Creating a Brand

Carve out a distinct sales-generating identity with these 4 steps.

Mention the name Coca-Cola and many may immediately think of the "pause that refreshes." Say Puffs and you may stifle a sniffle and envision "a nose in need." That's brand identity. These are products that have carefully cultivated a specific brand image. They have pre-sold you on their best qualities.

With a little effort, remodelers can cash in on this same marketing power. Unfortunately, too many remodelers figure that their company name identifies them well enough. It says "remodeling," doesn't it? If you're like most remodelers, you probably haven't taken the trouble to create a specific brand identity for yourself — an image that immediately conveys what you do best. But having such a strategy can differentiate your company, increase business and pad referrals.

"It takes more than a company name to stand out and target a specific customer group today," says William R. "Max" Carey Jr., CEO of Corporate Resource Development, a marketing and training consultant in Atlanta. You need to go beyond simply devising new marketing strategies to promote the company, Carey says. Creating a strong brand identity requires the following four key steps, to which the remodeler must be committed:

1. Researching the brand. A key concern is whether customers perceive the business in the same way as the owner does. To create an effective identity, you have to know what business your customers think you're in. "You have to learn what exactly your customers are willing to pay for," Carey says. What are their priorities? Do your clients most value high-quality workmanship? Immediate responsiveness? Low prices? Fast completion? He suggests doing phone interviews with a few recent clients who engaged you for the types of projects you'd like to focus on to learn why they chose your company.

2. Creating the brand. Write down the key points that will attract the customers you want to serve. There are three ways to categorize a remodeler's business: You can stress the products sold (e.g., high-quality brand-name appliances installed), the services supplied (e.g., creation of an attractive kitchen) or the ultimate impact (e.g., a stress-free remodeling process). Most remodelers focus on their services, but the most successful will communicate the "outcome-branding" message: the smooth process or a happy customer.

If your strong suit is hassle-free remodeling, perhaps "Smith Remodeling: We Make It Work for You" would be a good identity. A remodeler known for staying on schedule might consider "Smith Company: Turnkey Remodeling."

3. Selling the brand. All marketing messages — print ads, fliers, business cards, Yellow Pages — must include the new emphasis. Obviously, specific messages must be aimed at well-targeted markets. For instance, direct-mail pieces for high-end kitchens should be mailed to demographic areas with high incomes, while whole-house remodeling services could be targeted to older neighborhoods.

4. Living the brand. Creating a brand identity goes beyond normal marketing programs. It requires creating a basic image that your firm lives by. "The owner must focus all employees on thinking of the business in this new way," Carey says. He must "ritualize" processes to include the identity. That may start with how the phone is answered and how all staff people respond to messages. It may require added customer-service training or role-playing games to ensure that the brand message being sent to customers is carried out in every aspect of the company's operation.

A brand identity is as much a mind-set by which owners and employees operate as it is a marketing approach. It requires constant feedback from customers to ensure that the program is on track and achieving the goals it's designed to reach.

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