Tag Archives: reputation

How to Build Your Business Brand and Achieve Sustainable Growth


The first step of building a business brand is deciding why you’ll do it not what you’ll do. You’ll decide how your brand will be identified by other people – because your brand identity is a vision you have of your business. The questions, why you are in business, who you are in business for and how unique you want to be will form the basis for the growth of your brand.

Once you are in no doubt about these elements, then you can define the visual elements of your brand such as a logo, a tagline, tone of voice etc.

“But I have a marketing strategy” you may argue but, let’s face it, such good intentions will be a complete waste of time if your activity is not grounded in the brand basics, mentioned above. The point is if a business is to achieve sustainable business growth, it must be understood that your brand defines your business.

If you have neglected to develop your brand over time by catering to your customers changing needs, they may well change suppliers because they want a better experience.

Of course, everything is hunky-dory when business is good. Customers are flocking to your door, online sales are good, whatever communications channels you are using must be working etc. But what happens when the marketplace starts to change, internally and externally, and you don’t? = business unsustainability in the long-term.

I say internally because perhaps your own workforce might have changed. You may have u25-year-olds in your workforce, who have grown up in a technology-friendly environment. They might have a different attitude to customer service, as will their peers – your new potential customers. So not only may the attitudes of your co-workers be different but also your customers’ service expectations will also be changing.

So how are you going to grow your business in this new environment?  By building your brand carefully and with purpose. That means pro-actively managing business change, your reputation and making your brand visible to the right people.

About being visible, you are probably aware, that somewhere between 70 / 80% of customers have already completed some form of research before actually purchasing. Usually, this is through referral (word-of-mouth) or online search.

Therefore, it’s important that wherever they do that research they a) find your brand and b) have a positive experience across all touchpoints. But, you can’t be there if you don’t know who they are!

Do you actually know who your customers are?

When did you last check-out who are, where are and how are your target audience? No matter how well you think you know your customers, all business brands should be constantly undertaking some form of research to improve brand strategy. Why?

Well, for one, better understanding your customer’s priorities / challenges will help you adjust your offering to find a solution for them. Secondly, you will find out how to differentiate yourself from competitors, thirdly, you will discover the attitudes of your staff and fourthly you can find out who your top 20% of customers really are. There is perhaps one more advantage of undertaking research – it will provide you with a base from which to measure going forward.

As well as formal research, simple information gathering e.g. net performance score (NPS), and having an investigative attitude here are four ways to make sure your brand stays relevant to your customers on an ongoing basis:

  • Tell a cohesive story across all brand touch-points that customers’ can relate to
  • Every business decision should be grounded in how it will add value to your customers
  • Be authentic in all your communications and build trust
  • Be consistent in your branding (images, colour, content etc.) and make it user-friendly

Developing a business brand – the theory and the practice

Don’t get me wrong – developing a brand is not easy. Aidan and I have worked on both sides of the marketing fence (as an agency and a client). We understand how developing a business brand is difficult, but possible. The thing is we are also very conscious of the fact that theory can differ from practice in many ways.

With clients, we strive to lessen the gap between both by being realistic. For instance:

Having a high-level vision – of course, it is great to have an inspiring vision but bringing that ethos off the plan is quite difficult, especially for SMEs. It is difficult due to the immediacy of running the business and making a profit. If a business did nothing more than show its customers that it listens to them, evidenced by telling customer stories, then they would show that they are acting purposefully i.e. with the customer in mind.

Brand value – many accountants, and marketers will offer to explain how to calculate a brand value for your business. However, the dilemma for marketers trying to build a brand strategy on such a value is that they can’t agree on how best to arrive at a fair and obvious figure. Figures are calculated in a myriad of different ways by various specialist consultants. A brand strategy is a must – but brand value as a growth measurement is not a perfect place to start from.

Price – this is probably the hardest theory to maintain when it comes to practice. Businesses, with the best intention of commanding a premium price, when push comes to shove – have not developed the brand to sustain their high price positioning. Customers now expect good value for money which is often interpreted by businesses as ‘cheaper’ product / services. In truth, the value expected may be nothing to do with price.

Differentiation – Almost every business, I’ll wager, see themselves as being different from competitors. Whilst this may be so with regard to internal operations – the customer, often can see no difference and is just happy that somebody is satisfying their need. We believe that the difference should be reflected in a customer’s willingness to pay a higher price. This would be due to a real difference in experience and a distinction made by the brand’s communication.

The intention of any business brand strategy is to grow the business and build a strong brand (in that order).

Tips and Timesavers for building your business brand.

The intention of any business brand strategy is to grow the business and build a strong brand (in that order). Therefore an effective strategy to develop a brand based on good business practices will result in a better ROI for the investment made. In our view what makes a strong brand is a positive reputation and good visibility.

Building on our thoughts above, here are six suggestions that you might consider when building your business brand:

  1. Determine who your audience is and what they think of you, up front
  2. Be authentic, have a unique voice online and offline e.g. website / trade shows / networking
  3. Create your own online platform – blogging, social media etc. and empower your audience to engage with you
  4. Be consistent in your communications and what you do but don’t try to please everyone
  5. Ensure that you produce more value for your customers than your competitors
  6. Build organic brand awareness first e.g. friends and family, influencers and then pay for it


It is only by adhering to your brand basics initially can you develop it according to your customers’ changing needs, thereafter. As a business owner, you must manage your reputation and ensure that your brand can be found. Especially when someone goes looking for something you can supply.

Brand Strength = Reputation + Visibility

Don’t get caught in the “busy work-trap”. Make sure that the customers’ experience of your brand is different to your competitors and that your communications are distinctive enough to stand out from the noise. That’s how you’ll build a brand to grow your business.

“Thank you for reading our blog post today” – Aidan & Jim.

 Would you like us to notify you, by email, when we publish new content? If so, just let us know by clicking here. Of course, we can always meet face-to-face, just leave your details here and we might grab a coffee, cheers. Jim – O’C&K

Love, what’s that got to do with your brand?

brand love O'C&K

8 ways that might help people to love your brand a little more.

 We have written about business and marketing plans here before but now let’s get a little romantic, and talk about how much brand love you can attract, if any, from your customers and prospects. Perhaps, instead of spending your time sweating about operational plans for your fantastic service, it would be time well spent thinking how sustainable is the love for your brand.

We presume your mission is to have people engage with your brand (buying your stuff) – right? Well then, working out a way to get them to love you, long time, will lay the foundation for a good business strategy.

Of course, along the way, people are going to see your brand from different viewpoints, but that’s fine. Your focus should be on getting the right people to want to engage. Think about it this way – it would be a bad state of affairs if people weren’t aware of your service, (product), but wouldn’t it be even worse, if they were and didn’t care about it, at all? If you are in a competitive environment you may survive by being liked, but to grow, your brand has to be loved.

In a service based, small business your brand is yourself.

So here’s the point, nobody can ‘love’ a letterhead, a business card, a brochure or a website because these are just elements of branding. No one is going to love your premises or your background operations. They are going to love how you make them feel.

Your brand must go deeper than visual extensions, and it can because your brand is a personal promise to people. This promise can set you apart because you are promising value, and you have everything to lose because it’s your reputation that you are putting on the line.

In any business, is it not the founder’s unique qualities, their vision and mission and their values that manifests in a brand? Yes, it is, but the main difference between one competitor (brand) and the next is how the above is communicated through all interactions with people.

Why many start-ups fail is that they try to copy what other businesses in the industry are doing. The downside of this is that they are not unique or authentic, which are the very things that customers are looking for. Our advice – just be yourself because that’s what people will love about you and what you provide.

If you have a clear notion of what your brand stands for you can build on being perceived as a specialist and a credible resource in your industry. Of course the people, you want to have credibility with are those in your target market. The more you are the go-to brand, the more people will notice you, engage with you and eventually (hopefully), love you more than your competitors.

When determining your brand, therefore, the first step would be to define your unique qualities e.g. what do people like about you? The next step would be to clarify your strengths e.g. think about past successes, what talents / strengths did you use to achieve them? The last step is to nail down what exactly is your promise e.g. what are you committed to delivering to people on a consistent basis and what would they say if asked about you?

If you go through these three steps, we believe that you will be in a position to ‘live’ your brand and thereby develop its story. People love good stories. If you have your story, you can determine your brand messaging and then you can incorporate these into some of the branding elements referred to above.

Tips and Timesavers.

As alluded to above, brands can achieve sustainability through a consistent delivery of their promise. However, when businesses plan their messaging on an annual basis it’s hard for people to really connect with what the brand is all about, never mind loving it. A brand that changes its messaging every year will result in people perhaps liking their product / service, but not loving the brand.

Here are 8 ways that might help people to love your brand a little more.

  1. Build your brand on an idea that can create a bond with people.
  2. Everything you do should be customer focused, without exception.
  3. Connect with people, based on their insights.
  4. Don’t just solve a basic problem, connect in an emotional way.
  5. Show people that you are passionate about your own brand.
  6. Be unique in what you do and how you do it.
  7. Focus your efforts on areas where you can win (quality, cost, experience, different).
  8. Over-deliver on your promise.


It’s really important to be consistent in everything you do and everything you say if you want to manage the reputation of your brand, properly. It is also extremely important to remain on-message in whatever communication channels you use (online and offline). You must remain focused and true to your promise.

Do not be distracted by all the ‘shiny new tools’ that are available, nowadays. People will love you because of your heart, not your head. Pick a method of communication that suits your strengths, your brand’s style and engages at every brand touchpoint with your customers.

And hey! There’s no rush, it can take years to develop a strong brand.

Real love for a brand

 “We hope you have enjoyed our marketing tips and timesavers blog” – Aidan & Jim.

 Would you like to be notified by email when we publish new content? If so, just let us know by clicking here. Of course, we can always meet face-to-face, just leave your details here and we might grab a coffeet, cheers.   Jim – O’C&K

Your brand should not be the story, it should be in the story.

Taking a break from writing your brand story

“We want to create value for you by sharing marketing tips and timesavers” – O’C&K.

It’s not your message – it’s their story.

My thoughts on the effectiveness of advertising stories were reignited last Sunday. I was one of the millions of people watching the Super Bowl. In the run up to it I was also getting my head around why a company would shell out $4m for a 30 second ad, to be aired during the game.

Being in Europe, I didn’t get to see the ads live on the big screens, however, YouTube has footage showing 17 of the best, if you want to check them out. I was interested, though, from a marketing point of view. I wanted to see how good the ads were because let’s face it, if they are going to be viewed by 100 million people, I guess they had to be pretty good. Before I looked at them, I formed a mental checklist to use as a measure for effectiveness, as I watched them. Here’s my unscientific list:

  • Is it obviously directed at a target audience and would it connect?
  • Does it reflect the brand, as I see it?
  • Do I ‘get’ the message easily or is the product irrelevant to the ad content?
  • Would anybody care if the brand didn’t advertise – will I remember it.
  • Is it integrated with other marketing activity.

Sorry, if this all sounds a bit boring, I know there will be masses of research done by professionals to determine what did and what didn’t work, at the event. Of course I appreciate that there are different dynamics for judging any type of advertising but for me from a marketing point of view, and the only one I shared on my Facebook page, was the Hyundai ad. I think it satisfied my list above, except I can’t be sure about the last one as, I’m not aware of their other marketing activity. What do you think? Did any of the advertisements have a profound effect on you? Anyway, just to put a smile on your face here is a clever and funny video in relation to this topic by Adobe Marketing.

Now that I’m on the subject of advertising, if you’ve read some of my previous blogs, here and here in particular, you’ll  know that I’m not a great fan of ‘broadcasting the message out’ to customers. If you are / were in the marketing communication business you will remember ‘penetrating’ the market looking for customer eyeballs and monitoring ‘traffic’ to collect data. Rarely was there a mention of having a conversation with the customer.

Tips and Timesavers.

We all know that an individual recommendation can be way more influential than most types of marketing. Word-of-mouth has always been a strong factor in influencing behaviour but historically, it was usually on a one-to-one basis, currently with social media tools the ‘one’ is talking to thousands. So the trick here (actually it’s not a trick at all), is not to blast out your message but to join the conversation in an effort to stimulate positive mentions. Businesses can do this by providing a good experience, that is relevant to the customer / prospect and therefore creating a shareable story. Your brand should not be the story, it should be in the story. I was just wondering how many of the ads at the Super Bowl related to their customer’s story? I still think the Hyundai people got it very close.

All of your marketing activity should be aligned with a focus on what’s relevant to your customers. A lot of SMEs appear to be put off being online because they are afraid of negative comments and damage to their reputation. At OC&K we are constantly amazed at how many times we have to explain to the ‘doubters’ that people may be talking about them anyway – so if you’re not online managing your own reputation, then somebody else is.

Anyway, as alluded to above, isn’t it much smarter to be working with your customers and forming a relationship with them rather than shouting at them with your message. Ultimately, you are looking for your customers to share, mention and generally promote your brand because they want to, based on their experience. They won’t do it because of their demographics or because they’ve ‘liked’ your Facebook page.

I don’t suppose we’ll see any research from the Super Bowl advertisers showing if the viewers changed any behaviour because of the ads, but I’d say the half time experience might have driven sales for the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Bruno Mars, alright.

If you have any other tips or timesavers please leave a reply below. If you’d like to receive similar content, just subscribe by clicking through the pink button, on this page.  Of course if you want to get in touch, leave your details and perhaps we might meet for a chat, cheers.   Jim – O’C&K