Branding, branding, branding. About every fifth newsletter or article I see online or in business journals has some spin on branding. How important it is. How it is a piece of intellectual property that must be leveraged and protected. How it must be invested in–this assertion (surprise) is from branding consultants who invite you to hire them to “do” you. I am so tired of hearing about how lofty and complex branding is.
This is one of the sacred cows of marketing that needs to be defrocked, at least as far as service firms are concerned. Branding is important, yes. It is essential for a product firm, especially one selling consumer products, where even the way the item is packaged is part of the brand. And it is also important for a service firm, but in this case it can be greatly simplified.
As a provider of intangibles, you need to pay attention to “proxies,” those things that will convey the nature of your company’s services to your audiences in lieu of the services themselves. These proxies comprise your brand. Your company’s name, your logo, and your characteristic color palette all serve as proxies, and are all part of your brand. It is important to pay attention to these items and to take care in their creation. Once they are created, however, your activity is purely tactical: Make sure that they get used consistently and accurately in every audience-facing activity you take part in.
By far the most powerful and important proxy for your brand as a service firm, and one that must be regularly managed, is your “voice.” By this I mean the quality and style of the content of your collaterals–the words in your web site, your brochures, your e-mails, and any other communication that comes from your company.
Review your web site, your brochures, white papers, articles, newsletters, or whatever else you make available to your clients and prospects. Do you have a consistent voice in all of your marketing collaterals? If so, is it the right voice for your company? Does it convey the personality and values of the firm as well as the quality of its offerings?
If your voice really is accurate and represents your firm’s personality, here is another key question: Do your audiences hear you correctly? The way you will know the answer to this question is to gauge the response. This might be through inquiries from your site, leads generated at events, or the ease (or difficulty) you experience in moving through the sales cycle. Find ways to measure the effectiveness of your words so that you can see if you are being heard correctly.
If your voice is attracting the right leads and greasing the wheels for your sales, you’ve got it right. If, however, you are not getting the kind of response you seek from your target market, perhaps you aren’t talking right. Review the words that represent your firm, wherever they reside, and consider making some changes to the way you “speak.”
Your voice is the most powerful aspect of your service firm’s brand. Concentrate on getting it right, and then keeping it right, and your brand will be on the mark.