Build Your Brand – Build Your Business

Branding your business is one of the most overlooked aspects of many businesses in America today. Even if it is attempted, many do not do it correctly and in fact attempt to market their business instead of actually branding it or build its brand’s awareness amongst their customers. How does branding and marketing differ, and how do you build your store’s brand?

First, marketing and branding are two different actions, with different methods of attracting customers and potential customers. Marketing is a push tactic; you push your store’s key attributes to the public. You can market how you always have the freshest bait in stock, or the best selection of rods and reels. How you are the oldest store in your town, and that you’ve been here for three generations.

Branding is what is left of your company after a competing store opens and offers even fresher bait, or a bigger selection of rods and reels. Marketing is what brings new customers in; branding is what makes them come back time and time again. Branding is more than your client recognizing your store’s logo or name. It is what makes every customer think that you’re the one store they can count on to have what they want, or be able to provide the service they need.

How to Build Your Brand

First, look at how you represent your store. Do all of your business cards, website, signs and advertising have the same logo, same font, same colors as the others? If not, what does not fit? If none of them have the same look then you need to decide on a “look” and make everything else look the same. Many stores will go with the most expensive, or least easy item to change and make the other pieces of advertising and marketing comply with it. While this is cost effective, it isn’t always smart. If your store sign is the most expensive to change, but is outdated or faded, maybe it is time for a facelift. Find a look you like and feel is not only easy to read, but is unique to you and can become easily identifiable. Every big brand – Nike, McDonalds, or Apple – all have an easy-to-recognize brand that is used over and over. Find one that works for you and make sure every business card, website page, sign, ad and social network account has that branded look to it.

Once you’ve completed or ensured that you have a strong visual identity, it is time to work on your brand. There are seven key points to building your brand and ensuring that it stands out from your competition and remains a cornerstone of your store for years to come.

Know Why You’re Here
Why are you in business? Because your father, mother or grandparents were fishing tackle retailers is not an acceptable answer to this question. What is the one thing that you can stand behind to say you do better than anyone else? What is your differentiation? Your customers come to you for a specific reason – what is that? It can be that you have the best selection around; you have the most knowledge on fishing, or maybe because your store caters to new anglers, always has and always will. Right now, take a few moments to define why you are in business, and ensure that your brand always lets people know this fact, and think of this when they think of your store.

Clearly Define Your Brand’s Promise
Your brand’s promise is what you tell customers to expect every time they come into your store, log onto your website or call you on the phone. It needs to be proven each time you interact with a customer, not something that was true last year, last decade or will be true next year. It needs to be true every day in your store. Your brand’s promise is never broken, no matter how bad the economy is or how bad of a day you’re having. What can you guarantee every customer that you interact with? If you’re stumped for an answer, complete this sentence: “Our customers show up at our store because they know we’re the only store that…” Your brand’s promise will also help you market your business. It should be more than a slogan though, it needs to be a lifestyle for your store.

Target Your Customers
Every business has multiple groups of customers, be it based on their shopping habits, the types of fishing they enjoy or the fish they go after. Much of this can be determined on your location as well. A store in the middle of the country would likely have a small or nonexistent saltwater fishing crowd to please, while a store on the coast may never sell a freshwater piece of equipment. Even though location will play a role in the type of fish your customer’s target, it doesn’t mean you can’t target certain customers.

If you want to only deal in high-end tackle, then be sure your brand, your merchandise selection and your brand’s promise all coincide with this decision. Saying you want to deal in only high-end tackle, but then just stocking rods and reels under $50 won’t work. The same can be true if you want to be the perfect store for new anglers, but then staffing your store with help that knows nothing about what a new angler would need, or only stocking expensive equipment that only dedicated anglers would buy. If you have difficulty deciding whom you currently do target or should target, look at who your top fifteen to twenty percent of your customers are or what they buy. This is your customer base that keeps your doors open – target them, and others like them.

Be True to Yourself
If you’re an honest business owner who stands behind every product you sell, because you believe that is how business should be done, then do it. Let others know this as well. Realize though, there will come a day when this belief is challenged, either by a shipment of faulty products or an unpleasant customer who pushes the limits of common sense. Define your brand’s promise, who your customers are, and you should easily realize how your brand can be true to itself.

Do More Than Talk to Customers
In most tackle stores it is hard to walk in without getting a hello, or asked how are you doing, or questioned if you need help with anything. But once the talk ends so does the interaction. Instead of just talking with customers, create a conversation or a dialog with them. It doesn’t need to be hours long. In fact, thanks to social media, it can be ongoing and should be. Conversations can be one-sided, but hopefully your followers are engaged enough to respond back when you post things socially and your responses spur more positive reactions. Posting videos of new products to your website, Facebook or on Twitter is one way to keep the conversation going. Another is to post pictures to your social media sites, or ask questions on what species is their most favorite to fish for, or what is their favorite lure. Interact with your customers as often as you can, however you can, online or in person, and see the difference it makes. They will think of your store and your brand every time they interact with you, and will be building an awareness about your brand.

Give Them Something Great
Ever time a customer enters your store, logs onto your website or interacts with you on social media they need to have a great experience. This is more than just great customer service; this is a great experience for each and every customer. The difference is great customer service to one person may be mediocre to another; great experience is felt by everyone, even those not involved. Seeing how you dealt with a customer complaint in a professional manner on your Facebook page affects more than just the customer you satisfied, it affects every person who read the posts. Handling it in a professional manner lets them know that if they ever have a problem you’ll do the same for them, and that translates into a great experience. The more great experiences you can deliver, the more it will be known that your store is the place to shop for fishing tackle. While great experiences are the least tangible way to build your brand, it is one of the best ways to showcase your brand and build brand loyalty.

Putting It All Together
Building your brand isn’t something you do overnight, nor is it something you do in your spare time. Building your brand is something you have been doing since you opened your doors. You just need to take the time to define your brand and let your brand build your business. The more people who can identify your store as a brand and be aware of what that brand is and what it means to them, the more customers your brand will attract. A brand can be ruined much faster than it is created though. Not following through on your brand’s promise, what your brand stands for, not giving enough great experiences or just simply confusing customers about what your brand is, can and will ruin it very quickly. Quoting a famous baseball movie, “if you build it, they will come,” is very true about brands. Continue to build your brand and make others aware of it, and see how many new customers will come to your store.

What is your store’s brand? Have you ever sat down and defined it? If so, how easy or how difficult was it for you? If this piece stirred something in you, let us know on either our Facebook page or in our LinkedIn group. We would love to hear feedback from you all.