Don’t let a weak brand leave you dead on arrival. While many people focus on building a successful brand, it is just as important to understand how to avoid killing your brand to begin with. Spending thousands or millions of dollars and countless hours on a brand that is ineffective is an exercise in frustration too many CEOs unwittingly engage in.
A colleague of mine, Chris Collins of branddesigner.com, distinguishes between getting branded and getting labeled. Getting labeled means you’ve lost control; people are defining your brand behind your back in ways that would make you cringe, and your potential for maximizing profits is being flushed down the toilet. Luckily, you won’t have to fish your brand out of trouble if you avoid making these seven mistakes:
- Lack of intention: If you don’t know exactly what your brand is, who your target audience is and what you want that audience’s perception of your brand to be, your brand becomes meaningless. I hear too many CEOs indicate they are trying to reach “everyone.” Well, unless you have a Fortune 50 company budget like Apple, reaching everyone just isn’t possible. It’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting to be all things to all people, but the fact is that unfocused brands get slaughtered.
- Taking too long to explain what you do: There’s a reason the art of the elevator pitch is alive and well. People have short attention spans, so your brand needs to make an immediate impact. If your brand doesn’t instantly resonate, you’ve already lost whomever you’re speaking to. If I see someone at a conference I want to network with, I do not approach them until I know exactly how I want to open the conversation. This most often involves identifying something to say that I know will resonate so I can develop enough rapport to connect. In branding, connecting is everything. Those who are verbose get a polite nod and a quick exit from the conversation.
- Asking for support before you clearly demonstrate value: Anyone who has watched “Shark Tank” knows that if you ask for a deal with an insane valuation without demonstrating value, you’ll be hearing “You’re dead to me!” before you can finish your pitch. Similarly, in the marketplace, people aren’t obligated to help you or buy your product. Lead by demonstrating what’s in it for the people you are talking to. See how you can help them. Sowing seeds makes people want to reciprocate, which translates to one-on-one conversations or the ability to offer a free sample or learning tool.
- Having an average or below-average website: Your website is an opportunity to clearly define your brand. Not taking great care with your website is the equivalent of inviting guests over to a dirty house or one without furniture. No website, or a bad website, prevents people from getting to know you better. If your target audience can’t get the information they need quickly, you could lose the opportunity for a repeat customer, distribution partner, or even multimillion-dollar investor.
- Lack of presence on social media: Even if you hate social media, people who aren’t on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are now suspect. It is worth having a social media presence and a following because it will help brand you as a person of influence. There is a very real opportunity to grow your business via LinkedIn, get your customers’ feedback via Facebook and follow trends on Twitter. The rare exception to this rule is if you are intentionally trying to create an aura of mystery and intrigue.
- Poor temperament: Authenticity and maturity are two of the biggest factors that drive trust. Being defensive or contrived is a sure turnoff. If an investor or a customer asks you a question about your product/business, do you respond with a smile or do you get agitated? Investors often say things to test a CEO’s temperament and ensure that if things go bad, the CEO will have the resilience to push through. And when it comes to authenticity, realize not everyone needs to buy what you are selling. If you come across someone who isn’t a fit, let them know and help them get exactly what they need. While they may not become a customer, they can refer one to you!
- Not controlling your online presence: Have you Googled yourself lately? Do you like what you see? If not, change it. Just as social media can help build or destroy your brand’s credibility, negative Google results can also spell the end of your credibility. Hire a reputation management or branding company and get more positive results.
Building your brand is a real investment of time and money. Do not kill it by making these easy-to-avoid mistakes.