Sunday, March 3, 2013

Skills Required to Start your own Business: Branding

Developing your corporate image - or "branding"
Every facet of your operation needs to be branded with your distinct identity to let people know who you are and what you do. A combination of your name, logo, slogan, mission statement, and corporate theme should be used extensively throughout your marketing.
We all recognize large corporations’ branding - such as Kodak or Sears - but even a small, one-person business can brand themselves and become well known. Consult with a graphic designer to help you project a professional image, as first impressions are important and open doors for you. Let’s briefly look at the components of branding:

  • Name: Make your name work for you and tell people what you do.ABC Enterprises says nothing about you, whereas Professional Personnel Services does. It also projects a professional image.
  • Logo: A logo graphically expresses who you are. Although not necessary for a small business, it adds a professional touch and helps people identify your business.We all recognize those golden arches.
  • Slogan: A short slogan becomes an extension of your name, further describing what you do. Think of the many slogans you instantly associate with larger companies. Living in a rural area, I never forget our local septic tank company’s slogan, “Your Business Is Our Business.”
  • Mission statement: A short statement of your beliefs and goals describes your commitment to customers and commits you in writing to strive for those goals. Customers like to see mission statements because they silently imply “we care about you.” Splash your commitment onto all promotional materials, business cards, and your website, then frame the words on the office wall.
  • Corporate color theme: Choose a corporate color theme that remains consistent and is used on all correspondence, marketing materials, and signs. This cements your branding. Look around your community, in newspapers, and at advertisements to study various branding techniques.
Providing exceptional customer service
Customers can be demanding and impatient in our busy society. Some expect something for nothing and still complain, but mostly, people are easy to get along with if you take good care of them. For a small business, service is the one area where you have to excel to set yourself apart. 
Clients expect both service and competitive prices.We all know how fast negative comments spread on the grapevine, so an unhappy client will spread negativity ten times faster than a positive referral.Your task is to perfect every aspect of your service, so review these important service components:
  • Guarantees: Know what kind of guarantees you will offer and promote these in your marketing. Familiarize yourself with clients’ needs and expectations, and if you can’t meet them, tell customers before a sale rather than performing inadequately or selling them the wrong product.
  • Personal service: Remember, customers are always right, even when they are wrong, so don’t argue with them. Treat them as you expect to be treated. Remember names, faces, and family details. This shows that you are attentive and care.
  • Telephone manners: A sale can be lost or gained by that first call, so your communication skills must work overtime. Be polite, interested, friendly, and positive, and be available by phone. If your advertisements are on the radio at 7 p.m. every evening or the talk show you just appeared on is at 8 p.m., make sure your phone is answered at these times.
  • Employees: Your receptionist or traffic controller - which may initially be you - is the direct link between you and your customers. Customers will either come to you or be diverted to the competition, dependent on how they are initially treated. Your employees must believe in you and your business and be willing to happily service customers. Train them well and treat them fairly - they are an important component of your business.
  • Physical appearance: Your employees, premises or office, vehicles, and you should always be clean and presentable.
  • Follow-up: Contact customers after a sale to ask whether they are satisfied or if there were any problems. Honor time and price commitments, even if you have made a mistake. If promised delivery dates cannot be met, call your customer immediately, apologize, and reschedule.
Creating customer loyalty
Building a successful business means that you need repeat business. Unfortunately, for some, their loyalty lies with their bank accounts. You can’t blame people for watching their shrinking dollars, so how are you going to keep customers? Use simple strategies, including excellent service. Offer incentives, such as additional discounts for regular business, a company coffee mug, or chocolates at Christmas. Thank them for coming in and have a coffee pot and cookies available.

Show That You Care: Be good to your customers and they will refer you. When this happens, send a thank-you card. If you meet on the street or at a dinner party, warmly acknowledge them. Even if you charge a little more than competitors, they’ll become loyal to you. The fact that you took time out from your busy day to say thank you or to chat is not forgotten. It’s the small touches that make big impressions.

Think of simple ways to entice customers back. Our local bakery gives cookies to children. The deli gives a dozen buns free with orders over $9. The local independent supermarket always has free coffee available, along with drawing and suggestion boxes. Cashiers willingly pack and wheel your groceries to the car. Senior citizens get a 10 percent discount on Sundays and a free weekly grocery delivery service. These small stores have successfully sustained a strong customer base for twenty years.

Source: Business For Beginners, by Frances McGuckin.

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