By Jeff Quigley
If you’ve done the research, settled on a product or service, and started the process of producing what you’re going to sell, you need to give some thought to your packaging. Now, I’m not talking about the box that your product will be wrapped in, although that certainly comes into play. Packaging is the term that we use when talking about your company’s brand strategy. It’s not simply your name, your logo, or your website. It’s more about who you are! It’s the whole package.
If you were at a large gathering of people and I walked into the room and asked the host to point you out, how would they describe you? Undoubtedly, he would point across the room and describe how you look. “She’s the brunette lady in the blue dress.” I might not know about your education, your family life, or even your personality until later, after we’ve had the opportunity to speak. This outward identification is what we know as a “first impression,” and it’s generally agreed upon that “first impressions are lasting impressions.” Just as you make a first impression personally, your business will make first impressions to would-be customers. This is where packaging—or branding—starts, but it certainly doesn’t end there. If the host at that party would have pointed in your direction, described your appearance, and then fought back tears of joy as he described the feeling he got from being in your presence, now we’re talking about branding!
A true brand strategy accomplishes several specific goals and centers around a main objective. It may take some thought, but developing your brand will definitely set you above the crowd of other home-based businesses and prepare you for larger markets. Good branding is the difference for companies like Coca-Cola®, McDonald’s®, and Wal-Mart®. Let’s dissect and study what makes for a solid branding strategy.
Your brand has to start from your primary purpose in business—why you’re starting a business in the first place. You likely thought a home-based business would be an easy way to generate income. Hopefully, you’ll find that to be true, but ultimately, people won’t be drawn to your brand simply because you want to make money. You need a greater purpose for starting your own business.
This is where a mission statement comes in to play. A mission statement tells the “who” and “what” of your company. This brief statement is the core reason you’re in business … and it should never change. Take a quick look around. Society is filled with massive companies doing great things all around the world. Now consider some of their mission statements:
- Coca-Cola: To refresh the world … to inspire moments of optimism and happiness … to create value and make a difference.
- Chick-fil-A®: To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us and to have a positive influence on all who come into contact with Chick-fil-A.
- Starbucks® Coffee: To inspire and nurture the human spirit—one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.
Do you notice something missing from these statements? They say nothing about carbonated beverages, chicken sandwiches, or caramel lattes! A winning mission statement speaks from the heart and goes far deeper than any product you’ll ever sell. With mission statements like these, the goal becomes something greater than a sale and money in your pocket. The goal is a satisfied customer, partnering with you to create a moment.
Take a moment and dig deeper … how do you hope to better the world through your home-based business? What is the true purpose of this project in your life?
Once you settle on a stated purpose for your business, everything you do should point back to that purpose. A customer should be able to call you on the phone, click on to your company’s Facebook® page, and step inside your workshop to find that every exposure has been consistently in line with your purpose. We use the term “purity” to describe this element of your branding strategy. As an illustration, consider the following true story:
Our church building recently needed some work done on the HVAC system. On the advice of a friend, we called a service company that we’d never used before. In fact, all I knew about them was that their trucks were highly decorated with their flashy logo and their headquarters was a nice new metal building that always appeared clean and well kept. As far as first impressions go, they had made a good one, and I was excited to see more.
My enthusiasm was slowed when I made my first phone call to their office. The lady on the other end of the phone answered with a harsh “Yeah?” and the entire call felt like an unwanted interruption in her busy morning. I requested a visit from a service tech, to which the lady brusquely retorted, “We’ll get it,” and then she hung up. No small talk. No “Thanks for calling.” Not even a goodbye.
The tech arrived in his fancy truck and expertly diagnosed and repaired the problem as we had hoped. He even offered some conversation while on the job and had me feeling better about the whole situation. Once the job was complete, the bill came in the mail, and we promptly wrote a check for payment. At the first opportunity, I drove our payment to the nice metal building, only to discover that they didn’t have a marked customer entrance, and there was no hint of any regular business hours. When I arrived, it was around 3:00 p.m. on a Tuesday, and there was not a soul in sight. When we finally returned to find people there, we were greeted with the same gruff attitude I had encountered on the phone. And when we left, it was, again, with no small talk. No “Thank you for your business.” Not even a goodbye.
Here is the point of purity: convey the same message with every exposure to a potential customer. This HVAC company was sending a message of impurity. While they did great work and they certainly knew their craft, they were not prepared to offer any semblance of customer service whatsoever. The only way to cure impurity is to remove it.
As you consider your purpose, you should focus every facet of your business to align with it. If you’re advertising and selling hand-crafted jewelry on your website but shipping the pieces in cheap Ziploc baggies, you’re missing the mark of purity. If your stated purpose is to bring peace to the world by selling custom candles but your showroom is filled with cigar smoke and a blaring television, you’re missing the mark of purity. Make sure that everything you do points back to thet purpose at your core.
It is important to remember that we live in an ever-changing world. You may develop a winning logo and a catchy jingle and have a successful advertising campaign for a while. But the time will come when you must change to keep up with the taste and preference of the public. This is called perseverance—modifying your approach to continue the forward progress in your field of commerce.
No matter what product or service you are offering to your customers, there will come a time when an update is in order. Even if your product is the revival of an age-old craft from years ago, staying current with the times is a guaranteed way to persevere into the future.
I recall a lesson from my college days that perfectly illustrates this point. In the early ‘90s, the printing world was still firmly anchored to the virtues of page layout by hand. We were taught the correct procedures of printing and waxing a column of text for placement into a larger page layout. We had rolls and rolls of varying thicknesses of black tape to stick onto the layout as lines and borders. Photos were printed on film and rendered in a darkroom before being waxed and stuck into position on the layout. It was the height of technology.
But there were rumblings of a computer revolution that promised to replace all of the handwork. In just a matter of three years after my graduation, the darkroom was replaced by a storage closet. The wax machines and stacks of black layout tape were thrown into a dumpster. And the production room, where I had labored for hours to make sure all of my text was straight and ready to print, was emptied to make room for a computer lab.
The college was persevering and gearing up for a new generation of printing students who would work entirely on computers. However, there was a faculty of six printing instructors who knew nothing of computers and what they could do. Two of these men found jobs back in the production world, maintaining aging equipment that would eventually be boxed up and replaced. The other four, with nowhere else to go, resigned their positions and drifted away. Just a few years prior, these were the most connected and respected men in their field. But a lack of perseverance found them out of work and, therefore, out of commission.
The reason those four men failed to persevere is the same reason many companies fail to keep up with the times … fear of change. When considering your home-based business and the progress you hope to see in coming years, don’t be afraid to try new things and let go of the old, tired routine that no longer works.
In all that you do to fulfill your purpose, you must consider the people to whom you’re selling. Again, we are talking about the individual elements of a successful branding strategy … the whole package! What good is an open door and a charming smile unless there is someone willing to walk through that door to engage your smile? We as home-business operators are only one-half of the equation. The other half involves people.
If you’ll look through the advertisements of any major magazine of our day, you’ll not only see the products for sale, but also the people who are using those products. A complete brand strategy seeks to create an experience—to leave the customer with an emotional connection. This is what turns customers into promoters who tell their friends and family about the wonderful experience they had at your shop. I love to read through the catalog or website of a company that values their connection with people. One such business is Kilroy’s Workshop (www.kilroysworkshop.com), owned by craftsman Ron Hardman. It’s hard to put a finger on all that Ron does, but it is all beautifully displayed on his website. A quick study of his website will provide you an education on WWII, woodworking, metallurgy, and the value of family. Throughout the site, however, Ron’s heart for people shines through on every page. His program is teaching children the joys of working with their hands, but the way he presents it makes me want to join in! The teens coming out of his shop aren’t just carrying a birdhouse or a sailboat … they are carrying the memories of an experience that they’ll never forget! If you remember to focus on the people with your business, they’ll leave your shop in the same way.
No study of branding strategy would be complete without a look at your company’s persona: the image that you portray. This includes everything practical, from your logo, the typeface on your letterhead, and the color of your packaging, to the images posted on your website and Facebook page. While these elements are probably the least important factors affecting your overall package, they are still very important and can “seal the deal” when helping a customer decide to be loyal to your business or not.
Your logo should be recognizable at a glance, with the name of your company prominently displayed. There are a million different doctrines on logo design, ranging from very clean and simple to very complex. Many people assume that a logo should illustrate the product or service being offered. This is often a faulty strategy. If your logo can help to illustrate the purpose you’ve set forth, it’s a winner. Consider the whimsy and wonder of Disney’s® logo, with the castle in the background. Contrast that with the utility and strength of Craftsman’s® logo. These logos don’t describe the product as much as they illustrate the company’s purpose.
If you design a logo that promotes your core purpose, there is no reason not to include it on every piece of printed material you will use. You should use it on your business cards, letterhead, receipts, emails, yard sign, uniform, and car decals. Anywhere you advertise the name of your company, it should be in the form of your logo.
Choose carefully when picking the colors for your logo, as they, too, will further the message of your purpose. This chart gives a basic idea of all the colors and their significance. Once you pick a color scheme, don’t be afraid to use it in places other than your logo.
Right along with the color you choose, the typeface you pick will speak volumes about your company’s purpose. If your purpose involves stability, reliability, and integrity, consider a crisp Roman font with pronounced serifs (Times, perhaps). But if your purpose is more about entertainment and lifting the burdens of mankind, a lighter, less formal font might work. Be careful not to use a font that’s too wild or a font that is readily associated with a specific company. (Disney uses a very recognizable font, for example.)
Once all of these pieces are locked in place, you’re ready to put your persona out there for the world to see. At the very least, you’ll want to create a Facebook page. You may also find other social networking sites like Twitter® and Pinterest® where you can create a page for free. Everywhere you create a page, be sure to use your logo, selected colors, and typeface.
My family and I live on a small hobby farm with horses, calves, goats, and dogs. Everything falls in the “hobby” category, except for our two wonderful Great Pyrenees dogs. These animals are great guardians, especially for our goats, and other goat farmers are always asking about them. We decided to get into the dog breeding business to share this amazing breed with those around us. The logo we devised is very clean and simple, yet it speaks to our primary purpose. Our female dog is really the star of the farm … she’s a great momma to her babies, a fierce protector of our goats, and one of the most loving pets we’ve ever known. I think you’ll notice her importance in our logo, even though she isn’t named or shown.