Branding is important. If you’re in business you know this. But how do you develop and share that brand? Over the years, we’ve talked to experts about how best to brand your retail or design business. Here are some of their top tips.
You might think that your brand is your name or something catchy you want your customers to remember. But your brand is so much more. The name might be memorable, but it’s the experience behind that name that makes your customers and clients remember and share it. Your brand, after all, is a reflection of you and it requires more than an attractive logo.
Think of the brands you interact with. And today, you’ll interact with them at so many touchpoints. Mention a brand in a conversation on your smartphone or in an email, and you’ll see that brand pop up everywhere. If that conversation concerns your brand, you want it to have a positive impact wherever it appears.
Behind Your Brand
Your branding starts with your values and the unique propositions you bring to the table for your clients and customers. How do they understand what makes you unique? The ability to relay that can be challenging, especially in a business where your brand is based on you and the work you do. It’s not always easy to define yourself if you are the brand, or refine your offerings to attract a specific clientele.
An easier approach is not making your brand about you. Experts are in agreement that the best way to build relationships with clients and customers is to make your branding about what you can do for them in the space of who you are and what you do.
“Find out what brought them to you, and listen for points of connection,” says Business Coach Melissa Galt. “Learn about their lifestyles and find the connection points that help you understand some of the factors that may influence their decision making.”
Mike Peterson, Founder of Visionary Design Marketing, agrees. “An introduction to your company [and your brand] isn’t about you,” he says. “It’s about ‘What can we do for you [your clients].” It’s important, he adds, not to get lost in a sea of others in your industry. You have a unique proposition. Differentiate yourself by ensuring that your brand identity (what you perceive your brand to be) and your brand perception (what your clients/customers see) are aligned. That’s your brand personality, and it’s the messaging you want across touchpoints for your business marketing and customer relationship building.
How do you know how your clients and customers perceive your brand? Ask them, says Peterson. For the designers he coaches, he reaches out to their past clients to get a better view of how those designers are seen by their past relationships. The answers are often surprising, in a good way, and not only help designers define their brand, but also help to build the confidence to go after new business and/or raise rates.
Just starting out and don’t have clients yet? Consider who your ideal client would be and move in those circles. Your ideal clients often have similar values and activities to yours (such as children in the same school, similar hobbies or travel destinations, for example), says Galt. Find out what they expect from the business you are in and work toward crafting your brand with that ideal client in mind. As a retailer, send out surveys to your customers, learn what they love and maybe don’t love about your showroom, and hone your brand based on some of their assessments.
You can’t be everything to everyone so it’s important to determine your specialty as you build your brand. “Develop a niche that focuses on a defined segment of clients, a style or product expertise,” says Business Coach Nancy Ganzekaufer. “You’ll be speaking to a core group of people who will hear you. When you’re really clear on your messaging, other customers will come to you,” because you’ll have confidence in your brand messaging.
However you hone your brand, you want it to be authentic. You will likely live and breathe for your business and your brand, so it has to be true to you. Ganzekaufer suggests that your picture is on your website or anywhere else you might make a connection with your clients and customers. “People want to know who you are,” she says.
“You need to be really genuine [when making connections],” notes Galt. “When you get your customers/clients talking, it no longer feels like you are trying to sell them something. Customers and clients who feel seen, heard and cared for will buy up to five times more from you.”
Sharing Your Brand
Every time you communicate with a potential client or customer, your brand is front and center. Consistent communication and brand messaging is important, especially in those first interactions.
First, clients and customers have to find you. There are so many ways to connect with potential customers in today’s social media world. Just as you do when you develop your branding, it’s important to make sure you are connecting with your customers and clients where they spend their time. “There are a lot of ways to get the word out,” says Peterson, who adds that it’s important, however, to advertise wisely and differentiate yourself. “Reach a targeted audience in as many ways as you can.” He suggests that magazine advertising is still valid as magazines are read for lifestyle purposes and generalized information.
However, it’s important to also be on social media, but on the platforms where you’ll find your potential clients and customers. Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn are probably the big three for most. But there’s also Pinterest, YouTube, Snapchat, TikTok and even Clubhouse where potential clients could be residing, depending on their preferences. All of these social media platforms require energy and time, so do your research before diving into all of them. On any of these platforms, drive traffic back to a website or blog or newsletter where you can so customers and clients are connecting with you directly.
“Social media is designed to raise brand awareness and drive traffic to your website,” says Leslie Carothers, CEO of the Savour Partnership and the Kaleidoscope Partnership. She adds that it’s also important to be where your customers can find you locally. She says the number one thing you can do to connect within your community is to set up a Google My Business profile. “It’s free, and Google gives preference in its search algorithm to companies that are using this.” Here you can share your location, contact information and hours of business, as well as uploading images, such as your showroom floor or employee photos, and additional business information. You can even have Google reviews here. “This is the number one thing you can do for visibility in your e-commerce or brick-and-mortar business to drive traffic to your store or website,” she continues.
For more on business building for designers and home furnishings retailers, subscribe to Furniture, Lighting & Decor’s YouTube channel for our latest Design Coaching Center and Home Design Business Think Tank webinars. We focus on business development in the home furnishings industry and connect with experts and your peers for insights and creative strategies designed to help you grow.