A brand strategy is like a ship: It might sail with a few holes in the hull, but it's just a matter of time before the whole thing starts to sink.
A winning strategy requires a clear, consistent core message bolstered by great customer service and attention-grabbing content. Like every other part of your business, your brand strategy needs regular attention to be effective.
Here are some gaps to watch out for, and how you can fix them.
1. Prioritize the people already on board.
Many businesses choose to overhaul their brand by focusing on attracting new customers. However, it's important to ensure your brand appeals to current customers as well, who represent the majority of your sales.
Drew Neisser, CEO of New York City-based strategy agency Renegade, cautions that many brands hurt themselves by overemphasizing the need for new customers. Neisser suggests that, rather than focusing on new growth above all else, businesses should create a sensible brand strategy that focuses on the company's long-term growth by catering to its existing customer base.
By focusing on your current customers, you ensure that your company will continue to have a solid foundation to work from, even during a rebrand. In addition, serving existing customers well will make those clients brand ambassadors who can share the benefits of your company with untapped areas of your target audience.
2. Check your compass.
A brand strategy is a long-term plan that defines what your company stands for at its core, and what it envisions as its future direction. As your company grows and changes its brand, it's important to make sure you are staying on track toward your vision.
Making brand adjustments is key to growth, but it's important to not allow these adjustments to throw you off course. Instead of updating your brand by adding layers of complexity--new initiatives, a laundry list of tag lines--the better solution is often to return to what your organization is about at its core, and build a brand that emphasizes those qualities. Ask yourself: Why was your business started in the first place?
3. Prioritize your ports.
If your brand seems lost at sea, one way to get it back on track is to focus on the entry points for your customers. You can't grow if you aren't taking careful stock of where customers connect to your company and how you handle those early touchpoints.
When potential customers come to your website, are they able to recognize that you provide a service they need? If you attend events and conferences, do your booth branding and team members effectively communicate what your organization does best?
Often, it's better to focus more on the few things you do well from a branding standpoint, rather than spending too much energy addressing every possible aspect of your brand.
4. Get on deck.
It's easy to forget that how you view your brand isn't necessarily the same thing your audience sees. Putting yourself in your customers' shoes can expose weaknesses in your brand strategy that you can't see from the inside.
Take Verizon's "Can You Hear Me Now?" campaign. Right in the slogan itself, Verizon made sure to emphasize the customer pain point. The ads didn't discuss superior equipment or service; they spoke to the customers' interest in having a carrier that doesn't drop calls. In other words, Verizon focused its brand on reflecting customers' needs, not telling them what they should want.
Deloitte found that brands that focus on the customers' point of view are 60 percent more profitable than those that don't. As you reevaluate your brand strategy, make sure you're speaking to customers on their terms.
5. Share the spoils.
Companies are often perceived as being overly focused on the bottom line. However, behind every company is a team of human beings. To demonstrate that, companies should strive to emphasize corporate social responsibility (CSR) in their brand strategies.
The key is ensuring that any CSR initiative is closely aligned with your business. If you're not sure where to start, consider choosing a "kitchen table," issue. Promoting fair wages, community involvement, and safe working conditions is important to both business leaders and consumers. If you take the time to weave things like your corporate culture and CSR initiatives into your brand's story, you'll be better equipped to send a message that resonates with clients.
Sooner or later, your company's brand will hit choppy waters. Protect it: Simplify your existing strategy and focus on the customers' perspective. You don't have to spend a ton of money to build a better brand strategy--you just need to fill the correct gaps to keep the ship watertight and on course.