Our worlds have been transformed in a matter of weeks, we went from spending a lot of time feeling confused, and anxious – worried for our family, our friends, our health, their health, and our future. And now we are ALL spending ALL of our time at home. (I’m very aware that many people may be feeling hopeless by what’s going on, and my heart goes out to them). But I am also thinking of you. If you run a “One Man Band”, or “Small / Medium”-Sized Business you are no doubt, spending a lot more time worrying about the future of that business as well.
These are bewildering times for all of us, but – at some point – life will return to normal, and when it does, wouldn't it be great if your business not only survived but, actually thrived?
Hear me out.
I know these are difficult times. However, feeling productive, and feeling in charge of at least your own life is the best thing you can do right now. This isn’t the time to put the brakes on and hope for the best. It’s time for ...
PLAN B - Being Positive And Be Productive During This Time Of Crisis.
Now is not the time to sit around and binge worry, it’s the time to be positive and be productive. It’s vitally important that you look to the future, and prepare your business now so when we return to “normal” you will have not only survived but thrived.
Now is the perfect time to do a brand audit (a checkup that evaluates your brand's position in the marketplace, its strengths and weaknesses, and how to strengthen it). In normal times, you would hire an outside branding/marketing company to conduct a brand audit for you, but with all this “free time” you can and should do it yourself. Yes, it’s going to take up a great deal of time, but really— you have nothing but time right now.
Trust me— when this is all over you and “everyone” in business will be in the same boat - trying to “stand -out.” So now is the time to review everything and fix what needs to be fixed. It will not only be Soooo worth it!!! —and there’s an “Extra Bonus” in the fact that it will keep you busy and take your mind off the madness outside and until things get better (and they will) So, use this time to review and better your brand. Seriously, use this time as a gift to yourself and your business and if you have employees.. use this time with them as well.
A BRAND AUDIT SHOULD COVER THESE STEPS:
STEP 1: Internal Branding — your brand values, mission, and USP
Clarify your brand before evaluating it. Revisit and/ or identify your business’s mission, vision, unique selling proposition, positioning, and company culture. You may have a Business Strategy. You might even have a Marketing Strategy. But what sits in between both is your Brand Strategy. Skipping ahead to Marketing without having a Brand Strategy is the biggest most costly mistake most people make. Here’s your chance fix that and build a strong brand with a strong foundation, so you don’t ever have to worry about it falling apart again in the next crisis— whatever that may be.
Who are your target customers, and what does your brand promise them?
If you don’t understand your brand, you can't convey it properly. Ask yourself questions such as:
How do you describe our brand?
What is your brand’s vision?
What problem does our brand solve for customers?
How do you deliver on our brand’s promise? What keeps you from delivering on that promise?
Make it a team effort — survey your employees
If you have employees at home and they are not working, this is the best way to make use of their free time.
Listen, your employees need a job to come back to, so use this free time with your them to get everyone on the same page. This will not only strengthen your brand it will strengthen your company culture as well.
This audit at home will ensure all members of your team know what your brand stands for and what your company’s mission and goals are.
Ask team members the same set of questions as your “Internal Branding”, such as, ‘Why are we in business/what do we stand for?’, ‘What do we sell?’, ‘Who for?’, ‘Why would they choose us over competitors?’
If you have as many different answers as you have respondents, and discover beliefs among your staff that conflict with your own (and each other), it’s necessary to work on your brand strategy to ensure it is both clearly outlined and well communicated.
You can test again after this process to monitor progress. Note: It is useful to also repeat this testing after onboarding new team members, business partners or external partners.
STEP 2: External Branding — your brand identity
Your Brand Identity should be deeply rooted in strategy. The creative expression of your business communicated against the strategic objectives that will not only distinguish you from your competitors it will help you produce more effective marketing for the life of your brand.
Review your business logo, website, social media presence, print, and digital advertising, marketing materials, email marketing, and content marketing. Compare them to your online presence, including your business website, email marketing messages, and newsletters, social media profiles, and content marketing pieces.
Are all of these elements consistent in terms of design, color, and tone of voice? How effectively does each piece target your intended market?
Review your business website.
Use your website analytics to assess:
Where is web traffic coming from? If all your traffic comes from one or two sources, you’re vulnerable to any changes to those sources; try to diversify.
Is your website attracting your target market? More traffic is only valuable if it’s the right kind of customer.
What is your bounce rate? If most visitors leave your site leave right away, it's not as effective as it should be.
What is your conversion rate? Is it rising or falling?
Review your social media data.
Use your social media analytics to examine how well your social media marketing is working. What types of customers engage with your brand on social media? Are the customers you want? What are they saying about your brand?
STEP 3: Customer Experience — survey your customer, customer support and customer service policies
Ask questions and then carefully listen. Use a combination of customer focus groups, email surveys, social media polls, phone surveys, and online surveys to get customer feedback on questions such as:
What words would you use to describe this brand?
What problem does this brand solve?
How does this brand make you feel?
Would you recommend this brand to your friends and family?
What does the brand’s logo make you think of?
How good is this brand’s customer service?
Creating a customer experience is essential to your brand. If they’re not happy, they’ll not only defect to a competitor, they’ll also advise others against buying your brand. So, before you start on any customer acquisition plan, take a temperature check to find out how well your brand is doing in terms of customer satisfaction.
How could this brand improve customer service?
STEP 4: Survey people in your target demographic who aren't customers — measure your brand awareness.
Using the survey methods above, ask questions such as:
Have you ever heard of this brand?
Have you ever used this brand?
What do you know about this brand?
How would you describe this brand to others?
What problem does this brand solve for you?
How does this brand make you feel?
STEP 5: Evaluate your competitors' brands — Assess your biggest competitors'
Asses their marketing and advertising materials, websites, social media presence, and customer service. you need to know who your competitors are and what they are bringing to the market. While you may not have the budget to hire a professional market intelligence firm, you can learn a lot about the competition by doing some simple research.
Identify your competitors
A competitor is someone who targets the same market segments as you with a similar product. As such, an advertisement company could operate next to another company that also sells advertisements without competing. How can this be? The businesses can target different customers: One might serve multinationals, while the other sells to local businesses.
Generally, competitors are divided into three types:
Direct competition—These businesses offer the same products and services to the same clients within the same territory as your business.
Secondary or indirect competition¯Businesses that offer slightly different products and services or target a different clientele within the same territory.
Substitute competition—Businesses that offer different products and services to the same clients in the same territory.
Gather information about your main competitors
Once you’ve identified your main competitors, you’ll want to gather as much information as possible about them.
You can try to compile the following information about your competitors:
Products and services—Evaluate their products or services and compare them to your own, ideally by purchasing them and trying them out. How is the quality? What features do you like or dislike? Who are their suppliers? Does it respond to consumer preferences?
Pricing—How are their products and services priced? Do their prices vary for channel partners and customers? What is their discount policy? Can you estimate their cost structure?
Branding and Positioning —Analyze your competitors’ websites, product documents, brochures, and catalogs. Follow them on social media and visit them at trade shows. What are their target markets? What is their unique selling proposition?
Market reputation—Talk to customers, suppliers and distributors to get their views. What do they know about your competitors? What are their opinions about their products, sales and marketing strategies and customer service?
Analyze the competition’s strengths and weaknesses
Evaluation of your competitors will allow you to compare their performance with your own. Whats are their strengths and weaknesses. Are they popular because of their location? Visibility? The quality of their staff? Are their prices too high? Too low? Or does their products /services lack a key feature that’s demanded by your target customers?
This analysis will give you an idea of how you can adapt your strategy to counter their strong points and take advantage of their weak points.
STEP 6: Reach out. Talk to your competitors directly
Look, we are all in this together. Right now, it can be a good idea to get to know your competitors personally. In fact, taking that first step can often lead to a relationship that’s beneficial for both sides.
The thing is, it’s not unusual for two businesses to compete sometimes and co-operate at other times. For example, a competitor may be willing to refer customers to you if they don’t serve a particular market niche. But to do so, they have to know, trust and like you. This is the time to reach out!
STEP 7: Review your results.
Using the information you've gathered, document what aspects of your brand work, which need some fine-tuning, and which are missing the mark entirely. Then create an action plan for updating your brand to bring it in line with your business’s mission and vision.
STEP 7: Monitor your progress.
As you complete each element of your brand update, review the results to ensure the changes are having the desired effect. Note: Brands naturally become a bit stale over time. Repeating your brand audit every few years will keep your brand fresh.
STEP 8: Remember this will not last forever
Again, I hope you're ok through all of this. I wish you health, safety, and peace of mind during this unusual time. I can’t speculate about when life will return to normal. In writing this piece, I hope it encourages you to prepare for this transition thoughtfully and proactively.
Lots of love — Helene
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