customers that matters.
For instance, if I’m a hair stylist and I own a posh salon, but my roots are gray and I’m rocking a home perm, my brand is saying, “I am not on trend. In fact, I probably won’t be able to help you be on trend either.” Yikes.
As a business owner, you are the walking, talking, breathing representation of your brand. Make sure that every detail – from your personal appearance to your storefront to your business cards – are in perfect in harmony with your brand message.
2. Be Substantial
Your brand has to be about more than just words. Which means anytime you hang your hat on a brand “promise,” you must deliver.
Walmart, for example, promises the lowest prices every day, and they back it up by keeping prices low and matching the prices of their competitors. A brand of substance that keeps its promises will build trust and loyalty among its customers.
3. Engage Your Foot Soldiers
Your employees are your single biggest assets in living out your brand. They are your foot soldiers and they carry the message of the brand with them in every customer interaction, every service provided and product sold. It is crucial that they are aware of your brand message and supportive of it in their routine work duties.
For example, if I’m a small practice family physician who emphasizes patient satisfaction, yet my front desk staff is texting, the nursing staff is inattentive and my billing staff is rude, I’ve got a major problem with patient satisfaction.
Your employees must buy into your brand’s message and carry it out in every interaction with your customers and clients, or your brand message is failing. Engage your employees regularly with your brand’s message and make sure they know how it connects to them within their role in the company.
4. Be Sociable
Now that you are One with Your Brand, every meeting, appointment, drink with friends, post and tweet are opportunities to represent your brand. Some people feel very uncomfortable with this because it smacks of shameless self-promotion… and they are right! But ask yourself, if not you, then who?
There are two things to keep in mind when trying to share your brand message in social settings and on social media. The first is to keep it natural. Think of your brand is an extension of yourself and look for the most logical and natural way to speak about your business that fits within the conversation.
The second thing to keep in mind is to engage with your network. It does your brand no good to simply have a Facebook or Twitter page and never do anything with it. Engage with your followers by regularly posting relevant content, and being responsive in a timely manner.
5. Prune Your Branches
Just like a tall live oak tree, your business will grow branches that need to be trimmed back or cut off for the overall health of the business. Strengthen your brand by regularly reviewing its core promises and philosophies. Are you still on target? Have you strayed from your core message and brand promises? If so, practice targeted removal of the branches that are leading you astray or distracting you from your brand objectives. By removing these resource-consuming branches, your “tree” is better able to focus on healthy growth for your brand and your bottom line.
How are you living out your brand? What are your brand's biggest strengths and weaknesses? Comment below - I would love to hear from you.