At first glance many of the things making up your “visual presence” have nothing in common.  Uniforms and displays? Leaflets and toilets?  Hmm.

But there’s a common thread.  And while it may be as subtle as thread, it should be as strong as ship’s rope. 

That thread is your message - or to put it another way, your “brand”. 

Your brand isn’t just about a logo - a very common misunderstanding.  It’s far, far more than that. It’s about telling the world who you are, what your business is about and where you stand in the marketplace.  It’s about your quality, how you come across to your target audience, how you make your customers feel.  It’s about the words you use, the graphics, the photography, your displays, your premises, your lighting, the signage, your furnishings…you get the idea. 

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel
— Maya Angelou, American poet and civil rights activist

Get fit

Remember, your brand isn’t just about making sure you get customers.  It’s about making sure you get the right customers.  Customers that are the right fit for your business. 

There’s a crucial overlap with a question we asked in the previous post – how do you think your business looks to the outside world? Your message and your answer should align. If your mind’s eye sees your business as one thing, does your “message” say another?  In other words, does it match, or does the kind of customer you’re trying to attract see you very differently than you see yourself?  If you want to pull in carefree young twenty-somethings rather than well-heeled professionals with families, are you sending out the right signals?  Are you hoping for hipsters but attracting Boris Johnson clones?

If there’s a mismatch between how you think your business looks to the outside world and the type of customers you’re getting, ask yourself why.  If you’re just not getting enough customers full stop, ask yourself why.

Time to reflect

Maybe your location isn’t great.  Maybe the whole foundation of your business is suspect (like trying to sell gold-dipped Nike Dunks in a backwater retirement village).  Perhaps your products are just rubbish.  Or it could be that your service really, really sucks and your staff are rude.

But assuming there’s nothing so fundamentally iffy, it's quite possible that your problem is this: your message is wrong.  Your brand isn't a fit for your target audience.  Your message says “cheap” but you think your business has class.  Your premises say “faded” when you see yourself as polished.  You’re failing to attract the young because contrary to how you see yourself, they don’t see you as a business that “gets” them, or your marketing material speaks to a client group twenty years older. 

Something about how you appear to the world isn’t saying what you think it is.  Ask yourself what that might be. 

Ever watched "Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares" or "The Hotel Inspector"?  Then you'll know what I mean.  The hapless chef who's convinced that everyone in town loves the menu, but couldn't be further from the truth.  The hotelier who just can't accept that their 20 year old decor is not cutting it any more, or that their idea for a Mexican-themed bar is plain naff.  Some of them are delusional.  It takes the shock of an outsider's view - and often brutal assessments from customers and employees - to bring them to the point where they accept all is not well.

Get yourself a coffee (other beverages are available).  Stick your mobile in a drawer.  Sit down, alone, where you can think for at least an hour or two without interruptions.  Reflect.  Analyse how you see your business, your message, your brand.  Who are you? What are you about?  Who do you exist to serve?

And then get ready to ask others how they see you.

See you next week, when we’ll be talking about…wildebeest!