In business, handing someone a business card is as common as shaking hands. Why then do so many entrepreneurs fail to take advantage of this vitally important first impression by handing a less-than-impressive card or being unable to articulate how it was developed. More often than not, the extent of the explanation I receive is that the name and logo looked "cool" -- to which I will respond, "Groovy."
The reality is that a business card is just a small part of a company's overall brand strategy, and far too often, entrepreneurs drastically underestimate the importance of this consideration early in their business.
Here's the thing. A company's brand is not something that can be developed with the same energy, consideration and enthusiasm as painting a closet. Your brand is how customers see you, and while you can execute on a well-planned marketing strategy to craft and deliver an image, the end impression is ultimately up to the consumer. If you make a bad impression with your brand, trying to recover and reestablish your reputation through your brand becomes much more difficult in the long run.
And while it is important to give your brand the consideration it deserves, I will also be the first person to tell you that you cannot wait until it is perfect before you launch. There will be no perfect moment, so like any product or service, you should expect that an evolution will take place over time.
With that said, there are three things you can and should consider right from the start. These three factors will ultimately guide your company and your brand as you fine tune and polish them over time.
Your brand will communicate many things, but it all starts with your company's clear, bold and honest vision. In addition to helping to establish an emotional bond with your consumers, your vision, with careful strategic planning, helps to define your business's brand architecture and product and service life cycles, which will drive the evolution of your brand over time.
Once you have a defined vision, you need to develop a brand voice, which will reflect the company's values (missions, beliefs, priorities), attitude (comical, serious, diplomatic) and style (color, typography, imagery), all of which are important for creating a public image that communicates and firmly establishes your company reputation.
The most important thing to remember is that your company needs to be consistent with its voice. Inconsistency will bread mixed messages in the eyes of the consumers, creating confusion and perhaps even disdain. This creates undue and unnecessary challenge that a good brand strategy is meant to alleviate.
Finally -- but certainly not least important -- is to clearly and concisely identify and be able to communicate the value that your company offers customers. Whether you are a product or service company, or a hybrid as most exist, your brand needs to make clear how it is special and how it makes your consumers' lives better.
I understand that all three of these factors cannot be encompassed in a name, logo and color scheme on a business card alone, but understanding them and being able to effectively communicate them through customer interactions will help you better establish your image and reputation.
This, I believe, is actually very "groovy."
What do you think? What other actions can entrepreneurs take to help better establish a brand early in its development? Please share your thoughts with me on Facebook.