People underestimate the importance of brand as they look to grow their business beyond their initial set of successful products and services. But, if you grow your business beyond your brand you’re doomed to fail.
Few of us have the luxury of being branding experts. Many of us can’t afford to engage an expensive branding agency to conduct a brand study.
Most small business owners are busy with the day-to-day operations of their business. The money they do have to spend on sales and marketing, they tend to invest in demand generation. This is a very logical choice as every business must maximize its revenue and minimize expenses to keep the lights on. But, if your business has been successful and has grown, you may find yourself in a slightly different situation.
Many companies that succeed and grow reach a point where that growth begins to taper off. It is often at this point where entrepreneurs begin to think about adding new products or services in new areas beyond their initial focus. If you choose to ignore the role of your brand at this point, you do so at your own peril.
A brand is more than the name of your business, your products, or your logo. If you have done a good job running your business, delivering your products and services, and the experiences around them, then your brand will stand for something – and might be worth something (brand equity). But what your brand stands for, your brand identity, is something that ultimately you do not control.
Yes, you can invest in brand positioning to shape your brand identity, but ultimately your customers (and non-customers) determine what your brand stands for. This fact is important as you look to expand your business into new areas you’re not currently in, to sell new products and services you don’t currently sell. The brand you have built up to this point will either be an asset or a liability as you look to grow into these new areas.
Your business exists because customers give it permission to exist. It can only grow into areas that prospective customers give it permission to grow into. If Taco Bell decides to enter the healthcare business, would you find them credible? Would you trust them to diagnose and treat you?
There must be an overlap between the directions you want to grow your business and the directions that prospective customers trust you to grow your business. If your new products and services don’t lie within the mental circle of trust that exists in the collective minds of your prospective customers, you will struggle.
Notice the focus on ‘prospective customers’ as I speak about your growth areas. This is because as you grow into new areas, your circle of trust may intersect with new people who are aware of your brand that are not currently your customers. Yes, your brand means something, even to those people who are NOT your customers.
You must mind your brand positioning and brand permissions not just with customers for your current products and services, but also with the most likely customers of the new products and services you’re hoping will provide the future growth of your business.
So, how do you find out what your brand stands for and what areas you can credibly extend into?
Unfortunately, there is no way to find this out without making an investment into interviewing people. Here are some options:
- Pay a branding or market research agency to do this for you
- Pay someone who works at one of these agencies to conduct these interviews for you as a side hustle through a gig worker exchange like fiverr
- Create a short & sharp list of 2-3 questions to ask a handful of customers that quickly get to the heart of what your brand stands for and whether they view you as credible in the new area you’re considering
- Use this same list of questions to quickly ask customers of businesses you view as potential competitors in the growth areas you’re looking to enter
- Pay some of your customers, that you have a good relationship with and will give you the time and honest feedback, to spend more time understanding why they do business with you now and what other kinds of products & services they would trust you to provide
Whether you lack money or courage, there are options above to overcome either limitation. If you lack both, then see my previous article on what I’ve learned from becoming an accidental entrepreneur.
For the rest of you, I hope that you will heed the warnings of this article, find the suggestions useful, incorporate them as you consider potential areas to grow your business into, and select those products and services to invest in where you have both credibility and ability to execute with excellence.
This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com
Image credit: Pixabay
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