Published February 13, 2012
As competition across industries increases, so do the demands of your customers and clients, making it vital for you to stand out in a crowded market.
A strong brand that highlights your unique value will help create a bond between you and your customers. The American Marketing Association defines a brand as a "Name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller's goods or services as distinct from those of other sellers."
For small businesses, branding involves more than just symbols or design, and standing out takes more than just touting your great services.
They key to differentiating your business is not what you do, but HOW you do it. And “how” you do it is a direct reflection of your core values – the bedrock of a strong brand.
Angela Olivo, co-founder and COO of Select Office Suites, a provider of provider of executive office space and virtual offices. Her company operates business centers in New York City and has a tenancy average of almost five years, compared to the industry average of less than one year. In fact, 25% of her tenants rent for 10 years.
Approximately 80% of Olivo’s business is generated through referrals and internal expansions, and she attributes her success to the environment she creates in her offices that is based on community and family. Her business centers are a reflection of her values, and her company tagline reads “Love where you work” and her tenants do just that.
At her office buildings, street names are assigned to hallways, and bulletin boards provide information on the “residents” on each street. There is a welcoming café replete with flat screen TV and comfy sofas and chairs providing a place for solo-entrepreneurs and small teams to connect “outside” the office. Business deals between companies here are common, successes are shared with neighbors and celebrations are floor-wide.
Olivo’s core values resonate with her clients, and are the prime differentiator in a highly-competitive, price sensitive industry.
How you conduct your business is a powerful source of differentiation. When you connect your core values with the way your business operates you create emotional connection points with clients who share similar values. This is the foundation of brand loyalty.
Here are some guidelines to create connections with customers, and stand out from the crowd.
Be authentic. There is nothing worse than portraying behavior you think is attractive to patrons, but is inauthentic to who you are. Non-genuine behavior solely designed to impress cannot be maintained in the long term, and alienates customers.
Don’t be afraid to take risks. Some people might have thought that street signs, raffles, and open “street” parties would be hokey and out of place in a business center. But it worked for Olivo. If you want to live your values and incorporate them in the way you conduct your business, doing it right can never be wrong.
You can’t please everyone. So don’t try. Strong brands take a stand, and they don’t try to be all things to all people. The clients you attract and connect with will become your brand ambassadors and help you spread the word to other like-minded patrons.
Be consistent. Once your business is known for doing things a certain way, make sure you deliver on expectations each and every time.
Mary Rosenbaum is a Master Certified Personal Branding Strategist and Career Coach with over 25 years experience as an entrepreneur and career professional and 10 years in business and finance. Mary is a dynamic and passionate coach whose talent is empowering entrepreneurs and careerists to perform at their peak by gaining clarity and more effectively communicating and leveraging their value proposition. For more insight into her work visit her website at http://yourcareerbydesign.com or follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/careersguru