It’s frustrating to come to the realization that your business is just surviving, rather than thriving like it once was. You may be noticing your competitors are taking some customers, even though it’s clear that their product is inferior. You have wracked your brain for some sort of plausible explanation, but there’s none to be found.
You have put countless hours, quite a bit of money, and a pretty big portion of your energy into making your business successful. You’re not about to let it fail. In trying to save your business, you might be analyzing your product, wondering what you could change to make it better or more appealing to your customer. Not long ago, this same product was hot in the market, flying off shelves faster than you could keep it stocked. Does this sudden shift spell the beginning of the end for your business?
Take a deep breath, because the quality of your product is likely not even the answer. If you had a bad product, you wouldn’t have found success with it in the past. You’d probably not have made it to where you are today.
So what is the problem?
This is a reality in the business world – competition ensures that only the strong survive. To stand out from your competitors, you need to understand what differentiates you from them. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to change your product offerings. It does mean that you must learn to differentiate your business through your brand.
Your brand is what will carry your business through high times and through lulls. Having a solid brand adds equity to your business, increasing both sales from your customer but also enhancing the financial value of the company should you choose to exit.
Your brand determines where your strengths lie (as well as vulnerabilities and shortcomings), allowing you to provide better service to your customers. Your customers, after all, are the reason you are in business, right? (Right.)
The value of your brand has both direct and indirect benefits. The better your brand is, the better prices you can charge your customers (and the more they’ll be willing to pay to acquire your products). You won’t have to spend as much money seeking out new customers, and your old ones will stick around with less effort on your part. You’ll be able to attract and retain talented people to work with as well.
Your brand is inherently tied to the success of your company.
A lot of people don’t fully understand what we mean by brand. This can cause it to be overlooked as a key factor in business. Your brand goes deeper than your logo or color palette. It encompasses so much more – really everything in your business. The experience of purchasing from you, the way you treat your customers, the way that you engage with people online – all of it goes into your brand. You can sum it all up as the way your customer perceives you.
Did you get that? Your brand = the way your customer perceives you. That’s important to note.
Once you understand this key point, it’s time to learn how to solve your business’s current struggle.
The answer? A brand audit.
Remember when you thought the solution was going to revolve around your product? It can be useful to apply this same thought process to your brand. Take a look at where you are now vs. where you want to be. How can you improve? Taking a step back to really think about these things and come up with honest answers will give you the action plan you need.
Here’s some honesty from us, too: improving your brand is the answer, but it will not automatically fix your situation overnight. If you’re willing to make a change, getting started with your brand audit right away.
Here are the steps to get you started:
Six Powerful Steps to Perform a Brand Audit:
Step 1: Establish a definition for your brand and what your company stands for.
This needs to be how YOU personally see your business, not what you imagine your customer sees. This is probably going to be the ideal of where you want to be…a destination to work towards.
Step 2: Compile what you have and analyze.
Gather up all of your marketing materials (those things you might have thought your brand was before this post). Look at your printed materials (letterhead, business cards, brochures) as well as your website and blog (as well as analytics). How do these things differ from each other? Are they really a good representation of your business? Ask yourself if these pieces are differentiating you from your competition. If everything is inconsistent, it may be causing confusion with your brand.
Step 3: Interview your existing customers.
Since we’ve defined your brand as the way that your customers view you, it’s time to actually get a sense FROM THEM DIRECTLY how they perceive you. Ask you customers what you are doing well, what you could improve, and what they think your business is all about. Ask them about your competitions, too. Learn what made them choose you over the other available options.
Step 4: Ask the same questions of the people who work for you.
The people that work at your business may have a different viewpoint than your customers, but it is equally valuable. Ask them some of the same questions about your brand, and be sure to see why they chose to work for you instead of other competitors.
Step 5: Compile answers from Steps 2-4 and compare with your answers from Step 1.
If there are discrepancies, you need to work on improving your brand so it better delivers on what it is promising.
Step 6: Create an action plan.
This is where your hard work comes into play. A brand audit is useless unless you use the information you have gained to make progress towards your ideal situation. Create an action plan that will allow you to monitor your brand (on a regular basis), resolve inconsistencies, and improve the overall quality of your brand. Goals aren’t goals without a reasonable timetable, too. Don’t forget that. Make sure each of your goals has a deadline so you have something to work towards (without letting procrastination take hold of you).
Nothing will fix anxiety about your business like taking concrete steps to improve your situation. It may be a tedious process, but it is a hallmark of successful brands. This will help you stay relevant with your customers and potential customers as well as avoiding becoming outdated or out of touch.
Tag Us In If You Need Help!
If you’d rather bring in a team of experts to help you on your way with your brand audit, we at Keystone Resources would be happy to help. Give us a call at 713.874.0162 or shoot us an email if you want a partner in your brand discovery and audit process or someone to help put together those concrete goals to work towards.
Now, let’s turn it over to you…
How often do you perform brand audits?
Do you feel like we missed any steps?