Some brands seem to become well known, some nearly ubiquitous, in a short period of time, relatively speaking. Some businesses that have names that are around for decades and decades, and for generations, and their brand reach is only a few miles from their location with virtually no recognition beyond that, aside from existing customers, which only number in the hundreds. What makes the difference between the long-time brand, and the real legacy brand, that gains national exposure and stays in the forefront for years and years?
Clearly just sticking around for decades should count for something, right? Growing a business is not for the faint of heart, and it’s a lot of hard work over years to become established and known for what you do. Yet some seem to climb that mountain fairly quickly and become almost household names in just a short period, taking a large stake in market share for their category, while others simply continue day by day, seemingly doing a good job, gaining customers, but they never reach prominence either in their category or industry beyond the small local area.
The difference can likely be attributed to three factors:
- Paid or Earned Exposure – is there an advertising program on a large scale, is there some press and PR activity on the schedule, have you told the story to the media and let their network and their imagination do some work for you in spreading the word? If not, that may be a significant determiner of your reach and market share – someone once said that “a business that doesn’t advertise is like a nerd kissing a girl in the dark – you know it’s happening, but no one else knows you’re there.” Craft a credible, succinct brand story, and amplify it as far as wide as possible.
- Industry Participation – Are you a member in good standing of the business and professional trade associations that cover your vertical and your business activities? Are you active and engaged in those groups? If not you’re missing a huge opportunity. Those organizations not only represent you and the other members to the general public, but they allow you to be known within your industry as an expert, a specialist, a provider of solid standing and credible ability – they all publish multiple vehicles, from websites, to magazines and newsletters and blogs that can be used to showcase your business to industry colleagues.
- Differentiation – what is it that you do better, faster, cheaper, differently than your competitors? Do you use different or better procedures, superior materials, alternate parts or components, better product designs, respond to customers in a spectacular way, do you offer a full refund no questions asked no matter what? Free shipping on returns, multiple access points, 24/7 service, faster turnaround? Something gives you distance from your competitors. Use that to stand out from the pack, and spread the word nationally that you’re the one that can provide “X” when no other can.
With those three pillars in place, if the product is of good quality, if you’re telling the right people, at the right time, often enough to “stick” in their minds when purchasing time comes, then your brand should be established, and spread as far as you can push it out.
None of the three things listed above are terribly expensive, from a business standpoint. It is certainly possible to spend yourself into a sizeable hole on advertising that doesn’t work or that is misplaced, but there are scores of professionals out there to assist you in determining the appropriate spending levels and media selections so that this doesn’t happen. The industry participation is relatively inexpensive but can be time-consuming – almost always well worth the time to establish yourself as an industry player, which brings dividends for years. Differentiation is more an introspective exercise, and should be part of all your marketing planning, along with reiterating your brand characteristics and pillars of internal strength for the brand, to help keep the brand story consistent and on track over the years.
Are you a local presence, or a national brand on the rise? The choice is really yours to make . . .