Are you working all hours just to make ends meet? Are you afraid to take time off? Does your business grind to a halt if you go on holiday?
If you’ve built a successful brand – even if you’re running a business of one – it’s possible to make your business work without you and have the freedom to take some well earned breaks.
The consequences of not building a successful brand can be stark. In 2015, there were 570,000 new businesses registered in the UK. That’s more than 1,500 every single day.
The stat you don’t often hear though is that only 50% of them make it to the five-year mark. And in Leeds, where I’m based, only 42% make it this far.
The major factor in a business failing, in my experience, is the lack of a strong brand.
So what can you do about it?
When a business starts out, it’s difficult to get immediate traction. We take on clients that aren’t ideal, we agree to do work that isn’t really what we want to be doing, and we do it for prices that aren’t high enough. Sound familiar?
The truth is that, unless you have a huge marketing budget (or a product that is so revolutionary that it’s the “best thing since sliced bread!”) it takes around two years to build a strong brand.
Let me ask you:
- Is your business growing through referrals?
- Are you retaining your clients and building long term value?
- Is your business growing while you’re on holiday or asleep? (If you’re finding yourself increasingly unfamiliar with the notions of ‘holiday’ and ‘sleep’, you’ll find some of my other blogs on lifestyle of interest.)
- Are you doing the right kind of work and setting the price yourself – instead of allowing the client to dictate it?
Unless you can confidently answer yes to all four questions, your brand needs some work.
What is a brand?
Many new companies spend time and money on logo design, strap-lines, websites and marketing collateral. While this is all necessary at some stage, it’s just aesthetics. Clients buy from you, and your associates refer you, because of the brand and reputation you have – not how nice your logo looks.
Your brand is far more than a visual identity. It’s the experience your staff, and customers have. Think about your mobile phone provider or satellite TV provider. What’s the first word that comes into your head? Innovation? Customer service? Price? Their brand isn’t what they say it is – their brand is what we experience.
Your brand is your reputation. It’s what people say about you when you’re not in the room. So what do you want people to be saying about you? That you deliver great results? That you’re fun to work with? That you go the extra mile? That you’re great value for money?
What you want them to say and what they actually say though can be two different things. Reputation and brands are built over time and need consistency. It’s no good wanting your brand to be known for going the extra mile if you sometimes don’t, or maybe your staff don’t. See my blog on values for more on this.
I’ve worked hard to build both my personal reputation as an expert and that of Tendo as a brand in what’s a busy market. It’s taken time but, five years on from starting the business, I now lecture at Leeds Beckett University on SME strategy – inspiring a new generation of graduates to think like an entrepreneur and be successful.
I seek out good quality speaking engagements, inspiring leaders to create businesses that grow and provide them the lifestyle they crave.
Our Food4Thought peer mentoring groups support over 30 ambitious leaders every month and I’m proud to be a regular contributor to magazines, such as Topic UK, to provide advice about running a successful small business.
This is all part of my strategy to build an unrivalled reputation and a brand that stands out from the crowd. It means that when a business owner is struggling to get to the next level, there’s a chance somebody in their network will have experienced what we do and will refer me.
So what are you doing to build your brand? What steps can you take to catapult your profile above your competitors? And are you certain your brand is aligned with your values?
A strong brand is just one element of a marketing strategy which, if properly delivered, can turn people you know (and sometimes those you don’t) into your virtual sales team, recommending you ahead of your competitors to scores of prospects. It can win you business when you’re not even working because your reputation really does precede you.
And, before you know it, you have a sustainable business that allows you the freedom to take (and enjoy!) some well earned time off.
Understanding your unique proposition, your target customer and your brand/ reputation are key parts of a business plan.
Do you have a lengthy business plan and never look at it or maybe you have no plan at all? Many business owners don’t manage their company strategically, know what to focus on or measure daily, to have complete clarity and control.
If you would like to manage your business on a single page, access our tool here to get started: tendo-uk.com/plan