BusinessDay

The Top Eight Branding Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make

When you’re growing your own business, every error you make means money out of your pocket. So, why learn the hard way (which is also the expensive way)? Why not learn ahead of time which pitfalls to avoid?
Below are what I consider the Top 8 most costly branding mistakes that I have regularly seen entrepreneurs make.

Getting creative with your company name
Clever names may be fun, but if your target market cannot easily tell who you are and what you stand for, they will simply pass you by. Your customers won’t take the time to figure out your business. So, make it easy for people to “get” what you do! Would you rather spend your marketing Naira explaining the purpose of your business, or let your company name do that for you? Why not spend your limited funds to explain more clearly how you can make a difference in the lives of your customers? A well-named business simply makes your job much easier. Our company name is Perceptions and Reputations Associates, and we are a group of associates who major on brands’ reputation and perception management. No one has to guess who we are or what we do.

Forgetting that you are your brand
No matter what you sell – and whether you like it or not – YOU become the masthead for your business. Everything you do represents the brand of your company. I knew a business owner who lost a multi-million naira contract because he arrived at a morning meeting with alcohol on his breath (he had gone out the night before to celebrate the assumed-signing of the agreement!). His potential partners worried that he might have a drinking problem, and it was enough to break the deal. But you don’t have to do something extreme to undermine your company’s brand. Maintain a character 24/7/365 that is in keeping with your brand, and it will do both you and your company good.

Not confirming that a need for your product or service truly exists.
Many entrepreneurs put products on the market like they’re throwing darts. They don’t have the funds for market research, so they just wait to find out what will work and what won’t. What they don’t realize is that they’re spending much more money creating products that won’t sell than they would if they had spent just a little bit on market research. So, get creative! You don’t have to conduct fancy, expensive market research. If you’re selling a new toy, for example, go to the nearest day care center, and volunteer to have their children play with the toys. If you’re selling a new beverage, invite people on the street who are in your demographic to try out your product, and ask them what they think. Offer a potential new service for free, and see how your target market responds. In other words, find out ahead of time if you have a viable product or service. It will save you a lot of money and time in the long run, and it will keep your brand’s image intact.

Not making tough choices to target your marketing.
The bigger your market, the bigger your business, right? NO. You cannot be everything to everyone. Your brand won’t be able to truly reach your target market unless you can deliver a meaningful point of difference. If you’re targeting all women 18 and older, you will not be able to show that entire age group how your product or service will help them because, let’s face it, an 18-year old has different needs than a 55-year old. So, segment and separate your target markets. Perhaps your offering is appropriate for women ages 22-35 who have children ages 4-10. Find out what will appeal to your specific market, and communicate your product or service with that in mind.

Not being realistic about your competition
Some entrepreneurs make the mistake of believing their company has no competitor. This is never true! Even if there is no product that directly competes with yours, there is always something else on the market that your customers can choose over what you offer. Your target market literally has dozens of alternative choices to what you offer. So, get to know your competition well, and look at it realistically. What will differentiate your product or service from your competitors and fill your market’s needs better? Focus your brand on those differences.

Not choosing the right team members to reflect your brand
Small entrepreneurs often believe they must be “grateful” just to have people work for them. Not true! Just as you represent your brand, so does every single one of your employees. Make sure the people you hire have the same character as the one you want your business to communicate in the marketplace. Find the best possible people to join your team, and spend a little extra to get them. The effort will pay back ten-fold.

Forgetting that your brand extends to your employees, not just to your customers
Do you treat your staff as well as you treat your customers? If you treat your team poorly, the word gets out, and it damages your brand. On the other hand, if you treat your team very well, the best candidates will want to work for you, and it will become well known that your company is a great place to be employed. Think what that kind of image can do for your brand!
Not making your business something you love to do
You will be eating, sleeping, and breathing your business for a long, long time. If you don’t absolutely love it, you will burn out quickly. So, don’t choose to do something just because it’s what you’ve always done. You’ll spend way too many hours of your life miserable, and your heart won’t be in it.

Last line …
Every entrepreneur makes a misstep now and then. So if you have fallen prey to any of these branding mistakes, pick yourself up, and do what you must to get back on track. The more you steer clear of these 8 branding blunders, the faster you will build a powerhouse business and enjoy the success you deserve

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