Tell me about your business, then tell me about your brand. If you thought the two were the same thing, you’re mistaken but not alone. In fact, that confusion could be the reason many businesses blow off branding and miss tapping into their key differentiator to grow their business.
The difference between a business and a brand is that your business is the services you offer but your brand is the image your business reflects. But of course, growing either is not that cut and dry. Let’s discuss how to balance both.
Branding Impacts the Business
A hard truth is that businesses don’t technically control their brand. Your brand is the image your business projects but it is determined by the way that consumers perceive your company.
Consider Proctor & Gamble. What do you think of? Some may have heard the name but struggle to name a product associated with the company, while others may connect the name to several soap operas (or with Satan if they believe every silly urban legend that ends up in their inbox).
While it’s a very lucrative business, the Proctor & Gamble name has had a harder time as a brand despite marketing a number of incredibly successful brands — Charmin, Pampers and Duracell.
These are brand names that are not only instantly identifiable but immediately elicit an association or emotional response in consumers. Charmin is soft, Pampers ensures peaceful nights and playful days, and Duracell keeps going and going and going.
But as a small business, how can you make sure you’re growing your brand while growing your business when you don’t have access to billions of advertising dollars?
Growing Your Business and Brand
Growing your business typically means expanding your scope and offering additional goods or services to your customers. This, at the root, is all about bringing in more money. If your goal for the year was to grow your business, we get it. However, keep in mind that growing your brand is likely to bring in more money.
Customers are willing to pay 50% more for businesses making an impact.—Customer Thermometer
As we mentioned, you don’t control your business’s brand narrative — consumers do. Building your brand typically means serving a greater purpose beyond your services and giving your business a heart. So what is the community your business exists in saying? When people bring up your business, what are they mentioning other than your services?
As a barber maybe the brand is all about the best cuts done quickly. If you’re looking to get ahead of the narrative and give your brand a more human feel consider getting out in the community. Be the barber who provides free haircuts for back-to-school week or one weekend a month to the homeless.
Figure out what’s important to your business.
Is Balancing Both Necessary?
“So, I should focus on growing my brand instead to grow my business?” Short answer — No.
The two aren’t quite mutually exclusive; it is possible to have a profitable business with a strong, readily identifiable brand name, but this doesn’t happen by accident. It takes a concerted effort to build your brand alongside your business, and you need to be willing to make sacrifices and concessions when necessary to balance the two out.
It’s all too common for companies to obsess over one while ignoring the other. This leads to either a loss in profitability or a dilution of the brand name. Case in point: Dell Computer Corp.
When Dell Computer first started, it had a niche. They were a business that sold personal computers directly to other businesses. In the first quarter of 2001, Dell was the world leader in personal computers in both sales and profits, and their name was synonymous with “business personal computer specialists.”
When it was time to grow, the folks at Dell did so with total disregard for their brand.
They branched out to offer personal computers to consumers, which meant they were no longer “business” personal computer specialists. Then they widened their focus to consumer electronics, which meant they were no longer “personal computer” specialists. Once they moved into retail distribution, they were no longer “direct.”
They were no longer Dell Computer Corp., but Dell Inc. There’s no denying these changes were profitable for the business, but as business went up, the value of the brand decreased. Their market share fell behind Hewlett-Packard’s in 2007, and they never caught back up.
While it’s likely you’re not running a tech company, there are still lessons service-based businesses can take from Dell’s branding failure. Building your business can yield the results you’re shooting for, but your success will be fleeting without a brand to hang it on.
On the other hand, building your brand may earn you the loyalty and adoration of your customers, but they’re going to be few and far between if you let your business suffer.
This is why learning how to balance both is important. Build your business in the short term with an eye for your brand identity in the long term. It’s easier said than done, but it’s not impossible. Just ask the folks at Apple, Samsung, Google, Microsoft, Walmart, IBM, General Electric, Amazon.com, Coca-Cola, Volkswagen, Shell, Disney, Target, Nestle.
Read to grow both your business and your brand but need help? Thryv’s Marketing Center is the easiest way to reach your customers and get next-level results. Sign up for a demo to see what your business can become.