If you are just tuning into this series and want to read about Step 1 – Running Events and Step 2 – Writing a Book, then click the links, but if you are already all caught up then here we go with the 3rd way to accelerate your business growth. Maybe it’s actually the first step.

Be Clear About Your Brand

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean you have to hire an expensive marketing or branding agency, and be the next Nike. (Although there is nothing wrong with spending money on your brand if you have it to spend), however, I do believe that you need to know what your brand is. By that I mean, you need to know what you stand for and what your values are. And you need to be able to differentiate yourself in the market.

I also know there is a lot of fluff talked about ‘Brand’, and a lot of companies who can’t really afford it and don’t really need it, are sold a dream about brand. Let me be really clear. You DON’T need to spend 10k on a logo, or 15k on a pretty website, or thousands on company brochures that look really professional, to be a success in business. What you DO need is to be clear on your avatar (your ideal customer or customers), your values (what you stand for), what you deliver (the outcome for your ideal customer) and your message (what differentiates you, what makes you stand out from the crowd).

Of course, once you can afford to spend 10k on a logo, or 20k on a website, I am not saying you shouldn’t. But you don’t need it to all happen on day one, whereas you DO need the other things I previously mentioned. As I sit here thinking about the clients we work with I can think of James who teaches electricians to market their business, Deenita who teaches recruitment companies to get their recruiters to top billing status, Julie and Jan who help engineering companies and Police Forces to sort out their leadership team problems, and Andy who teaches speakers to sell from stage.

Can you see how that is much more powerful than James who teaches marketing, Dee who teaches recruiters, Julie and Jan who coach leadership teams and Andy who teaches public speaking.

They have niched their audience and their offering. Now – how are their brand images? Well some have ok logos, and decent websites, others have just landing pages, one doesn’t have a website, and another one has a logo which could only be described as ‘cheesy’. However, they are all successful in their own fields – without design agency branding. Their brands are very clear and they stand out amongst the crowd as a result.

It’s not the logo or the clever strap line that makes a business successful (although if you have that – then it can’t hurt). What makes a brand great is the clarity of purpose, the clarity of audience and what other people are saying about it.

We live in a social media world. People no longer trust ‘advertising’, ‘clever branding’ or even the TV (and they certainly don’t trust politicians). They trust their mates, they trust reviews on Trip Advisor, or Facebook, Or G+ or LinkedIn.

Take a few minutes to think about how clear you are about your audience and your messages. If I asked you who your audience is – would you reply ‘It could be anybody Carole?’. If you would then you need to spend some time reviewing your branding. Yes, I KNOW you COULD deal with anyone – so could I, but that’s not the point. The point is – to get the maximum return for your advertising budget / networking activities / referrals – you need to get specific.

John Lewis is all about quality and customer service. They are not after buyers who want to cheapest option. They are not after Matalan’s customers, or Ikea’s. (Nothing wrong with either of those stores – have used both many times especially when the kids were growing up and after I realised there was no point spending £40 quid on a dress my daughter would probably wear once before she grew out of it). John Lewis are after the customers who want security. They want the reassurance of knowing that they won’t overpay (because of the price guarantee) but equally they won’t be left high and dry if something goes wrong. And they are happy to pay a little more to guarantee that.

So, what does your brand stand for? Are you about quality or speed? Are you about security or innovation? Do you value creativity or attention to detail? And who are your ideal customers? If someone who you met at a networking event can’t bring you to mind the day after – it is probably because you don’t stand out. However, if they can say to someone – ‘Ah you need to meet the guy I spoke to yesterday. He offers a service which is specific to ( your market) and has a (differentiator)’. Then your brand has done its job.

Now the fact that Virgin has a memorable logo, so does Nike and Dyson. But which came first the fancy logo or the brand – the product, the values, the culture? Spoiler …..I don’t think it was the logo.

Follow me on Twitter for more tips @CaroleFossey