To the average consumer, businesses are a lot like snowflakes. Each one may be unique, but from the view of the person watching the snow fall, they all look exactly the same. How can you get your customer interested enough to see what makes you different?
To achieve this takes a "wow" factor, something that not only makes you stand out from your competition but makes you stand out period! What makes you unique and different is already there; you just need to uncover it, clearly define it, and then share it.
You want to create a brand, a reputation, a "wow" so distinctive that it transcends what your business sells and offers. When you've got a wow factor, people have heard of you, and they like what they've heard. So much so, in fact, that when you come calling, they want to meet you. And the opportunity to do business with your company is something they would consider a lucky opportunity.
This is the type of brand you want to build. You want doors to open before you ever knock on them, or better yet, to have customers come knocking on your door.
Wow from Within
Neither your identity nor your business' identity should be dictated by fluctuating trends among your competitors or what you think will fill a void in the existing market. Your identity, your brand, your wow factor is internal, not external.
Authenticity is key in establishing a successful professional and business wow factor. True wow isn't about hype and posturing. Customers will ultimately see through even the most suave marketing strategy. A far better choice is to invest the time to create a reliable brand that builds your reputation and ensures consistency and quality for your customer/client base.
Also, keep in mind that changing direction with each passing trend makes you stand out less in a business world saturated with competition and fads. It also creates a sense of instability for your existing customer base. In a consumer culture where trendy products quickly become obsolete, many consumers crave the stable and familiar. Instead of looking for marketing gimmicks, spend some time thinking about what gives you and your company unique and lasting appeal.
Get Back to the Basics
The best company brands are the simplest. The average consumer is exposed to so much noise on a daily basis; your customers and clients don't need more. They need something that rings true, something they can rely on, rather than something that's trying to manipulate them and further complicate their decision-making process.
Your company can't possibly be all things to all potential buyers—and that's where you start to build your brand. You begin this process by getting to know yourself and your company. What is unique, different, and appealing about you? When you are trying to sculpt your wow, consider the qualities that are most appealing and important to your best customers.
You should find that answers align squarely and cleanly with your corporate values and the reputation you have been working to build.
Keep in mind that a brand doesn't exist to statically represent your company—it is a consistent way of reminding your customers what you stand for and what value you offer. It works in conjunction with your values, and it attracts attention and plants a seed. A great brand is simple and descriptive enough to grow with you.
You Are Your Brand
When customers or clients decide to buy from your business, they are choosing to buy from you. Never forget that. This has never been more true than in this economy. Consumers today have no expectation that a company will be here 10 years from now, or even five years from now. As consumers, we no longer look to establish a long-term relationship with a company; we look to establish a long-term relationship with a person.
By establishing your brand, you give your customers information up front. You let them know all about you and about your business and what it can do for them. A brand is what consumers think, what emotional connection they have when they hear the name of your business. Your brand is your reputation—and it is an indicator of the level of trust you have engendered from your customers.
Your Brand Builds Your Community
A brand is not a direct source of profit, but it is an extremely important source of intangible value. A brand that accurately reflects your reputation and that of your company will build consistency with your customers. And consistency leads to trust. Once customers or clients have responded to your brand by choosing your company as the right one for them, they will reward you with repeat business and refer other people to you.
The goal in creating your unique identity is to create an idea around your business that makes customers want—no, have!—to choose to do business with you time and again. You are not looking to make a single sale and move on to the next buyer. That type of strategy is not going to foster long-term loyalty or success in this economy. Happy customers are repeat customers, and repeat customers become referring customers and advocates.
Taking the time to consider exactly what makes you and your company worth a consumer's trust and to create your own wow factor is a major key to success. A recognizable name with a reputation for quality will ensure your service or product jumps off the shelf and gives consumers a reason to choose you. In addition, it will give your business far greater longevity than even the best marketing campaigns. This extra effort will not only set your business apart from the transient, trendy businesses that consumers learn to avoid, but will also foster long-term loyalty from your customer/client base.
Meridith Elliott Powell is an international speaker, certified coach, and strategist who helps businesses and people master the relational skills needed to be successful in today's competitive environment. Her latest book is Winning in the Trust & Value Economy.