by: Ron Tanner

Everyday…every minute… people are assessing your brand.  Maybe I should rephrase that; we constantly assess each brand that touches us.  I’m a brand guy and I don’t even know what that number is.  Frankly, it doesn’t matter; I only pay attention to brands that matter…to me, my circle, my tribe, my clients, my family, our world, my causes…or offer bright ideas…and so on. You get the picture, right?  Maybe you don’t.  

Brands are not reserved for products, companies, or organizations.  Everyonehas a brand.  Everyone!

It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do.  Good or bad, we all have our brand and it’s constantly expressing itself.  Honestly, you can’t help it, because every move you make or don’t make, word you say or don’t say, car you drive or won’t drive, or action you take or don’t take…speaks volumes about the brand of YOU! Kind of scary, isn’t it?  It should be, because that’s how people decide whether to like you, respect you, admire you, follow you, scorn you, or buy from you, or NOT!

The point here is that managing your brand should be a priority.

I have consulted more than 1500 small businesses in my career and something that concerns me is how little attention these owners spend developing or managing their brand.  We think about our logo and clever slogans, but how often do we examine our brand’s expression?  There is so much to consider: our value, reputation, warranty, expertise, performance, trust, loyalty, social responsibility, and integrity, to name a few.  Brands make promises all the time; but do they keep them? If you or your organization is sending mixed messages, it is costing you something – money, performance, customers, relationships – something!

When counseling my clients, we always begin the relationship with a Brand (SWOT) Analysis. It’s a comprehensive review of their brand’s Strengths, Weaknesses, and Threats.  We try to reveal any strategic value or potential Opportunities that may be overlooked within the organization. Often, especially in a small community, your brand could be affected by something like the friends you choose, or where you go to church, or don’t go to church, where you do business or don’t do business.  It may not seem fair; that’s your personal business…right?  But business is personal. Maybe your customers feel differently; after all, they’re spending money with you.

Case #1 – Recently, I sent a press release about one of my clients to a local business organization touting a new service.  Every week they publish a newsletter for their members to make announcements about their company, organization, or a community event.  It’s a nice benefit of membership, or at least that’s how it is presented and how I had perceived it.  That week, when I opened the newsletter in my inbox, I couldn’t find my release.  When I inquired, I was told that my client wasn’t a member; therefore they could not be featured.

I questioned this reasoning.  

#1- The release was from my company talking about one of my clients and I am a member.  This is one of the primary benefits of being a member of any organization – brand awareness.

#2 – That decision made me and my client take a much closer look at their brand and the interesting and somewhat conflicting messages being sent to both of us. My client, who is not and will not become a member, may have received value from the exposure and joined the organization.  Clearly, that didn’t happen.  #3 – As a member up for renewal, I went from an automatic renewal, to rethinking my options and may simply invest my $200+ annual membership fee on an outing with my client.  I see more value in that relationship.

Case #2 – sends a completely different message. As I began to write this, I had just returned from the meeting of another business association, where the Executive Director of the local United Way chapter was the featured speaker.  It was a wonderful overview of the agency and its impact on our community/region.  At the end of the presentation she featured the efforts a local auto body shop in raising the most money annually for the cause.  What does that say about the auto body shop’s brand?

At first glance and most obviously, it says they’re charitable and a good corporate citizen.  But, it also says… their commitment to the community reaches beyond expectations…that the culture of their business reflects how they care for others…that the money I spend with them will do more than line someone’s bank account…that the value in that brand goes deep.  Did I mention the unsolicited marketing value of an authentic 3rd party endorsement to a captive audience?

As a brand consultant, entrepreneur, business partner, community volunteer, non-profit leader, husband and father, I can tell you that managing your brand is essential to success in business and personal life at every level. It’s also essential that, every now and again, you should take inventory of that brand.  Is your message clear; does the experience match the promise; how do your decisions impact the growth and image of your brand?

Ron Tanner is co-founder and principal at Confluence Business Advisors, a firm that manages, restores, grows, and  transitions the brands of companies, non-profits, and municipalities at the Meeting of the Great Rivers.  You can get a FREE Brand Analysis Checklist or a FREE Consultation by emailing ron@confluenceba.com.

September, 2015 (updated June 2016)