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  • Bill Petrie

Building a Brand that Gets Noticed

"You can either fit in or stand out; not both." - Seth Godin

In a mature industry with over 25,000 distributors selling the same merchandise, with similar pricing, to the same target audience, differentiation is the biggest challenge. Standing out from the crowded marketplace is simultaneously the most critical and complex undertaking in the promotional products industry. Even so, if you want to succeed, you must find a way to get noticed by your target audience.

To stand out, the first task is building your brand and ensure your messaging supports it. To begin, you need to answer two questions:

  1. How does your brand fit into the marketplace? Are you in an urban or rural area? Who are the types of clients where you feel you add the most value? How can you leverage your expertise in specific industries? Is your brand built on creativity, value, service, or something else? Answering these questions will help you see precisely how your brand fits your target market.

  2. What does your target audience want from your brand? Once you understand how your brand fits into the marketplace, put yourself in the place of your target audience and look at your brand from their point of view. What do they want and need from you – is it funky creativity or pragmatic promotions? Is it a fresh approach to each project or consistency across all campaigns? Regardless, you must embrace that your brand is about what your clients want and need – not what you believe it means.

After you have a complete understanding of how your brand fits into the marketplace and what your target audience needs from your brand, there are three core steps to building your brand:

  1. Consistency – Powerful brands develop as people believe the brand will deliver based on experiences. Each experience turns into a perception, and, in turn, those perceptions turn into expectations. If your brand doesn’t meet consumer expectations in every client interaction (sales, marketing, delivery, quality, creativity, billing, customer care, etc.), your audience will quickly become disillusioned. More importantly, they will find a brand that does consistently meet expectations.

  2. Persistence – Brands aren’t built overnight. It takes patience, grit, and resilience not to give up. Leverage social media to communicate brand experiences that consistently support your message – unique projects, expressions of gratitude from your clients, or case histories. This is how you can develop an awareness of your brand that will lead to brand preference.

  3. Restraint – Stay true to what you do best and resist the temptation to extend your brand into new markets if they do not consistently support your message and expertise. Just because you have proficiency in providing promotional products to the medical field does not mean those skills will profitably translate to the entertainment industry. They are two very different audiences with very different needs and expectations. If you decide to target new markets, thoroughly analyze the opportunities to ensure they fit your brand.

Every few years, it’s a good idea to take a hard, honest look at your brand and brand messaging: Does it convey who you are, what you do, and how you add value to your clients? Does it contain buzzwords that now feel outdated? Most importantly, does the brand convey a level of professionalism and expertise to your prospects and clients that will allow you to grow your business?

Remember, your brand is less about what you think it means and more about the emotion(s) it elicits from your target audience. Build a brand that speaks to your client’s needs and moves them to work with you.

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