Yes! In Fact, If You Don’t, You’re Killing Your Future Sales.
Contractor Marketing Quick Tips: Branding
By Rich Harshaw
When most people think of branding, they think of huge corporations with internationally known brands like Nike, McDonald’s, Apple, Mercedes, and so forth. So the temptation is to assume that to “brand” your company, you have to behave, marketing-wise, like those guys—which includes spending millions of dollars on every kind of advertising and marketing imaginable.
Clearly, dumping millions of dollars on advertising isn’t a viable strategy for most local contractors… but the good news is that you don’t have to behave like a Fortune 500 company to effectively brand your company in the local marketplace. It’s much simpler than you might expect.
To that end, here are my top seven tips for branding your business:
Tip 1: Branding Is Like Farming For Future Sales: Branding is a word that’s thrown around a lot but without a lot of consensus as to what it actually means. For some it simply means “getting your name out there,” or “raising awareness of your company.” These are good partial definitions, but both fall short of a comprehensive definition of branding.
My definition: Any marketing or advertising activities you engage in that have a primary purpose of generating future sales, rather than immediate sales. Yes, “branding” activities may have a serendipitous benefit of generating some immediate sales. And it’s true that “direct response” advertising could plant a seed in a prospect that turns into a future sale. But branding should be thought of as activities whose primary purpose is to nurture prospects toward a sale at some point in the future. That also includes influencing current or past customers to come back and buy from you again in the future.
Tip 2: Your Brand Promise: “Getting your name out there” is only a part of branding; the other part—the more important part—is getting people to understand who you are, why you’re different/better, and what they can expect when doing business with you. Long time readers of this column will recognize that as IDENTITY. You want people to not just know THAT you exist; you want them to know WHY you’re the best choice.
One form of branding is putting your logo on stuff—ballparks, billboards, TV commercials, internet impressions, etc. Logos are great—they do help with awareness. But if somebody sees your logo 1,000 times but they don’t know who you are or why you’re different, then it does very little good. You want to use advertising to establish your brand promise (which is a branding tactic in and of itself), then use shorter ads and/or logos to anchor people to what they know about your brand.
This explains why Coca-Cola can advertise effectively with a red and white sign or the shape of a bottle. And why Nike just needs a small swoosh on a basketball jersey or golf ball. They’ve already spend zillions of dollars to indoctrinate you with their brand promise… so that when the logo shows up, it has a deep, rich meaning. Already.
You have to start simple. As you move onto a new station or publication, focus on messaging. Buy longer spots and communicate your Identity with power, precision, and passion. After six to twelve months, you can start to run shorter (TV/radio) or smaller (print) spots and take the dollars you save and invest them into more spots. Here’s a radio example: Year 1: All :60 spots. Year 2: 70% :60 spots, 30% :30 spots. Year 3: 50/50. Year 4: 50/50 still, but fewer of each, then buy some :05’s or :10’s with the extra money.
The above is just an example, but the idea is clear: Once your brand promise is firmly established with an audience, you can move a portion of dollars into cheaper “impression”-based mode. Not completely, but to an extent.
Tip 3: Targeted Branding: There as an important word in the last paragraph; did you catch it? The word was audience—and it is the key to understanding how to achieve dominant branding like the national brands, but without spending millions of dollars. It’s all about dominating a given audience—not the entire universe.
Take radio again, as an example: Maybe your budget will only allow you to be on one station to start with… and not even a top ten station at that. No problem! Start by buying spots on the lower-ranked station, and spend six to twelve months with Identity-based messaging. Over the next few years, use the formula given above to move your dollars more and more into shorter, cheaper, impression-based ads. The key is to dominate this station—you want to make darn sure that every single person that spends even a nominal amount of time listening to that stations knows who you are and why they should buy from you.
Meanwhile, when your budget allows, start the same process on a second station. Then a third. It doesn’t have to be radio, of course. Maybe you add a TV station, or a newspaper. Or whatever. The key is to target audiences that are a good fit for your message… and to DOMINATE over time.
Tip 4: Color Recognition: If you’re going to be spending a ton of money on contractor marketing/advertising/branding activities over the next ten years, you might as well make yourself as recognizable as possible in the marketplace.
One obvious way to do this is by choosing a recognizable color for your company. By recognizable, I simply mean something that can be immediately identified as you. Remember the Blockbuster blue and yellow? AT&T’s orange? UPS has brown. What color are you?
Don’t discount this as inconsequential. It’s not. All of your service trucks should be “wrapped” in your colors. Jobsite signs, websites, TV commercials, print ads, home show booths, business cards…. And everything else should be your color.
Tip 5: Consistency… All In The Family: A less obvious way than color to brand your company is to keep your look and feel the same for everything you do. Use the same fonts. Use the same photo editing styles. Use the same sizes. And of course, Identity-based messaging consistency. If you are on radio and TV, use a consistent, recognizable voice. If you send mailers, they should all look similar so that people start to instantly recognize them as having been sent from you. Same thing for print ads.
At the end of the day, you want all of your marketing and advertising materials to look like they’re from the same family. Not necessarily identical twins… but everything should bear that uncanny striking resemblance you tend to see in families. See below; you’ll get the idea…
Tip 6: Logos & Audio Logos: Your logo says a lot about your company, doesn’t it? I recommend having a logo that has me sort of representation of what you do… or a unique look to it. The logo should be modern looking, easy to read, and should reproduce well in both color and black & white. There’s no need to spend a fortune on a logo, and you don’t need to obsess over it—it’s probably not going to “make or break” your business. But take a look at what you have and see if it could use a makeover.
Similarly, you might want to consider a “logo jingle” for TV and radio use. Think in terms of McDonald’s “I’m Lovin’ It” or the “Intel Inside” sound. Here’s an example from a contractor—the logo jingle at the end runs on all of their radio ads. After a while, people really start to recognize that unique sound.
Tip 7: Endure To The End: Since branding is primarily about nurturing future sales, you have to be okay with lack of measurable results. That’s hard for most people to swallow—I get it: you’d rather spend money, count your home improvement leads, then see how much sales volume results. But if you’re patient and follow the advice here, you’ll find that you get leads and sales even when your ads are NOT running. You’ll get more repeat business, more referral business, and more business overall.
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© 2014 – 2016, Rich Harshaw. All rights reserved.