Uh, Oh: Who’s Defining Your Brand?

When it comes to positioning your business, are you doing the equivalent of walking up to a car salesman and asking “How much do you think I should spend?” If you aren’t taking smart steps to ensure that you keep 100% control over your customer’s perceptions of you, you might as well be handing your wallet over to a car dealer and saying, “Why don’t you decide how much money I have left at the end of the month.

Let me be clear on this – this isn’t just an analogy. Positioning (a.k.a. ‘branding‘) absolutely determines how much money you have at the end of every single month. Here’s why …

Your brand = your steady cashflow.
It’s that simple. The reason? It’s not because of your fancy company logo (that’s not your brand). It’s not because of your wicked-cool website color scheme or hand-picked letterhead font (again, not the brand). While those things are components of your branding, they aren’t the cashflow-creating essence of a powerful brand.

What it’s all about, according to corporate boardroom refugee-turned-guerilla-marketer Ben Mack is this:

Brand = The likelihood your customers will buy from you again.

That’s Not What My Dictionary Told Me

Sure, you won’t find that definition in any dictionary, but when I read about it in Mack’s book Think Two Products Ahead, it made perfect sense. Your brand is the sum-total-experience your customers have with you – the experience that makes them decide not only to buy from you with excitement again and again, but to tell everyone about you as well.

And it’s all about the experience. The experience that locks them in, and guarantees that steadily increasing cashflow. But what does this have to do with a car salesman? Simple:

  • With a car salesman, either you set the price you’re willing to pay, or you let him do it.
  • With a customer, either you make it easy for her to be hooked for life, or you just hope she decides to.

And hope won’t pay the bills. You gotta make it happen yourself.

You Already Do Other People’s Marketing Every Day

Think of the products/services/websites that you go irrationally crazy about. That you gush over. (And you do). That you go out of your way to buy from. (Even when it’s less convenient than going elsewhere). Or the blogs you would read every single day even if the post was off-topic from what you’re interested in. Something, some “indefinable” something, makes you a passionate, raving fan customer.

Except guess what? It ain’t indefinable. In fact, somebody put a lot of thought into making sure it was defined very carefully – and that it was unmistakable for you to absorb. There were no mixed messages. The core ideas behind what the company/product/personality were about seamlessly meshed and supported each other to leave you with that critical take-away impression.

Starbucks CoffeeStarbucks knows this, and that’s why their average customer comes back 18(!) times a month to buy coffee that’s 3 times as expensive as anyone else’s. Not because their coffee is 3 times better, but because they delivered a consistently satisfying message that led that customer to associate strong industrial-strength loyalty to their brand. From their packaging, to their music, to their attitudes, to the writing on the cups … everything points to the same core experience that makes a Starbucks customer a loyal customer.

And the customer doesn’t have to think about it. they don’t have to figure out what the experience is – it’s handed to them. But are you doing this in your business?

How You Can Turn Your Brand Into A Profit Center

If you want to leverage the cashflow-building power of your brand, you’ve got do do three things.

  1. First, you’ve got to figure out precisely what it is you’re all about. What separates you from your competitors. What sums you up as a badass company/individual. In other words, what your customer needs to associate with you just by thinking your name. Look past your product, and look at the experience. In other words, coffee is generic, but you know what Starbucks is about. Fruit juice is bo-ring, but when I say “Snapple” you conjure up a unique set of associations. Decide what your brand’s associations should be up front, so your customers won’t be guessing.
  2. Second, look at every way you interact with your customers – from packaging, to websites, to emails, to follow-ups, and ask yourself if you’re reinforcing those rockin’ associations every single step of the way. If you ain’t, hop to it. Don’t leave your customers wondering how to know without a doubt who you are. Make it easy.
  3. Third, shell out $12 bucks and get Think Two Products Ahead, because it goes into all this in way more detail. Diclosure: That’s a straight link to the book, we have no financial interest in you picking it up. But you do. So check it out.

But Before You Do … Tell Me About Your Brand

How do you define your brand? What makes you Snappleicious? Take a second, right now, and let us know – especially if you’ve never thought about this before. Right this minute is a kickin’ place to start.


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